Top I-70 Roadside Stops in Kansas | Midwest Living
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Top I-70 Roadside Stops in Kansas

Follow our guide to find plenty to see and do minutes from Kansas’ 424 miles of Interstate-70. You can explore a wildlife area, step into the past or stretch your legs on a prairie trail.

From west to east, here are great stops off of Interstate-70 in Kansas:

WALLACE COUNTY View Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas at 4,039 feet. From I-70, take Exit 1, then 22 miles south. Take in the panoramic views from the nearby picnic area. wallacecounty.net

GOODLAND See mammoth bones, teeth and tusks and a replica of the first patented helicopter, just a few of the hands-on exhibits at High Plains Museum. highplainsmuseum.org One block south, towers a 24- by 32-foot replica of one of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous sunflower paintings, mounted on an 80-foot-tall easel, created by Canadian painter Cameron Cross. Splash in the big pool and alternate slip-sliding down the water slides at Steever Water Park; tikes will enjoy the wading pool. cityofgoodland.org

COLBY Long before Colby became a major overnight spot for interstate travelers, this town was a hub for wheat-growing and ranching. The Prairie Museum of Art & History, on 24 acres, pays tribute to the area’s heritage. Walk through a one-room school, country church, homestead, sod house and 1936 Cooper Barn, reputed to be the biggest in Kansas. Inside, button, stamp and coin collections fascinate kids. Hint: Open a drawer to see hidden treasures. prairiemuseum.org

OAKLEY It’s hard to imagine, but western Kansas once formed the bottom of a vast ocean. The Fick Fossil and History Museum holds grisly proof—some 11,000 shark teeth collected nearby on the prairie. View many other plant and animal fossils, including the skull of a mosasaur, a 30-foot marine reptile, and a 15-foot-long prehistoric fish. On the western edge of town, a 16-foot-tall bronze statue captures Buffalo Bill on horseback chasing his favorite prey. discoveroakley.com

QUINTER Once a frontier landmark for pioneers, massive Castle Rock stands lonely vigil looming over the prairie and nearby chalk bluffs along the Smoky Hill River south of Quinter. To find it, turn south from I-70 onto Castle Rock Road; drive 14.6 miles. Turn east, then drive four miles to the Castle Rock turnoff, then north for about another mile. After you cross the cattle guard, a short drive brings you to the formation. naturalkansas.org

WAKEENEY Dubbed the Christmas City, this town of 1,720 salutes the season with more than 6,000 colorful lights and a 35-foot Christmas tree. wakeeney.org If you've got time to wander, the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway winds through 60 miles of this unique landscape. Along the way you’ll see rock outcroppings, native wildflowers and grasses. byways.org

ELLIS Walter P. Chrysler, an automotive pioneer, grew up in Ellis in the late 1800s. Learn about the innovator and his creations at the Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum, which showcases his personal memorabilia as well as vintage Chryslers and Plymouths. kansastravel.org

HAYS Buffalo roam the plains at Hays’ Frontier Park. haysusa.com You also can visit Historic Fort Hays, built in 1865 as conflicts between settlers and prairie tribes began to boil. Several original buildings are open for tours. kansastravel.org The Sternberg Museum of Natural History features animated, life-size dinosaurs and a large collection of fossils. Visit the third-floor Discovery Room filled with hands-on activities for kids. sternberg.fhsu.edu

VICTORIA Made from native limestone, a giant, twin-spired Catholic church, with 44-foot ceilings and 141-foot steeples, has towered above tiny Victoria since 1911. It’s no wonder it’s known as the Cathedral of the Plains. When it was built, the seating capacity of 1,100 made it the largest church west of the Mississippi River. Some 15,000 pilgrims visit each year. kansastravel.org

RUSSELL On the surrounding plains, pump jacks still draw oil from the Kansas soil. Exhibits at the Oil Patch Museum celebrate this early Kansas boom. Regional artists display their works at the Deines Cultural Center downtown. russellks.org

LUCAS Everyone will marvel at the story and creations of S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden. garden-of-eden-lucas-kansas.com The Civil War veteran built his small home using 113 tons of concrete and limestone and created 150 bizarre sculptures around it. The Grassroots Art Center displays more “outsider” art made from recycled materials such as pull tabs, chewing gum and glass bottles. grassrootsart.net

WILSON Arts and crafts created by Kansans fill the Kansas Originals store. kansasoriginals.com Stay at the plush, renovated 1899 Midland Hotel. If you can’t spend the night, enjoy a meal in the hotel’s ornate dining room. You’ll find Czech dishes on the menu, in honor of the towns designation as “Czech Capital” of Kansas. midlandrailroadhotel.com

ELLSWORTH In the early 1870s, Ellsworth became one of the state’s first cow towns. Not much has changed in the two-block downtown. Follow the Ellsworth Historical Plaza Walking Tour to 17 frontier silhouettes. Also, explore the Hodgden House Museum complex with an 1878 house, livery, schoolhouse, church and replica of a general store. ellsworthkschamber.net

LINCOLN Take a look inside the massive Lincoln County Courthouse, built in 1900 of native limestone. Stop in Village Lines, a combination visitors center, tea room and crafts shop, for a piece of pie and information. The center also can arrange a tour of nearby 128-year-old Denmark Evangelical Lutheran Community Church. lincolnkansaschamber.com

SALINA A covered tram carries families to more than 300 animals, including rhinos, anteaters, giraffes and tigers at 65-acre Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure two miles south of the interstate. The indoor museum, with hundreds of mounted animals in native settings and animatronic human robots, makes this zoo especially cool. rollinghillswildlife.com Cozy Inn, a downtown institution, serves more than 1,200 mini burgers a day, amazing for a joint with six stools. cozyburger.com

Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure.

Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure

CANTON Board a tram for an upclose look at 200 buffalo and 50 elk on 2,800-acre Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. naturalkansas.org Climb the 25-foot observation tower to see Twin Mounds, where Native Americans camped.

ABILENE Youngsters will be surprised at how small and simple the future president’s house is at Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum. eisenhower.archives.gov Passengers board the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad for a 12-mile round trip from the Rock Island Depot. asvrr.org There was life before cell phones? Get a glimpse at the Museum of Independent Telephony, part of the Heritage Center, or ride a hand-carved horse on the 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel. heritagecenterdk.com

Statue at Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum.

Statue at Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum.

JUNCTION CITY/FORT RILEY Wade in or just stretch your legs at Milford Lake, the state’s largest, five miles north of Junction City. kdwpt.state.ks.us The Buffalo Soldier Memorial honors black cavalrymen who rode from Fort Riley to protect the frontier; there’s also a U.S. Cavalry Museum. junctioncity-ks.gov

MANHATTAN A lookout along K-177 provides expansive views of the 8,600-acre tallgrass prairie and rolling Flint Hills. Follow a short walking trail from the scenic overlook. Or for a longer hike (three, five or six miles) through grasslands, head to the Konza Prairie entrance. konza.ksu.edu Pet millipedes, walking sticks and tarantulas at the Insect Zoo in the Kansas State University Gardens. ksre.ksu.edu Fun restaurants and shops, with K-State sweatshirts and other cool stuff to take home, populate the Aggieville business district, a venerable student hang-out next to the campus. manhattancvb.org

Kansas State University's campus in Manhattan.

Kansas State University's campus in Manhattan.

WAMEGO Stroll past Dorothy’s Kansas farm on the way to Munchkinland and the Emerald City at the Oz Museum. ozmuseum.com More great stops: downtown shops, City Park’s 1879 Dutch windmill, a renovated 1900s opera house in the Columbian Theatre, Museum and Art Center. visitwamego.com

PAXICO Antiques dealers pack a onetime general store, former bank and other restored, 19th-century buildings in this tiny hamlet. paxicomerchants.com Slurp a root beer float or ice cream at the Gathering Place. West of town, Wyldewood Cellars Winery creates award-winning elderberry wines. wyldewoodcellars.com

TOPEKA Look for the two-story-tall Kanza archer topping the copper-patina Capitol dome. Let the kids lead the way on the climb up 296 steps to the cupola balcony. Order an old-fashioned  “green river” at the Potwin Drug Store, part of Old Prairie Town at Ward Meade Historic Site. visittopeka.us

LECOMPTON Hear the story of “Bleeding Kansas” at imposing Constitution Hall State Historic Site. Exhibits and, at times, costumed re-enactors take visitors back to the eve of the Civil War, when pro- and anti-slavery forces battled in this area. lecomptonkansas.com

LAWRENCE Tap into the college-town vibe in the University of Kansas’ hometown along tree-lined Massachusetts Street. ku.edu Haskell Cultural Center is a discovery with student and Native American art, just south of downtown. haskell.edu Join summer crowds that converge on Clinton Lake. kdwpt.state.ks.us

BONNER SPRINGS You may need to ask a grandparent to explain what peewees, shooters and jumbos are. A trip to Moon Marble Company introduces kids to the colorful glass balls. Owner Bruce Breslow fires up a torch for marble-making demonstrations. moonmarble.com View vintage farm equipment and old-time buildings at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame. aghalloffame.com

TOPEKA See more than 400 animals at the Topeka Zoo, one of the nation’s finest small zoos. On the same campus, ride a 1908 carousel or take a mini train ride at Gage Park. topekazoo.org

ATCHISON Aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart was born in 1897 and grew up in Atchison. The hilltop home is filled with photos and mementos. ameliaearhartmuseum.org
 
KANSAS CITY Booming Village West offers family- pleasing accommodations and an indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge. Choose from dozens of restaurants.  Visit the Kansas speedway or Strawberry Hill Ethnic Museum and Cultural Center. visitkansascityks.com
 
For information: TravelKS.com

 

 

 

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