Two miles north of Lebanon, in north-central Kansas, a simple stone monument marks the geographical center of the continental United States. Little more than rolling hills and grassy plains are in the area, but from east to west Kansas has attractions worthy of visits. Explore a noteworthy historic event, walk through an endangered ecosystem or visit an Old West town made famous on television.
Kansas is nicknamed the Sunflower State.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
Find out what really led to the Supreme Court decision of 1954 ending racial segregation in public schools at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (nps.gov/brvb) in Topeka. The case was not just about Kansas; the court combined five cases from four states and the District of Columbia. The park’s visitor center is housed in the former Monroe Elementary School building, which has been retrofitted to look like it did in 1954. Chat with a ranger, watch the introductory film and explore exhibits. Ask for a junior ranger booklet; complete four activities and earn a badge.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
See what is left of the vast prairies that once covered the central part of the country at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (nps.gov/tapr). Board a bus for a 90-minute, ranger-led tour that explores the unique ecosystem the park preserves; buses run daily from late April to late October. Tours of the three-story Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch house, built of limestone in 1881, tell the story of Kansas ranching. Get a map at the preserve’s information desk on the back porch. Hiking trails are open continuously but camping is not allowed. Do not approach bison.
Mid-America All-Indian Center and the Keeper of the Plains
Discover American Indian cultures at the Mid-America All-Indian Center (theindiancenter.org) in Wichita. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the center features an art museum where carved kachinas, woven rugs and contemporary paintings are on display. View 549 flags representing all the sovereign tribes of the United States in the Gallery of Nations. Explore the grounds of the center. At the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers is the Keeper of the Plains (kansastravel.org/keeperoftheplains.htm), a 44-foot-tall statue of an Indian chief. A ring of fire lights the base of the statue nightly.
Step into the Old West in Dodge City (visitdodgecity.org). Take the visitor bureau’s self-guided walking tour with or without taped narration, follow the Dodge City Trail of Fame (dodgecitytrailoffame.org) or ride the Dodge City Trolley to explore. The Boot Hill Museum (boothill.org) features original and reconstructed displays. Traipse through Boot Hill Cemetery, view firearms in the “Guns that Won the West” exhibit, reflect on history inside the First Union Church or order a bottle of sarsaparilla at the Long Branch Saloon.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images