I had not traveled much in Kansas but had explored the Missouri side several times. This time I was able to journey through a large part of the state and discover some of the wonders of Kansas.
Kansas City, Kansas, is just across the river from Kansas City, Missouri, so confusing the two is easy. I attended the Midwest Travel Conference in KCK in June. The weather was warm, but the city’s charm was evident. The conference was held in Memorial Hall, where we discovered Patsy Cline played her final concert in March 1963.
I visited the National Agriculture Center, Hall of Fame, and Wyandotte County Historical Museum. While those didn’t sound very exciting, both were extremely interesting. The volunteers there are passionate about their interests and draw in visitors with stories of farming and history.
Walking the downtown Mural Trail was beautiful, and I learned about the local indigenous tribe’s fight to keep their land, which they succeeded in thanks to one family. One evening, we enjoyed the local Taco Trail, sampling tacos from many local restaurants. KCK is a welcoming and charming place on any Kansas road trip.
When you hear the name, Leavenworth, you might think of prisons, as there are two in the town – one federal and one military. However, Leavenworth has much more to offer. As the First City of Kansas, it’s a small town that’s only a 20-minute drive from Kansas City’s new modern airport, but it has everything you need and more. A day trip showed me just how much there was to do.
The Leavenworth Local Hotel is a charming boutique hotel that used to be a Catholic school. The hotel kept some of the school’s original features, such as the basketball court. There is a pickleball or tennis court just outside. The rooms are spacious, bright, and comfortable, and you can park for free behind the hotel. The Ten Penny Restaurant and Bar is a popular local spot within walking distance. The food is reasonably priced, and the service is excellent.
Fort Leavenworth is the most prominent landmark in the town, and it’s well-integrated into the local community. Locals can enjoy the stunning golf course on the post. I had lunch at the former Officer’s Club, and seeing the golf course from there was delightful. The buffet lunch was delicious, and the price was reasonable.
The Command and General Staff College is one of the most significant features of the post. It serves all branches of the military and internationally. The personal immersive tour gave me an insight into the history and structure of this university for military personnel. I was thrilled to recognize the names of most of the five-star generals memorialized in the building, such as Eisenhower, Arnold, Patton, Marshall, Bradley, and MacArthur. If you can visit the post, don’t miss out on the opportunity to request a Command and General Staff College tour. You’ll learn a lot about the military’s past and future leaders.
You can’t visit Leavenworth without seeing the prisons. Although two newer facilities have replaced the old military prison, we explored the history of where the old facility was torn down some years ago.
The Statue of General Ulysses S. Grant is a landmark on the post. Although he didn’t serve at Leavenworth, he was one of the most notable generals in the Civil War and the 18th President of the United States.
The Fred Harvey House is undergoing a passionate restoration by Jeanie Hazels. Her dedication to the restoration is evident when you tour the house. Harvey founded the Harvey Houses, restaurants that operated across the Southwest in cooperation with the Sante Fe Railroad. The Harvey Girls were the restaurant servers known for their excellent service and demeanor. Harvey bought the house in 1883, where he raised his family.
Downtown Leavenworth also has recently opened a park dedicated to Kansas Women Trailblazers. See a quick video here.
The University of Saint Mary is a 100-year-old educational institution with a fantastic collection of Lincoln artifacts and materials, from books to letters and even Lincoln logs. There’s plenty to see here, including a collection of international Bibles and Madonna figurines. St. Mary’s archivists are dedicated to preserving these materials. The most precious piece of their collection is a copy of the 19th Amendment that President Lincoln signed.
Z&M Twisted Vines is a veteran-owned local winery by Bryan Zesiger and Gina Montalbano. These small-batch wines are created with care and have a distinct military touch. Bryan is a former helicopter pilot, and Gina is a former schoolteacher. From Harvest Moon to Hellfire, you’ll find a wine just right for you at Z&M. Don’t forget to try a wine slushie there!
On my recent sponsored visit to Abilene, a charming small town in Kansas that has been deemed “The Best U.S. Small Town to Visit.” Everywhere I went, I was greeted with warmth and hospitality. One of the newest additions to the town’s landscape is the “World’s Largest Belt Buckle,” created by a local metal worker with the community’s support.
I enjoyed exploring the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum for the second time. The museum has undergone renovations, and the exhibits now offer a straightforward and comprehensive look at General Eisenhower’s career, from his childhood home in Abilene to his final resting place. Want to learn more about Presidential Libraries? See my posts here.
For those who enjoy historic gardens, the Eisenhower Rose Garden is a beautiful and peaceful spot for a stroll at any time of day. See a quick video of the garden here.
The Dickinson County Historical Society and Museum is just behind the Eisenhower Presidential Library. The museum traces the history of Abilene since its beginnings, and its 100-year-old restored Carousel is a true work of art. During the summer, the museum organizes sessions for locals and visitors alike.
The Seelye Mansion is another must-see attraction in Abilene. Built in 1904 for A.B. Seelye, the mansion is a stunning example of Georgian architecture that dominated the town’s history. Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, and the furniture purchased at the 1905 World’s Fair in St. Louis was a real treat to see.
Abilene also boasts several great dining options. I had a delicious Reuben sandwich at Ike’s Place and Grill, where the walls are adorned with Eisenhower memorabilia. For breakfast, I stopped at the charming Amanda’s Bakery & Bistro, a popular spot for locals and tourists. The service was top-notch, and the breakfast sandwich was the perfect start to the day.
If you’re looking for a hearty home-cooked meal, I highly recommend the Brookville Hotel. The portions are huge, and the fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh corn, cole slaw, gravy, and biscuits are all simple and delicious. Don’t forget to save room for homemade ice cream!
Finally, no visit to Abilene is complete without a stop at the Russell Stover Chocolate Shop. In addition to every type of chocolate-covered treat imaginable, they also serve incredible ice cream in the afternoons. Don’t miss it! Sew a quick video here.
I was surprised to find out that Wichita is the largest city in Kansas. I found it easy to navigate with lots to offer locals and visitors. My sponsored visit to Wichita was my first visit to the city. The Keeper of Plains statue by sculptor Blackbear Bosin keeps watch over the Arkansas River and the city. The nightly light show brings out the crowds.
The Keeper stands near several of the city’s museums. At the Mid-American All-Indian Museum, I saw several of Bosin’s artworks. The Wichita Art Museum’s collection includes works by Chihuly and Hopper. During my visit, there was an exhibition: Clearly Indigenous: Native Visions Reimagined in Glass. Glass is one of my favorite mediums. It only runs through September, so seek it out now.
Close to the Art Museum was Exploration Place. This science museum is geared toward children, but I enjoyed the aviation exhibits. The highlight of the visit was the IMAX film about Kansas, which gave me a road map for many more sights to be visited by me in the future.
Wichita’s history was fully displayed at the Kansas Aviation Museum located next to McConnell Air Force Base. I had no idea that Wichita was so immersed in aviation. At the museum, I enjoyed a deep dive into aviation history, from the early days of Cessna and Beechcraft to the most recent aviation leaders, Airbus and Boeing. I was delighted to see the biplanes on exhibit on the second floor. The history that was written on their wings is staggering.
Moving from planes to trains, I met John Deck at the Great Plains Transportation Museum in the heart of downtown. His knowledge of Wichita’s history and its role in railroad history could fill volumes. They have several locomotive and rail cars on display. This volunteer-run museum is a must-see in Wichita.
More history awaited me at the Allen House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1915 for former Kansas newspaper publisher and Governor Henry Allen. The ninety-minute tour was a deep dive into the house and the Allen family that built it.
I was happy to sample several of Wichita’s restaurants. I breakfasted at Home Grown and the Doo-Dah Diner during my two-day stay. Both were excellent breakfast spots. Tanya’s Soup Kitchen was simple and delicious. Lunch at the Art Museum at 1400 at Elderslie was an unexpected treat.
Dinner at both Forge ICT and Piatto was tasty. Forge is a newly opened restaurant near Old Town that caters to a more straightforward for those meat and potato tastes. I tried the Philly Cheesesteak. The menu is small, and the service was outstanding.
Piatto’s centerpiece is its wood-fired pizza oven from Naples in the middle of the open kitchen. They were already making the take-out orders when I arrived. Service was terrific, and the cannoli was good too.
Some retail therapy is always fun in a new city. Old Town has dozens of shops to try, but I limited myself to only a few. Viva La Olive specializes in custom olive oils. You can taste just about any combination you can imagine here. Cocoa Dolce Chocolate delights the palate with unique and varied chocolate creations made onsite. They have several locations in Wichita.
Nifty Nut House opened in 1937. This place needs to be experienced. I don’t know how they keep track of all the candy and nuts. How can anyone not leave there without something in hand? I didn’t. Finally, the Spice Merchant provides instant pleasure when you enter. The barrels of different spices are a treat to see and smell.
Grow is a plant shop and bar that opened downtown in mid-2022. The retail space always has space for classes. The Botanic bar creates some trendy cocktails that do not disappoint. Try out the happy hour here. You will be glad you did.
After Wichita, I drove to Hutchinson, Kansas, where I toured Cosmosphere. This museum features all things about space. One exhibit focuses on the US vs. the Russian ‘space race’ to the moon. The museum also sponsored the recovery and restoration of Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7, lost after his splashdown on July 21, 1961. This piece of history is on exhibit for all visitors to see. See a video of some of the exhibits here.
I didn’t have much time in Topeka, but I did have time to visit the historic Brown v. Board of Education site. It was a Civil Rights focal point and relates the history of the case as well as the outcome of the decision.
Unfortunately, the Kansas Capitol was just a photo stop for me, but I hope to do the tour on a future visit because it was beautiful.
I zoomed through the Evel Knievel Museum, which was a must-see for me. I had seen many of his jumps. The array of artifacts is extraordinary. Even x-rays of all the bones he broke during his lifetime. The collection will be moving to Las Vegas within the next year, so get there soon if you want to see it while it’s still in Kansas.
I visited the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum the home where Amelia was raised that overlooks the Missouri River. It was a fitting place for the young girl to dream of flying. The Amelia Earhart Hanger Museum located at the Amelia Earhart Airport just recently opened. It displays one of the last surviving planes similar to that the Amerlia flew when she disappeared. See a video of the Hanger Museum here. I also journeyed to see a statue of Amelia in the International Forest of Friendship Park in Atchinson which celebrates women in aviation sponsored by the City of Atchison and the International Organization of Women Pilots, the Ninety-Nines.
To sum it up….
Kansas is not a fly-over state but a destination. It has plenty to offer locals and visitors alike. I plan to drive the I-70 road trip next year and see more of what Kansas offers travelers. Please visit my YouTube channel for videos from all my journeys.