When we told everyone that our family was going on a vacation through Kansas we were often met with the questions: Why? or What is there to do in Kansas? (I have to think this may be the same thing someone might hear if they chose to vacation in Iowa.)
Well let me tell you, there is so much to do in Kansas that we didn't get to do it all and our kids are already planning our next visit! From learning about the Wild West, to traveling on Route 66, to going on a salt mine tour 650' underground, to traveling through the Land of Oz, we had a great time!
In the Summer of 2021 our family set off on a few day road trip across the state of Kansas. In the end, we were only able to visit maybe half of the state. We entered through Kansas City, traveled south along the eastern edge of the state till we got to the intersection of the states of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, then headed west toward Wichita and then Dodge City, followed by traveling northeast back out of the state stopping in towns including Hutchinson, Manhattan and Atchison.
At the end of the trip, our family talked about our favorite places we stopped and where we wanted to return. Here are our recommendations:
Learn about the Wild West in Dodge City
We had a great time exploring Dodge City for a half of a day including going to the Boot Hill Museum and viewing the Dodge City Stockyards from an overlook. The Boot Hill Museum was the perfect way to learn about the town's history and get transported back to the Old West. They had a lot of interesting and interactive exhibits and the staff throughout the museum were very friendly. Be sure grab a seat to watch a gun fight and then purchase a "Marshall Pass" to enjoy a Country Style Dinner and watch the Long Branch Saloon Variety Show. Our kids love the Variety Show and our son was even pulled up to be apart of the show!
The next time we visit Dodge City we want to go on their walking tour or trolley tour to see more of the historic town, points of interest and learn more about some of the town's famous residents. We also want to be sure to visit the Boot Hill Distillery and Dodge City Brewing, and check out the Santa Fe Trail Rut Site outside of town.
Travel Along Route 66
Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in the country, running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California and it makes a brief 11.27 mile cut through the southeast corner of Kansas. Now while Kansas may have the fewest miles on the route of any state, it is full of things to see and do! We recommend stopping in Galena, Kansas to check out the "Cars on the Route" and go to Eisler Bros Old Riverton Store in Riverton, Kansas to sit down and grab a snack or souvenir.
The next time we visit Route 66 we want to travel along it farther! If we would have had more time on our family vacation we would have loved to drive up and down the highway in Missouri or Oklahoma. Maybe a Route 66 family vacation should be in store for us someday!
Explore Hutchinson, Kansas
Hutchinson turned into one of our family's favorite stops. We were impressed with everything this town had to offer! Our first stop was STRATACA, an underground salt mine tour and museum where you go 650' underground to check everything out. It was neat to learn about the salt mining process and to learn about everything else they do at the site. Our next stop was the Cosmosphere space museum. This is a spot that we would definitely return to so we could spend more time at it! We were amazed at the vast amount of exhibits and events happening at the space museum. Lastly, we stocked up on some road trip snacks at Smith's Market which was a fun grocery store with an impressive candy selection that our kids were excited about!
The next time we visit, like I said we would give more time to exploring the Cosmosphere, go on a longer tour at STRATACA and probably grab even more food and goodies at Smith's Market!
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
There are several places to stop throughout the state that are dedicated to the "Wizard of Oz". This was a lot of fun for our kids as last year we visited Storybook Land in Aberdeen, South Dakota which has an entire Land of Oz section, honoring the time that the author of the "Wizard of Oz" Frank Baum lived in the city. With Kansas being the place setting of the popular children's book and movie, there are places throughout the state recognizing this.
We loved visiting the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas on our family vacation. This museum is filled with artifacts and memorabilia from the book, movie and other renditions of the classic novel. The whole museum is nicely organized and our kids loved checking out each section. Wamego also has painted Toto dogs you can check out around town and there is a Yellow Brick Road you can follow to a town park from the museum.
As you can see we had a lot of fun exploring the state of Kansas on our Summer Family Vacation. On our next visit to the Sunflower State we would love to continue traveling farter west and north, as well as check out everything Amelia Earhart in Atchison, learn about the Swedish heritage of Lindsborg and eat at more Freddy's restaurants (which we fell in love with on our trip!).
We encourage you to explore the Midwest for your next family vacation. There are so many interesting things to see in the Heartland of America! Have you ever traveled to Kansas? What would you like to visit?
Check out some of our other past Midwest Family Vacations: