Camping Gems - Kansas
Prairie Dog State Park and Norton Wildlife Area
You can spend hours watching the energetic, charming prairie dogs scurry around their "towns," watching for predators. The park also offers boating, fishing, hiking, nature trails, and bird watching. Keep an eye out for coyotes and prairie falcons, and eagles! (From Norton, take Hwy. 283 south. From I-70, take Hwy. 283 north. 785-877-2953)
Cedar Bluff State Park
The deep blue waters of the Cedar Bluff Reservoir draw visitors from miles around. Most people come to fish and go boating (the park has several boat ramps), but you'll also find a BMX biking course, sand volleyball, and a lovely beach for swimming and sunbathing. (From I-70, east of WaKeeney, take KS 147 south toward the Cedar Bluff Reservoir. 785-726-3212)
Tuttle Creek State Park
On a hot day, the Tuttle Creek Reservoir is the perfect place to cool off. Dive into the clear waters or head out on a paddle boat, canoe, or fishing trip. The park also offers trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, as well as volleyball areas. Be sure to try fishing the backwaters of the Blue River. (From Manhattan, take US 24 north, 5 miles. 785-539-7941)
This college town offers a terrific arts scene, day and night. In the evening hours, head to a club or neighborhood bar for live music and performances. During the day, coffee shops and bookstores are filled with poets and artists. The National Trust for Historic Preservation ranked Lawrence among its "Dozen Most Distinctive Destinations."
Prairie Spirit Rail Trail
Get to know Kansas from the back of your bike! The Prairie Spirit Rail Trail (a resurrected stretch of old railway line) runs for 50 miles near Kansas City, Topeka, and Lawrence. The hard-packed trail is perfect for walking, hiking, inline skating, and biking. (Trailheads in Ottawa, Princeton, Richmond, Garnett, and Welda. 913-894-9113)
Dillon Nature Center
Look inside an active beehive, look for frogs in the ponds and marshes, or watch for butterflies on the nature trails. The Dillon Nature Center is home to over 150 species of birds and mammals, including deer, foxes, rabbits and coyotes. (3002 E. 30th St. 620-663-7411, Hutchinson)
Its colorful, seasonal floral displays and themed gardens will inspire you with all kinds of ideas to use when you get home. As you wander along its paths you'll find 20 gardens on 10 acres and, with a little planning, be able to attend one of its many special events which include lunchtime lectures, tea parties, workshops, and festivals. Best seen between April and October. (701 Amidon at Sim Park, 316-264-0448)
This small village is called "Little Sweden," and once you wander through the stores full of Scandinavian imports, original arts and crafts, and experience its Old World Personality, you'll understand why.
Kansas City Renaissance Festival
If you visit Kansas in between August and October, be sure to check out the sword fights, dancing, and medieval treats at the Renaissance Festival. Special events go on during weekends all throughout the early fall, from Shakepearean plays to Scottish weekends.
Known as the "First City in Kansas," Leavenworth's history extends back to 1854. Take a tour of the town's historic riverfront, downtown boutiques, and antique shops. With views of the Missouri River, Leavenworth is a romantic destination. See the Victorian Carroll Mansion, Ft. Leavenworth (the oldest continuously operating fort west of the Mississippi River), and Santa Fe and Oregon trail cuts.
Camping Gems - Places to Eat in Kansas
Chicken Mary's and Chicken Annie's
BoBo's Drive In
Big Ed's Steakhouse
Camping Gems - Places to Go in Kansas
Fort Scott National Historic Site
Promises made and broken! A town attacked at dawn! Soldiers fighting settlers! Each of these stories is a link in the chain of events that encircled Fort Scott from 1842-73. All of the site's structures, its parade ground, and its tallgrass prairie bear witness to this era when the country was forged from a young republic into a united transcontinental nation.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
The salt marshes and wetlands of this 22,135-acre refuge house thousands of migratory birds, including sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, and shorebirds. More than 300 species visit the refuge every year. Look for sandhill cranes, avocets, ibises, and the endangered whooping crane.
Relive the Old West cowboy world of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday in Kansas's Doge City. When you first mosey into Dodge City, you'll want to stop at the Boot Hill Museum and take a stroll down Old Front Street. Before you leave, buy a ticket for the Dodge City Trolley Tour, which leaves from the Center parking lot, Memorial Weekend through Labor Day (620-225-8186).
Head to lively, historic Topeka for some family fun. Here you can enjoy the Combat Air Museum, the Kansas Museum of History, the Reinisch Rose Gardens, the State Capitol Building, the Topeka Zoo, the Gage Park Complex, and much more.
Flint Hills Scenic Byway
Wildflowers, waving prairie grasses, and charming small towns are all a part of what makes the Flint Hills special. This romantic get-away spot has soothing vistas, wildlife, and plenty of history. Don't miss the chance to see the prairie stars twinkling at night.
Kansas Wine Country
You may not expect Kansas to produce great wine, but the state actually has a long wine-growing pedigree. Thanks to family-run farms, Kansas and Missouri produced more than 80% of all American wine in the years leading up to Prohibition. Today, vineyards are bouncing back, producing celebrated cabernets in the area near Wamego, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Holton, and Eudora.
From the Eisenhower Center to the town's historic homes, Abilene is a fun town to explore. See the old-fashioned C.W. Parker carousel, the Greyhound Park, or ride aboard the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Prairies historically covered 400 million acres of North America. This sea of grass stretched from the Rocky Mountains to east of the Mississippi River and from Saskatchewan, south to Texas. Today, most of that prairie land has been plowed under, but you can see a wild piece of it at Tallgrass.
Camping Gems - Things to Do in Kansas
Fish for channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, and white bass at Tuttle Creek State Park.
Pick your own apples (Louisburg Cider Mill, Louisburg) or pumpkins (Gaeddert Farms, Buhler) right off the farm!
Go golfing on the five public courses of Auburn Hills, Wichita.Take in a NASCAR and IndyCar Series race at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Tour the vineyards and wineries of Kansas's wine country (near Lawrence).
See the prairie dog towns at Prairie Dog State Park.
Go sailing and windsurfing on the lake at Cheney State Park.
Take a self-guided tour of historic Fort Scott.
Ride your bike along the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail near Kansas City, Topeka, and Lawrence.
Watch for sandhill cranes at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.