Who doesn’t love a good story? The North Central region of Kansas introduces inspiring characters like former President Dwight D. Eisenhower (who loved reading history books as a boy in Abilene), “Home on the Range” poet Dr. Brewster Higley, and S.P. Dinsmoor, whose quirky cement sculptures reflected his political views. At Wamego’s OZ Museum (pictured), learn how a children’s novel about a Kansas farm girl swept up in a tornado became one of the most-watched movies of all time. By the time you’re finished exploring, you’ll have volumes worth of memories to share back home.
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Visiting each of these sites is like listening to a good tale: It just keeps getting better as you go.
Eisenhower’s boyhood experiences in Abilene formed the character and skills he needed to become a worldwide war hero, Army five-star general and president of the United States. Ike and his wife, Mamie, narrate their lives through quotes, images and videos incorporated into the exhibits.
Want to be in the heart of it all? Take a photo by the monument for bragging rights, then step inside the U.S. Center Chapel featured in Bruce Springsteen’s inspirational commercial that was broadcast during Super Bowl LV.
After Dr. Brewster M. Higley homesteaded in Smith County, he felt moved to share its beauty. His poem, “My Western Home,” was later set to music and became Kansas’ state song, “Home on the Range.” Higley’s log cabin still stands here.
Eight decades later, we’re still following the yellow brick road with Dorothy and friends. A whimsical facade invites visitors inside to see more than 2,000 artifacts, including L. Frank Baum books, photos signed by the stars and 1939 movie production artifacts.
A hoe made from bone remains where it was discovered on the excavated floor of a Pawnee family’s dome-shape earth lodge. One of 22 lodges uncovered in a village possibly dating to 1770, the site gives a captivating visual account of the Plains tribe’s daily life.
Imagine a rider on horseback galloping up to this barn, the only Home Station still standing on its original site on the entire Pony Express route. A replica mochila (the leather saddle cover that held the mail) is a must-see in the attached museum.
Ready for a bit of an unconventional tale? In 1907, at age 64, S.P. Dinsmoor began constructing a limestone log cabin home, surrounding it with cement sculptures reflecting his political views. Dinsmoor sculpted his figures atop 40-foot-high cement “trees” so his garden wouldn’t be missed by visitors to this arts-centric town.
Accounts of legends Wild Bill Hickok, Thomas “Bear River” Smith and Joseph McCoy (who promoted driving Texas longhorns up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene) are told in this new museum in Old Abilene Town. The Smoky Hill Trail and the Butterfield Overland Despatch (sic) stagecoach line also are featured.
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Recap the day’s adventures over handcrafted beverages and home-style meals made from local products.
Sample wines, meads and ciders from six area start-up wineries, all in one tasting room. It’s a branch of the local community college’s viticulture and enology program. Catch occasional live music performances on Saturdays.
Linger over a savory breakfast sandwich or cranberry scone in this bistro inside a historic brick building. Dine on a salad or hot sandwich for lunch and leave room for a Monster Cookie for dessert.
A wood-fired pizza oven in the center of this microbrewery and restaurant provides a cozy atmosphere for a night out. Try the Fire Engine Red, a smooth red ale, and ask about the pizza of the week. (It might be shrimp scampi.)
Take flight(s) at the aviation-themed restaurant and microbrewery. Try handcrafted beer with names like Barnstormer Brown, which soars when paired with the P51 Mustang Burger.
Turn the clock back to the 1950s and ask the soda jerk for an old-fashioned Brown Cow or Green River. The diner also is known for tasty kolaches, reflecting the community’s Czech heritage.
Looking for something different for breakfast? Stop here before 9 a.m. for authentic Mexican food, such as chorizo and eggs or huevos rancheros. In business for almost 35 years, the cafe serves lunch and dinner too.
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Sometimes all you need is to get away from it all. These storied destinations bring about rejuvenation through unique experiences and comforts.
Sleep in a room or suite in this historic home built in 1887. Lounge on the front porch swing or in front of the fireplace before enjoying a delectable gourmet breakfast prepared by the chef and served on beautiful dishes.
Hear birds singing, watch cattle grazing, and smell the fresh country air at this working ranch near Salina. A home-cooked breakfast completes your sensory experience. Traveling with horses? They’re also welcome (pending available space).
Once upon a time, train passengers stayed at this premier hotel. Today, unique drinks and distinctive food are served in The Sample Room Tavern. Restored to its 1920s glory, the hotel offers luxury accommodations with all the amenities.
bling house, renovated into four lovely guest rooms. The property also features two sunny-bright pine cabins for rent.
Today a bed and breakfast…yesteryear…a saloon and gambling hall. The Trail City Bed and Breakfast is actually a renovated saloon that was…
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You could easily write a big book about all there is to see in the Little Apple. Feel gusts of wind as the prairie comes to life inside the immersive-experience theatre at the Flint Hills Discovery Center. Interactive family-friendly exhibits focus on the bluestem grass ecosystem. See the real thing at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, a preserve of native tallgrass prairie with hiking trails and stunningly serene overlooks.
Combine fun and nature to learn more about the area’s history, geology, flora and fauna while ziplining at Wildwood Adventure Park, which also offers a 2-mile trail run with obstacles, including a rope climb and an 8-foot wall. For more wildlife, visit the Sunset Zoo. The new Expedition Asia exhibit winds through the animals’ native forest habitat and offers numerous vantage points of tigers, amur leopards and sloth bears.
Tantalize your taste buds at Taco Lucha, a funky, intimate space serving Mexican street food with modern twists like the peanut butter taco special on Tuesdays. You’ll find the restaurant in Aggieville, the oldest shopping district in Kansas. Also in Aggieville, the Bluemont Hotel provides a rooftop patio with a view of the city. Sip the night away at the hotel’s Bluemont Lounge, serving cocktails, craft beers and wines.
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A cultural destination brimming with sculptures and stage shows, Salina also offers splashes of fun for kids of all ages. It’s easy to indulge your cultural interests in Salina’s downtown, where public works of art on the SculptureTour change every spring, and concerts delight audiences at The Stiefel Theatre, with its newly rebuilt 1930s-era tower. Ad Astra Books and Coffee House hosts live music, author readings and poetry nights. Go wild choosing from 100-plus flavors of malts and shakes at Bogey’s, cooling off at Kenwood Cove Aquatic Park, or visiting Rolling Hills Zoo, the home of more than 100 species of wildlife and a museum featuring diorama exhibits of the world’s animals and habitats.
Uncover more incredible sights, tastes and sounds across the state in the 2022 Official Kansas Travel Guide.