“I close my eyes…only for a moment, then the moment’s gone.” Thus begins the iconic song “Dust in the Wind” by the beloved band Kansas. When you visit the band’s namesake, you’ll want to keep your eyes open for every moment of your time in the Jayhawk State.
Kansas may represent the heart of the Great Plains, but it’s anything but plain. Begin your adventure on the state’s eastern border in Kansas City. You may be surprised to learn that three-fourths of KC is actually in Missouri – technically, there are two different cities. But the Kansas version still offers lots to do, like a Major League Soccer match at Children’s Mercy Park or a NASCAR race at neighboring Kansas Speedway.
If you’re traveling with kids, stay at the Great Wolf Lodge down the street, which offers premium lodging and a water park. After you’re waterlogged, air-dry in Kansas’s famously boisterous breeze while you stroll the grounds at Cider Hill Family Orchard.
Then, make like the explorers and venture west. College town Lawrence is just 40 miles away and boasts the most raucous basketball arena you’ll ever visit – if you can get a ticket. At Allen Fieldhouse, the towering bleachers sit right on top of the action. Just make sure you know Kansas’s iconic cheer, “Rock…chalk…Jayhawk!”
What is a Jayhawk, you ask? Well…it isn’t. It’s a mythical animal that symbolizes the state’s benevolent spirit – and unlike the beast itself, that warm heart is very real. Once you’ve enjoyed Lawrence’s hospitality (which is reserved for everyone except opposing basketball teams), escape onto the open road. Pass through Topeka and get a glimpse of the state capitol’s copper dome before catching the Kansas Turnpike south through the prairie toward Wichita.
The state’s largest city by more than double, Wichita’s agricultural roots earned it the nickname “Cowtown.” Today, though, its lifeblood goes far beyond livestock – it’s a regional hub of culture, commerce and college education (Wichita State University is highly respected). The Wichita Art Museum is the largest in Kansas, and you’ll feel extra classy if you take in a performance from the Wichita Grand Opera. While Kansas City is renowned for its barbecue, Wichita has a thriving culinary culture of its own. Pizza Hut and White Castle were both founded there, and today’s dining options run the gamut.
In the movie that made Kansas famous around the globe, a tornado took Dorothy’s house for a spin. But you’ll be able to find the same level of adventure while keeping your feet on the ground and your premium tires on the road. Just don’t close your eyes and let the moments pass you by!