There’s something about the southwest corner of the state that charms my heart with every trip. My recent trip to Liberal landed me at the Mid-America Air Museum, which is one of the largest air museums in the country. Kansas is known for its aviation history, so it’s no surprise that a museum of this magnitude calls southwest Kansas home.
History of the Museum
Liberal was once home to a B-24 Liberator pilot training base during World War II. Liberal Army Airfield was active for three years, and then it became the Liberal Airfield and eventually the Mid-America Regional Airport. In the 1970s, Beechcraft operated a single-engine factory where they manufactured general aviation aircraft. After Beechcraft closed its Liberal facility, the Mid-America Air Museum was established to preserve local and national aviation heritage.
The museum has over 100 aircraft through 90 years of aviation spanning over 80,000 square feet of exhibits. Types of aircraft include military, homebuilt, hang gliders, and ultra-lights situated around the interactive display. There’s a large collection of military aircraft, including the Bell H-13 Sioux, which is the helicopter model used in the television series M.A.S.H, and the North American F-86 Sabre, which is used a lot in films when depicting the Korean War. My favorite is the Aero Commander L-26, the smallest ever Air Force One used by President Eisenhower. I also really enjoyed the hot air balloon exhibit and demonstration, it’s a great interactive experience for all ages.
Land of Oz
Liberal is also well-known for its Wizard of Oz attractions. So how did Liberal become the official home to Dorothy? After returning from an insurance convention in San Francisco in 1978, Liberal resident Max Zimmerman shared a waiter’s insight into how he perceived Kansas with the community. When people think of Kansas … they think of the Wizard of OZ! At the time, there was no place in Kansas known as the home of Dorothy. Sparks of interest in Liberal becoming Dorothy’s official home didn’t become a reality until 1981. Oliver Brown, a Liberal resident, knew of a house that remembered Dorothy’s house. This was the former house of Robert and Leree Rice. Volunteers moved the house to the Coronado Museum grounds, where it was transformed into a replica of the house shown in the movie and recognized by the then Governor John Carlin and the official home of Dorothy Gale.
Today, you can walk down the Yellow Brick Road to Dorothy’s House and the Land Of Oz Museum. At Dorothy’s House, be a part of the story as a Dorothy tour guide (or Auntie Em if Dorothy is unavailable) takes you on a tour of her house, a farmhouse built in 1907 which has been carefully restored and furnished to reproduce the warmth of the farmhouse from the movie. The Land of Oz Museum puts a quirky touch on museum memorabilia and experiences.
A bronze statue of Dorothy and Toto greets you when you arrive at the property. Visitors can push a button to hear Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” My favorite is the wall behind the statue that memorializes the ladies who have worked as Dorothy tour guides over the years.
Places to Eat in Liberal
If the air museum and Wizard of Oz attractions don’t pull you in, Liberal’s restaurants and food trucks sure will. If you are looking for some of the best Mexican food in the state, then look no further. Taco trucks and taquerias abound throughout Liberal and the downtown area. On this trip (the last time I was in Liberal, I tried 4 different food trucks, which were all phenomenal), I decided to try Brick House Barbecue & Brew for the first time. Their cold beers and BBQ hit the spot after a long day of travel. I really enjoyed their fried mushrooms and brisket. If you are a sucker for breakfast diners, I can’t rave enough about Pancake House. Their house specialties are the Apple Pancakes and the German-Dutch Pancakes, and they also have some unique combos like potato, wheat germ, and butterscotch pancakes.
Brick House Barbecue & Brew
BrickHouse BBQ & Brew was opened in June 2020 by Jeff & Kayla Hall. It is located in a quaint brick building on the corner adjacent to a train…
Full-service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch. An almost-everything made-from-scratch dining experience with over 30 varieties of pancakes…
Events in Liberal
If you want to experience Liberal like a local, try visiting one of their events & festival weekends. International Pancake Day is on Fat Tuesday each year and is a 4-day celebration, including the famous Pancake Day Race between Liberal and Olney, England. Their Cinco De Mayo Festival is the Sunday closest to May 5th. The Seward County Five-State Fair is in August, and the Little World’s Fair is Labor Day Weekend. Ozfest is on even-numbered years, the second Saturday in October, and the Folk Art Festival is always the first weekend in December!
Cinco De Mayo Festival - Liberal
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Seward County Five State Free Fair
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Little World’s Fair, Kismet
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Liberal, the official home of Dorothy Gale, celebrates The Wizard of Oz all year long at Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz, but…
Folk Art Festival
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, this event showcases artists and handcrafted items from many…
International Pancake Day
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