Learn about travel in Kansas, by reading KANSAS—Heir to History—Air to
the Future by Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member. It
features a mini, but thorough tour of the destination, plus all
you'll need to know to plan your trip including getting there,
objective information on places to stay and eat, and things to
do. At the end of the article, we've provided a summary of the
contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Kansas—Heir to History—Air to the Future
Charlie Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
Where can you go
back in time and forward in time while enjoying the present day?
Kansas, of course.
Mosey along the Ol’
Santa Fe Trail into Dodge City and watch a noon showdown on the dusty
street and you almost hear the squeaky wheels of the wagon trains
carrying you back to the time when Kansas had important outposts for
those journeying west. About a hundred miles east, Wichita shows why
it rightly deserves the title of Air Capital of the World.
Celebration of the
100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first successful
powered flight makes Wichita the ideal place to start your visit.
About 60 percent of the general aviation airplanes in the world are
made here and the town has long looked to the sky and the future. It
was here that three men—Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, and Lloyd Stearman—started
the TravelAir Company to build airplanes. This was just 22 years after
the Wright brothers made their first flight. (Shortly after this they
each went their separate ways because of differences over design
concepts.) It was here, too, that Bill Lear developed the first
business jet aircraft. Today, five aircraft manufacturing companies
are located in Wichita.
Right at the
Mid-Continent Airport you will find a museum to this aeronautical
history, housed in what was the first terminal building. Here you will
see chronicled 90 years of development of general aviation. Now, let's
head over to the Exploration Place for extraordinary hands-on
experiences. Lie horizontal and simulate flying over the sand dunes of
the Carolinas like the Wrights and then take a heart-thumping
simulated flight with the Blue Angels military aerobatic team while
sitting in a full-motion theater seat.
Native American dancer at a Pow-wow.
Photo courtesy Wichita Convention and Tourist Bureau
Aviation is but one
of the attractions. You find a rich heritage in Wichita and all of
Kansas. The Kanza Indians once inhabited this region that is named
after them. At one time, more than 30 different tribes lived here, but
as expansion pushed farther west, many were forced to move to Indian
Territory—Oklahoma. Four tribes, however, remained. If you visit at
the right times, enjoy some of the colorful pow-wows. The Mid-America
All Indian Center Annual Intertribal Pow-Wow in Wichita draws
thousands of American Indians from across the nation. Check the web
information about this and what you can find in this museum.
While in the museum
mode, go down Douglas Avenue to the Jessie James Museum. You might be
in for a surprise if you thought Jessie died when “a dirty little
coward laid poor Jessie in his grave.” A new book by the museum’s
director declares that Jessie faked his death and started a new life
in Kansas. Jessie James the 5th is on hand daily in the
museum where admission is free but contributions are welcome.
With this journey
back in time you’re ready to drift on down to the Old Cowtown Museum
to get a glimpse of what frontier life was like from 1865 to 1880 when
buffalo hunters and cowboys trod the dusty streets. This 17-acre
museum has 36 furnished buildings—a working blacksmith shop, city
marshal’s office, saloon, and cowboy camp. Take a ride in a Conestoga
wagon or stroll along the Arkansas River. (Here, you’d better call it
Ar-KANSAS and not Arkan-SAW!) Cowtown is open April through October.
the Civil War, populations started heading west in larger numbers and
in that migration Kansas had an important role that shows today in
many of the towns. The old Chisholm Cattle Trail, the Santa Fe Trail,
and Oregon Trail lead through some of the historic frontier
communities. Historic forts like Fort Leavenworth, Fort Scott, Fort
Riley, and Fort Dodge are reminders of when the military guarded the
trails. Make Fort Dodge your next stop.
Gunfight at the Boot Hill Museum. Lawless days of Dodge are re-enacted
daily during the summer months.
Photo Courtesy Dodge City Convention & Visitors Bureau
You know you’re in
the remnants of the frontier days as you see the street signs carrying
names like Gunsmoke, Trail, and Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Thousands of
wagons traveled over the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail, which
went west from Dodge. Fort Dodge was established in 1865, offering
protection to these wagon trains and serving as a supply base for the
military engaged in the Indian wars. Nine miles west of town you can
see Santa Fe Trail tracks, ruts made by the heavily laden wagons.
Your first visit to
this historic city will be at the fort, five miles east of town, which
now is a home for retired veterans. Several original buildings of the
old fort still remain, including the commanding officer’s quarters,
enlisted men’s barracks, and the post hospital. Only half of the
quartermaster’s warehouse remains but in it a library and museum
transport you back to those rugged days.
Go into town and
see why this is a pure definition of the old west. At the Boot Hill
Museum you learn to “smile when we say that, pardner,” finding that in
the early days there was no law here and the old Boot Hill Cemetery,
which is now a part of downtown Dodge, welcomed many souls who faced
off on the dusty streets. Stick around and you’ll see these gunfights
re-enacted on Front Street by costumed residents. But law did come to
Dodge in the form of “Bat” Masterson, Charlie Bassett, and Wyatt Earp.
From these lawmen evolved the fictional character Marshall Matt Dillon
in TV’s Gunsmoke. At the Gunfighters’ Wax Museum you’ll see
life size figures of these and other famous people who made Dodge the
personification of the old west.
Miss Kitty and the girls put on a show each evening during the summer
at the Longbranch Saloon.
Photo Courtesy Dodge City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Walk along Front
Street and drop in at the Long Branch Saloon and, if you’re lucky
enough to be here during the extended summer months, catch the
Longbranch Saloon Variety Show. Then, move on to look over the gun
exhibit while waiting for the arrival of the stagecoach, which will
take you for a guided tour. Over by the railroad station is a 1903
steam locomotive reminding us that when the railroad replaced the
wagon trains, Dodge became a major railroad stop. You’ll find out that
right there on Front Street the term “Red Light District” was coined
as the train masters took their red caboose lanterns along when they
went to visit the town’s “soiled doves.” At sometime during your stay
you will want to hop aboard the Dodge City Trolley and learn a lot
more about the town’s folklore as you visit the actual sites where
western history was made.
Wichita and Dodge
City are just two of the interesting destinations in Kansas. In
Abilene there is the Eisenhower Center. Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace
Museum is in Atchison. In Hutchison, visit the Kansas Cosmosphere and
Space Center. If you feel lucky, several of the Indian tribes have
casinos for your enjoyment. Not far from Wichita in the quaint town of
Sedan, you can even walk along the 10,000-brick Yellow Brick Road and
announce “Yes, Toto, we ARE in Kansas!”
Wichita: Almost a dozen major and regional airlines serve
Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport offering a wide variety of
arrival and departure times. The usual rental car companies are
at the airport. You will want to have wheels available to visit
the many attractions here and to see other Kansas sights.
Regional airlines serve the Dodge City Airport with
connections from many cities.
Where to Stay
has a wide range of lodgings with an equally wide range of
Days Inn on East Kellogg, for instance, offers rooms
under $50. At the other end of the scale, The
Riverside, a small luxury inn, serves complimentary hors
d’euvres, wines and liqueurs with a tab well over $100. The
Hyatt Regency and the
Radisson Broadview in downtown nearer the
Convention center offer accommodations between $75 and $100.
has 13 motels offering a combined total of 700 rooms.
Accommodations here vary with rates depending on seasons.
Examples: Budget Lodge on E. Wyatt Earp St. has 32 rooms with
rates in the $30 to $85 range. The
Dodge House Hotel with 108
rooms charges $55 to $125.
Marchel Ranch $95-$100.
Boot Hill B&B
$79 to $139.
WTA's Travel Booking Service
that may offer deep discounts at many hotel properties, plus you
can book rental cars and vacation rental properties.
For a fine selection of places in Wichita to dine, log on to
www.360Wichita.com and take a look at many of the fine
City try the
Silver Spur Steak House, Del Monico’s Steakhouse,
or Chuckwagon Cafe.
Notice: This information is current as of June 2003. It is recommended
that you contact the numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to
determine any changes to the information.