The Sunflower State gives families many chances to explore and experience the Wild West. Rodeos, parks and museums provide vivid reminders of frontier life, offering insight into pioneer days on the Great Plains.
Connect in Kansas City
Kansas City is part of a greater metropolitan area, with cities on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri state line offering many attractions.
Visit the Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs and admire glass swirl marbles, modern marble ornaments, paperweights and original creations. Watch a live marble-making demonstration and explore the never-ending assortment of toys and games.
Spend a day at Schlitterbahn Water Park complete with Kansas City’s only surf ride. Ride the Boogie Bahn while thousands of gallons of water flow across the padded surface in water a couple of inches deep. Also try the Storm Blaster uphill water coaster, four tubing slides and chutes, two tubing rivers including the world’s longest tidal wave river, 13 mini slides for kids and three beaches. At KC Vacation Rentals a mile away, each of the homes offers amenities such as hot tubs, patios and BBQ grills.
Kansas City family reunions also enjoy Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park resort, a great lodging choice for family groups. It offers a variety of water slides, from white- knuckle to toddler-friendly. Themed suites sleep up to eight.
Kansas Speedway’s 1,200-acre complex plays host to NASCAR races twice a year on its tri-oval track. Guests can view a working garage as well as access Autograph Alley. Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway has 52 table games, traditional reel and video slots and a variety of food options. One of the area’s most popular family restaurants is the dinosaur-themed T-Rex Cafe.
At Wyandotte County Lake and Park, explore the woodland trail that circles the scenic lake and the largest outdoor playground in Kansas City.
Wild West in Wichita
The Sedgwick County Zoo has 247 acres with more than 2,000 animals representing 400 species. Exhibit areas include a children’s farm, the amphibian and reptile building, a jungle with animals such as Cuban tree frogs and the white-blotched river stingray and a walk-through aviary representing regions of Australia and South America.
Get a taste of the Wild West at the Old Cowtown Museum, which consists of restorations and reproductions of more than 40 buildings dating from 1860-1880. A five-acre working farm depicts agricultural history. Wichita’s Mid-America All-Indian Center celebrates Native American cultures.
Exploration Place is complete with hands-on exhibits exploring flight and medieval life. A Kansas in Miniature exhibit is an animated display of 1950s Kansas. In the flight and design exhibit, visitors can fly a simulator like the Wright Brothers plane or climb into a Cessna Skyscraper.
The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame is a historic boathouse that contains profiles of the 190 inductees. Galleries are dedicated to basketball, football, baseball, track and field and Olympic sports at the professional, college and high school levels.
Make your day complete at the distinctive shops, antique stores and national retailers of Wichita. Hatman Jack’s is one of the nation’s largest hat shops. Find an off-the-rack or order custom-made chapeau with your name on it. Coleman Factory Outlet Stores offers the most extensive selection of Coleman camping and outdoor products anywhere.
Explore Civil Rights Landmarks in Topeka
Take a walk and enjoy the scenery at beautiful Gage Park. A conservatory, gardens and a miniature train are among its attractions. Recreational facilities include the Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center, tennis courts and a playground. Across from the park’s Reinisch Rose Garden, ride the 1908 carousel with a Wurlitzer organ. The highlight of Gage Park is the Topeka Zoological Park, where exhibits include the Tropical Rainforest, Discovering Apes, Gorilla Encounter and Lion’s Pride.
Bring your family to Lake Shawnee for fishing, boating, sailing and swimming, and one of the predominant Topeka reunion locations. The 1,000-acre park offers foot trails, fish hatcheries, a golf course, tennis courts, horseback trails, ball diamonds and gardens.
The state’s history is brilliantly displayed at the Kansas Museum of History, where exhibits spotlight American Indian culture, the Civil War and frontier life. Highlights include a full-size Southern Cheyenne tipi and 1800s steam locomotive. In the Discovery Place, children experience history firsthand by dressing in frontier costumes and playing in a Plains Indian teepee.
Old Prairie Town at Ward-Mead Historic Site includes an 1870s Victorian home, a log cabin, general store and working soda fountain. On guided tours, visitors can dress in 19th century clothing and stay for a picnic basket dinner.
At Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site and Museum, learn about the 1954 case that brought desegregation to schools. The site includes Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated elementary schools for African-American children in Topeka. The best free attraction in Topeka is the Kansas State Capitol building. There are self-guided tours and tours conducted by the State Historical Society.
Dodge City: Wagon Dinners and Wax Museums
Boot Hill Museum, a re-creation of Dodge City in 1876, is an Old West living history museum located on the original site of Boot Hill Cemetery. More than 25,000 items are showcased in 40 exhibits. During the summer, visitors can take stagecoach rides and see gunfight re-enactments and a Long Branch Saloon variety show. The Gunfighter’s Wax Museum showcases famous Wild West characters like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and Jesse James.
The Dodge City Trolley Tour offers one-hour narrated rides highlighting sights like Fort Dodge and the Long Branch Saloon.
The Dodge City Wild West Show and Chuck Wagon Dinner starts with a ride in a covered wagon pulled by Belgian farm horses. After dinner, everyone goes to the barn for a show with music, an indoor cattle drive, rodeo events and live buffalo.
Dodge City family reunions love the zoo, which has over 45 mammals and birds on display. Animals include Siberian tigers, longhorn cattle, buffalo, black bears, emu, cougars and monkeys.
If you’re in town early Saturday morning, check out the Dodge City Farm Market for fresh produce and homemade crafts.
−By Carly Meminger