Tour de Kansas

If you’re more organized than I am — and you probably are — you may have a great summer vacation all mapped out. As the departure draws near, it’s getting harder to concentrate. You’ve made checklists: stop the mail, board the dog, buy the tickets.

That was me last year. My family spent a glorious week in cool Colorado during the hottest week of the Kansas summer. We proved the belief that experiences stay with you much longer than the enjoyment you get from possessions. I never doubted that my kids would have a blast hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, encountering wildlife, and just running around our base camp, a modest lodge in Estes Park. We even coined a term after we came home: “lodge-sick.” It’s the opposite of homesick. How can you not miss a place where you picnic with a deer?

Deer in Rocky Mtn National Park

This year we’re sticking closer to home. My plan is to explore our home state a little more, and I’ve found some great resources to do just that.

Recently the Wichita Eagle published the Kansas 105: a guide to one attractions for each of Kansas’ 105 counties. Many are historical, some are quirky. Granted, it was probably a real stretch to come up with some of them, but I like that they didn’t leave any county out.

There’s also the Kansas Sampler Foundation, whose mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture. They’re also known for naming the 8 Wonders of Kansas and other lists of the best things about the Sunflower State, from barns to breweries.

With the aid of their research, I decided to make my own little list tailored to different types of travelers.

Kansas CosmophereFor Families – At my house, we’re partial to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, and we love to take out-of-town visitors there. You can stand under the engines of a real Titan rocket, see an IMAX film, and explore one of the biggest and best collections of artifacts from the U.S. and Russian space programs — including the real Apollo 13 capsule.

More ideas for family fun:

  • Enjoy ice cream from a vintage soda fountain like the century-old Linger Longer in Bennington, where they mix their own syrups, or the beloved Old Mill Tasty Shop in Wichita.
  • Take a dip in a giant pool: Garden City boasts the world’s largest municipal concrete swimming pool. It takes up the space of 1.5 city blocks and holds 2.5 million gallons of water. We just dare you to try playing “Marco Polo” here.
  • Explore the otherworldly spires and rock castles at Monument Rocks and Castle Rock in Gove County.

For a Girls’ Getaway – Tour the wine country! There are more than a dozen vineyards and wineries in Kansas, many of which are in the state’s northeastern quadrant and the Flint Hills, including:

Oz Winery

Photo courtesy of Travel Kansas

  • Prairie Fire Winery in Paxico, between Topeka and Manhattan, which produced the state’s first and only Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. You can also swing by Oz Winery in nearby Wamego.
  • Davenport Orchard, Vineyard and Winery in Eudora, near Lawrence, which grows 27 acres of grapes and apples for wine.
  • Middle Creek Winery in Louisburg, which uses 100% Kansas grapes, honey and fruit.

Farther south and central, visit:

For a Guys’ Getaway – There’s always golf, right? There are more than 270 courses in Kansas to chase that white ball around. has a handy guide to its favorites.

If you’d rather tour the state on your stomach, the Kansas Sampler people have you covered. Check out their picks for best places to get a chicken fried steak. Or take off on a beer tour and explore the state’s breweries, from the biggies — Tallgrass Brewing Co. in Manhattan and Free State Brewing Co. in Lawrence — to little guys like Hank is Wiser in Cheney.

For Photographers — Personally, I think our modest state has some of the most breathtaking scenery you could ask for. And I’ve seen a lot of it through the eyes of talented photographers who make heartstopping images out of our plains, our skies, and our wildlife. Want to get clicking? Here’s a few to focus on:

Flint Hills

Summer in the tallgrass prairie. Photo courtesy of Travel Kansas.

Do you have a favorite place to play in Kansas? Share yours in the comments!

Happy trails,

Erin O’Donnell

Co-Editor, Kansas Women Bloggers


5 thoughts on “Tour de Kansas

  1. Carol J. Martin (Female in Motion) says:

    Carriage Crossing Restaurant in Yoder, Lindsborg, Salt Mines in Hutch, fried chicken in Baldwin City, Beaumont Hotel Restaurant in Beaumont, The Breadbasket in Newton, and Hays House in Council Grove (try the pie!). Can you tell I’m a foodie???

  2. Diana Staresinic-Deane says:

    The best trips my husband and I have taken are what we call our “Whirlwind Tours of Kansas.” We pick a general area of the state, pack the car with a cooler, maps and guidebooks, and just drive. We don’t know where we’ll end up, but we take in so much more than we would with an actual destination in mind. One year, we explored Garden City, Monument Rocks, and the Sternberg Museum in two days. Another year, we visited Atchison, Hiawatha, and Holton. The only real cost is a tank of gas. (And if you haven’t been to Monument Rocks or the Sternberg Museum in Hays, I highly recommend them both.)

  3. Erin says:

    Hillsboro, KS has a fantastic craft show on the third Saturday in September that we always try to hit. I’m not a big craft person, but the food is great! (Try the fresh-squeezed lemonade!)
    There’s also a Museum of World Treasures in Wichita that is full of really cool stuff; Wichita also has an Old Cowtown that is great; they just kind of let you wander the grounds and explore at your own pace.

  4. Jacquie@KCEdventures says:

    We also spent last summer at Rocky Mtn Nat’l Park and LOVED it! Trying to figure out how to get back there soon. We just returned from a week in the Black Hills/Badlands. And yes, we love exploring locally as much as we can. My daughter and I are planning a day in Topeka together and we’re also hoping to get to some of the rural areas of Missouri to hike & explore with the rest of the family. Happy travels!

  5. MeLinda Schnyder says:

    We bought the book Hiking Guide to Kansas a number of years ago and have been slowly exploring based on the authors’ advice. Aside from that, some of my favorites: Oz Museum in Wamego, Martin & Osa Johnson Safari Museum in Chanute, Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine… And I’m excited to get to the Salt Mine Museum sometime soon!

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