Weekend getaway in Western Kansas
Oakley, Colby and Goodland offer I-70 travelers more than just a place to gas up, eat and overnight. First-class museums, giant artwork and natural wonders make for a destination getaway.
Buffalo Bill began forging his frontier legend near Oakley. The town dramatically honors that legend on the edge of town with a 16-foot-tall bronze statue of the mounted plainsman chasing down a buffalo. The Fick Fossil and History Museum showcases dinosaur fossils dug nearby. For lunch, try the big burgers done the old-fashioned way at Don's Drive-In Cafe. Then drive 24 miles south to Monument Rocks, a collection of towering chalk pyramids and spires. Continue to Colby, where the Prairie Museum of Art & History complex includes a sod house, one-room school and the Cooper Barn, Kansas' largest.
On Goodland's south side, tip your head back to look at the 24- by 32-foot outdoor replica of one of Vincent Van Gogh's famous sunflower paintings. The High Plains Museum displays a replica of America's first patented helicopter. Homemade pie and lunch specials, such as chicken-fried steak, draw locals and aviators to the Butterfly Cafe at Renner Field Airport. Drive 34 miles north to view the spectacular canyons of the Arikaree Breaks near St. Francis.
Golf at Buffalo Dunes Consistently rated one of the nation's top municipal courses, this 18-hole layout in Garden City features sagebrush and yuccas in the roughs. The name comes from the dunes it sprawls across.
Castle View Like fortress battlements, towering limestone pillars and bluffs rise above the prairie near Quinter (14 miles south of I-70). Sculpted by wind and water, the dramatic formations were guideposts for frontier travelers.
Boom and Strut In spring at the Cimarron National Grassland, watch from blinds as increasingly rare Lesser Prairie-Chickens perform their flamboyant courting dance: a mix of fancy footwork, bowing and a throaty gobble.
Rodeos These action-packed arena competitions are staged most summer weekends in the state's west. Two to see: Beef Empire Days (late May) in Garden City and Little Britches Rodeo in Dodge City (late May).
For information: Travel KS (785) 296-2009; travelks.com