We all love going on vacation, especially when our holiday destinations are beautiful countries known for their tropical beaches, clear blue oceans and historical landmarks.
But sometimes vacations can be very stressful and can cost much more than they are worth, which is why many people are now foregoing their vacations in favour of staying at home.
However, this does not mean that you still can’t have fun in your home state, as there is a whole world of culture and history waiting in your backyard.
A place that is known across the country for its beauty and historical significance is Kansas, which sits between the borders of Missouri and Nebraska. Known as the home of Dorothy Gale from ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Kansas is also a hub of culture and heritage and offers a wide range of getaway destinations and road trips.
So if you are interested in experiencing all this amazing state has to offer, then we have created a list of the 15 best Kansas road trips for you to choose from.
So why not take a look at our top choices and see which destinations take your interest…
Table of Contents
Located approximately 27 miles east of Salina, Abilene is a historic city that was first established in 1858 and is known for its rich heritage and culture. Now considered one of the most popular destinations in Kansas, the small city often went overlooked by the American public until the Pacific Railroad reached Abilene in 1967.
Since then, the city has become a treasured getaway for many local families and offers a range of attractions such as the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, The Greyhound Hall of Fame and the impressive Seelye Mansion. However, no trip to Abilene would be complete without a ride on the historical Excursion Train, which runs exclusively on summer weekends.
Known as the county seat of Kansas, Atchison is a historic city that offers a variety of different attractions and activities to keep visitors entertained. If you are planning on visiting the city, then the best way you can survey it in all its glory is by jumping on board the Trolley Tour, which offers stunning views of the historical sites and the surrounding landscapes.
The city is also home to an array of museums and notable landmarks, such as the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, the Atchison Rail Museum and the Eva Cray Historic Home Museum. However, if history is not your cup of tea, then the city also offers several art galleries, as well as beautiful hikes in Riverfront Park and first-class shopping along the idyllic Commercial Street.
Considered the true embodiment of a Kansas ranching community, Cottonwood Falls is located in the heart of the breathtaking Flint Hills and can only be accessed via the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, which makes getting to the destination part of the holiday experience. Known for its historic shops and rustic atmosphere, you can spend hours exploring all that this picturesque town has to offer and can even spend a night in one of its several bed and breakfasts.
Some notable attractions found in Cottonwood Falls include the Historical Museum, the Chase County Courthouse and the Cottonwood Falls Country Club, which offers golf and other activities to visiting Kansans. So if you want to immerse yourself in the spirit of Kansas, then this pleasant town is the perfect destination for you.
If you are the kind of person who adores history, then you will need to take a day trip to the historic city of Council Grove. First established in 1847, this beautiful location is known for its attractive scenery and can be found at the crossroads of the Sante Fe Trail and the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. The town itself is famed for its historic downtown area, where you can enjoy a delicious meal at the 1857 Hays House or visit the impressive 1849 Terwilliger House.
However, if historical landmarks aren’t your thing, you can take a walk to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a stunning location that is ideal for hikers and cyclists alike. The city is also home to several art galleries and offers a unique shopping experience for any tourist hoping to spend a day perusing the stores on Main Street.
When it comes to experiencing a slice of cowboy culture, there’s no better place to visit than the infamous Dodge City. If you are planning a visit and want to experience all that this Old Western town has to offer, then you can book a trip on the Dodge City Trolley and visit many of the town’s famous and historical sites. You can also pick up a map from the local Visitor’s Center and take an unguided walking tour to some of the city’s most notable attractions.
Home to a range of historic saloons and buildings, the city is also known for the Gunfighter’s Wax Museum and is where the legendary Boothill Cemetery is located. After you have left your mark on the town, you can pay a final visit to the local Dodge Hill distillery, where you can sample some of the best craft beers you have ever tasted.
Situated in the heart of Kansas City’s Metropolitan Area, Fairway remains a popular destination among visitors and can be easily reached by car. Home to a variety of unique attractions, Fairway is probably best known for the historic Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site, a key location in the civil war that can be found along the crossroads of Oregon and the Sante Fe Trails.
If you are interested in visiting this wonderful getaway, then we recommend going during the summer, as the warm weather will perfectly complement your day and will even provide you with the opportunity to take a dip in the Fairway Pool. The area is also home to a range of children’s playgrounds and is the perfect place to take a picnic while getting some fresh air.
Sometimes organizing can be a difficult task, especially when it comes to choosing a destination that the whole family will enjoy. Fortunately, that’s where places like Fort Scott come in handy. Located on the Marmaton River, Fort Scott is a historic city that offers a range of interactive attractions, from the narrated Trolley Tour to the Historic Downtown Walking Tour.
Other top attractions located in Fort Scott include the Fort Scott National Historic Site, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and the Gordon Parks Museum, which explores African American history and Kansas’ role within it. However, if visiting museums sounds dull and boring, you can take a hike through the beautiful trails of Gunn Park or spend your day tasting delicious local brews at the Boiler Room Brewhaus.
Located in Ellis County, Hays is one of the largest cities in northwestern Kansas and is considered the economic and cultural center of the state. Offering a wide range of historic attractions, Hays is home to several fascinating museums such as the Ellis County Historical Museum and the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, where you can meet live animals and even encounter reptilian creatures from the long-forgotten past.
However, if you want to experience the city’s historical landmarks first hand, then you can take a walk to Downtown Hays, where many authentic buildings still stand and currently house a variety of local shops, restaurants and galleries. Beyond this, the city is also a hub of natural beauty and contains several local parks where you can explore some of Kansas’s most beautiful trails.
Hillsboro can be found on the edge of the Flint Hills, where it provides a useful gateway to the Marion Reservoir Lake, where you can spend your day on or around the water. Known for its amazing recreational facilities, the lake is surrounded by several campgrounds and is the perfect place to take a picnic on a warm summer’s day. The surrounding landscape is also home to a variety of local wildlife and is often visited by locals who enjoy observing nature and its many wonders.
The vast lake also features several boat ramps and offers excellent fishing opportunities for enthusiasts. However, if the idea of spending your day by a lake doesn’t excite you, then you can journey into the heart of Hillsboro to experience the local attractions, such as the Pioneer Adobe House Museum and the historical Schaeffler House. You can also finish your day by sipping on some beers from the local craft breweries.
Although this destination is not located in Kansas, it is still easily accessible from the state and is known for its wealth of pioneering history and recreational activities. Remembered as the home of former US president, Harry S Truman, this city is regularly visited by tourists to see the impressive Truman Presidential Library and remains a popular getaway among Kansans due to its boutique shopping district and range of other attractions.
If you ever find yourself in the position to admire this beautiful town, then you will also need to check out the National Frontier Trails Museum, as well as Historic Independence Square, the 14-mile Blue Trace Trail and Waterfall Park (if you’re interested in the Frontier, check out our guide to Cheyenne, Wyoming and their Old West Museum). Although, if you like to keep things simple, then you can also pay a visit to one of the town’s many historic shopping areas.
If you ever pay a visit to the picturesque town of Atwood, then you will also have to take a look at the stunning lake from which the town takes its name. Home to a variety of recreational attractions, Lake Atwood is known for its beautiful scenery and is often visited by fishers from across the country. However, you do need a valid Kansas Fishing License if you want to partake in the lake’s bountiful fishing stock.
Surrounded by camping grounds and picnic areas, you can also enjoy the surrounding wilderness by taking a walk along the Hayden Nature trail, which takes you to the western side of the lake. Perfect for family day trips, the location also features a basketball court, as well as a volleyball sandpit and playground for smaller children.
Known as the Little Sweden of the United States, Lindborg is a city located in McPherson County that fully embraces its Swedish heritage. As a city, Lindborg is home to a variety of unique museums and historical landmarks and is the best place to take a walk if you want to immerse yourself in early Colonial and Scandinavian architecture.
Beyond this, the pretty town is also home to several art galleries and is the ideal location for visitors with a creative side. Other notable attractions found in Lindsborg include McPherson County Old Mill Museum, Heritage Square and the Hoglund Dugout – which is where the first Swedish settlers made their home.
Mushroom Rock State Park
Located on the borders of Salina, Mushroom Rock State Park is the smallest park in Kansas and encompasses only five acres of land. However, what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty and uniqueness. Named for the mushroom-shaped rocks that are prevalent in Kansas, this park is home to a variety of the weird and wonderful shapes and has been admired by locals for generations.
Perfect for family photo opportunities, the park also features a small picnic area and some basic restrooms.
Situated 27 miles north of Wichita, Newton is a historic city that is a beautiful place to explore on a lazy day with your family. Known for its range of attractions, the town is home to the famous Warkentin House, a historical landmark that offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the culture of the Victorian era. The city is also known for the Kauffman Museum, which celebrates the history and culture of the Tallgrass Prairies.
As a Kansan getaway, Newton also prides itself on its emphasis on arts and culture, with the local theatre often hosting a range of live performances and the downtown shopping district featuring a range of galleries and studios. Visitors who like to shop will also not be disappointed, as the town is also known for its bustling high street, where you can find boutique stores and general retailers.
Known as Kansas City’s botanical garden, Powell Gardens is located just across the Missouri border and is a must-see attraction for locals and visitors alike. The stunning garden spans over 100 acres of land and is home to some of the most impressive themed gardens in the United States, with many visitors enjoying the gardens for their tranquil atmosphere and beautiful flowers.
Perfect for summer days, the gardens offer a range of different settings and layouts from the ornamental Fountain Garden to the impressive Heartland Harvest Garden, which houses a variety of edible plants. Beyond this, the gardens are also home to a cafe and gift shop and have something that everyone can enjoy, making it the perfect place to take your family for a day out.
If the destinations we have previously mentioned do not excite you, then we have a final honorable mention for you to consider:
Located only half an hour away from Kansas City, Prairiefire is an entertainment complex situated in Overland Park, where it houses a range of attractions such as hosting museums, restaurants, bars, a cinema and a bowling alley. Known for its unique modern design, the complex has something for everyone and offers urban locals the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a relaxing environment meant to stimulate the mind.
Also be sure to check out these road trip guides: