When it comes to outdoor adventures, people typically fall into two categories: those who do, and those who say “some day.” No matter which category you fall into, your next weekend getaway should be Junction City. This small city of less than 25,000 is packed with walking trails, more than a dozen parks and countless fishing spots, thanks in part to its close proximity to Milford Reservoir. Visitors can also enjoy tours of historic frontier buildings to learn how Junction City—and Kansas as a whole—were shaped by the rivers and railroads that snake across the
There is something for everyone in Junction City; you need only change your “some day” to a solid date on your calendar.
8 A.m. Start your weekend off with a chartered fishing adventure, courtesy of Grandpa Boone’s Fishing Guides. The company offers rates by boat instead of by person, and it has several pontoon boats that seat up to six people each, so groups of any size can be accommodated. The tour company provides boats, tackle and poles, and they’ll even clean your fish for you if you decide to keep them. Brad Roether, a fishing guide with Grandpa Boone’s, says he and the other guides love first-timers and often work with children and the elderly. Their decades of experience ensure that seasoned fishermen will have a good time, too. “Milford Lake is unique because there are many different kinds of fish,” Roether says. “And we’re out on the lake almost every day, so we know what’s biting and where. Fishing is very seasonal.” The tour company is open April 1 to October 30. Roether says May, June and July are good months to fish for walleye, and later in the season is good for wipers.
12:30 p.m. You’re sure to work up an appetite after a long morning on the lake, so head on over to Cynthia’s One Bite Delight for some soul food and Southern delicacies sure to stick to your ribs. Cynthia’s offers daily specials that include crawfish boils and oxtails as well as simple but delicious meals such as pork chop dinners. There is also a huge variety of sides to choose from and a kids’ menu to make sure everybody can find something they like. Just be sure to save room for the sweet potato pie cheesecake.
1 p.m. The Geary County Historical Society and Museums opens at 1 p.m. The museum offers many hands-on exhibits for children and adults to learn about the history of frontier life and of soldiers stationed at Fort Riley and surrounding areas from the Civil War onward. One of the exhibits even offers letter-writing stations where you can send a soldier stationed overseas a quick greeting to brighten his or her day. In April and May, the museum often hosts open house events for the Spring Valley Heritage Site, a restored 19th-century one-room schoolhouse located just outside of the city was in operation until the 1950s, and Wetzel’s Log Cabin Church, which was built by an army dragoon in 1857. Tours of these buildings can be booked any time of year if you call ahead. Visitors can also tour the Starcke House, located next door to the museum. The house offers a glimpse of the everyday life of a prominent merchant family during the 1880s.
3 p.m. Milford Nature Center gives visitors a chance to learn about Kansas wildlife with exhibits and live animals, such as amphibians, turtles, snakes, eagles, prairie dogs and more. There is also a butterfly center open from May to October and walking trails to explore before you head over to the adjacent Milford Fish Hatchery to learn how fish populations are maintained in Milford Reservoir for sports fishermen and the environment alike.
5:30 p.m. It’s time to spice up your life at Negril Caribbean Restaurant. Negril offers jerked chicken that is so tender it falls off the bone, curried goat or shrimp, stews, and chilled ginger beer to wash it all down. Your soul will be as filled to bursting as your stomach when it’s all said and done.
6:30 p.m. Burn off calories or blow off steam by finishing the day at Spin City. The recreational and entertainment center features an indoor skating rink, outdoor miniature golf, basketball courts, pool tables and more. Spin City is open until 11 p.m. on Saturdays, so you can try everything and play for as long as you like. And if you find that you’ve worked up an appetite you can grab a snack at the Good Eats Cafe.
7:30 a.m. Enjoy the sunrise with a brisk walk or leisurely stroll down the 4.8-mile River Walk Trail. The trail is carefully maintained and offers gorgeous views of nature, so you’re sure to feel refreshed and invigorated.
8:30 a.m. If you’re looking for the perfect breakfast joint, head on over to Stacy’s. You’ll immediately be charmed by the 1940s Valentine Diner architecture, one of only a handful of buildings featuring this style of design left in the country. Enjoy this unique slice of history while you enjoy a pleasant meal.
9:30 a.m. There are more than a dozen parks in Junction City that offer snippets of history, such as the Buffalo Soldier Memorial and Heritage Park, which is home to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Rathert Stadium is a unique baseball stadium made out of native limestone, built during the 1930s as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal projects to revitalize the economy during the Great Depression. Or, if you find that you’ve been bitten by the fishing bug, you can check out Homer’s Pond. Many of these parks offer amenities, such as gazebos, barbecue pits, playgrounds and more. Information for each is available on the city’s parks and recreation website.
11 a.m. If you’re on the west side of town, consider swinging by the Kansas Landscape Arboretum to walk through the woodlands of more than 1,000 different species of native trees, shrubs and other woody plants, including the largest crab apple tree collection in the state. You can also check out Whispering Water Natural Springs Memorial here. It’s a great way to appreciate the natural beauty of Kansas and learn why it is important to preserve it.
12 p.m. Many of Junction City’s parks offer free barbecue grills to visitors, but if you’d rather let someone else do the cooking, you can enjoy the home-cooked taste and friendly service at Hot Rodz BBQ. This cozy barbecue joint is sure to put your grandmother’s cooking to shame. Save some room for dessert because after lunch, you’ll want to check out Hildebrand Dairy Farms for soft-serve ice cream and see how modern dairy farms operate. Hildebrand Farms was established in 1930 and opened a micro-creamery in 2008. They sell milk, butter and other products across the state, so chances are you’ve seen their iconic glass milk jugs in your local grocery store. Agri-tourism sites like this one are a great way to learn where your food comes from and appreciate the hard work of farmers. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop!
If you’re not heading home to prepare for the Monday grind, Junction City is the perfect place to enjoy the sunset. Head to The Wetlands to watch the sunset over the water as you reflect on your weekend adventures. Maybe you’ve finally learned a little bit about fishing. Maybe you’ve gained a new appreciation for Kansas history. Maybe you just enjoyed being in touch with nature and letting the fresh air soak into your pores. Whatever your take-away from this weekend, we hope it stays with you and you look back on it fondly.