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KANSAS TRAVEL GUIDE

Monument Rocks, Kansas Kansas sign wheat field in Kansas

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Kansas! Hopefully this page and its information helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Kansas.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


OVERVIEW



People often joke about Kansas being a boring state, but the truth is that it has many fantastic attractions and a heck of a lot of great natural scenery. There's more great museums that I think anyone would expect, and several geologic wonders lie in the western side of the state. And of course Kansas is home to various Wizard of Oz attractions and the World's Largest Ball of Twine.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN KANSAS



Here is my opinionated list of 5-star attractions in Kansas. I believe each of these attractions should be on your Kansas bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Western Kansas
American Easel, The / Giant van Gogh Painting, Goodland - giant roadside attraction replica of a Van Gogh's paintings; 0.5 mile from I-70
Mid-America Air Museum, Liberal - one of the largest aviation museums in the U.S.
Monument Rocks / Chalk Pyramids, Scott City - geologic wonder and some of Kansas best and most rugged scenery
Mount Sunflower, Weskan - highpoint of Kansas; you can drive to the spot; a small monument makes for a quick and fun photo-op

Central Kansas (including Dodge City and Wichita)
Arkansas River Bike Path, Wichita - excellent 10-mile rail trail that provides access to many of Wichita's attractions
Barbed Wire Museum, La Crosse - probably the only museum of its kind
Blue River Rail Trail - one of the best rail trails in KS; you can connect with the Chief Standing Bear Trail in NE to make a longer journey
Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City - historical museum focusing on the Old West
Botanica: The Wichita Gardens, Wichita - beautiful botanical gardens; located in Sim Park
Castle Rock Badlands, Quinter - some of the best natural scenery in Kansas
Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum, Hutchinson - often called "America's best space museum"
Eisenhower Library, Museum & Boyhood Home, Abilene - presidential history museum
Exploration Place, Wichita - excellent science museum
Flint Hills Discovery Center, Manhattan - great science and culture museum
Fort Larned National Historic Site, Larned - preserved army fort from the 1860s-1870s; several buildings to explore
Keeper of the Plains, Wichita - 44-foot steel structure at the confluence of 2 rivers
Konza Prairie Research Natural Area, Manhattan - some of the best hiking/nature trails in Kansas; great tall grass scenery; bison viewing
Mountain biking the Switchgrass Trail in Wilson State Park, Sylvan Grove - the "undisputed king of Kansas singletrack mountain biking"
Museum of World Treasures, Wichita - three floors of historical exhibits
Mushroom Rock State Park, Marquette - unique rock formations accessible via a short and easy walk
Nifty Nut House, Wichita - one of the largest nut and candy stores in the U.S.
Old Cowtown Museum, Wichita - replica of a Wild West town
Rock City, Minneapolis - unique spherical boulders/rock formations; popular for bouldering
Sedgwick Country Zoo, Wichita - one of the top 25 zoos in the U.S.
Starlite Drive-In, Wichita - an excellent surviving drive-in movie theater
Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays - museum focusing on paleontology, zoology, and geology; tons of fossils
Strataca, Hutchinson - travel 650 feet below the surface into an old mine
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong Township - last remaining intact prairie lands; several hiking trails and wildlife viewing (bison)
Tanganyika Wildlife Park, Goddard - intimate animal attractions
Wildwood Adventure Park, Manhattan - excellent aerial adventure park in the Flint Hills
World's Largest Ball of Twine, Cawker City - world's largest ball of twine; one of the most famous roadside attractions in the U.S.
World's Largest Czech Egg, Wilson - giant egg roadside attraction; a great instagram-worthy photo-op

Eastern Kansas (including Kansas City and Topeka)
Big Brutus, West Mineral - see a retired, gigantic piece of mining equipment
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka - site/museum that commemorates the end of racial segregation in public schools
Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead, Overland Park - half-farm, half-amusement park; farm animals
Downtown Lawrence / Massachusetts Street - tourist district with many boutique shops and restaurants
Elk City State Park, Independence - limestone bluffs; boating, camping, swimming; hiking trails; probably the premier state park in Kansas
Equality House, Topeka - rainbow-colored house across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church
Evel Knievel Museum, Topeka - museum honoring the famous motorcycle daredevil
Fort Scott National Historic Site, Fort Scott - 20 historic structures from a 19th century fort
Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail - excellent 26-mile paved rail trail from Leawood, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas Speedway, Kansas City - famous NASCAR track
Kansas State Capitol Building, Topeka - one of the most impressive U.S. state capitol buildings
New Theatre, Overland Park - dinner-theater venue featuring Broadway musicals & comedies
Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, Overland Park - impressive gardens
Oz Museum, Wamego - tons of Wizard of OZ memorabilia
Prairie Spirit Trail State Park - 51-mile linear park for walkers and bicyclists; travels between Iola and Ottawa, Kansas
Safari Zoological Park, Caney - private zoo with up-close-and-personal animal encounters
Zip KC, Bonner Springs - awesome zip-lining adventure

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Kansas? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN KANSAS



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Kansas? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Kansas, in no particular order:

Enjoy the excellent museums and gardens of Wichita
Stop at some of the Wizard of Oz attractions in the state, including the OZ Museum in Wamego
Visit one of the best space museums in the U.S., the Cosmosphere
See the natural rock formations at Monument Rocks in western Kansas
Mountain bike the famous Switchgrass Trail in Wilson State Park
Explore an old mine at Strataca in Hutchingson
See the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City
Go hiking, boating, or swimming in Elk City State Park, arguably Kansas's best state park
Wander around Lawrence's lively downtown district, often called "one of the most beautiful main streets in the U.S."
Visit the Mid-America Air Museum, one of the largest and best aviation museums in the country

If I could pick only one place to visit in Kansas, I would choose Wichita. There are several excellent museums there, along with some great cycling trails.

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN KANSAS



These towns and cities in Kansas are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Lawrence - an artsy city with a lively downtown district; has "one of the most beautiful main streets in the U.S."
Lindsborg - art-loving town known as "Little Sweden USA"; downtown is full of art galleries, shops, and restaurants
Topeka - several good museums; important Civil Rights history
Wichita - several excellent museums, art galleries, performing arts venues, and other attractions

My favorite city in Kansas is Wichita - I recommend that first-time visitors spend at least 1-2 nights there.

My favorite small town in Kansas is Lindsborg.

I haven't visited Dodge City yet, and so I'm not sure if I should add it to my list of interesting towns/cities in Kansas or not.

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire U.S.

WHAT IS KANSAS FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Kansas is famous or well known for:

aircraft manufacturing
beef cattle
oil wells
prairies / tallgrass prairies
state in the center of the U.S.
sunflowers
tornadoes
wheat
Wizard of Oz

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN KANSAS



There are currently no national parks, national monuments, or national forests in Kansas, but there are many other federally-managed parks and properties in the state, including:

National Wildlife Refuges
Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge
Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks
Brown vs. Board of Education National Historical Park
California National Historic Trail
Cimarron National Grassland
Fort Larned National Historic Site
Fort Scott National Historic Site
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Nicodemus National Historic Site
Oregon National Historic Trail
Pony Express National Historic Trail
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

For more information on Kansas's national parks, visit the Kansas page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN KANSAS



Kansas has nearly 30 state parks. Many would agree that these represent Kansas's finest state parks:

Flagship / Premier State Parks:
Elk City State Park - limestone bluffs; boating, camping, swimming; lots of hiking trails; most would say it's the premier state park in Kansas
Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park - interesting rock formations/geologic features (e.g. Niobrara chalk formations)
Mushroom Rock State Park - otherworldly rock formations that you wouldn't expect to see in Kansas
Wilson State Park - famous 24-mile Switchgrass mountain biking trail; rugged shoreline with scenic cliffs; great fishing and kayaking; camping

Other Notable State Parks:
Cheney State Park - some of the best boating, fishing, and swimming in the state
Kanapolis State Park - sandstone bluffs; lots of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails
Lake Scott State Park - natural springs, canyons, craggy bluffs, and archaeological sites; camping, swimming, hiking, fishing and more

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN KANSAS



Kansas has a surprising amount of natural waterfalls. Some of the best waterfalls in Kansas include:

Chautauqua Falls
Cowley Falls
Geary Falls
Prather Creek Falls
Rock Creek Falls
Santa Fe Lake Falls

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Kansas, visit the World Waterfall Database or the excellent website of Mickey Shannon.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN KANSAS



This section coming soon!

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN KANSAS



Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Kansas:

Blue River Rail Trail
Prairie Spirit Trail State Park - often rated one of the best rail trails in the U.S.
Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail - often rated one of the best rail trails in the U.S.

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Kansas, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN KANSAS



Kansas doesn't really have any notable amusement parks. There are a few indoor water parks and small aquatic parks, but nothing I would say is nationally substantial. However, Kansas City, Missouri is very close and there's a few amusement parks there (or near there).

BEST MUSEUMS IN KANSAS



Kansas has many excellent museums - probably more than you'd expect. The best museums in Kansas include:

Western Kansas
Mid-America Air Museum, Liberal
OZ Museum, Liberal

Central Kansas (including Dodge City and Wichita)
Barbed Wire Museum, La Crosse
Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City
Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum, Hutchinson
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum, Abilene
Exploration Place, Wichita
Flint Hills Discovery Center, Manhattan
Museum of World Treasures, Wichita
Old Cowtown Museum, Wichita
Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays
Strataca, Hutchinson
Wichita Art Museum, Wichita

Eastern Kansas (including Kansas City and Topeka)
Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, Atchison
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka
Evel Knievel Museum, Topeka

BEST DAY HIKES IN KANSAS



Kansas has some interesting hiking trails, but in full disclosure there's not all that much that is of national significance. Here are some of the best day hikes in the state:

Western Kansas
Castle Rock
Life on the Rocks Trail, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Central Kansas (including Dodge City and Wichita)
Kanopolis Lake State Park trails
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve trails

Eastern Kansas (including Kansas City and Topeka)

Elk River Hiking Trail
Konza Prairie Preserve (e.g. Godwin Hill Loop)
Table Mound Trail, Elk City State Park

The highpoint of Kansas is Mount Sunflower (4,039'). You can drive right to the spot on a long gravel road, and so no hiking is required.

To find more hikes in Kansas or to learn more about the hikes I've listed above, I recommend purchasing hiking guidebooks on Amazon (or from your local retailer). Another option is using alltrails.com, but you have to be very careful when using that website as its information is often wrong or incomplete. Published hiking guidebooks will likely always be significantly better than the information you find online.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN KANSAS



Kansas only offers a few backpacking opportunities. Here are the only trails/places that I know of:

Elk River Trail, Elk City State Park - 15 miles one-way; this is the premier backpacking trip in Kansas
Woodridge Park

If you know of any other backpacking opportunities in Kansas, please let me know! gparsons66@hotmail.com.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN KANSAS



Kansas offers a few excellent adventures, including these classics:

ATV/ORV-ing in Kansas Badlands Off Road Park
ATV/ORV-ing in Syracuse Sand Dunes Park
ATV/ORV-ing in Tuttle Creek ORV Area
Backpacking the 15-mile Elk River Trail
Bouldering at Rock City
Canoeing/kayaking the Kansas River (also called "the Kaw") - multi-day trips are possible
Canoeing/kayaking the Walnut River
Cycling the Arkansas River Bike Path - 100% paved
Cycling the Blue River Rail Trail - mix of paved and unpaved
Cycling the Flint Hills Nature Trail - some sections are still under development, but one day this trail should be 118 miles long
Cycling the Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail - 100% paved
Cycling the Prairie Spirit Trail - mix of paved and unpaved
Horseback riding in Clinton State Park
Horseback riding in El Dorado State Park
Horseback riding at Hillsdale State Park in Paola
Jet skiing in Cedar Bluff State Park / Cedar Bluff Reservoir
Mountain biking in Clinton State Park
Mountain biking in Wilson State Park (e.g. the famous Switchgrass Trail)
Mountain biking the Lawrence River Trails
Skydiving in Derby
Windsurfing/sailing in Cheney State Park / Cheney Reservoir

KANSAS TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Kansas attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

If you are visiting Kansas, you might as well also visit Kansas City in Missouri since it's right over the border. Kansas City is one of my favorite cities in the Central region of the U.S., and not just because of their world-famous BBQ (although that is certainly part of it).

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN KANSAS



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Kansas:

chili con carne
Kansas City-style ribs
Kansas dirt cake

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Kansas (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Kansas (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY KANSAS INFORMATION



Capital = Topeka
Major airports = Wichita; take note that many people will fly into Kansas City, Missouri and then drive into Kansas
Largest cities = Wichita (400,564), Overland Park (202,012), Kansas City (158,771), Olathe (144,374), Topeka (126,409), Lawrence (96,392)
Primary U.S. interstates = I-35, I-70
State highpoint = Mount Sunflower (4,039'); a long drive on a gravel road is required to reach the top
Professional sports teams = none (although Kansas City just over the border in Missouri has some)

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.


Monument Rocks, Kansas
Monument Rocks, Kansas

sign in Kansas
sign in Kansas

one of thousands of wheat fields in Kansas
one of thousands of wheat fields in Kansas

Monument Rocks, Kansas
Monument Rocks, Kansas

Rock City, Kansas
Rock City, Kansas

Konza Prairie Research Natural Area in Manhattan, Kansas
Konza Prairie Research Natural Area in Manhattan, Kansas

cool sign (and great burgers) in Kansas
cool sign (and great burgers) in Kansas

MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this travel guide? If so, here are links to more U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama  |  Alaska  |  Arizona  |  Arkansas  |  California  |  Colorado  |  Connecticut  |  Delaware  |  Florida  |  Georgia  |  Hawaii  |  Idaho  |  Illinois  |  Indiana  |  Iowa  |  Kansas  |  Kentucky  |  Louisiana  |  Maine  |  Maryland  |  Massachusetts  |  Michigan  |  Minnesota  |  Mississippi  |  Missouri  |  Montana  |  Nebraska  |  Nevada  |  New Hampshire  |  New Jersey  |  New Mexico  |  New York  |  North Carolina  |  North Dakota  |  Ohio  |  Oklahoma  |  Oregon  |  Pennsylvania  |  Rhode Island  |  South Carolina  |  South Dakota  |  Tennessee  |  Texas  |  Utah  |  Vermont  |  Virginia  |  Washington  |  Washington DC  |  West Virginia  |  Wisconsin  |  Wyoming

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