South Central KS Road-Trip

My parents recently visited us here in Kansas. Knowing that they are as hyperactive as I am , I planned a weekend circuit to visit a bunch of random things in the state. Our two-day road trip covered a pretty good swath of south central Kansas, a region we hadn’t explored too thoroughly yet. Our route looked something like this:

map

The first stop: Eisenhower boyhood home, museum, and burial site in Abilene KS. We spent the morning learning the ins and outs of the 34th presidency. Fittingly, we reached Abilene using I-70, part of the very system of interstate highways that Eisenhower is responsible for.

Next, Lindsborg KS, a town known for its large Swedish population, assortment of Swedish stores and restaurants, and ornately painted wooden Dala horses (once carved by Swedish lumberjacks). We scarfed down some Swedish pancakes (kind of like crepes) and went to National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson’s gallery which was full of beautiful photos of Kansas and beyond.

From there we hit Coronado Heights, a small stone castle built atop a hill by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s and believed to once have been visited by Spanish Conquistador Coronado. There are some trails winding around the castle and a many great views of the country-side.

We next drove to the town of Marquette to grab some treats at City Sundries, an old-fashioned soda fountain. We played in the park and went antiquing while dad occupied himself at the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. From there we went to Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson KS where we enjoyed the peaceful fishing pond, visitor center, and a prairie hiking trail just outside of town. For 50 cents you can buy a waffle cone of food pellets and have a gang of fish, turtles, and geese follow you around.

We stayed the night in Hutchinson and the next morning went to Stratica, the underground salt mine. It’s a little touristy, but it’s the only way you can descend 650 feet and learn all about the process that extracts good old sodium chloride from the earth right here in Kansas. There’s a self-guided museum, two guided rides to other parts of the mine, and even the opportunity to go off on your own and explore the less regulated sections.

We had heard that there was a particularly popular Mennonite relief quilt auction going on at the Kansas state fairgrounds so we figured we should go scope it out. It was mostly building after building of people selling ice cream and pies. Eventually we found the auction buildings where a fast-talking auctioneer rattled off numbers until their ornate, hand-made covers were sold (sometimes for thousands of dollars!).

Finally, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. We’ve been there numerous times, but since it was basically on the way home we decided to stop and hike a little and check out the native stone buildings of the old homestead.

If this looks way more fun than your weekend, then I challenge you to create your own Kansas weekend road-trip. It beats staying at home!

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