Known throughout the world for its turbulent weather and its avid adherents to Christianity, Kansas is certainly one of the more interesting states in the Great Plains. While it has attracted attention for being the fictitious home the main protagonist in the book and movie, Alice in Wonderland, there is more to this place than violent tornadoes that sweep you away to an alternate dimension.
Being a flashpoint during both the American Civil War and the Civil Rights movement, as well being home to one of the modern era’s most significant presidents, Kansas has more than its share of history just waiting to be discovered by you.
Being part of the massive prairie that comprises the exact center of the lower 48 contiguous states, there is plenty of interesting terrain here that smashes the myth of this part of the nation being devoid of anything naturally beauty and thought-provoking.
If nothing else, interacting with the folksy locals in this interesting corner of America will add yet another shade to the canvas that is this nation.
What To Do – Culture & History
In the early 19th century, streams of Americans and recently landed foreign immigrants began to flow towards the mostly empty lands that lay endlessly to the west of the increasingly populated states of the Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard.
Fort Scott National Historic Site protects and preserves the remains of a military post that provided security for these migrants, and it also served as a venue for pre-Civil War skirmishes between supporters of slavery and abolitionists, and as a training center during the Civil War itself.
While the Union brought emancipation to the enslaved African Americans via the defeat of the Confederacy, it was only the beginning of their struggle for equality. In the 1950’s, a landmark Supreme Court case began the chaotic process of desegregating schools across America, as the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site documents in intimate detail.
Located on the grounds of a former elementary school where the practice of separating the races was undertaken, the exhibits found here will underline the details of the court case, the effects of segregation on the community at large, and the troubles that followed the court decision that ended this inequitable policy.
After America had emerged from the Second World War, it was the top dog in a world licking their collective wounds from the worst war in human history, and one that was quickly choosing between the political philosophies of capitalism and communism.
The Eisenhower Presidential Center profiles the leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. He had to face off against the increasingly belligerent Soviet Union (revealed to be the 2nd nation to acquire nuclear weapons shortly after WWII) and face down the aggression of Chinese and Soviet backed communist guerrillas in Korea.
Aside from all these foreign troubles, he oversaw the start of the construction of the Interstate Highway system, an infrastructure investment that turned out to be the transcontinental railroad of the 20th century in terms of the increasing connectivity that it promoted in America from that time on.
This museum profiles documents and artifacts that lay out all of these issues in a manner that will allow you to better appreciate the tenure of this prominent American president.
As mentioned at the start of this guide, Kansas was one of the territories that saw a heavy stream of pioneers migrating west to make a new life in America’s frontier lands. The Old Cowtown Museum sprawls over 23 acres and contains over 60 buildings found in 19th century Wichita.
Live actors brings the era to life, and those with kids will love the fact that there are a number of farm animals that were commonly found in the Wild West here, from horses to chickens.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
Fans of space exploration will want to tour the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center to their visit to the Sunflower State. At this institution dedicated to the preservation of America’s old space program hardware, you will find space capsules and rockets from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, as well as a capsule from the Soviet Vostok program, making this place the only museum outside of Russia and the former Soviet states to have such an artifact.
While the name is a tad underwhelming, the Sedgwick County Zoo is the #1 outdoor attraction in the state of Kansas. This little zoo that could has received international recognition for its conservation of species in its care, which includes 2,500 animals over 500 species. With Penguins, tigers, lions and gorillas, it is a great way to salt away an afternoon in the Wichita area.
Those wanting to have an authentic outdoor experience in the state of Kansas will find it in the Konza Prairie, which is an increasingly rare protected grassland located south of the college town of Manhattan.
Trails across this natural refuge will take you to a place where there is nothing but silence, flowing grass bending in the breeze, and your own soul, left alone in an infinite space to ponder its innermost virtues.
Finally, if you have ever worked hard and wondered what it would actually like to toil in a salt mine, Strataca provides part of the answer. Also known as Kansas Underground Salt Museum, elevators will take you 650 feet below the surface, plunging you into a subterranean world where the temperature is always 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius).
Learn about the salt mining process, what total darkness feels like, as well as the geology of the region that makes it so rich in the mineral that makes to the dinner table of countless people around the world.