Follow The Yellow Brick Road to Kansas

If you are looking for somewhere different to take your family on vacation this year, why not gather up all of your little munchkins and head to Kansas? You’ll enjoy all the small-town charm, stunning nature and Wild West history, while still having plenty of access to big-city attractions. A getaway in Kansas will keep your kids on the edge of their seats, and you’ll be able to enjoy all the grown-up activities as well.  follow-the-yellow-brick-road-to-kansas2

The Wild West

Let’s start with the days of pioneers and gunslingers in the old west. Dodge City is synonymous with the frontier, and it continues to preserve that heritage to this day. Check out the Boot Hill Museum, which contains thousands of artifacts and exhibits that show what it was like to live in Dodge City during the early years. Here, you will see Front Street, an accurate reconstruction of what Dodge City looked like all the way back in 1879. Along the rebuilt street you will find a general store, a barbershop – or tonsorial parlor – and a dry goods store. You can also see Boot Hill Cemetery, which takes its names from men having been buried there with boots still on their feet.

Of course, Dodge City is only part of the enormous western heritage of Kansas. For instance, you can see the remains of the Santa Fe Trail, Custer’s house at Fort Riley, and many historical museums. To find out more about Wild West attractions in Kansas, visit the state’s tourism website.

Motorsports in Kansas City

If you are a fan of motorsports, then spend a few days in Kansas City. The city actually straddles the Kansas/Missouri border, but keep in mind that you will find most of the great racing on the Kansas side.

If you are into IndyCar or NASCAR racing, then you just have to pay a visit to the Kansas Speedway. There’s been racing there since 2001, including NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup Series, as well as Indy Racing League events. There’s a 1.5-mile tri-oval track, as well as a winding 2.37 mile road course, so you’re never going to lack for variety. This is a big venue, with seating for over 72,000 spectators and parking for 35,000 cars, so you will experience the true big race day excitement and atmosphere when you go there.

If you’re into drag racing, you only have to head 60 miles west of Kansas City to Topeka. The Kansas Dragway is home to the Blacktop Nationals every August, and there are many other big events throughout the year. As well as drag cars, you can also see motorcycle drag racing at the track, which makes for a great change of pace. Alternatively, drive about 2 hours south from Kansas City and you will end up in Grand Bend, home to the S.R.C.A. Drag Strip. This was built on an old army base all the way back in 1946, and was where the first-ever national NHRA event was held. The strip – which is still going strong – is now a Kansas Historical Site, so if anyone complains, just tell them you’re going there for the culture and history.

Even if you just want to fly in for a weekend of racing, Kansas City is a great place to go – the international airport there has consistently ranked among the top airports in the United States. You should easily be able to pick up a taxi or limo at the airport to go to your hotel or even right to the track – Kansas City airport transportation is as good as the airport itself.

Untamed nature

If you and your family enjoy drinking in all the wonders of nature, then Kansas will astound you. Of course, you associate Kansas with prairie grasslands, and it won’t leave you disappointed – Kansas is home to the largest remaining area of tallgrass prairie in the United States. Take a trip along the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, one of 11 scenic byways in the state, and you will be able to follow in the footsteps of early explorers and pioneers who sought adventure and a new life as they crossed the state. You will also see evidence of the rich Native American heritage that makes Kansas such a special place.

However, Kansas actually offers a diverse range of different landscapes for you to get to know. For example, head into the Smoky Hills that divide the eastern mixed grass prairie from the shortgrass prairie of the west. Here you will see a vibrant display of native grasses and wildflowers throughout the year, including purple and yellow cone flowers, red and yellow Indian blanket flowers, cream-colored yucca and pitches Sage that is the same color as the blue Kansas sky. You will also find extensive wetlands that are home to a wide range of bird life – with some flocks reaching as many as 100,000 birds. These wetlands also play host to a number of historic rural communities – these are well worth paying a visit while you are there. Alternatively, pay a visit to the Gypsum Hills – also known as the Red Hills – whose rugged landscape is full of spectacular mesas, buttes and canyons.

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Diverse Culture And Entertainment

If you want to take a break from the enchanting Kansas landscapes – although it’s not clear why you would – then Kansas offers a wide range of cultural activities and nightlife. For example, the state has over 150 art galleries, as well as numerous museums. Why not take in a classical symphony in the Flint Hills – this outdoor event combines musical artistry with some of the most fantastic scenery in Kansas. Pay a visit to the Aggieville historic district in Manhattan, Kansas, where you will find over 100 shops, restaurants and bars. If you are in Kansas around Christmas, take your kids to a performance of the Nutcracker, which is performed in a number of cities around Kansas, including Topeka and Wichita. For some more grown-up entertainment, you can also pay a visit to one of the many fine vineyards in the state, or enjoy a pint at a local brewpub.

Header image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/kingfleab/

1st Image source: http://www.skyways.org/orgs/fordco/graphics/frontst1874.jpg

2nd Image source: http://www.postcardsfromsurprisingplaces.com/uploads/1/7/7/7/17777259/8598843_orig.jpg?385

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