Best Free Midwest Attractions: Kansas
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Famous Americans in Kansas
Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, Lawrence Sights at the institute's free Visitors Hall include a soaring, stained-glass American flag (left); a World War II Memory Wall; and exhibits about the senator's life and career.
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene The museum charges admission, but the library, family home and burial site memorial are free.
Forest of Friendship, Atchison The arboretum and aviation memorial features trees from around the world and a 1-acre earthwork portrait of Amelia Earhart.
Explore the prairie
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Strong City Established in 1996, the preserve is the only unit of the national park system dedicated to the rich natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Trails wind through scenic vistas, prairie grasses, wildflowers and rugged terrain (left). Rangers offer free daily guided tours of an 1881 ranch house (and $5 bus tours of the preserve), May-October.
Know about other free things to enjoy in Kansas? Add them in the Comments section below!
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka Self-guided exhibits and films explore the context and effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to end segregation. The historic site is in the former Monroe Elementary School (left), recently restored to its 1954 appearance.
Kansas State Capitol, Topeka Construction began on this copper-domed building in 1866 and took 37 years to complete. Today you can take free historic tours or dome tours (296 steps to the top--no elevator). The building is famous for its giant murals (left) depicting events in Kansas history and includes a controversial unfinished set of paintings by John Steuart Curry.
Free fun for kids
Moon Marble Company, Bonner Springs Demonstrations (left) introduce visitors to peewees, duckies, shooters, bowlers and jumbos.
David Traylor Zoo, Emporia Discover native and exotic wildlife in naturalized exhibits.
Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita Learn about the wildlife and plants of the Great Plains region through exhibits and free family programs.
Hemslojd, Lindsborg Watch craftsmen carve colorful Dala horses (left), a Swedish tradition, and browse for other handcrafted Scandinavian gifts. The town of Lindsborg--settled in 1869 by Swedish immigrants--has a variety of Swedish-themed galleries, restaurants and lodgings.
Historic Council Grove The Council Grove visitors center map highlights a self-guided tour of 21 historic sites around Council Grove, once a stop on the Santa Fe Trail.
Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Great Bend The wild side of Kansas is home to two of North America's most crucial wetlands, both not far from the Arkansas River town of Great Bend. Each spring, nearly 25 percent of North American shorebirds migrating east of the Rockies stop over at the Cheyenne (left) and Quivira wildlife areas. Trails, causeways and back roads provide opportunities to view pelicans, pintails, herons and gulls. Both areas have driving tours with brochures available at the entrances.
Sea of grass
Cimarron National Grassland, Elkhart Download a brochure for a self-guided, 50-mile "Sea of Grass" driving tour of this shortgrass prairie preserve in the southwest corner of Kansas. Stops along the way highlight the area's wildlife, oil production, sand dunes, a prairie dog town, Santa Fe Trail ruts and scenic overlooks (left).
Know of other free things to enjoy in Kansas? Add them in the Comments section below!