Prepare to be wowed by the landscapes and legends of this region. The Flint Hills—the world’s largest remaining prairie ecosystem—and the Chautauqua Hills prove Kansas is far from pancake-flat. Former rail beds have been transformed into the Prairie Spirit and Southwind rail-trails for bikers and hikers, providing easy access to towns and scenic campgrounds, including Humboldt’s BaseCamp. For a motorized joyride through nostalgia, cruise Kansas’ 13-mile stretch of Route 66. Along the way, pass across the last remaining Marsh arch bridge on the Mother Road, one of the first and most iconic highways in the world.
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From a humble cabin to a gigantic coal mining shovel, the southeast’s attractions are filled with larger-than-life stories.
Watch artillery demonstrations and soldiers drilling on horseback during living-history programs at this frontier fort established in 1842. Guided tours march through some of the 11 original buildings and nine reconstructions.
You’ll be amazed by this engineering marvel. The largest remaining electric coal mining shovel on the planet stands 16 stories tall, weighs 11 million pounds and supports a 150-foot-long boom. The beastly machine is the focal point of a museum that pays tribute to the area’s rich mining heritage.
A replica one-room log cabin stands on the land where author Laura Ingalls Wilder lived with her family in 1870. The historic site also includes a schoolhouse, post office and farmhouse from the same time period.
Birding, fishing and hunting are allowed in specific areas of this refuge that manages wetlands and features bottomland hardwood forests. A new accessible trail and visitors center exhibit welcome guests in 2022 as part of the refuge’s 30th anniversary celebration.
The Johnsons captured some of the first photos and film of Africa, Borneo and the South Seas when traveling the world from 1917 to 1936. See masks, headdresses, tools and musical instruments from West and Central Africa.
Outnumbered Union troops won one of the Civil War’s largest cavalry battles west of the Mississippi River near Mine Creek. At the Visitor Center, read up on eyewitness accounts before walking trails on the battleground.
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Six longtime chicken restaurants make Crawford County the Chicken Capital of Kansas, although many of the region’s eateries have plenty to crow about.
The 75-year chicken war between these two family-owned restaurants, located just 600 feet apart from each other near Pittsburg, has subsided in recent years. Diners flock to both for finger-licking fried chicken made from secret family recipes. Which will be your fave? Only one way to find out.
Witty messages on a chalkboard score smiles at this small bakery that also serves breakfast and lunch. Sure winners are the custom-decorated cookies, sandwiches served on homemade bread, gourmet burgers and hand-dipped ice cream.
In the tasting room, try wines made with grapes from the vineyard on this family farm that also produces the corn for its distilled spirits. Pick your style of liquor: aged, clear, oaked, or flavored with fruits, such as apples and peaches. It’s the southeast’s sole wine label and distillery.
Drink in the good ol’ days by sipping an old-fashioned ice cream soda or asking the barista for something hot and caffeinated. Make it a meal by ordering one of the made-to-order sandwiches or the soul-warming chili.
Cars have been pulling up to this gem for burgers and fries since 1955. Add a slice of pie topped with soft serve, or go wild and order the Fudge Monkey—a local favorite with ice cream, bananas, hot fudge and nuts.
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Under the stars, in a themed guest room or along a bike route, southeast Kansas offers myriad places to rest your head.
Whether you prefer a rustic campsite, glamping or a sophisticated cabin, this camp along the Southwind Rail Trail is calling your name. The site includes a pond for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding; a bike skills course; hiking trails; and a communal bike barn. Nearby, order a chai latte at Humboldt Mercantile and browse a curated selection of Kansas-made goods while the barista fixes your drink.
French, Spanish, Thai and Dutch are just four of the 12 themed guest rooms decorated with items from around the world. The century-old home also boasts unique architectural elements, such as a sunken greenhouse. The healthy but filling breakfasts are simply divine.
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With nearly a dozen disc golf courses, it’s no wonder players from around the globe come to the Disc Golf Capital of the World. The Emporia Country Club Disc Golf Course is one of the premier championship courses in the country; amateurs prefer the course in Hammond Park. After working up a thirst, head to Radius Brewing Company, home to fab pizzas and the William Allen Wheat beer named for Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Allen White. Tour the Emporia newspaper editor’s former home at Red Rocks State Historic Site, which hosted five U.S. presidents.
Uncover more incredible sights, tastes and sounds across the state in the 2022 Official Kansas Travel Guide.