It has always been my goal to travel to new places and share those experiences with my kids. Our first time in the Midwest, we decided to visit the beautiful state of Kansas! Kansas is truly underrated, and there is so much to see and explore.
We took a 4-day road trip through the state, starting in Kansas City along I-70 and headed west. 4 days was perfect for us, but if you wanted to see just a little more, you could extend your trip by one more day.
Day 1 - Kansas City to Manhattan
We took an early flight into KCI (Kansas City International Airport) and immediately hit the road! To break up the drive, we stopped in Topeka for lunch which was about an hour from the airport and an hour away from Manhattan. Once we made it to Manhattan, we spent time at the Flint Hills Discovery Center, it was raining during our drive, so this was the perfect first stop until the rain settled.
After visiting the Discovery Center, we drove over to explore the Konza Prairie in the Flint Hills. The Flint Hills is a tallgrass prairie ecosystem, and the Konza Prairie in this ecosystem is the only one of its kind. There are 3 different trails to hike; we chose the 2.6 mi Nature Loop Trail. As we got further up to the lookout point, it got pretty windy and cold, so be sure to bring a jacket with you, depending on when you visit! We ended the night with a delicious Indian dinner in town at Globe Indian Food.
Day 2 - Manhattan to Lindsborg
On Day 2 of our road trip through Kansas, we got up early, had breakfast in our hotel lobby, and hit the road to Lindsborg. Lindsborg is such a true gem, and we had a great time exploring this city. Our first stop after checking into our hotel was Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. There was rain in the forecast, but it held up until our tour was over!
On the tour of these native prairie grasslands, you get a history lesson on how the property was founded and how it's running today, and you get to catch an up-close glimpse of the bison herd, elk, and other wildlife. At one point, there used to be millions of bison!
After the tour, it rained quite a bit, so instead of walking around downtown Lindsborg, we got a wood carving lesson from one of the local wood carvers in town. The boys loved this experience!
The clouds cleared, and the sun came out just in time for us to go explore Coronado Heights! Coronado Heights is a scenic overlook on the hills a few miles away from downtown Lindsborg. There is a castle you can walk into as well to take in the view of the grasslands down below.
Day 3 - Lindsborg to Hays
Day 3 began with breakfast at Black Smith Coffee. This day was jam-packed with activities, but we also spent a lot of time in the car.
Our first stop was the Sternberg Museum. There is a lot to see here, but the boys' favorite was definitely the dinosaur exhibit and the discovery room, which provided hands-on learning opportunities. We left the museum and stopped at Gella's Diner + Lb. Brewing Co for lunch before heading out on our next adventure.
After lunch, we drove 1 hour north to Nicodemus and visited Nicodemus National Historic Site. Formerly enslaved African Americans left Kentucky at the end of the post-civil war reconstruction period to experience freedom in what was to be the “promised land” of Kansas. Today Nicodemus is the oldest and only remaining black settlement west of the Mississippi River.
You can do the short walking tour of the town and even go inside of the newly reconstructed AME church. There are people who still live in this town, including some descendants of the original settlers. It's definitely worth visiting on your trip!
We headed back to Hays for dinner and then headed out on one more adventure to Castle Rock Badlands for Golden hour. Castle Rock is a true gem, and we were literally the only ones there. It is one of the 8th Wonders of Kansas and chalk on the formations is full of fossils from the sea.
Be mindful that Castle Rock is on private land, but there is no special permission is required to explore the property, just be respectful. From I-70 you can get here from the east or west. We entered from the east and drove about 12 miles down a dirt road to get to the entrance. In order to access the road, it is probably best to visit in a 4x4 or AWD as the roads are dirt roads and can be pretty rough and even muddy after rain. After the sunset and the boys ran off some energy, we drove an hour back to our hotel in Hays.
Day 4 - Hays to Kansas City
The final day was a travel day, but we had time to squeeze in one more activity and some lunch, so we drove about 3 hours to Topeka to visit Brown vs Board of Education National Historic Site first. This landmark resides at Monroe Elementary and you get to learn a lot about the case of Linda Brown. The museum is filled with many simulation rooms on what it was like during that time of desegregation of schools here in the US.
The boys spent most of their time in the kindergarten room playing with the blocks, reading the books, and writing on the small chalkboards at the tables. At 3 and 4, they may not remember much of it, but it was still important to expose them to that history.
Before heading to the airport, we stopped in town for some lunch at the Wheel Barrel for one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Kansas. Road tripping with kids is such a fun adventure, and my hope is that they remember these trips as they get older.