Top Free Things To Do In Kansas | Midwest Living

Top Free Things To Do In Kansas

Explore free Kansas attractions including the state capitol, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, the Fort Scott National Historic Site and Monument Rocks.
  • Kansas Capitol


    State Capitol 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 (pictured) depicting events in Kansas history and includes a controversial unfinished set of paintings by John Steuart Curry.

    Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Visit the former Monroe Elementary School for exhibits and films on the context and effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to end segregation. Rangers lead free tours of the school building twice a day.

    First Fridays Artwalk See artists and art in the renovated turn-of-the-20th-century North Topeka Arts District (NOTO), as well as downtown and midtown.

    First Presbyterian Church Windows of Comfort What began as a memorial by two widows in 1911 has become a prized collection. Ten Tiffany stained-glass windows exemplify the Favrile technique of creating bright jewel tones. Receive a free tour Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; call for groups of 10 or more.

  • Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics


    Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics Sights include a soaring stained-glass American flag, a World War II Memory Wall and interactive exhibits about the life of Kansas senator and presidential candidate Robert Dole.

    Natural History Museum The University of Kansas museum introduces visitors to life on our planet, featuring everything from the dinosaurs that once roamed to the bugs that still buzz.

    Quantrill’s Raid Trace the path of destruction of one of the Civil War’s greatest atrocities. Quantrill’s Raid occurred in 1863 and ended with 200 dead, 185 homes destroyed and the town’s commercial district in ruins. The Lawrence visitors center shows a free 25-minute video and provides maps for self-guided tours. 

  • Keeper of the Plains


    Keeper of the Plains Standing on sacred ground at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers, this statue pays tribute to the tribes that once inhabited the region. At 9 p.m. in the summer (7 in winter), flames from fire drums surrounding the Keeper illuminate the river.

    Wichita Art Museum Come on Saturdays for free admission to this Art Deco gem that opened in 1935. Glasswork, historical and contemporary, makes up a big part of the collection. The on-site Muse Cafe has a light, lovely menu. 

  • Flint Hills

    Flint Hills

    Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve The 2-mile-long Southwind Nature Trail leads from streambed to overlook for views of the 11,000 acres of preserved prairie. There are 40-plus miles of hiking trails for more immersive experiences. Ranger programs and tours leave from the visitors center 3 miles north of Strong City.

    Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge Trails meander through woods and past the Neosho River. A boardwalk accesses the marsh in this 18,463-acre preserve in Hartford.

    Konza Prairie Biological Station Hike the trails that crisscross 8,600 acres of untouched prairie south of Manhattan.

    Madonna of the Trail In Council Grove, the statue is one of 25 landmarks on a self-guided tour examining the meetings of the Kaw tribe and Santa Fe Trail pioneers. Pick up a guide at the Council Grove/Morris County Chamber of Commerce.

  • Monument Rocks

    Nature sites

    Monument Rocks The remains of a prehistoric ocean, these “chalk pyramids” loom above the prairie floor southeast of Oakley, in the northwest corner of the state. Eons of wind, water and ice exposed and sculpted the soft sedimentary layer known as Niobrara Chalk, resulting in otherworldly bright-white turrets and spires rising above the prairie like dissolving sandcastles.

    Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Hike to observation platforms for prime viewing of Sandhill cranes and other migratory birds in Stafford (87 miles west of Wichita). To date, 344 species have been seen in the salt marshes, sand prairie and woodlands.

    Dillon Nature Center Located in Hutchinson, Dillon’s 100 acres informs visitors with exhibits on native plants, animals and weather patterns.

  • Free fun for kids

    Moon Marble Company, Bonner Springs Demonstrations (pictured) 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.

  • More in Kansas

    Fort Scott National Historic Site, Fort Scott The Civil War and frontier days feel real when reenactors dress in soldier’s uniforms and drill on the parade grounds surrounded by  20 restored buildings. Join a park ranger for a free tour of the grounds and beautifully restored interiors.

    International Forest of Friendship, Atchison Created for Amelia Earhart’s 200th birthday, this arboretum and aviation memorial features trees from around the world and a 1-acre earthwork portrait of Amelia Earhart. A plaque-lined path called Memory Lane meanders through the trees and honors important contributions to aviation.


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