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Under the impression that there isn’t much to see in Kansas? Think again, because there are a number of great places to visit, including these.
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One of the most famous towns in Kansas, Dodge City was once known as the wildest town in the Wild West, referred to as “The Wickedest Little City in America” during its early years due to its cast of colorful characters including gamblers, cowboys and prostitutes. A history buff’s paradise along the Santa Fe Trail, it was founded in 1872 and hosts the popular Boot Hill Museum, which tells about the region’s heritage through entertaining historical exhibits. Visitors can take a trolley tour of the historic sites or just wander around the historic downtown area to search for unique gifts and local eats. Grab a drink in the saloon, watch mock gunfights complete with costumed cowboys, and explore interesting graves dating back to frontier days at Boot Hill cemetery. Dodge City Days is hosted annually during late July/early August and features a number of events, including a rodeo, BBQ competition, parade, classic car show and an arts and crafts show.
The largest city in Kansas offers a long list of things to see and do, including two museums where visitors can take an in-depth look at two of the forces that shaped history in the West: cowboys and Native Americans. The Mid-American All-Indian Museum offers the chance to learn more about the heritage of American Indians, while the Old Cowtown Museum provides the opportunity to experience a glimpse of life in an 1870’s cattle town. Old Town Wichita, located on the eastern edge of the downtown district, is an entertainment district that hosts more than 100 restaurants, bars and shops, all within walking distance. The city has a wealth of live comedy, music venues, and theaters, including Roxy’s Downtown, Mosley Street Melodrama, The Loony Bin, Orpheum Theatre, and Crown Uptown Theatre. Additionally, there’s Music Theatre Wichita, Wichita Grand Opera, and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend the annual Tallgrass Film Festival, which includes five days of screenings and special events across the city.
Wamego is a small, charming town that offers a number of interesting attractions, including the magnificent historic Columbian Theatre, which dates back to 1895, and a picturesque city park that’s one of the most popular in the state and is home to the beautiful Dutch Mill, the Wamego Historical Society & Museum, and Prairie Town Village. But the No. 1 tourist attraction is the Oz Museum which houses one of the largest private collections of “The Wizard of Oz” memorabilia in the world. In addition to items and photos from the 1939 film, it hosts items from earlier silent film versions of the book. It even offers something extra special for adults – the chance to sample award-winning wines with names inspired by the musical at the nearby Oz Winery tasting room.
Fort Scott has an especially rich history and sits along the Frontier Military Historic Byway. It’s packed with magnificent architecture, most notably Victorian-era homes. There’s something for everyone here, including history lovers, who can enjoy strolling the historic downtown with its brick streets lined with antique stores, as well as the Fort Scott National Historic Site, which hosts 20 buildings, some of which are original, while others reconstructed, along with a number of interesting exhibits and a restored tall grass prairie. Outdoor enthusiasts will find all sorts of activities to enjoy as well, with numerous parks and lakes in the area, and the chance to go boating, fishing, four-wheeling, biking, hiking, play disc golf, and traditional golf.
Located in central Kansas, nearly a quarter of North American shorebirds, including herons, pelicans and gulls that are found east of the Rocky Mountains, make a stop at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge during their annual migrations, making the wetland refuge a popular place for bird watchers. The refuge is home to more than 300 species of birds as well as many different mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Many of the birds and mammals that live here can be seen simply by taking the 14-mile scenic drive through the refuge. Visitors can also hike around the refuge or head to the observation tower that features a spotting telescope near the park’s visitor center. There are two large salt marshes that are great for watching for birds like mallards, wood ducks, white pelicans, shorebirds and more, while bobcats, coyotes, and other mammals are frequently seen throughout the area.
Located at the end of the historic Chisholm Trail, a popular trail for cattle drivers in the mid-19th century, Abilene is often found on lists of America’s most beautiful small towns. This Old West town that was the hometown of President Eisenhower, has a rich history, and history buffs can enjoy visiting Abilene’s Old Town with its saloons that come complete with dancers and gunfight reenactments. There are five world-class museums located within a four-square block area, centered by the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Other must-experience sights include the Seelye Mansion, a 25-room Georgian-style mansion built in 1905, and the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad, which features a 100-year-old steam engine complete with open-air rides and dining cars.
Lindsborg is a picturesque community known as “Little Sweden USA,” thanks to its influx of Swedish settlers that arrived back in 1869. Swedish immigrants played a key role in the state’s history, and Lindsborg is an ideal place to appreciate Swedish-American history. Visitors can check out the Old Mill Museum to learn more about the town’s history, sample Swedish cuisine, view Swedish art and experience Swedish culture. Its brightly painted Wild Dala horses, wooden horse sculptures carved and painted in traditional Swedish style, are dotted throughout the town and are popular spots for photoshoots. Take a stroll around the streets to discover beautiful historic homes that showcase a variety of architectural styles, and stop by the Swedish Pavilion which dates from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The museum offers visitors a closer look at the town and its people from 1870 through 1910.
Monument Rocks, also known as the Chalk Pyramids, was one of the first landmarks to be declared a National Natural Landmark. The huge chalk formations are impressive, soaring unexpectedly from the flat farmland that surrounds them on all sides. The rocks rise up to 70 feet in some spots, and you can even see fossilized sea life embedded in the chalk. The famous ‘Keyhole’ is a big gap in one of the monuments and provides the ideal window for watching a sunset. After the sun goes down, this is a great spot for stargazing, and you can also check out the nearby Keystone Gallery, a completely “off-the-grid” establishment that generates its own power from solar and wind energy. It features fossils on exhibit and for sale, as well as art and souvenirs, and is especially popular with geology fans.
Atchison is the birthplace of Amelia Earhart, and as such, visitors can explore the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, located in a wood frame, Gothic Revival cottage perched high on the west bank of the Missouri River. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and features memorabilia and artifacts focused on the aviation pioneer. Many people settled in Atchison in the late 19th century and built spectacular Victorian homes that still stand today and can be seen by taking a trolley tour or simply strolling along the brick streets. Many people believe that quite a few of these houses and other historic buildings in the town are haunted, it’s called “the most haunted town in Kansas.” Paranormal enthusiasts will find the opportunity to participate in tours and events, including mystery dinners and spiritual readings.