The Old Cowtown Museum in Kansas City, Kansas is the perfect place if you want to take a trip back in time to the frontier days of cowboys, ranchers, and wagon-bound settlers. If any of you remember playing the game “Oregon Trail” as a kid, then the Old Cowtown Museum will definitely make you feel nostalgic! The 17-acre park is full of frontier-style buildings (around half of which are original 19th-century constructions), actors taking on rolls like settlers, cooks, and blacksmiths, and a petting zoo/farm with barnyard animals. It’s a great place to take the kids who’ll not only enjoy playing cowboy and interacting with the re-enactors, but who’ll learn something in the process!
The two hits of the museum are the gunfight in the street and the covered wagon rides, an activity that will surely delight the little ones. Kids can also dress up in period outfits and get an old-timey silver-gel photo taken or head to the period saloon for a somewhat-over-priced snack. All in all, I’d say that the Old Cowtown Museum is one of the better family-oriented visits in the Kansas City area. The park is huge (bring your walking shoes!), there are seemingly-unlimited activities, and the low price makes it affordable for the entire family.
A tribute to all of those who've died fighting for America has been added to the many tombs, mausoleums, eternal flames, and tireless guards that forever honor the more than 300,000 graves in Arlington Cemetery. Made in 2010, this slightly unsettling bronze sculpture tells the story of military service and sacrifice in America during World War II. The sculptor Greg Wyatt named it, "The Price of Freedom." The top item is an angel gently holding the figure of an unknown military figure that has died in battle. The center represents seven heroes of the war including a marine, an officer, a soldier, an airman, a cutter, a nurse and a common serviceman or woman like 'Rosie the Riveter,' in honor of the women who've worked in the armament factories. The bottom element is in the shape of a globe and represents the world during the war, complete with crowns, shields, badges and two patriotic eagles with open wings around the base of the sculpture. It is a particularly captivating piece if you look at it from behind, just before sunset, as the light from the sun filters though the figures.
Located in Wichita, the best part of the Ulrich Museum of Art collection is outside: Martin H. Bush Collection Outdoor sculptures, more than 70 sculptures scattered throughout the campus of Wichita State University. It includes art by Scott Burton, Luis Jimenez, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, George Rickey and Auguste Rodin. Includes art of Scott Burton, Luis Jimenez, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, George Rickey and Auguste Rodin.
The Lake Afton Public Observatory Museum is in the city of Wichita. Young people and adults can share the excitement of the night sky at the Observatory. Through the telescope that is 16-inches, wonders can be seen such as Saturn and its rings, the moon with its craters and mountains, clouds of gas, star clusters, with thousands of stars and galaxies many times bigger than the Milky Way. After touring the world, you can discover the museum area of the Centre with its interactive astronomy displays. The Observatory is about 20 miles southwest of the city of Wichita, Kansas. In these web pages you will find descriptions and schedules of public programs, astronomical images, and more. By visiting Wichita, be sure to put this unique attraction on your list of things to do.
The Indian Center Museum is a multi-purpose center that happens to house a museum, a gallery of Nations for special events and also has a gift shop. The store is also a cultural center and a museum that's devoted primarily to educating people about the heritage conservation and knowledge of the customs of American Indians.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum's mission is to educate the community and its visitors about local history and care for the collection, preservation and interpretation of materials reflecting the heritage of Wichita and Sedgwick. It also seeks to capture the spirit of Wichita entrepreneurs through, oil barons, merchants and a group of aviation pioneers such as Clyde Cessna and Walter Beech. A local landmark since 1892, the Wichita City Hall is the seat of Museum. also known as the Palace of the Plains, the building is an architectural gem of the city . The interior is equipped with fine woodworking, decorative painting and leaded glass.
The Sedgwick County Zoo is a nationally-renowned zoo in Wichita, Kansas that has the facilities and animals to take visitors on a virtual tour through all six continents. As far as the highlights go, the North America section has an amazing selection of big mammals like elk, cougar, and bar, while the Africa section is home to the zoo’s famous lions (often seen scenically sunning themselves atop a large rock in their pen) and other perennial favorites like rhinos, hippos, and giraffes. In fact, there’s a feeding station for the giraffes so you can get up close and personal with those gentle giants. Feeling that long black tongue slurp the feed out of your hand is quite an experience! The Asia section is a little bit less extensive, but it has what for many is the best part of the entire zoo: the tigers. The Slawson Family Tiger Trek is a fun and innovative way to see these big cats in a more-or-less natural environment. The whole area has been set up to resemble the forests of Asia, and you can explore the area and see the tigers interacting with each other in a natural way. The best part are the glass porthole that let you take a very close view at the animals. Simply stunning.
There are lots of educational activities for young and school-age kids, but one of the most interesting is the Creature Campout, a chance to bring a tent and sleeping bag and camp out at the zoo. Anyways, the zoo costs $14 for adults, $11 for senior, and $9 for kids between 3 and 11.
The Sunset Zoo is a hidden oasis of wildlife and family-fun in the small town of Manhattan, Kansas, around one hour west of the capitol of Topeka. Three main things make this zoo stand out: first, it’s a relatively small zoo so you can see all of the exhibits in one or two hours depending on your pace. Second, it’s located in a smaller town so you won’t be mobbed with crowds if you go (this is especially true during the week) and can enjoy the peaceful setting and exhibits at your leisure. Finally, despite its location and size, the Sunset Zoo has some pretty amazing animals. There are big cats like bobcats, leopards, and cheetahs as well as some truly exotic species like giant anteaters, wallabies, and zebus, an odd species of bison. There is, of course, also sections covering reptiles, fish, and a stunning selection of birds. Oh, and they just added a new exhibit of playful gibbons that’s a hit!
So, it’s a zoo that offers great animal exhibits, intimacy, and a peaceful setting…what else could you ask for? How about that it’s totally affordable! Yup, the zoo only costs $4 for adults and half that for kids, so the entire family can spend the day enjoying the zoo without going broke in the process. It’s a must if you’re in Topeka!
Botanica is one of the best and most beautiful things to see in the city of Witchita, Kansas. No, it's not the biggest or most varied botanical garden in the world, but they have managed to create a wonderful and whimsical little world full of colorful blooms and, more famously, butterflies. Botanica has intentionally created various gardens designed to attract butterflies and the result is simply magical! The best is the “Butterfly House,” a cute little greenhouse-type building that is full of the colorful winged creatures. Also, Botanica is perfect if you have kids. There are all kinds of supervised activities and play areas for the kids and it’s a perfect chance for parents to take a relaxing breather among the shady rock gardens and wildflower meadows.
Another must-see at Botanica is the “Sensory Garden,” an garden-exhibit that’s specifically designed to bring visitors in touch with a wide variety of colors, aromas, and textures. Before your visit make sure to check out the Botanica website as they regularly host themed events in the evenings like dinners, tours, or markets throughout the year.
The Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas is a thoroughly interesting and original concept in museums: rather than focus on one aspect of interest like science, art, or natural history, present visitors with a full range of "treasures" from around the world. Consider is a "greatest hits" of global history and nature. The museum has everything from dinosaurs to mummies to fossils and ancient Buddha statues from East Asia. Since this is Kansas, the Museum of World Treasures also has a special section dedicated to the Wild West that outlines a bit of frontier history and shows off items like the era. Without a doubt, the museum’s most famous attraction is “Ivan,” a massive T-Rex skeleton on display. The result is impressive. The fossil is nearly perfectly intact and just taking a look at the giant head with the razor-like teeth is enough to send a chill up your spine!
The Museum of World Treasures also has a curious selection of historical artifacts that defy expectations. There’s a section of the Berlin Wall, a collection of signatures from every American president, manuscripts from Beethoven and Mozart, and sports memorabilia from greats like Mohammad Ali or Joe DiMaggio. Like I said, it’s basically a greatest hits of world culture and a place where you’re sure to find something to marvel at no matter what your interest are.
Great for walking, biking running or just standing stock still the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge connects two of Minneapolis's highlight green spaces- the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Loring Park.
Built in 1988 to honor its namesake- Irene Hixon Whitney. The bridge spans 16 lanes of traffic- including the interstate! The overlapping beams on either end of the bridge are metaphors for shaking hands between the two areas of the city (divided by the interstate and traffic).
Because of its unique design and colors it also happens to be a favorite location for local photographers to capture images of street scenes, as well as views of the Sculpture Garden and Basilica. There are ramps and stairs on either end of the bridge, so access is easy (although the stairs are a slightly odd height/shape so watch your step as you climb!)
Schlitterbahn Vacation Village is the best waterpark in the Kansas City area and part of the hugely successful (and awfully fun) Schillterbahn Waterpark chain. The best part of Schlitterbahn is the sheer variety of rides and attractions available. You'll find everything from staples like the wave pools, lazy rivers, and water castles for the kids to more adrenaline-inducing rides like the Black Knight tube slide and the Boogie Bahn surf ride. I suppose that's the best thing about Schlitterbahn: it's thought out for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you're going with friends, teenagers, or smaller children, there's a set of activities that'll appeal to each. The other nice part about Schlitterbahn is that there are several restaurants on the premises and a beach area where you can lay out and catch some rays.
The ticket prices run about $35 for adults and 28 for children and seniors. There is free parking on the premises so that’s one thing less you have to worry about. Also, they have special discounts if you purchase tickets online so that’s something to consider before you go. Now, it’s time to get wet!
The Topeka Zoo is a perfectly-sized zoo in Gage Park in northern Topeka, Kansas. I say perfectly-sized because it has just enough exhibits, animals, and activities to keep you (and your family) entertained for a morning or afternoon but not so many that you have to run around all day and end up exhausted. Also, they have the perfect combination of animals to make for an interesting visit. They have the African classics like lions, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and hippos, but also some impressive local specimens like mountain lions, river otters, coyotes, and bears. Oh, and did I mention that there’s a Sumatran tiger? Well, there is…and it’s spectacular!
Like a lot of zoos nowadays, the Topeka Zoo offers a variety of educational and family-friendly activities like overnight camp-outs, nighttime tours, and special events for Easter, Halloween, and other holidays. The zoo is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm for the very-affordable price of $6 for adults and $4.25 for the kids.
Big Brutus is one of those amazing and slightly eccentric pieces of Americana that curious travelers can find in the American Midwest…West Mineral, Kansas to be exact. Big Brutus is a shockingly huge mining machine that was used to dig for coal in the 60’s and 70’s. The giant shovel is not longer in use today but it is still standing as a reminder of West Mineral’s mining past and because, hey, who doesn't want to marvel at an 11 million pound (that’s over 5,000 tons) machine? The other nice thing about visiting Big Brutus is the spectacular slab of protected parkland that surrounds it. Yes, Big Brutus is found on the Mined Land Wildlife Area, a 15,000-acre expanse that’s a great stop for deer and turkey hunters, bass fishers, and campers (both tent and RV sites are available).
There’s a small visitors center and souvenir shop (you have to pick up a souvenir!) at the entrance where you can get information about Big Brutus and its history or even arrange for a tour of the premises. There are also hot showers available for campers ve want a little luxury with their great outdoors! The entrance fee is $8 for adults and $5 for kids and it gives you access to the entire facility.
The Overland Park Arboretum and Gardens is a lovely and well-designed botanical garden within Overland Park, a large suburb of Kansas City. The park’s goal is to provide guests with a beautiful and relaxing way to experience plant-life and flowers from a variety of different ecosystems like savanna and forests. One nice thing about this set-up is that the majority of the plant species found are native to Kansas so you get the chance to learn a little about some species that might be in your own backyard! One of the most stunning parts of the park is the aptly-named Monet Garden, a tranquil area of ponds, weeping willows, and pastel flowers that looks like something straight from one of the artist’s paintings. Another beautiful corner of the arboretum is the Cohen Iris Garden, home to over 300 iris specimens from around the world. It’s definitely one of the most romantic places in the entire city.
The Overland Park Arboretum and Gardens also have a variety of hiking trails that wind through the woodlands on either side of Wolf Creek (a tributary of the famous Blue River). The best trails are the ones on the limestone bluffs on the south side of the river, but we warned that the trails are one an incline and are a bit more challenging than the normal trails. Anyways, if you’re a flower-enthusiast or just looking for a peaceful place to clear you mind, the Overland Park Arboretum and Gardens is the best place in town.
The Wichita Art Museum is a wonderful little art museum in Wichita Kansas that specializes in the cream of the crop of American art. The highlights of the collection are Charles Russel, a turn-of-the-century American artists whose paintings of the American West came to symbolize an ideal, and Edward Hopper, the 20th-century American painter most well-known for his classic 1942 painting Nighthawks.
The museum also has a small but well-curated collection of Native American and Pre-Colombian art that’s worth seeing. The museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibits ranging from subjects like contemporary Native American art to works from as far away as Australia and prestigious traveling exhibits like the May Cassatt and the American Impressionists. Another obvious highlight is the dazzling glass sculpture by contemporary artist Dale Chihuly that adorns the lobby area.
The museum also has a small gift shop selling souvenirs and prints of the works and a cafe where you can grab a coffee or a bit to eat after exploring the museum. The museum also hosts regular events and activities like yoga or film screenings so you should check the schedule before you visit to see what’s on.
Fort Hays is a historic American fort in Hays, Kansas that played a pivotal role in the American Indian Wars of the late 1800’s and opening up the American frontier. While not the most famous fort in the American West, Fort Hays played a surprisingly important role in the nation’s history and it’s a great place to discover stories about the legendary figures that passed through its halls (not least among which are Wild Bill Hickock and General Custer).
This fort is small but there are several interesting exhibits you can explore. First, you have an overview of the American Indian Wars and a display of weapons used by the Plains Indians and the American Army at the time. Then, you can move on to the Officers Quarters and get a period-perfect idea of what life must have been like on the fort. The Guardhouse is perhaps the most interesting building: it’s where the bulk of the fort’s activities took place and there are lots of touchscreens and other interactive activities to help you learn a bit more about the people that brought the fort to life.
Fort Hays is open from 9am to 5pm from Wednesday to Saturday. It's a very affordable $5 for adults and there's a very generous student discount.
Fort Scott is a 19th-century frontier army fort in Kansas that rose to fame during the American Civil War and the violent uprisings that occurred in Kansas at the time. It also served as one of the last army installations on the edge of what was then Indian Territory and served to supply and assist settlers heading west. These days, the original fort buildings have been restored (or, in other cases, re-built entirely) and makes for a nice family-friendly visit to discover Kansas’ role in American frontier history. You can visit barracks, officers’ quarters, ammunition storage facilities, bakeries, stables, and other buildings and there are usually interpreters who dress, speak, and act as if they were straight out of the 1800’s.
Aside from the historic fort and re-enactors, the Fort Scott site is also nestled on a prime stretch of Kansas prairie. Despite popular notions, prairie isn't dry and yellow, but rather beautiful, green, and full of wildflowers. If you visit Fort Scott on a spring day, you’ll be surprised at how beautiful the Kansas countryside can be.