The roads and rails of North Central Kansas take you deep into the heart of the state’s story with “Home on the Range” relics, lodging in an 1899 railroad hotel, and a ride across the Big Blue River on the Central Branch Railroad. The short journey between Waterville and Blue Rapids travels the same stretch that carried homeless children during the Orphan Train era and German prisoners of war during World War II. After your history tour, fast forward to Salina’s revitalized downtown and Manhattan’s modern culinary scene. Whether you step back a century or savor today, you’ll see this part of Kansas through a new lens.
Places To Go!Back to Top of List
A Distinguished President, Pony Express Riders, And Toto Too. Recount Timeless Tales At Engaging Museums And Sites.
At the 1887 Rock Island Depot, board a vintage passenger train for a ride through the Smoky Hill River Valley. Browse model trains and railroad memorabilia in the depot’s museum.
This cattle town’s notoriety lives on with re-created gunfights in the street, cancan dancing and sarsaparillas in the saloon. Get some perspective at the hands-on Trail Center.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s hometown hails its hero on a 22-acre campus that includes his burial site. Using his own words, exhibits recall Ike’s journey to becoming a five-star general and U.S. president.
Photography By Kansas Tourism
Weary Oregon Trail travelers found respite at this Big Blue River crossing. The secluded park captivates today’s explorers with walking trails to spring and wagon-train swales.
Moved by prairie beauty, Dr. Brewster Higley penned the poem, “My Western Home.” It later became “Home on the Range,” Kansas’ state song. Higley’s cabin stands on its original site.
The 100-foot-tall mural by Australian artist Guido van Helten wraps around three sides of a flour mill, and it’s the first of many murals coordinated by the Salina Kanvas Project.
Encounter 100-plus species, a museum and the new Pride of the Prairie, home to a lion-viewing cave.
A museum and 1860s train car preserve stories of more than 250,000 orphaned and abandoned children relocated by train from the East to homes across the United States.
Photography By Jeff Hoffert
Follow the Yellow Brick Road to more than 2,000 artifacts—including a first-edition L. Frank Baum's book—share the heart, courage, and brains behind the 1939 cinema classic.
Speedy horses, riders, and their loaded mail pouches stopped at this 1859 stone barn on the Pony Express route. Learn about the short-lived mail service in the barn and attached museum.
Places To Eat + Drink!Back to Top of List
Sip Wine At A Prairie Vineyard And Dig In At Small-town Destinations Serving Fine Italian Cuisine And Secret-recipe Sausages.
Toast the wines and ridgetop setting west of town. Sip wine flights and apple pie cider in the tasting room, then grab a prime patio seat for a sweeping Flint Hills view.
Devotees order purple-frosted K-Stater doughnuts, a nod to school colors. For late-nighters (until 2:30 a.m.), Varsity’s back-alley food truck opens for hot doughnuts and grilled mac and cheese sandwiches.
Small plates pack big flavor here. Go solo or share chicken and waffles or beer-battered asparagus fries. An impressive bourbon list and back-door bakery live up to the name.
Funky fare and splashy colors distinguish Aggieville’s Taco Lucha. Come hungry for specials like the Peanut Butter Tacos on Tuesdays. (They go great with the banana margaritas.)
Photography By Doug Stremel
For 100 years, meat lovers have stocked up on Brant’s bolognas, smoked sausages and other savory staples handcrafted with secret recipes brought from the former Czechoslovakia.
Fuel up at the granddaddy of all eateries, the 101-year-old Cozy Inn. The six-stool joint cranks out sacks of silver-dollar-size burgers with grilled onions. (Pack breath mints.)
Opened 166 years ago on the Santa Fe Trail, Hays House remains famous for fried chicken and Kansas prime rib. Newer specials such as bacon-cheddar meatloaf keep things fresh.
A Glass Of Storm Chaser Red Or Cowabunga Blush Pairs With Flint Hills Vistas At This Hilltop Winery. Sample Some 30 Wines In The Tasting Room, Then Savor Your Favorites On The Outdoor Patio.
In a century-old high school, steaks, homemade pastas and other Northern Italian entrees earn the highest marks. Claim a table overlooking the sunken gym for old-school views.
Photography By Andrea Etzel
Places To Stay!Back to Top of List
Dream Of A Bygone Era At 1800s Lodgings Or Prep For Campus Exploration At A Hotel With School Spirit.
Make this your home base for strolling the adjacent Kansas State University campus and the fun-loving Aggieville district. Amid purple Wildcat decor, guests enjoy cocktails in the lounge and rooftop patio views of the city.
Started as a three-room cottage in 1867, the 26-room hotel mixes antique furnishings with modern comforts. Relax in the gazebo after a jaunt through the town’s numerous Kaw and Santa Fe Trail historical sites.
Trains still roll by this 1899 hotel where rail passengers stayed. Restored rooms and dining worthy of a first-class ticket pamper today’s travelers. For breakfast: Czech pastries and sausages.