On a trip across Kansas via Interstate 70, I was fortunate to stop in every town belonging to the I-70 Association (yes, it’s a thing). You won’t believe the fantastic scenery and cool things I found to do, with my road tripping friend Sara (of Travel with Sara) by my side. We were in awe at some of the findings, and I’m sure you will be, too.
Here are my choices for the best things to do on Kansas I-70, going town to town from East to West.
The Olde Westport Spice and Trading Co. in downtown Goodland have a considerable inventory of delicious spice mixes to enhance and make your home-cooked dishes taste great! The owners are both sweet and friendly, offering to help in any way possible. My favorite spice mixes were the Chipotle Black Bean Soup and Three Rivers Chili Verde. The store also has bread mixes and cookbooks, featuring wonderful recipes–some of which I tried in the store.
Colby’s Prairie Museum of Art is loaded with many fun things to see. From an impressive train collection to one of the most unique doll collections I’ve seen, you are in for a real treat at this Kansas museum. The massive assortment of buttons is intriguing, but not as much as the amazing glass collection (some Vaseline glass even glows green). The Prairie Museum of Art also has one of the quarter-ride horses for some cheap, fun, retro entertainment.
I included two things to do in Oakley because I couldn’t choose between the two.
Monument Rocks, found in Oakley, is is the first National Natural Landmark of Kansas, established in 1968. As beautiful as some of the chalk pyramid rock formations in Utah or Arizona, the photo-ops are sensational, and the views are even better. It is a bit challenging to find Monument Rocks, so I encourage you to pick up a paper map from the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center before heading to it. I promise, the 50-foot tall rock layers of bentonite, gypsum, iron, and giant clams are worth the trek.
The world of fossils is alive and well at Fick Fossil and History Museum in Oakley, Kansas. While the museum isn’t flashy or modern, the contents make up for it. I loved the displays of well labeled and informative flashy and shiny minerals. The Fick Museum also has interesting artwork, a historical fire engine, and many unique fossils, including a mosasaur from Grove County, Kansas.
Our drive from Kansas I-70 to the Shiloh Vineyard & Winery seemed to take forever (around 20 minutes), but when we arrived, a wonderful treat lies in store. The Shiloh Vineyard & Winery had the most gorgeous grounds and barn, perfect for a wedding or other special occasion. We enjoyed a wine flight in the tasting room. I preferred the Brianna semi-sweet, and Sara liked the fruit wines, of which we tried Paisley Pear and Plum. Shiloh Vineyard & Winery is definitely a place to hop off the interstate for.
Note: I do not condone drinking and driving—always have a designated driver.
Explore the world of dinosaurs and prehistoric life at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas. This fantastic world-class museum includes exhibits featuring botany, zoology, geology, and paleontology. One section even has a variety of reptiles and amphibians, like this cute salamander. There is also a Paleontology Research Center and prep lab where you can watch the work as it goes on. Children (from all over the world) come to Sternberg Museum of Natural History to attend the prestigious summer camps.
Don’t miss the Excavations Gift Shop, full of fun things to take home with you, and the Fish-Within-a-Fish, one of the museum’s treasures.
Discover the world of grassroots art in the town of Lucas, a neighbor to Russell, Kansas. The medium of grassroots is art made by the self-taught artist using raw, recycled, folk art, and other materials. Step inside the Grassroots Art Museum in the center of Lucas and see great artworks on display, then continue to the Garden of Isis, part of the paid tour to explore the museum. You’ll find dozens of curiosities and artworks at the Grassroots Art Museum, including a chewing gum exhibit by 90-year-old artist Betty Milliken of Lawrence, Kansas. At the same time, the Garden of Isis is like a step into outer space with every inch of the house decorated in aluminum, recycled toys, and incredible imagination.
Next comes the Garden of Eden, a massive yard dedication to biblical scenes as interpreted by S. P. Dinsmoor, also interred on the property. Lastly, drop by the Bowl Plaza, one of the nation’s best-kept blinged-up public bathrooms, which you’ll have to see to believe!
When you buy a ticket to the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, you also get into the Wildlife Museum, adjacent to the property. At the zoo, learn about and see 100+ animals from around the world, including giraffe, tigers, rhino, and mandrills. There is also a section for kids with an old farm tractor and petting zoo.
At the Wildlife Museum, enjoy an indoor adventure through the world as you enjoy a unique look at taxidermic animals from all over. The displays are very well done, and the animals are labeled educationally. Sara and I both found this museum to be enjoyable for everyone, despite the weather. Admission to both parks is less than $14 per adult and $7 for children ages 3 to 12.
Even though Abilene, Kansas, has a bunch of really cool things to see and do, including the Eisenhower Presidential Home and Library, my favorite thing in town was dinner at the Brookville Hotel. This legendary restaurant (don’t let the name fool you) was named an 8 Wonders of Kansas Finalist and recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award. Dinner is served family-style with generous portions of award-winning fried chicken, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, gravy, biscuits, slaw, ice cream, and beverage for under $16.95 per person. Coming from a non-fried chicken eater, the meal was phenomenal and one of the best of 2019!
Off of Kansas I-70 in Junction City is the See an adorable Kansas prairie dog, as well as dozens of birds, fish, and amphibians at the Milford Nature Center and Fish Hatchery, with oodles of wildlife, fish, butterflies, and amphibians to keep everyone amused for hours. Exhibits range from an outdoor bird center (owls, eagles, etc.) to a beautiful butterfly garden, and an indoor area with frogs, snakes, a salamander, turtles, and my favorite, the adorable prairie dog. They might be a nuisance to farmers, but they sure are cute and fun to watch. There are also plenty of hands-on things at each of the Milford Nature Center areas.
The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a 35,000 square foot world-class museum in Manhattan, Kansas. Start with the 15-minute introductory movie (the theater is incredible!), comparable to something you would see at Disney, and learn about the importance of the landscape in Kansas, namely the Flint Hills. Galleries offer educational material but done in a fun and professional way. The kid’s area on the second floor is fantastic; I hope to take my granddaughter there when she is older. On the rooftop is a Prairie garden with exceptional city views, a pollinator garden, and Kansas tallgrasses that you can see and touch.
Washington Creek Lavender is a massive agritourism endeavor in Lawrence, Kansas, that grows eight varieties of lavender plants. Besides shopping and learning about the fragrant blooms, you can also take a walk through the gorgeous lavender fields and have your photoshoots. Products for sale at Washington Creek Lavender include soaps, sachets, candles, and even handmade Irish pottery.
Visiting an active military installation isn’t all that uncommon. Step on base at Fort Leavenworth, where you can tour the historical grounds (circa 1827), visit a world-class museum, see the Buffalo Soldier Memorial and visit Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, one of only 12 in the country. Be sure to tour the Lewis and Clark Center to learn how many outstanding military officers have graduated from here.
Learn a historical event in Kansas may have shaped the nation when you visit Lecompton, Kansas, also home to President Eisenhower’s parents. Stay for a live reenactment at the Territorial Capital Museum and learn why this town is called “Where slavery began to die.” Lecompton was the territorial capital of Kansas from 1855 to 1861. I enjoyed strolling through the museum, paying particular attention to the china, election campaign memorabilia, and military uniforms.
Tour a funky facility that specializes in handmade and bulk marbles in Bonner Springs, Kansas. Moon Marble Company is such a fun place to shop, learn, and watch demonstrations from master glass artists as they create amazing pieces that can be purchased. The toy selection alone at Moon Marble will keep you browsing for hours!
The town of Shawnee offers the chance to step back in time, 1929 to be exact, and see how life was through costumed interpreters in a historical setting. Shawnee Town 1929 is a one-stop-shop for education, entertainment, history, and lots of events. Make sure to peruse the adorable gift shop before leaving.
Kansas City (KCK) is synonymous with delicious BBQ, and you will find some of the best in the nation in Kansas City, Kansas. There are three BBQ joints I love, each for different dishes. Try Rosedale Barbecue for pulled pork and the bbq sauces, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que for the Z-Man Sandwich and potato salad, and Slap’s BBQ for cheesy corn and Smoked Turkey.
Kansas, A Force to Be Reckoned With
When you start exploring the center of America, i.e., the towns of Kansas, you will discover so many amazing things to see and do. Whether you are driving through or making Kansas your destination, you’re sure to find lots to write home about. Safe travels!
Need a place to stay when traveling Kansas I-70? Here are a few suggestions.
Kansas City, KS
The Homewood Suites by Hilton Kansas City Speedway is an excellent spot for convenience, friendly service, and complimentary Wifi and breakfast. The hotel also has an indoor pool and apartment-style rooms with full kitchens.
An exceptional hotel with a sophisticated feel and excellent staff is the Tru by Hilton in Lawrence, Kansas. I loved the contemporary spaces and comfortable furnishings. Free amenities include Wifi, breakfast, and parking, a trifecta in our book! Take advantage of the games and pool table in the lobby or the nooks and crannies to get lost in.
Junction City, KS
The Hampton Inn in Junction City is a comfortable 3-star hotel with a top-notch complimentary breakfast, parking, and free Wifi. Rooms have mini-fridges, and there is an indoor pool.
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