The Kansas board of tourism is making things easy for visitors. The Department of Commerce has put together a list of “Ready Made Adventures” for those of us who hate having to do the planning for ourselves. Each of the Adventures revolves around a theme, and includes a full 3-5 day itinerary and at least a dozen attractions and activities that you and your family will love. What if you can only manage to get away for a day at a time, though? Here’s our top half a dozen picks of Kansas attractions and things to do when you don’t have time for a full vacation. We guarantee that you’ll return refreshed and relaxed.
Flat? Empty? If your impression of Kansas is miles and miles of flat land stretching toward oblivion, you just haven’t looked. Kansas features eight scenic byways, two of them National Scenic Byways – beautiful drives with stunning scenery. Many of them include activities and attractions to visit along the way. Even if you do nothing but enjoy the view, though, you can’t go wrong. The eight byways are:Flint Hills Scenic Byway
is a National Scenic Byway. The two lane paved roadway is just over 47 miles long, and travels past the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and numerous historic sites. Flint Hills Byway runs from Council Grove to Cassoday, the Prairie Chicken capitol of the world. Frontier Military Scenic Bywa
y is 167 miles of scenic roadway that travels from Fort Leavenworth in the north to Fort Scott in the south. The trail is close to the one that was used by the frontier army to transport troops and supplies between the forts. Today, you’ll find dozens of historical sites along the way, as well as plenty of camping and recreational opportunities.Glacial Hills Scenic Byway
extends northward from Leavenworth for 63 miles through the Glacial Hills. The trip passes through some of the first settlements and frontier towns of old time Kansas, and you’ll find multiple historic tours along the way in towns like Atchison, Troy and White Cloud.Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway
gives the lie to Kansas’ reputation as flat, boring country. The byway extends through 42 miles of mesas, canyons and sharp, sudden hills sculpted out of red sandstone. It travels through the High Plains and Red Hills regions of Kansas, offering two very different views – different land formations, different vegetation and different wildlife. Recreational activities along the way include camping, fishing, spelunking, hiking, trail riding, hunting and swimming.Native Stone Scenic Byway
celebrates the beauty of the natural stone indigenous to Kansas. Limestone structures, stone walls, stone buildings and the natural formations along the winding road all highlight the versatility and beauty of the land. The byway is 48 miles long, and travels through Wabaunsee County, with its beautiful Lake Wabaunsee, “Gem of the Flint Hills”. Fishing, boating, swimming and camping are all available within a few miles of the byway.Post Rock Scenic Byway
is the shortest of the Kansas scenic byways at just 18 miles in length. It travels through the Smoky Hills, passing alongside the Wilson Lake Recreational area where you’ll find scenic turnouts overlooking the dam and the lake, campgrounds, trails, picnic areas and rest areas. Spend a weekend fishing on Wilson Lake, or just soaking up the rustic, frontier atmosphere.Smoky Valley Scenic Byway
is 60 miles of roadway extending through the Central Kansas prairies of the Smoky Hill River Valley, so named for their hazy appearance at sunset. The Smoky Valley Byway is a scenic panorama that showcases native wildflowers, highlighting fields painted with purple coneflowers, sky blue sage, red Indian blanket and more. Wetlands & Wildlife Scenic Byway
curves for 76 miles around the Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The two wildlife preserves make up nearly 50,000 acres of fresh and saltwater marsh, canals, dikes, sand dunes and prairie grasses. The area is temporary home to over 300 species of birds, with over half a million birds stopping in to the refuges during the spring migration.
Got a Need for Speed? Kansas Speedway is a great destination for a day trip – or a weekend getaway. Arrive on a Thursday, and you can join the regular weekly 45 minute tours of the Speedway’s amenities and attractions, or set up a group tour for your group by appointment. Check the schedule for weekend events, and give yourself a special treat with a Pit Pass or Pre-Race Sprint Walk, both of which allow you access to the pit area before the race.
Pack up the kids and take them out to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. With eight water slides, two whirlpools, five pools and a huge interactive treehouse water fort, Great Wolf Lodge is one enormous splash of wet, wild fun. There are 281 family size suites so that you can spend the night or a week, and many other attractions (including the Kansas Speedway) within a short driving distance from the Lodge.
The Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and Buffalo Tour is a unique experience for individuals or families. Open year round, the Wildlife Refuge offers covered wagon prairie tours and an optional campfire buffalo dinner. The refuge features roaming buffalo and elk, wildlife and over 100 species of birds, and includes an observation tour and tour center that offers all sorts of additional information on prairie life.
The Van Gogh Project is an international art project whose eventual end is to install an enormous reproduction of one of Van Gogh’s Sunflower in seven different countries. Where else would they put the U.S. Sunflower but in Kansas, the Sunflower State? The eighty foot tall easel is located in Goodland, Kansas, and is one of three currently in existence in the world. The original easel was erected in Altona, CN in 1997, and a second has been erected in Emerald, Australia. Two future easels are planned in Japan and in South Africa.