Ever considered adding Kansas to your vacation destination bucket list? Here’s how to spend seven days in the Sunflower State.
Day 1: Topeka, KS
Since Kansas City International Airport (MCI) is counterintuitively in Missouri, pick-up your one-way rental car after getting off the plane and drive an hour west to Topeka, the capital city of Kansas. After checking in to your hotel, spend your first day in Kansas exploring Topeka, making sure to check out tourist hotspots such as the Evel Knievel Museum and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. If you get hungry, cross the Kansas River and stuff yourself with comfort food at The Wheel Barrel restaurant. Order its award-winning Monte Cristo sandwich and a craft beer before devouring a dessert soft pretzel to cleanse your palette.
Day 2: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
An hour and 15 minutes southwest of Topeka sits Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, with 11,000 acres of protected prairie lands with hiking trails, guided tours, and catch-and-release fishing. Surprisingly, Tallgrass Prairie is only four percent of its former 170 million-acre self, most of which has been transformed into farmland. Visitors luckily don’t need a permit to access the 40 miles of hiking trails and explore the preserve. Keep your eyes peeled for bison while hiking, and be sure to keep a safe distance if one crosses your path.
Day 3: Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
On your third day in Kansas, drive southeast to relax and unwind at the beautiful Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Paola, KS. As the largest vineyard in Kansas, Somerset Ridge is home to over 9,000 vines, as well as the award-winning Lucky Dog hard cider. Note: If you visit www.somersetridge.com before you head west, you can book a $10 reservation ahead of time, which includes seating and your first beverage. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, many visitors enjoy a picnic on the vineyard grounds (although no outside food is permitted on weekends). Snack on charcuterie, participate in a wine tasting, or check the online calendar of events for information on live music and food truck schedules.
Day 4: Atchison and Aviation
Less than an hour northeast of Topeka is the smaller town of Atchison, KS. In Atchison, tour the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum to learn more about Amelia Earhart’s life before her mysterious disappearance during a flight at age 39. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air, take a walk along the Atchison Riverwalk, following the Missouri River before making the drive back to Topeka.
Day 5: Wichita, KS
Check out of your hotel in Topeka and drive a little over two hours south to the city of Wichita. Downtown Wichita is packed with family-friendly tourist attractions. Take the family to the Old Cowtown Museum, the Mid-America All-Indian Museum, and the Exploration Place, a science museum for kids and adults alike. Where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers meet stands the 44-foot tall Keeper of the Plains statue, which was donated to Wichita by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin in 1974.
Day 6: Fort Larned National Historic Site
If you haven’t had your fill of historical sightseeing for the week, drive two hours east to Fort Larned National Historic Site, an army post from the 1860s and 1870s open to the public for annual living history events, ranger-guided tours, and picnics. Established in 1859, Fort Larned was originally created to protect Santa Fe Trail traffic from less than friendly American Indians, and became a staple for American and Native American history. Visible at Fort Larned are ruts along the Santa Fe Trail, which serve as reminders of the hundreds of wagons passing through the famous Southwest trade route.
Day 7: Depart Wichita
After a week of history, wine, and prairie land, return your one-way rental car at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT). If you have an extra hour or two before boarding your flight, grab a beer with breakfast at the airport’s River City Brewing restaurant while you plan your next adventure.