From big city lights to wide open prairies, Kansas has it all. Although it is a largely agricultural state with a plethora of outdoor activities, the cities certainly do not disappoint either.
Zoos, aquariums, lakes, and wildlife parks offer fantastic opportunities to view wildlife from up-close.
Small towns abound in their charm throughout the state while numerous museums and historic sites give history buffs and interested tourists a chance to learn about the history of Kansas and the Midwestern Prairie. Here are the best things to do in Kansas.
1. Massachusetts Street
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Massachusetts Street, the main street in Lawrence, is a very popular tourist destination and part of it is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. The street features many buildings that were built during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century and which are of historical interest, including the Free State Brewing Company, Weaver’s Department Store, and the Granada Theater.
Many of these significant buildings are marked with bronze plaques explaining their significance. The Watkins Museum displays exhibits related to local and state history. Nearby green spaces include a city park and a Japanese Friendship Garden. The street is also a shopper’s paradise, with many shops offering unique products.
833-½ Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, KS 66044, Phone: 785-842-3883
2. Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
© Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center
The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center is a space museum, planetarium, and STEM ed-ucation center in Hutchinson, Kansas, famous for restoring and exhibiting spaceships as well as organizing space camps.
It now displays over 13,000 spaceflight artifacts, making it the largest collection of Russian and US space artifacts in the world. Some of the unique and authentic ob-jects in display have actually been flown into space or were a flight-ready backup. There is also a large amount of space suits on display as well as a V-1 flying bomb, a V-2 rocket, a Vostok space capsule, a Lockheed SR-71 blackbird, the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft, and the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey.
Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson, KS 67501,1100 N Plum St, Phone: 800-397-0330
3. Oz Museum, Wamego, Kansas
© Oz Museum
The The OZ Museum in Wamego is dedicated to The Wizard of Oz. It features over 2,000 artifacts that relate to L. Frank Baum’s books, the well-known movie as well as the silent films and board games. The museum was founded in 2004 and has encouraged the de-velopment of several Oz-related businesses, now known as the Oz Cluster.
A perfect time to go there is for the OzToberfest, when an annual street festival is held, offering many fun activities for adults and children, including a costume contest, a window art contest, hot air balloon rides, a yellow brick road bike ride as well as food and drinks, music, live presentations, and much more from the magical world of the Wizard of Oz! More info
511 Lincoln St, Wamego, KS 66547, Phone: 785-458-8686
4. Museum of World Treasures, Kansas
© Museum of World Treasures
The Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, has a vast display of historical pieces, ranging from complete fossil dinosaur skeletons, including the famous Ivan the T. rex, to Egyp-tian mummies, a section of the Berlin Wall, and three floors of the most diverse collection from world history.
As it is a non-profit organization, it provides educational programs, events, and exhibits thanks to the generosity of its donors. The museum is located at the Farm & Art Market Building in Old Town and also offers a banquet room for birthdays, weddings, and meetings.
835 E 1st St N, Wichita, KS 67202, Phone: 316-263-1311
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5. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
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Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a 10,894-acre national park located in the Flint Hills region, north of Strong City, Kansas. It protects a remnant of the tallgrass prairie that once cov-ered 170 million acres of the United States, stretching from Indiana to Kansas and from Canada to Texas.
Nowadays, only 4% remains, the rest having mostly been plowed under for urban or agricultural development. The park contains over 500 species of plants, 39 species of reptiles, 31 species of mammals, and nearly 150 species of birds. There are a number of hiking trails and bus tours and you can also drive along the many trails, although most of the flora and fauna are too small to be seen from a passing car.
2480B Kansas 177, Strong City, KS 66869, Phone: 620-273-8494
6. Kansas State Capitol Building
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The Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka is the headquarters of the executive and legislative branches of government for the state of Kansas. The dome of this building was modeled after that of the United States Capitol. Visitors can tour the building, including the dome, which involves a climb of 296 steps from the fifth floor.
There are two tour options, one which showcases the history of the Capitol building and the other which comprises the dome tour. The visitors’ center features exhibits related to Kansas history, the state government, and the Capitol building itself as well as an auditorium and a tour desk.
SW 8th & SW Van Buren, Topeka, KS 66612, 785-296-3966
7. Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead
© Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead
The Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead is located in Overland Park, Kansas, and is a family-friendly farm experience and educational facility. The farmstead gives visitors the opportunity to view and interact with farm animals, birds of prey, and butterfly gardens. There are interactive activities such as nature walks, a full-scale country schoolhouse, a fishing pond, and horse and pony rides.
The 12-acre park hosts a variety of activities throughout the year and boasts attrac-tions for all ages. The park has several refreshment options during your visit, including a restau-rant featuring typical amusement park fare and an ice cream parlor.
13800 Switzer Road, Overland Park, KS 66221, Phone: 913-897-2360
8. Sedgwick County Zoo
© Sedgwick County Zoo
The Sedgwick County Zoo is a zoological park in Wichita. It is well-known for its efforts in con-servation and its breeding of rare species. The zoo is home to over 2,500 animals from almost 500 species. The park is laid out according to geographical region and each section includes animals from that part of the world.
Tram tours of the zoo are included in the admission price and boat tours of certain sections are available at an additional cost. Sedgwick County Zoo has four different food and beverage locations which serve snacks, light meals, and drinks. Giraffe feeding sessions are available several times a day and special events happen throughout the year.
5555 Zoo Boulevard, Wichita, KS 67212, Phone: 316-266-8211
9. Kansas Speedway
© Kansas Speedway
The Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile race track and motorsports facility in Kansas City
. The speedway hosts several annual NASCAR events, including two Sprint Cup Series races. The area near the hotel includes a movie theater, an outdoor shopping mall, and several hotels, in-cluding the Hollywood Hotel and Casino, which is located at the track and overlooks turn two.
The casino features 100,000 square feet of gaming floor and nearly 30,000 square feet of other entertainment amenities. The track features the Richard Petty Driving Experience, which allows visitors to actually drive a race car on the track.
400 Speedway Blvd., Kansas City, KS 66111, Phone: 866-460-7223
10. Strataca, Kansas
Strataca is a salt mine museum located in a large rock salt deposit in Hutchinson. Visitors have the opportunity to go 650 feet under the surface of the earth and explore the unique salt deposits. The museum is housed in the Hutchinson Salt Company mine and is the only salt mine in the United States that allows tourist visits.
Tours of the mine include a tram tour, exhibits dedicated to mining operations, a geology gallery, and more. Visitors even have the opportunity to take home a souvenir bag of salt crystals from the mine. The museum hosts special events throughout the year, including concerts and murder mystery dinners.
3650 East Avenue G, Hutchinson, KS 67501, Phone: 620-662-1425
11. KS Things to Do: Flint Hills Discovery Center
© Flint Hills Discovery Center
The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a museum and interactive learning facility in Manhattan, Kansas. The museum features exhibits on the local history of the Flint Hills as well as the preservation of the tallgrass prairie. Visitors can explore the ecosystems of the tallgrass prairie and of the Flint Hills in particular.
The discovery center also includes a movie theater and an area for displaying tem-porary exhibits. For younger visitors, the discovery center features a state of the art interactive playground. The center offers a variety of community programs for both adults and children. The Flint Hills Discovery Center frequently hosts special events and can be hired for private func-tions.
315 South 3rd Street, Manhattan, KS 66502, Phone: 785-587-2726
12. Sea Life - Kansas City Aquarium
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Sea Life is an aquarium in Kansas City which contains thousands of marine animals. Some no-table species are the blacktip reef shark, great Pacific octopus, big-bellied seahorse, cow-nosed ray, green sea turtles, and many others. Sea Life works with several partner organizations to have a strong voice in marine wildlife conservation.
It also operates as a breeding facility for many species to help combat extinction. Educational talks with professionals at the aquarium are scheduled throughout the day. The aquarium features fresh and saltwater exhibits as well as several interactive exhibits where visitors can have a hands-on experience with the animals on display.
2475 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, MO 64108, Phone: 816-471-4386
13. Safari Zoological Park
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Safari Zoological Park is a small, private zoo near Caney that began as a personal collection of exotic animals. The zoo now houses over 100 species of animals, including large cats, primates, bears, foxes, wolves, and more.
Visitors are led through the park by a guide who explains the exhibits and the history of the animals. There is a small pond where visitors can feed fish. The zoo offers camp experiences for visitors who want a more in-depth experience of the wildlife. Safari Zoological Park offers the chance to view the animals up-close and personal in an intimate environment.
Route 1, Box 158D, Caney, KS 67333, Phone: 620-515-2885
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14. Botanica Gardens, Wichita, Kansas
© Botanica: The Wichita Gardens
Botanica Gardens is a collection of botanical gardens in Wichita. The 30 beautiful gardens that make up Botanica are each unique in their own way. The Downing Children’s Garden is especially de-signed for little people and their families and features whimsical decorations and garden designs geared towards children. The Butterfly Garden is designed to attract a variety of different butter-fly species.
Visitors can try to search for different species of butterflies amidst the butterfly-friendly plants and flowers. The numerous other gardens all feature their own unique theme or design. Botanica also boasts an events center that can seat almost 300 people and is a popular wedding venue. In the coming years, there are plans to install a retro 1949 carousel in the park. More info
701 Amidon Street, Wichita, KS 67203, Phone: 316-264-0448
15. Fort Scott National Historic Site
© NPS Photo
The Fort Scott National Historic Site is a former military fort and historical area which is operated by the National Park Service. The fort was instrumental in the expansion and settlement of the United States by European settlers in the 19th century.
The fort was also a US Army base on the edge of the settlement and was used as a supply base both as the West was being settled and throughout the American Civil War. The site includes some 20 structures, parade grounds, and five acres of tallgrass prairie. Visitors can tour the grounds and buildings and learn about the history of the area and the role the fort played in the history of the nation.
Old Fort Blvd., Fort Scott, KS 66701, Phone: 620-223-0310
16. Kansas Museum of History
© Kansas Museum of History
The Kansas Museum of History is a state history museum located in Topeka. It includes exhibits dedicated to state history from prehistoric times until the present, telling you the story of the state and people of Kansas. Some of the museum’s special collections include three locomotives, a 1914 biplane, White’s printing press, and many other interesting historical artifacts.
Discovery Place is a hands-on children’s section which gives children the opportunity to learn about Kansas history through play and interactive exhibits. The museum features a museum store which sells Kansas themed gifts, books, and souvenirs.
6425 SW 6th Avenue, Topeka, KS 66615, Phone: 785-272-8681
17. Rolling Hills Zoo
© Rolling Hills Zoo
Rolling Hills Zoo is a zoo located near Salina and is home to over 100 species of animals, including a rare white camel, an Indian rhino, an orangutan, and much more. The zoo was started in a barn by a local businessman and rancher.
Nowadays, the zoo is run by a private non-profit organization which exists to conserve and protect rare and endangered animals. Visitors are able to see the animals in beautiful, naturalistic habitats. The Rolling Hills Zoo also includes a wildlife museum and conference center which showcases various wildlife exhibits, a children’s interactive exploration room, and an ADM theater
625 N. Hedville Road, Salina, KS 67401, Phone: 785-827-9488
18. Kansas City Fun Trolley Tours
© Kansas City Fun Trolley Tours
Kansas City Fun Trolley Tours offers an exciting and unique way to experience Kansas City. The authentic trolley will take you past the main sites of interest in the city, including the historic City Market, the WWI Museum, Sea Life Aquarium, Legoland Discovery Center, the Missouri River, and much more.
The tour takes about 75 minutes and is fully narrated along its entire length by informative and entertaining guides. The tour gives visitors a good overview of every-thing Kansas City has to offer as well as a good understanding of the history of the area.
30 West Pershing, Kansas City, MO 64108, Phone: 816-500-5417
19. Kansas State Capitol
© Kansas State Capitol
The Kansas State Capitol, or Kansas Statehouse, houses the legislative and executive govern-ment for the state of Kansas. It is located in Topeka, which has been the capital of Kansas since 1861, when it became a US state. This magnificent building is the most important architectural piece in the state and took 37 years to build –from 1866 to 1903– at a cost of 3 million dollars.
There are tours of the capitol, including the possibility to reach the top of the dome. Visitors have to climb 296 steps from the fifth floor to get to the top.
300 SW 10th St, Topeka, KS 66612,USA, Phone: 785-296-3966
20. Trails Day Cafe and Museum
© Trails Day Cafe and Museum
Located in the 1861 limestone Terwilliger Home in Council Grove, Kansas, Trail Days Café and Museum is a blast from the past, a place that will transport you back to the time of the early settlers, Kanza Native Americans, and wagons rolling down the Kansas Trail. Everything around you in the café is a museum piece and the staff is dressed in period costume to get you into the spirit of early American settlers and the hard prairie life. They serve traditional Native American and early American food, all made from scratch. The café building is one of several buildings in the Maple Camp Complex, including a 1858 log cabin, a 1902 school, and maple camp cabins from the 1930s and ‘40s.
803 W Main St, Council Grove, KS 66846, Phone: 620-767-7986
21. Old Cowtown Museum, Kansas
© Old Cowtown Museum
The Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas, is an open-air history museum that is unique in its re-creation of Wichita and Sedgwick County during the period of 1865 to 1880. It provides a journey back in time to the “Old West” lifestyle, buildings, clothes, and customs. You can jump into a bar, get a haircut, see what the prisons were like, visit the schools, the church, the stores, and more.
The volunteers who act as locals are not only dressed appropriately for the period, but also talk the talk and walk the walk. It is a fun experience for the whole family, but especially for the kids since they can rob a bank, be sheriffs, watch a shoot-out, and learn as they are amazed by the original 1800s buildings and lifestyle.
1865 Museum Blvd, Wichita, KS 67203, Phone: 316-350-3323
22. Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum
© Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, is one of the 13 presidential libraries and tells the story of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the only five-star general to become President of the United States. He was famous for the 1944 Allied invasion of Nazi Europe, the first civil rights legislation, and the Interstate Highway System, not to mention being the first “tel-evision president”.
The five galleries tell his story from his childhood in Abilene until his retirement and show the house where he lived from 1989 to 1946 as well as his final resting place. The library houses 26 million pages of historical records, 335,000 photographs, 768,000 feet of motion picture film, and 70,000 artifacts.
200 S E 4th St, Abilene, KS 67410, Phone: 785-263-4751
23. Exploration Place, Kansas
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The Exploration Place is a science museum and discovery center located in Wichita, Kansas. It opened in 2000, consolidating the Wichita Omnisphere and Science Center and the Children’s Museum of Wichita. The building, named the “Island Building”, is surrounded by water since it is constructed beside the Arkansas River.
Among its attractions, it features the 60-foot-high, 360-degree digital screen in the Boeing Dome Theater and Planetarium, Kansas largest dome theater, as well as live science shows in the Kemper Creative Learning Studio, a 150-seat thea-ter that offers an interactive and exciting approach to science and is equipped with an amazing sound system, audiovisual equipment, and stage lighting.
300 N McLean Blvd, Wichita, KS 67203, Phone: 316-660-0600
24. Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas
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The Fort Larned National Historic Site is a preserved fort on the Santa Fe Trail which was in op-eration from 1859 to 1878. Located in Larned, Kansas, it reflects the history of the Indian Wars, as the sandstone buildings gave shelter to the Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail, who protected traffic from hostile American Indians.
It features a museum tour as well as a bookstore, historical buildings, and a nature trail that winds in a semicircle around Pawnee Fork, with opportunities to observe the woodland, grassland, and riparian animals and plants. It is also an excellent place for birding, since it is located on the Central Flyway, a bird migration route. More Kansas Parks
1767 Kansas 156, Larned, KS 67550, Phone: 620-285-6911
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The Children’s Mercy Park, also known as Livestrong Sporting Park or Sporting Park, is a foot-ball stadium located in Kansas City. It now houses the Sporting Kansas City soccer team, which plays in the MLS. The stadium has a capacity of 18,567 but can be expanded to 25,000 for con-certs; it has won the Venue of the Year award and a community award in 2012, given by Stadiumbusiness Awards.
The stadium has great food and drink opportunities and friendly staff who will assist you every step of the way. There is a shopping mall with restaurants next to the stadium and there is free parking nearby.
To reserve your seats, call Sporting Kansas City at 913-912-7600, or visit http://www.sportingkc.com/ . You can also get your tickets at the Stadium, on 1 Sporting Way, Kansas City.
1 Sporting Way, Kansas City, KS 66111, Phone: 913-912-7600