Archive for Sunday, May 10, 2015

SUMMER TRAVEL PREVIEW: Central Kansas

May 10, 2015

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HUTCHINSON

WHY GO THERE:

Home to two of the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s original Eight Wonders of Kansas, Hutchinson has some rare — and random — museum collections to visit. But if moon rocks and salt crystals aren’t your thing, the town offers adventures for land lovers as well.

WHAT TO DO THERE:

One Hutchinson museum is truly out of this world. The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center is home to one of the largest collections of United States space artifacts, second only to the Smithsonian. From Apollo XIII to the 109-foot Titan rocket once used to launch astronauts into space, the Cosmosphere artifacts provide a fun, educational and engaging experience. In 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation named the museum one of the original Eight Wonders of Kansas.

THINGS TO SEE:

Once you’ve seen what’s far above, go 650 feet below the Kansas plains into the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, “Strataca,” which is also one of the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s original wonders. After the 90-second elevator ride, visitors take a tram ride with a tour guide to learn about geology, salt mining and the cultural significance of salt. The adventurous guest can take the “salt safari,” strapping on a hardhat with attached miner’s light and exploring abandoned passages of the mine. Registration is required and can be made by calling 620-662-1425.

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS:

The last thing you might think to see on a Kansas vacation can be found at Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm on Highway 96 about 8 miles west of Hutchinson. At this safari-like zoo, visitors can pet zebras, ride camels and feed giraffes without leaving the Great Plains. And if your Hutchinson-area adventures wear you out, Hedrick’s also offers a bed and breakfast with balcony views of the animals roaming the farm.

ALSO NEARBY:

Thirteen miles south of Hutchinson on Kansas Highway 96 in the authentic Amish community of Yoder. There, visitors can drive beside horse-drawn buggies and stroll along the town’s quiet main street. The popular Carriage Crossing restaurant offers homemade comfort foods and freshly baked pies.

SAVE THE DATE:

For more than 100 years, Hutchinson has been home to the Kansas State Fair. Each year, thousands flock to the fairgrounds to admire 4-H projects, livestock, arts and crafts, midway rides, live entertainment and deep-fried foods. The 2015 State Fair will be Sept. 11 through 20 and will feature grandstand concerts from artists including Little Big Town, Sam Hunt and The Oak Ridge Boys.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Lawrence, drive about 175 miles on Interstate 70 west to Salina, then take Interstate 135 south about 50 miles to McPherson. There, take the Hutchinson exit and follow Kansas 61 into town.

WICHITA

WHY GO THERE:

As the largest city in Kansas, Wichita has plenty to offer. Whether touring one of the city’s many museums, seeing some of the notable sights or taking in a festive community celebration, Wichita visitors can choose from a wide variety of entertainment and activities.

WHAT TO DO THERE:

With 33 museums, eight shopping districts, 22 attractions and 17 festivals, it’s impossible to do everything in Wichita over one weekend. Among the options are viewing one of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex discoveries at the Museum of World Treasures or taking in a show at the Intrust Bank Arena, where Lady Antebellum, Boston and the Foo Fighters will perform this summer. Wichita also has professional sports teams, including Wichita Force indoor football at the Intrust Bank Arena and Wichita Wingnuts baseball.

THINGS TO SEE:

Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright considered the Allen-Lambe house, 255 N. Roosevelt, among his best. Designed in 1915, the home includes 23 pieces of original Wright furniture, an expansive koi pond and outdoor concrete vases. The house is open for guided tours by appointment. To request a tour, visit allenlambe.org/visitors/request-a-tour/.

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS:

Exploration Place offers a hands-on approach. Children can learn about engineering, science, history and geography through fun, interactive exhibits. Visitors can experience flight like Wilbur and Orville Wright by lying on a horizontal simulator and soaring above images of Kitty Hawk, N.C., or feel what it’s like to be in an EF1 tornado in the Kansas Explorer exhibit’s tornado simulator. Live science shows and science films are on tap in the Dome Theater and Planetarium.

SAVE THE DATE:

The annual Wichita Riverfest includes live entertainment, outdoor activities, food, fireworks and fun. For $5, festival attendees gain access to events May 29 through June 6. Flogging Molly, the Village People, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Kansas-native country star Logan Mize are among the 50 highlighted Riverfest performers this year. Attendees also can watch hot air balloons floating through the sky and Jet Ski races on the river. And if you’re feeling adventurous, soar high above the festival in a helicopter for $40, or rent a paddleboat on the Arkansas River.

ALSO NEARBY:

The Kansas Star Casino is in Mulvane, about 22 miles south of Wichita on Kansas Highway 15 South. Opened in 2011, the casino offers nearly 2,000 slot machines, 55 table games and a poker room.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Take Interstate 70 west toward Topeka, then turn onto Interstate 335 South. Continue on to Interstate 35 and take exit 50 onto U.S. 400 west toward Wichita.

LINDSBORG

WHY GO THERE:

Known locally as “Little Sweden,” the Swedish-settled community of Lindsborg offers a mix of cultural, recreational and historical sites and events.

WHAT TO DO THERE?

Experience Swedish culture in Lindsborg by admiring the many handcrafted Dala Horses around the town. A Dala Horse is a colorfully painted wooden horse without a tail. They are traditionally displayed with family names on Swedish families’ front porches, but they can also be seen around town as large fiberglass figurines decorated by local artists.

THINGS TO SEE:

One of seven historic buildings at Lindsborg’s Heritage Square, the Swedish Pavilion was displayed by Sweden at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. After being donated to Lindsborg’s Bethany College at the conclusion of the fair, the pavilion came to Kansas to become the school’s center for the arts until it was moved to Heritage Park in 1969. The pavilion follows the design of a traditional Swedish manor house and offers a look into the architecture of early 20th century Sweden.

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS:

Just 3 miles northwest of Lindsborg is Coronado Heights, the southernmost bluff of the Smoky Hills. Legend has it that Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado surveyed the prairie from the bluff. Spanish artifacts such as coins, armor and a bridle have been found in the area.

SAVE THE DATE:

Midsummer’s Festival celebrates the beginning of summer with Swedish food, music, games and dancing the third Saturday in June every year. This summer’s event starts at 9 a.m. June 20 and will feature the traditional “midsommarstang,” or “midsummer pole” and Swedish folk dancers in traditional costume.

ALSO NEARBY:

Twenty-three miles from Lindsborg is Kansas’ first state park. Visitors can enjoy central Kansas’ great outdoors at Kanopolis State Park in Marquette, where they can see the area’s rolling hills and wooded scenery, stroll sandy beaches, sail on the lake or stay overnight under the stars or in a cabin. The park has a full-service marina and plenty of picnic areas and hiking trails.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Take Interstate 70 west to Salina, then take Interstate 135 South. Merge onto U.S. 81 south toward Wichita and take exit 78 for Kansas 4 toward Lindsborg.

ABILENE

WHY GO THERE:

The home of former President Dwight Eisenhower, Abilene has much to offer visitors whether or not they like Ike. With its rich history and attractions, it is another of the original Eight Wonders of Kansas, and CNN named Abilene as “the spot” to visit in Kansas in its 2014 travel suggestions.

WHAT TO DO THERE:

Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Russell Stover Candies Factory and Outlet Store along Interstate 70 or learn about the history of dog racing at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Visitors can also visit the Heritage Center to learn about pioneer life on the prairie or visit the Kansas Auto Racing Museum to see the first-ever NASCAR trophy, which was won by Kansan Jim Roper in 1949.

THINGS TO SEE:

Though born in Texas, Eisenhower called Kansas home. In Abilene, visitors can view Eisenhower’s boyhood home and gravesite and learn about his life and career in his presidential library and museum.

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS:

Walk back in time to Old Abilene Town, where gunfights are staged Saturday mornings, can-can dancers perform three times a day and cool sarsaparilla is available in the Old Alamo Saloon.

SAVE THE DATE:

This summer will mark the 71st year since D-Day, and the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home are planning a commemorative concert June 6 on the library’s campus.

ALSO NEARBY:

About 25 miles east of Abilene is Junction City, where the U.S. Cavalry Museum and Custer House can be visited.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Abilene is about 116 miles west of Lawrence on Interstate 70.

COTTONWOOD FALLS

WHY GO THERE:

Nature lovers and music fans will like this tiny town with a population of less than 900 people. Cottonwood Falls offers a rich bluegrass and country music scene as well as many opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the Flint Hills.

WHAT TO DO THERE:

Enjoy dinner at Grand Central Hotel and Grill, locally famous for its steaks. Visitors can also listen to evening jam sessions every Friday at the Emma Chase Cafe.

THINGS TO SEE:

Built in 1873, the Chase County Courthouse on historic Broadway Street is a lovely example of French Renaissance architecture. The courthouse is the oldest functioning courthouse in Kansas and was designed by the notable Lawrencian and Kansas architect John G. Haskell.

THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS:

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve’s nature and hiking trails, 1881 ranch house, nature activities and bus tours of the prairie offer visitors seeking an escape to the wild plenty to explore. Visitors can see bison that were introduced in 2009 or enjoy the natural prairie inhabitants on the 32-acre park. In 2014, CNN named the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve the natural wonder to visit in Kansas in its “50 states, 50 spots” series.

SAVE THE DATE:

On June 12, Cottonwood Falls will host its annual River Suite festival along the Cottonwood River on a historic bridge overlooking the waterfall in the town. Attendees will enjoy fine dining and live music beneath a beautiful Flint Hills sunset. The event begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. and entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. To purchase tickets, which are $60 each, call the Chase County Chamber at 620-273-8469 or visit chasecountychamber.org/river-suite.

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Emporia, drive west on U.S. Highway 50. Turn south on Kansas Highway 177 at Strong City. Cottonwood Falls is then 2 miles south.

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