On January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the United States as its 34th member. For 159 years now, Kansans of all stripes have dared to launch their ideas into existence to improve quality of life and open up new opportunities to Kansans and visitors alike.
This year is no exception. 2020 will see the development of new amenities across the state, and the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife, and Tourism invites you to celebrate the state’s 159th birthday with the unveiling of these great new tourist attractions.
Four great Kansas attractions allow visitors to experience all things Kansas. There’s scenic beauty, Wild West history, classic family fun, and quirky adventuring waiting for you to discover for the first time this year. Here are four must-see attractions for your perfect Kansas experience.
After a few years of anticipation, Kansas’ 28th state park is open for visitors in 2020 and it was worth the wait! It may not be evident at a glance, but long before it was a US state (about 85 million years before), Kansas lay at the bottom of a vast ocean. Relics of this aquatic past can be found scattered throughout the plains, and now the largest Niobrara chalk formations in the state are available for the public to visit, thanks to a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism. Called Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, a name born in the 19th century due to the rocks’ resemblance to the ancient walled city of Jerusalem, the area is home to populations of native amphibians, reptiles, and birds, as well as the largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat, which is found in the chalk bluffs prairie of western Kansas and nowhere else in the world. Two permanent hiking trails allow visitors to explore the unique formations and view them from various outlook points, some of which tower more than 100 feet above the nearby Smoky Hill River. The park is open during daylight hours and offers guided tours, which might be advantageous for spotting the ancient giant clam and oyster fossils peppered throughout the park. Little Jerusalem State Park is a perfect Spring getaway. Once the cold and snow of the Kansas winter lifts, you can stretch your legs in the unexpected, natural beauty the state offers. Pictures do not do this park justice, it must be experienced!
If you grew up in Kansas, chances are that you visited Boot Hill as part of a school field trip or youth group outing. The historic Kansas location is expanding for 2020 and inviting visitors to experience their iconic location in a new way. Located on the original site of the Boot Hill Cemetery, the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City has highlighted the glory days of the Wild West with creative, lively, interactive displays and activities for over 70 years. In fulfillment of its mission to preserve the history of the Old West, through a STAR Bond initiative and in partnership with the City of Dodge City, the museum has undergone a $5.5 million expansion and will open a new building in May of 2020. The 12,000 square foot addition will feature nine new permanent exhibits, a gift shop, and a covered patio. The new building will also house a 3,000 square foot temporary exhibit hall to host displays from traveling museums, demonstrations, and a maker space to work in. The added real estate will provide space for more content to provide students in the area with the opportunity to learn about Dodge City’s history through new and fresh exhibits that will include character education programs. The expansion will also see the addition of an immersive buffalo stampede video at the new exhibit hall, set for a May 23 grand opening. Tried and true fans of the museum needn’t worry; the Front Street Buildings will remain undisturbed by these rejuvenating developments, which were designed to enhance the existing attractions.
Continuing its downtown riverfront redevelopment efforts, in 2016 the City of Wichita began the redevelopment of the Lawrence Dumont site with the construction of a new stadium and a museum for the National Baseball Congress (NBC). The brand-new, state-of-the-art $75 million baseball stadium along the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita will be home to Wichita’s Triple-A farm team, Wind Surge. Affiliated with the Miami Marlins, the team will play 70 home games in its inaugural 2020 season. The home opener will take place on Tuesday, April 14 when the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, visit Wichita to enjoy the amenities of the new stadium, including a pedestrian bridge connecting the stadium to the Century II Performing Arts Center. For added game day fun, the new development will also feature fireworks, bands, and kids’ play and splash areas.
20 Years of Geocaching
The world’s oldest geocache is in Kansas and that’s something to celebrate! Often referred to as modern-day treasure hunting, geocaching has captured the hearts of navigators the world over for the past 20 years. Started in May of 2000 as a result of improved GPS accuracy, the exploratory hobby consists of using a GPS device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches,” at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. To celebrate its platinum anniversary this year, geocachers from around the world will converge on Colby from May 1 to 3, 2020. Why, you ask? Because the oldest active geocache in the world is planted off I-70 in nearby Mingo, Kansas. The seventh geocache in the world, it was placed on May 11, 2000, just eight days after the very first geocache was created in Oregon. Enthusiasts can enjoy a GPS adventure maze, a mega geocaching event, educational sessions and a ceremony commemorating Mingo’s historic geocache. >>
Amid these investments in natural beauty, historic nostalgia, classic pastimes, and modern adventuring, this year’s Kansas Day is a perfect occasion for celebrating and exploring the myriad of possibilities 2020 has in store for the Sunflower State.