By Bill Clevlen
As a travel writer, I find myself cringing when someone says that there’s nothing to do in Kansas. My website Bill On The Road is constantly promoting road trip ideas, and in particular, fun stops along the way. Here’s a list of some of the interesting things I’ve experienced while taking road trips through the Sunflower State.
1. Climb to the Top of the Kansas State Capitol Dome – Topeka
If you’re brave enough to hike up 296 steps to the top, you’re in for quite a breathtaking treat. You’ll need to journey up winding, steep staircases that are definitely not for the faint of heart (or anyone with a fear of heights.) The dome tour is free of charge, and offered at various times Monday-Saturday.
2. See How Marbles Are Made. – Kansas City
One of the most unique stops I’ve made in Kansas is a visit to the Moon Marble Co in Kansas City. Artisan and owner Bruce Breslow frequently demonstrates the art of making marbles. During demonstrations, Mr. Breslow explain the process of glass working, marble history, and other fascinating areas of marble interest. Be sure to buy a custom marble from their gift shop or other nostalgic toys and games.
3. Walk Down The Yellow Brick Road – Wamego
There’s a chance you’ve never heard of the Kansas town of Wamego. Nobody knows for sure what town Dorthy was really from in the Wizard of Oz – but at least we do know where the official Oz Museum is located. The museum houses more than 2,000 items that celebrate the most watched film in American history. Exhibit highlights include rare production notes from the film, and the illustrations from 1st edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from 1900.
4. Feel The Heat at Wichita’s Keeper of The Plains – Wichita
Wichita’s beloved Keeper of the Plains comes to life each summer night at 9pm. (Earlier in the winter months.) A ring of fire surrounds the statue for 15 minutes which is visible up close by crossing one of the two beautiful, brightly lit pedestrian bridges. The 44 foot high, five ton statue of an Indian Chief was designed by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin.
5. World’s Largest Easel – Goodland
I’m a huge fan of roadside attractions and had to stop at the world’s largest easel located in Goodland, Kansas. The 80 foot high easel is built of steel, weighing 45,000 pounds. The supports are sunk 35 feet into the ground. A replica Van Gough sunflower painting that sits upon it is a whopping 678 square feet.
6. See Dwight Eisenhower’s Childhood Home – Abeline
One of the most important figures in American history was born and raised in Kansas. Dwight Eisenhower’s childhood home is located in Abeline, just a short walk from the 36th president’s Presidential library and museum. The museum has recently undergone a major facelift and houses some fascinating artifacts related to Eisenhower’s time as a General and of course President of the United States.
7. The Evel Knievel Museum – Topeka
I had the pleasure of seeing this collection before the museum was even built and it was impressive jammed into a storage unit. So, having it properly displayed in a museum will definitely impress you. Learn about this incredible daredevil and see many of his personal artifacts including things like capes, helmets, and even x-rays from accidents. My favorite part of the collection has to be all of the promotional and sponsored items that his likeness or name was plastered on. From lunch boxes to board games – you’ll get a kick out of seeing the variety of Evel Knievel.
8. Field Station Dinosaurs – Derby
A short drive from Wichita is a throwback to the days when dinosaurs roamed the planet. A theme park of sorts, completely outdoors, featuring 45 animatronic dinosaurs that not only move but makes sounds similar to the ones scientists believe they used to communicate with each other. The attraction is mostly geared at children and families but even an adult is sure to be impressed and learn a thing or two from all of the exhibits.
Bill Clevlen is a contributing writer from St. Louis.