Dream big, Kansans. Go big or go home, for we are a vast land of sunsets and sunrises, rich farmland and rolling prairie. Our land is where character is carved and chiseled across the open horizons. Others may scoff, no real mountains to gaze at, they say. But here in Kansas, we create our own landmarks. Big landmarks.
World’s Largest Mural Painted by a Single Artist
Long before work ended on the Beachner Grain Elevator Mural in December 2018, this was one of North Wichita’s largest structures. Then, Colombian street artist GLeo completed her gorgeous multicolored artwork across its face. Depicting ethnic backgrounds associated with nearby historic Black and Latinx neighborhoods, the mural is part of the larger art-focused Horizontes Project, created to improve quality of life in this area. This massive mural named El Sueño Original (The Original Dream) depicts people of color from the NorthEnd as they look hopefully toward the horizon. Individual images include Indigenous peoples and immigrant families, from migrant workers to meat packers and feedlot laborers. And, at 50,000 square feet, the mural bested the previous Guinness World Record holder by approximately 12,000 square feet. Horizontes funding has come from multiple sources, among them Fidelity Bank, Humanities Kansas, and the Knight Foundation, with an additional $15,000 raised through crowdsourcing.
Nation’s Northernmost Pueblo Ruins
Many Kansans would be surprised to know that Indigenous people from modern-day Taos, New Mexico, once lived inside the current Lake Scott State Park in Scott City. A visit to this site reveals restored rock foundations from the 17th-century pueblo known as El Cuartelejo—the only pueblo built in Kansas. Taos Indians built El Cuartelejo as they fled Spanish rule in 1664. Spaniards compelled these resident to return to New Mexico before the Picuris Indians settled here. By the early 1700s these tribal members were also returned to New Mexico. Decades of conflict between various Indian tribes and European explorers plagued the area until it was abandoned. Archaeologists finally excavated the site by the late 1800s. In 1964, El Cuartelejo became a National Historic Landmark, and restored ruins and interpretive markers now greet visitors. Nearby, El Cuartelejo Museum offers additional history regarding the Scott City area.
Nation’s Largest Salt Mine Museum
Previously the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, not-for-profit Strataca lies deep inside one of the world’s largest rock salt deposits. A 90-second hoist (elevator) ride deposits guests from the visitors center into a world full of salt walls, 650 feet below ground level and 275 million years old. The underground museum houses a 25-million-year-old live bacteria found inside a salt crystal. There’s also an incredible collection of prized Hollywood screenplays, film reels, and memorabilia stored by Underground Vaults & Storage because of the mine’s consistent temperature and humidity. Two-hour tours through miles of tunnels include underground admission and a 30-minute educational Dark Ride through lit areas, plus a Salt Mine Express Train Ride—where time stopped 50 years ago. Adventure seekers enjoy Salt Safaris that provide a closer view of unique salt formations while other guests participate in events such as Murder in the Mine, or the 5K Underground Zombie Run.
Midwest’s Largest ‘Arc de Triomphe’
Kansas City, Kansas
On a tall hilltop near Interstate I-35, the 34.5-foot-tall Rosedale Memorial Arch commemorates World War I veterans from the town of Rosedale, which Kansas City, Kansas, later absorbed. This scaled-down version of France’s Arc de Triomphe reflects sketches by 29-year-old World War I soldier John Leroy Marshall. Part of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division, the Rosedale resident, architect, and engineer envisioned minimally embellished limestone atop brick. Though planned by Rosedale, the structure was completed by Kansas City, Kansas, in 1924. It was placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places and National Register of Historic Places in 1977, with Kansas City, Kansas, Historic Landmark designation in 1982. Five years later, city council funds and donations financed restoration and a 65th anniversary celebration of the groundbreaking. Local businesses made additional improvements. New spotlights, streetlights, and a flagpole arrived later. By 1993, a smaller monument was added to honor soldiers from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Midwest’s Mini ‘Grand Canyon’ of the High Plains
At 36 miles long and two miles wide, Arikaree Breaks, near St. Francis, is mostly in northwestern Kansas (Small portions of this rugged terrain extend into corners of Nebraska and Colorado). Some people consider this the state’s ‘Grand Canyon.’ Though nowhere near as expansive as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Arikaree Breaks is full of deep ravines and gullies. Initially formed as wind-deposited sand, silt, and clay particles in the area—also known as loess—the rocky terrain was further shaped by the Arikaree and Republican rivers. Native grasses and other vegetation create favorable pastureland, and rancher-built dams provide access to water for raising livestock. Public roads traverse this stark, naturally beautiful area. Signage and cell service can be sparse, so this is a good time to also carry a map, available from the St. Francis Area Chamber of Commerce or the Cheyenne County Museum.
World’s Largest Collection of Oz Memorabilia
Home to Oz-inspired dolls, movie posters, and even an eight-foot-tall Tin Man, this wheelchair-friendly downtown museum houses the world’s largest collection of Oz memorabilia. See the Wicked Witch’s legs beneath Dorothy’s house plus photos signed by Judy Garland. The legendary movie also runs continuously in a small screening room. Visitors can view the earliest L. Frank Baum books and Oz Parker Brothers board games. And the museum store is a perfect place to find a collectible souvenir. A major state grant, plus thousands of hours of volunteer time from residents, created this remarkable museum, and funding from loyal fans and donors still plays a key role in continued operations. For a truly ‘Oz-some’ experience, plan your visit during the museum’s annual OZtoberfest. It’s full of live music, food, arts, crafts, and costume contests, drawing Oz fans, from avid collectors to inspired authors.
Nation’s Largest Church Collection of Tiffany Windows
Louis Comfort Tiffany stood in First Presbyterian Church’s sanctuary so he could learn light patterns in the space before designing favrile glass windows to decorate the entire room. Unveiled in October 1911, the Thomas and Stormont Memorial Tiffany Windows commemorated service to the church by the late Jonathan Thomas and his wife, Josephine Brooks Thomas, who gave them to the church. Having his own furnaces allowed Tiffany to create designs that reflected his signature style, such as use of iridescent colors and molten glass that adapted to many forms of drapery. The Rose Window above the chancel incorporates the only non-favrile Tiffany glass throughout the sanctuary, while The Ascension is one of the largest examples of a Tiffany church window, measuring approximately 13.25 feet by 18 feet. Today, guests may visit this exquisite, one-of-a-kind Tiffany glass collection at no charge, with phone reservations. Groups may schedule docent-led tours.
Midwest’s Largest Smithsonian-Affiliated Space Museum
In 2022, the Cosmosphere celebrated 60 years since its inception. It all started when a woman named Patty Carey set up folding chairs and a used planetarium projector in a building on the Kansas State Fair Grounds, creating one of the first public planetariums in the Midwest. Four years later, the planetarium opened at Hutchinson Community College. By 1980, a new 35,000-square-foot facility featured a planetarium, classrooms, and an early IMAX dome theater. A 1997 expansion added 70,000 square feet and a lobby that houses a flown SR-71 Blackbird. The next year, the Cosmosphere became one of the earliest Smithsonian Institution affiliates, formalizing its long-term relationship with the National Air & Space Museum. Today there’s a movie theater, planetarium, and a 1930s rocket lab experience. The impressive Hall of Space Museum includes the world’s largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space objects, and Apollo artifacts include a command module and a moon rock.
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
Gifted to Cawker City in 1961, this giant ball of twine was created in 1953 by Frank Stoeber on his farm just outside of town. What started as an easy and efficient way to roll up his leftover sisal twine soon led to a historical moment for the community of Cawker City. Considered to be the largest ball of sisal twine built by a community, the ball currently measures 46 feet in circumference and includes 8,591,891 feet of twine. Those interested in adding to the ball can attend the twine-a-thon held each August, though the ball is available for viewing year round.
World’s Largest Van Gogh Painting Replica
The massive easel that displays this giant reproduction of Van Gogh’s Three Sunflowers in a Vase ranked as the world’s largest when it was erected in 2001. At 80 feet tall and more than 40,000 pounds, the easel and 24-foot by 32-foot painting stand near Goodland’s downtown and Business Highway 24. Canadian painter Cameron Cross created Van Gogh painting replicas in locales that have a close connection to sunflower agriculture—such as Goodland—while trying to break a Guinness World Record. Other sites he chose with sunflower and/or Van Gogh connections include Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, South Africa, and Argentina. The 10 layers of acrylic urethane enamel paint that Cross used for the project are inherently long-lasting while providing ultraviolet protection.
Nation’s Oldest and Only Remaining Black Settlement West of the Mississippi River
Named for biblical figure Nicodemus, this town emerged in 1877 when 300 previously enslaved settlers from Kentucky arrived in the “Promised Land” of Kansas. Their move was part of the country’s westward expansion during post-Civil War Reconstruction. In 1996, Nicodemus became a National Historic Site, and five historic buildings became a unit of the National Park System. They include the St. Francis Hotel/Switzer Residence, the historic First Baptist Church (still active), the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the School District Number 1 building and the Township Hall, which houses displays regarding the community’s history. These buildings are open Thursday through Monday, from 9 to 5, but the grounds are always open. Hear the personal story of one family’s connection to Nicodemus when you take a tour with LueCreasea Horn, a sixth-generation descendant of the community’s founders. No matter when you visit, remember that Nicodemus remains a living, breathing community where people still live.