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5 Things to Love about Salina, Kansas

5 Things to Love about Salina, Kansas

Nestled conveniently between two major interstates (I-70 and I-135), Salina, Kansas, is a hidden gem for road-trippers and day-trippers alike. With its charming downtown, exceptional attractions, and a myriad of activities (many of which are free), Salina is a destination you’ll want to add to your future road trip itineraries. Here are five things to love about Salina I’ve discovered during my visits. 


1. Indulge in Salina’s Culinary Delights

Salina’s culinary scene is a treasure trove of history and flavor. One such gem is Cozy Inn, a name that belies its true nature. This local institution has been dishing out its signature grilled sliders with onions for almost a century. While small in size, they pack a flavorful punch.

Enjoy the cozy burgers as they come; avoid asking for cheese. 

The cozy six-stool counter at Cozy Inn has witnessed countless smiles and satisfied customers over the years. Now, with the addition of an outdoor ordering option, the charm of this place has only grown. Remember, for the love of Pete, don’t ask for cheese!


For a unique urban dining experience, visit Blue Skye Brewing and Eats, a fantastic microbrewery. This local favorite offers craft beer, wood-fired pizzas, and locally sourced food that explodes in flavor in every bite. 

Brunch is extra special with Anne’s famous cinnamon roll, which sells out faster than hotcakes. Try the Earlybird breakfast pizza, Brizza with bacon, spinach, scrambled eggs, avocado, and hollandaise for a savory kick. 


Indulge in the wonderful Italian delights at Martinelli’s Little Italy for lunch or dinner. The garlic bread and Toasted Raviolis are a must. Entree pasta dishes come in full, 1/2, or 1/4 portions, perfect for any hunger level.

If you need help choosing between the tempting options, I recommend Martinelli’s Pasta (mushrooms, chicken, Marsala wine sauce) or traditional Lasagna with beef and sausage. 


Big Nose Kate’s Saloon is a must-visit for a taste of local history and a lively atmosphere. Named after the infamous Old West figure, this saloon captures the spirit of the Wild West with its décor and hearty menu. Whether you’re there for a drink or a full meal, it ensures a memorable experience.

2. Explore The Garage Car Museum

Salina’s newest attraction, The Garage Automotive Museum, is a must-see for automobile enthusiasts or casual visitors. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing automotive history, featuring a stunning collection of classic cars, muscle cars, and rare vehicles.

Admission is $15 for adults, and the museum is open Thursday through Sunday. 


Walking through the museum, you’ll be transported back in time, admiring beautifully restored vehicles that tell the story of America’s love affair with the automobile. Each car is accompanied by detailed information about its history, making it an educational experience and a visual treat.

There was a 10 million dollar car on my visit, something you don’t see every day. 


Visitors can learn about the mechanics of these classic cars, understanding what makes them tick and how they’ve evolved over the decades. It’s a hands-on way to appreciate the craftsmanship and innovation that have driven the automotive industry forward.

The Garage Car Museum hosts special events and car shows throughout the year, providing a dynamic and ever-changing experience. Lastly, another highlight is the interactive exhibits, which have plenty for kids to see and do, like Hot Wheels and Legos

Pro Tip: Scooters, wheelchairs, and strollers are available to rent. 


3. Discover the Vibrant Art & Theater Scene

One of Salina’s crown jewels is its vibrant art scene, encapsulated perfectly by the SculptureTour Salina walking tour. True to its flyer, it feels like a treasure hunt as you stroll through the city, discovering thought-provoking sculptures dotting the landscape. 


My favorites are still “Patches,” the colorful elephant that won the 2018 People’s Choice Award, and “Eggcited,” a whimsical Humpty Dumpty look-alike that didn’t make the permanent cut. The sculptures change each spring, so there’s always something new to admire.

And have I mentioned the incredible colorful, vibrant, and stunning murals all around town?


When you think you’ve seen it all, the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, a stunning 1931 art-deco venue, will leave you in awe. Hosting world-class concerts, this performing arts venue is as beautiful as it is historic.

Keep an eye out for upcoming performances by artists like Sara Evans, George Lopez, and Barenaked Ladies—it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.


And we can’t go without mentioning Salina’s painted silos, Mural at the Mill, courtesy of the Salina Kanvas Project. World-famous Australian artist Guido van Helten completed the gorgeous rendering in 2021. It stands high above the city and proudly captures the heart and spirit of Salina.


4. Stroll Through Gorgeous Downtown Main Street

Downtown Salina is a feast for the eyes, with its wide streets, vibrant flowers, and charming street flags. Locally owned businesses thrive here, offering specialty shopping and dining experiences. As you explore, you’ll find plenty of places to spend your time, whether admiring sculptures, murals, or simply people-watching.

A few must-visit spots include True Betty Boutique, Poppy & Vine, and The Bath Pub, where you’ll find cool things to shop for and friendly service. The downtown area is not just a place to shop; it’s a community hub brimming with local charm and creativity.


On my first visit, Downtown Salina was in the process of a major revitalization project. Beyond the construction, this is the kind of Main Street American town people love coming to. The wide streets, an incredible selection of shops and restaurants, and outdoor art make Salina’s downtown a welcoming attraction.

The upgrades and facelift are now complete — and she’s an absolute stunner. 


One of my favorites in Downtown Salina is  Ad Astra Books and Coffee House. Here, you can savor a variety of beverages, from cold brews to pour-overs, matcha, and even affogato, while perusing their extensive collection of books, magazines, comics, and stickers.


Ad Astra is a haven for bookworms and coffee lovers alike, offering the perfect ambiance to unwind and spend a leisurely afternoon. They also cater to the community’s needs in more ways than one; kudos for that.


5. Unwind at Local Parks, Zoo, and Outdoor Spaces

For a family-friendly adventure, Rolling Hills Zoo is a perfect outing. Home to 100+ species of animals, this walkable zoo offers an excellent opportunity to admire wildlife and get your steps in for the day. From orangutans and capybaras to African-painted dogs and giraffes, the variety of animals is impressive and entertaining.


Kid’s Country is a delightful section of the zoo where children can interact with farm animals like chickens, goats, and sheep. It’s a hands-on experience that kids will love, and the admission price is very reasonable. The zoo also offers stroller, wheelchair, and scooter rentals and a dog kennel service for those traveling with pets.

Your ticket to Rolling Hills Zoo also grants you access to the Wildlife Museum, a 64,000-square-foot attraction adjacent to the zoo. This interactive museum takes you on a journey around the world, with exhibits showcasing animals from every corner of the globe. It’s a fascinating way to learn about wildlife and conservation efforts.


Salina offers a variety of outdoor spaces that cater to different interests, from relaxing parks to adventurous trails. Oakdale Park, for example, provides a serene setting with beautiful walking paths, picnic areas, and a picturesque rose garden. It’s an ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon stroll or a family picnic.

For those who enjoy more active pursuits, the Smoky Hill River Festival, held annually in Oakdale Park, is a vibrant celebration of art, music, and community, attracting visitors from far and wide.

Photos from Smoky Hill River Festival IG page.


Salina is the kind of town you’ll fall in love with at first sight. Whether you seek culture, cuisine, or family fun, this Kansas gem fits the bill. Be sure to carve out some time for Salina on your next road trip adventure. 

Read more about the great state of Kansas in these posts:

Best Things to Do in Hays

Kansas Flint Hills Road Trip

Garden of Eden: A Wonderfully Weird Kansas Attraction

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