Kansas’ prime spots for family playdates include zoos, sports venues, museums and water parks. You can even travel through time, air and outer space.
ANIMALS GO WILD
They’re baaack! Dinosaurs roamed prehistoric Kansas, and now they’ve returned to the scene, thanks to Field Station: Dinosaurs, new in 2018. More than 40 animatronic dinosaurs span more than 14 acres in Derby (just south of Wichita), roaring and moving (in place) in a dreamland for budding paleontologists and Jurassic Park superfans. Visitors enjoy live shows throughout the day and a realistic-looking T-rex, as well as some lesser known dinosaurs. Kids delight in the Challenge Dome, North America's only geodesic challenge course—a ropes course under a dome. There’s also an 18-hole Jurassic-theme miniature golf course complete with waterfalls and rocky terrain.
Credit: Doug Stremel
Wildlife fans: Welcome to Camp Cowabunga, a new African-theme exhibit at the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center that’s participatory—think safaris—and filled with animals native to the continent, including African painted dogs, patas monkeys and lions; elsewhere find giraffes (including two calves born last year) and 32 bird species.
A little over two years ago, 17 rescued elephants from Swaziland arrived at three zoos in the United States; six now make their home at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. Simunye, Titan, Arusi, Xolani, Zuberi and Talia roam over 5 acres and splash in a 550,000-gallon pool. Once you get your fill of the gentle giants, look for red pandas, gorillas, tigers and more.
Credit: Ryan Donnell
Feed an Indian rhino? Check. Go behind the scenes with Chewbacca the sloth? Check on that, too, thanks to the interactive focus at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard. Journey through one or all 10 animal interactive zones (the park offers three admission options). As part of your visit, you can feed a variety of animals, ride Charlie the camel and swim with penguins (there's an extra charge.)
Dirt roads and gunfights: Prepare to time travel to the 1800s at Wichita’s Old Cowtown Museum. Located off the Chisholm Trail, the living-history museum includes 10,000 pieces of history and 54 buildings with tours, educational programs and other events. Don’t miss the Munger House, an original 1869 structure that’s also Wichita’s first two-story house.
How, exactly, are marbles made? The Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs demonstrates the making of all sizes and colors of this glass artifact, plus you can get your fix of old-fashioned games, toys and collectibles. Parents find plenty to love, too, including Lazy Housekeeper mop slippers, Charlie Brown and Snoopy java mugs, and an Incredible Hulk beer holder.
COOL SUMMER CAMPS
Peek into outer space at the Cosmosphere Camps in Hutchinson. The museum offers weeklong commuter day camps (second grade and up) or overnights focused on space and flight (middle to high school).
Credit: Jason Dailey
Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays gives students science cred. Elementary kids can learn about mammals and dinosaurs. Middle and high schoolers participate in multiday adventures, some out of state.
Hike, zipline, and generally explore around the wild spaces of Kansas with programs through the Wildwood Outdoor Education Center in La Cygne. Kids test their skills in adventure challenges, archery, canoeing and the giant swing.
Make it your goal to watch some Major League Soccer action this year. Two-time MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City plays its home matches at Children’s Mercy Park (across from the Kansas Speedway), known for its fan-friendly features like free parking and a roof canopy that covers every seating section. Theme nights and promotional giveaways add to the fun.
Nearby, get a taste of independent professional baseball (a mix of young prospects and former major leaguers) by taking in a game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in KC’s Village West area. The Kansas City T-Bones play in the American Association, which includes teams from Chicago, Saint Paul and Wichita. Enjoy affordable tickets (starting under $10), free parking and great views of the field in the intimate setting. You can even sit on a grassy hill beyond the outfield fence.
Satisfy your need for speed at the Kansas Speedway, home to NASCAR racing. The discount Family Pack includes grandstand tickets and a prerace pass, where you can see driver introductions, a concert and cars before they zoom around the track.
Put the fun back into air travel at Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park by ziplining through Manhattan’s wooded terrain (you can hike it, too). Tackle two lines or go for all seven. Kids can race each other on double lines. Bonus: There's a free fall off the last platform (with a bungee assist).
Evel Knievel became famous by jumping amazing distances on a motorcycle, and some of his most notable mementos—star-spangled helmets, his "Big Red" Mack truck—make their home at his namesake museum in Topeka. For thrill seekers, there’s a chance to experience a Knievel-like jump in 4-D virtual reality.
Credit: Doug Stremel
Engage STEM smarts at Wichita’s Exploration Place. Kids and adults delight in the creative science focus. The not-to-miss exhibit? Explore Kansas. Learn how storm chasers do their work and figure out how much water you use every day. At the new Design Build Fly exhibit, test landing gear, construct the perfect paper airplane and hop in a luxury jet.
Credit: Ryan Donnell
When you want respite from the sun’s rays (or winter temps, for that matter), book an adventure at the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park in Kansas City. Chill in the lazy river, slip down one of the slides or play MagiQuest.
Find 36,000 square feet of water-drenched indoor fun, including a spin on a four-story slide, the Screamin' Tsunami, at Parrot Cove Water Park in Garden City. Check out package deals for a quick overnight getaway, too.
Discover more favorite family attractions at https://www.travelks.com/things-to-do/family-fun, and check out the 2019 Official Kansas Travel Guide for hundreds of additional adventures you can enjoy with the whole crew.