Salina, Kansas, is positioned between two major interstates (I-70 and I-135), and can easily be a road or day trip destination. I’ve visited a couple of dozen cities in Kansas, and Salina is one of my favorites. Between a stunning downtown and a wealth of attractions (many of them are free), it is a place to add to your next road trip itinerary. Here are five things to love about Salina, Kansas, that I still dream about.
Salina produces the most fluorescent lighting and frozen pizzas than anywhere in the world—your Jeopardy prep for the day.
#1 A Proper Coffee House
When I travel, I always like to visit a local coffee shop. Now and then, I hit the jackpot and find one that delivers on many levels, plus has an amazing cup of Joe. That is the case with Ad Astra Books and Coffee House in Salina, Kansas. The menu has cold brew, pour-overs, frozen coffee, and I had an affogato. Non-coffee drinkers will find a variety of teas, Italian sodas, lemonade, and milk. With the town’s best 67401 zip-code mural on the outside wall of the parking lot, and a terrific selection of books, comics, vinyl, and magazines, Ad Astra is a place you’ll want to hang out for hours. The coffee shop is also used for poetry readings, live music, book signings, and children’s theater on occasion.
Kansas friends, you can buy Becky’s Bierocks at Ad Astra Books and Coffee House, too.
#2 Superb Sculpture Tour
The 10-year-old Sculpture Tour Salina walking tour is truly a treasure hunt, just as the flyer suggests. Permanent and thought-provoking on-loan sculptures dot Salina’s landscape, and offer a great free activity for tourists and locals. Slices of Heaven (the stacked oranges), Patches (the colorful elephant that was the 2018 People’s Choice Award winner), and Eggcited (Humpty Dumpty look-alike) were my favorites. Whimsical and cute, the sculptures change each spring, though many are permanent fixtures.
#3 Delicious Dining
As a professional traveler, nothing is more exciting food-wise, than going to a local institution that hasn’t succumbed to trying to be like everyone else. The Cozy Inn, a historic eatery in Salina, has been serving the same grilled burgers with onion (and for the love of Pete, don’t ask for cheese!) in the size I call “sliders” for over 50 years now. It works. People (and myself included) love the taste of these juicy little handfuls. While the menu hasn’t changed, the restaurant has installed an outdoor ordering option, since the six-stool counter couldn’t keep up with the demand and crowds. The Cozy Inn has been in business for 97 years!
Blue Skye Brewing and Eats offers a fresh urban eatery in downtown Salina with craft beer, wood-fired pizzas, and locally-sourced food. Go for brunch and immediately order the honkin’ big Anne’s famous cinnamon roll. They sell like hotcakes and it taste like a little slice of heaven. For your main course, try a Brizza, a breakfast pizza. I had The Earlybird, with bacon, spinach, scrambled eggs, with avocado and hollandaise. It was scrumptious!
For lunch or dinner, indulge in a decadent Italian dinner and wine, all with an affordable price tag, at Martinelli’s Little Italy. Don’t skip the garlic bread or Toasted Ravioli appetizer, both are excellent. I enjoyed the Martinelli’s Pasta, a specialty dish with Alfredo, mushrooms, grilled chicken, and Marsala wine sauce.
You can order half or quarter portions of the pasta dishes if you aren’t very hungry. I chose the quarter portion, and you can see how big it was, plus it was under $10. Martinelli’s also offers steaks, chops, pizza, and family-style dinners for parties of four or more.
#4 A Gorgeous Downtown
On my visit, Downtown Salina was in the process of a major revitalization project. Beyond the construction, I could see that this is the kind of Main Street American town that people love coming to. The wide streets, wonderful selection of shops and restaurants, and outdoor art make Salina’s downtown a welcoming attraction.
There is a wealth of quirky shops and boutiques with great things to shop for here. You’ll find gifts, pottery, art, clothing, and home decor, to name a few. Be sure to check out these local shops:
- True Betty Boutique
- Penny Layne
- On the Pot Arts and Crafts store
You’ll also gush at the sight of the beautiful Stiefel Theatre, a 1931 art-deco performing arts venue which hosts world-class concerts. Upcoming options include Collective Soul, Amy Grant, Lee Brice, and The Office-a Musical Parody.
#5 A Fun Zoo
The whole family will love the walkable Rolling Hills Zoo. With 100+ species of animals, Rolling Hills Zoo is an excellent place to admire animals, or even get your steps in for the day. Some zoo residents include orangutan, chimps, African painted dogs, giraffe, an aardvark, Indian rhino, and many big cats. Kid’s Country is a neat offering with farm animals for petting, including chickens, a dwarf cow, goats, and several kinds of sheep.
The Rolling Hills Zoo is only closed four days a year and the admission price is reasonable. The zoo has stroller and scooter rentals, and a dog kennel service for those traveling with a pet.
Besides admission to the Rolling Hills Zoo, your ticket also gets you into the Wildlife Museum, a 64,000 square foot attraction adjacent to the zoo. You can take an interactive trip around the world in this gem, with animal exhibits from all parts of the globe.
During my visit to Salina, I met a young man who worked downtown. He was from NYC. A friend told him about the quality of life and low cost of living in Salina and invited him to visit and check it out. The young man ended up loving it and moved his family there. He now works fewer hours, needs far less money, and has an entire house with a yard for his kids and raves about living in the Midwest. Sometimes, the grass is greener.
Staying the Night in Salina
If you are looking to spend the night, the Holiday Inn Salina is a smart choice for accommodations. It includes free parking and standard wireless internet with each booking. Burger Theory, the onsite restaurant, has delicious food and kids under 11 eat free. Try the gourmet flatbreads and stellar beer selection.
Enjoy your visit to this fantastic, fun Kansas city.
Read more about the great state of Kansas in these posts: