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!

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A Distinguished President, Pony Express Riders, And Toto Too. Recount Timeless Tales At Engaging Museums And Sites. 


Abilene And Smoky Valley Railroad 

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.

Old Abilene Town

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.

Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, And Boyhood Home

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.  

Eisenhower_Kansas TourismPhotography By Kansas Tourism 

Blue Rapids

Alcove Spring Historic Park

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.


Home On The Range Cabin

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.


Mural At The Mill

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.

Rolling Hills Zoo

Encounter 100-plus species, a museum and the new Pride of the Prairie, home to a lion-viewing cave.


National Orphan Train Complex 

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.

Statue of girls at National Orphan Train Museum
Photography By Jeff Hoffert


Oz Museum

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.


Pony Express Barn And Museum

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!

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Sip Wine At A Prairie Vineyard And Dig In At Small-town Destinations Serving Fine Italian Cuisine And Secret-recipe Sausages.



Liquid Art Winery And Estate

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.

Varsity Donuts

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.

Bourbon And Baker

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.

Taco Lucha

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.)

Taco Lucha

Photography By Doug Stremel


Brant’s Market

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.


Cozy Inn

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.)

Council Grove 

Hays House 1857 Restaurant And Tavern

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.


Prairie Fire Winery And Candles

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. 


Renaissance Cafe

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.


Renaissance Cafe_Andrea Etzel

Photography By Andrea Etzel

Places To Stay!

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Dream Of A Bygone Era At 1800s Lodgings Or Prep For Campus Exploration At A Hotel With School Spirit. 


Bluemont Hotel

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.

Council Grove 

The Cottage House

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.


Midland Railroad Hotel

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.

Midland Railroad Hotel

Discover the other five adventure-filled regions of Kansas in the 2023 Official Kansas Travel Guide.