Flint Hills Region
ABILENE: President’s Hometown
Kids are always surprised at how small and simple the future president’s house is at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum. The adjacent museum’s five galleries put history lessons in context with information about all parts of the 34th president’s life, including World War II and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.
The Eisenhower complex is part of Abilene’s Five-Star Museum District with five museums in a four-block area. The cluster includes the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, which makes a 10-mile round trip from the Rock Island Depot. The Heritage Center of Dickinson County offers a glimpse of life before cell phones at the Museum of Independent Telephony and chances to ridea hand-carved horse on the 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel. Under renovation at press time, Old Abilene Town will let visitors experience some of the state’s rowdy cowboy past with staged gunfights and dance-hall shows. After a full day, your crew probably will be ready for some old-fashioned comfort food. Fried chicken with creamy coleslaw and from-scratch mashed potatoes and gravy have become a legend at the Brookville Hotel. Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau
EL DORADO: Arts and More
With a selection of chain-type lodgings and restaurants with local flavor, this thriving city of more than 67,000 makes good base for exploring the Flint Hills and nearby El Dorado Lake and State Park.
Residents take pride in a community-wide dedication to the arts that starts downtown. A free map details a self-guided tour of Sculpture Alley, 16 works of art donated by area businesses. The Coutts Memorial Museum of Art holds works by Thomas Hart Benton and Frederic Remington. For a view of the area’s oil boom beginnings, tour the Butler County History Center & Kansas Oil Museum. At the 10-acre museum, visitors also can walk down the street of a re-created 1920s oil-boom town. El Dorado Convention and Visitors Bureau
SEDAN: Ranch Revival
Kids can learn a little about the cowboy life and times before TV and video games at Red Buffalo Ranch, an 8,000-acre spread that sprawls across the southern Flint Hills. Guests have access to three fishing lakes and can hike to see artist Stan Herd’s Prairiehenge construction and through the prairie and around Butcher Falls, a 14-foot waterfall. The ranch is a dream come true for owner Bill Kurtis, known nationally for his work on the A&E network’s Investigative Reports. He was drawn to the area by its natural beauty—prairie, canyons, streams and trails. His Red Buffalo Gift Shop and Espresso Bar helped spark a downtown revival. Families also can stay in a beautifully renovated stone cabin in the heart of the business district or at cabins on the ranch. Red Buffalo Ranch