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There is seemingly no end to the fascinating and fun attractions that you can find on your travels through Kansas.
If your travels have you scheduled for a stop in Wichita, in South Central Kansas, visit the Sedgwick County Zoo. It is home to more than 2,500 animals and provides unique experiences like the Downing Gorilla Forest and visits with lions in the Pride of the Plains, as well as experiences with penguins, Amur tigers, reticulated giraffes, red pandas, and so many more incredible animals. Also found in Wichita is the Tanganyika Wildlife Park. They specialize in animal encounters that include swimming with the penguins, feeding the Indian rhinos, and meeting a rare okapi.
The North Central region welcomes animal lovers to its Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina. Here, guests can meet up with a rare white camel, an aardvark, and an orangutan, along with more than 350 other animals and exhibits. The Sunset Zoo in Manhattan is also a big draw. The focus of the zoological park is conservation. They house more than 300 animals, ranging from Amur Leopards to Chimpanzees to red pandas, as well as amphibians, birds, fish, and reptiles.
In the Southeast, 400 mammals, reptiles and birds can be seen at the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia. The zoo is a blend of walking and drive-thru zones, as well as botanical gardens. Cedar Cove Feline Sanctuary & Education Center can be found in Louisburg. As the name suggests, the Sanctuary’s primary focus is placed on the preservation and care of endangered large cats. Meanwhile, if your travels take you to Caney, the Safari Zoological Park will expose you to tigers, lions, wolves, bears, primates, and numerous other animals.
The Topeka Zoo is located in the Northeast’s Gage Park. It built one of the first indoor tropical rainforests in the country and welcomes visitors to meet their more than 250 animals. Their other zones include Black Bear Woods, the Waterbird Lagoon, Discovering Apes, Camp Cowabunga, and Jungle Cats, among many others.
Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine makes for a serene wooded retreat. Covering more than 40 acres, visitors can wander through Japanese maples, towering oaks and impressive cypress. During the summer months, it also plays host to a summer concert series.
While in Wichita, schedule some time to visit Botanica, The Wichita Gardens. You’ll love the butterfly garden, the pansy exhibits, the aquatic collection, and the tropical plants in the greenhouse. Junipers, a peony collection, a rose garden, and the children’s garden are among the many other popular spots here.
Among the newest botanical gardens is the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. It covers more than 300 acres, offering towering trees, miles of hiking trails, and limestone bluffs. While the property is still developing, make sure to see the Erickson Water Garden, the Legacy Garden, the Marder Woodland Garden, and the Children’s Discovery Garden when you visit.
History and architecture buffs will love touring the Kansas State Capitol Building in Topeka. Construction finished in 1903, and visitors can explore it and the 20-acre grounds, on self-guided and guided tours. Dome Tours are among the most popular, but keep in mind that they involve climbing 296 spiraling steps to get to the top. Historic Tours are also popular and include details on the history of the building, the day-to-day workings of government and the State Supreme Court and the impressive artwork that can be found throughout.
There are more than 350 designated historic sites, monuments and museums throughout the Sunflower State. In fact, your biggest challenge may be deciding where to start first!
If you are beginning your explorations in Topeka, schedule time at the Ward-Meade Historic Site. The complex includes a 2½-acre botanical garden, the restored 1874 Ward-Meade Mansion and an Old Prairie Town. The town features the 1891 Victor Schoolhouse, the 1880 Everest Church, the Mulvane General Store, the Potwin Drugstore, the Lingo Livery Stable (which features the Oregon Trail exhibition), and the Santa Fe Depot and Caboose, among other historical attractions.
Another fascinating site in Topeka is the Kansas’ Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Tour the Monroe Elementary School building, explore the galleries and enjoy the exhibitions detailing the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended public school racial segregation.
Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park in Wellsville, also in the Northeast Region, is built on the field that was the location of what is thought to be the “first true battle of the American Civil War.” The park also displays the 19th-century Robert Hall Pearson House, which is open to guided tours. Visitors to the region can also learn about Atchison County and its famous explorers through the Atchison County Historical Society Museum and the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum.
Visitors to Nicodemus, in the Northwest, can learn more about one of the first community created by former slaves at the Nicodemus National Historic Site. Finished in 1877, the site includes a Visitor Center filled with historical displays, exhibitions, and audio presentations on what is the only such settlement still found west of the Mississippi.
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Southeast Kansas presents 1850s Kansas to visitors. The one-time military base and security post during the Civil War continues to educate travelers. Currently, there are 20 historic buildings, parade grounds, and prairie fields that can be toured. “The Highlights of History Tour” reveals its role in the events of the “Bleeding Kansas” era.
Fort Larned National Historic Site, a former Army post during the Indian Wars, includes a Visitor Center museum with exhibits covering Native American heritage, Buffalo Soldiers, the Civil War, and the Indian Wars.
If your travels take you to the Southwest’s Scott City, El Quartelejo Museum beckons. Patrons are taken through the history of developing Kansas, from fossil discoveries to present time. Particularly compelling are the exhibits on Pioneer and Native American history. Outside Scott City, visitors can also see the El Quartelejo ruins, thought to be archeological remnants of the only known pueblo in the Sunflower State.
Big Well Museum & Visitors Center in Greensburg is considered one of Kansas’ “Eight Wonders.” Here, visitors can descend into what was the deepest hand-dug well and explore the historical exhibits in the museum. Other historical sites counted among the state’s “Eight Wonders” are the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene and Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson.
An old piece of historic U.S. Route 66 still stands in southern Kansas. Rainbow Bridge, located north of Baxter Springs, is the last one of its kind along the famed Mother Road.
This single white arch concrete bridge was designed by James Barney Marsh and built in 1923 over Brush Creek. This narrow Marsh Arch bridge was saved from demolition in the early 1990s by the Kansas Route 66 Association.
The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, in 1993, further protecting it from destruction. A new bridge was built to replace Rainbow Bridge, to better handle the increasing traffic.
An iconic site in the legends of the Old West, Front Street is located in the historic Kansas community of Dodge City.