Family Getaways in Kansas | Midwest Living

Family Getaways in Kansas

Play cowboy at a working ranch, discover six-shooter duels, and walk in the tracks of Wyatt Earp on a family vacation in Kansas.

Eastern Kansas

TOPEKA: Capital Fun

Kansas’ past is ever present in its vibrant capital city. See a full-size 1880 locomotive at the Kansas Museum of History, and experience moving exhibits at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Tour the 1903 Capitol and see giant murals depicting state history. In Gage Park, your crew can mount a menagerie of colorful animals on the vintage carousel or walk on the wild side at the Topeka Zoo. Top off a visit to Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Historic Site with an old-fashioned Green River at the Potwin Drug Store. Then cruise over to BoBo’s Drive-In, a classic since 1948, for a burger with the works, onion rings and, of course, homemade apple pie. Visit Topeka

FORT SCOTT: History Buffs

Imagine the boom of muskets or the spectacle of elite dragoon troops assembling on the parade grounds as you explore Fort Scott National Historic Site, a restored 1842 frontier post. Downtown, browse antiques and specialty stores or hop aboard Dolly the Trolley for a narrated tour through the historic business district and past grand mansions dating from the late 1800s. Learn about the life of native son Gordon Parks, famed photographer, novelist and poet, at the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity. Fort Scott National Historic Site


For proof that good things come in small packages, head to Independence, playwright William Inge’s hometown, a classic charmer with tree-lined brick streets,  welcoming downtown and old- fashioned festivals. At Riverside Park and Zoo, fun is a bargain: A round of miniature golf and train rides costs little more than a dollar, a nickel buys a carousel ride. Ready smiles, friendly service and from-scratch food set the standard at local favorites Brother’s Railroad Inn and Uncle Jack’s Bar & Grill. City of Independence

SOLDIER: Ranch Stays

Guests bunk in comfort after helping with chores or hiking on trails at working cattle ranches like Red Rock Guest Ranch in Soldier and Circle S Ranch & Country Inn in Lawrence. Guests can watch buffalo roam through tall grass at Circle S, or cast a line for bass or catfish in Red Rock’s stocked ponds. Red Rock Guest RanchCircle S Ranch

Circle S Ranch.


Central Kansas

MEDICINE LODGE: Championship Ranch Rodeo

Think of a ranch rodeo as chores with flair. Lots of flair. At the annual Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo in late September, the state’s top ranch teams go head-to-head. The competition includes sorting numbered cattle from a herd, roping and dropping steers for team doctoring, a high-speed version of team branding (no hot irons) and ranch bronc riding. Kids of all ages will love the raucous wild-cow-milking contest. Kansas Championship Ranch Rodeo

Championship Ranch Rodeo

SALINA: Animal Kingdom

A covered tram carries families to more than 300 native and exotic animals, including rhinos, anteaters, giraffes and tigers at 65-acre Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure two miles south of I-70 west of Salina. The indoor museum, with hundreds of mounted animals in native settings and animatronic Native Americans and Eskimoes, makes this zoo even cooler. Games, computers, books and puppets make Hideaway Hollow a perfect kid clubhouse. Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure

WICHITA: Big-City Fun

The state’s biggest city delivers big family fun. Let the little ones zoom in flight simulators at Exploration Place. Take cover when desperadoes face off for a window-rattling gun duel along the dusty streets of the Old Cowtown Museum. The whole family can fit into a tepee at the Mid-America All-Indian Center. And at the Sedgwick County Zoo, everyone gets an up-close view of buffalo, prairie dogs and other plains animals. East of downtown, Old Town is a robust entertainment and dining district. Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau

Downtown Wichita.


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

Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

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

Sculpture Alley in El Dorado.

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


Western Kansas

BUCKLIN: Trailin’ Longhorns

The cattle-trail experience can’t get much more authentic than on one of the three-day rides at this 4,000-acre spread (40 miles southeast of Dodge City). Each spring and fall, guest drovers help the Moore family move 90 longhorns 30 miles between summer and winter ranges. Drovers sleep under the stars or in canvas tents and eat grub cooked over the chuck wagon fire. For a taste of ranch life, come for a visit. During the day, guests spend time on horseback checking longhorns before bedding down for the night in modern cabins. Moore Longhorn Ranch

Moore Ranch.

ELLIS: Car Pioneer

Walter P. Chrysler developed his passion for mechanical things in the late 1800s as a boy growing up in Ellis (20 miles east of WaKeeney). He honed that passion working as a machinist apprentice at the local Union Pacific Railroad shop. The Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum showcases his memorabilia, as well as vintage Chryslers and Plymouths. Walter P. Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum

DODGE CITY: Queen of the Cow Towns

Boot Hill Museum and Old Front Street re-create life in the most fabled cow town of the American West. From Boot Hill to the Long Branch Saloon, the museum and Front Street are replicas of the days when Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson kept the peace. During the summer, six-shooters boom, and desperados race for cover several times a day during mock gunfights that don’t seem to faze horses pulling stagecoaches full of happy kids. Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau

Boot Hill Museum and Old Front Street.

Boot Hill Museum and Old Front Street.

LIBERAL: Baker Arts Center

Open since 1985, the Baker Arts Center features exhibits of local and national artists as well as from the permanent collection. The Center also provides creative workshops for children and adults and traveling cultural events for the community. Baker Arts Center


Add Your Comment