WHERE TO GO WHEN YOU HAVE THE TRAVEL BUG, BUT NOT THE BUDGET
Manhattan is an undeniably beautiful, scenic town with no scarcity of new experiences and events. Nestled between rolling hills, woodlands and spectacular water features, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. There are bars, restaurants, gardens, a zoo, museums, art galleries, collegiate athletic events and concerts every which way. After all, there’s no place like home.
And yet… Manhattan can get a little crowded, a little stuffy.
There is an unceasing draw from the outside world, beyond the valley, miles and miles past the open fields in every direction. When the hills begin to close in, especially as leaves grow fresh and the air thaws in early spring, it’s all some students can do to resist the call to hit the road. School comes first. There’s too much to get done and not enough time.
However, it’s a vibrant, thriving world. Sometimes, we just have to indulge.
Although it may be outside of the budget for some students – really, really far outside of the budget – it’s good to get a little fresh air every once in a while. Not necessarily tropical or European fresh air, but just the fresh air of being somewhere new for a day or two.
The Midwest is not exactly notorious for urban adventures or challenging expeditions into nature, but it has some hidden treasures that might just surprise people. Take your pick.
ART AND SCIENCE
Road trip as far as outer space in a two-hour drive to Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere, a journey through the history of space exploration. $26 tickets include access to a planetarium, museum, a documentary, a live show and a ride on a simulator. One of Kansas’ most well-known museums, the Cosmosphere fascinates children and adults alike by unveiling the mysteries of space.
Look no further in the search for literal treasures than Kansas City, at the Museum of World Treasures. The curious little attraction houses artifacts from around the world and across time, from dinosaur (and human) remains, to military weaponry, to art from Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. Adult tickets cost $10 each.
Only a short jaunt from Manhattan, the Oz Museum is the pride and joy of Wamego, Kansas. It hosts 2,000 artifacts related to the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” Few Kansans have left home without hearing “You’re not in Kansas anymore” at least once, thanks to the classic fantasy. Now, it’s finally possible to visit Oz without leaving Kansas at all, for only $7 with the student discount.
Art abounds in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, particularly on “First Fridays,” or the first Friday of every month, beginning as early as 5 p.m. Diverse local musicians, artists, food trucks and vendors spill into the streets to ply their trades, creating a rich cultural experience totally unique to downtown Kansas City. Natives and tourists alike can eat, shop, sightsee and dance their hearts out together as the Midwestern sun sets.
Voted No. 1 Family Attraction in the World by Trip.com, St. Louis’ City Museum is an adventurous experience unlike any other. The official website describes it as “an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion and architectural marvel.” The museum is a 600,000 square foot labyrinth of winding staircases, water features, caves, tunnels, slides, ladders, rides and jungle gyms of every shape and size. It is the urban playground every child dreams of, typically accessible for $14, depending on time of day and the season.
Visual art enthusiasts will enjoy the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, only a couple hours’ drive from K-State. The world-class establishment features 30,000 diverse works, ranging from an Egyptian coffin dating back 2,300 years to Claude Monet originals to a print of Dorothea Lange’s famous “Migrant Mother.” Younger guests especially appreciate the 19-foot shuttlecocks on the Nelson-Atkins grounds. Admission is free, and ticketed exhibitions are discounted, at $10 for students.
NATURE AND WILDLIFE
One of the premiere zoos in America, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has been blowing guests away since 1894. The Kingdoms of the Night exhibit features the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp. The Lied Jungle is also one of the largest indoor jungles in the world and the Desert Dome is among the largest indoor deserts. The zoo is home to animals from all over the planet in many highly interactive exhibits, with rides, splash parks and restaurants as well. Adult tickets are $19 each.
Wichita’s Tanganyika Wildlife Park is significantly closer to home for K-State students, and although less well-known than the Omaha Zoo, it has received glowing reviews from multiple magazines and websites like Trip Advisor, for its interactive programs like the “animal encounters.” Visitors can feed a variety of animals unparalleled by other zoos in Kansas, from pygmy hippos to lemurs, rhinos to lories. Tanganyika also offers several different admission options, which range from $20 general admission (which includes one interactive animal encounter) to $40 all-access passes (with 10 interactive animal encounters).
For those craving scenic views, physical challenges and adventure like no other, Colorado’s national parks, trails and monuments leave little to the imagination, let alone the many small towns and ski resorts hidden among the mountains. The state boasts sand dunes, spectacular waterfalls, deep forests, fossil beds and even remnants of long-lost civilizations. It is impossible to pick just one location to explore and incredibly difficult to return home after a visit.
Ever seen the buffalo roam? Check them out up close at the 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve, near Strong City. According to the National Parks Service website, “500 species of plants, nearly 150 species of birds, 39 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 31 species of mammals” live on the preserve. Best of all, admission is free.
THEME AND AQUATICS
Kansas City’s Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun offer a classic theme park experience. Combined, the two feature over 50 rides for all ages, from roller coasters to water slides. There are steep dives, twists, turns, spins and drops to thrill any adventure-seeker. It’s not difficult to fill an afternoon or two with rides, snacks, live shows and games between the parks, let alone with all the other attractions Kansas City has to offer. They offer a slew of ticket bundles to customize the experience, beginning at $40 for an any-day ticket.
Branson, Missouri’s Silver Dollar City and White Water parks offer a unique approach to the theme park experience. Their roller coasters, restaurants, water attractions, entertainers, craft demonstrations, shops and even cave-exploration adventure emulate an Ozark frontier town, and they have seasonal festivals running from May to December. An all-day pass is $65 for each adult, and there are also cruises and campgrounds available nearby.
For those people who start counting down to Christmas on Dec. 26 every year, Colorado’s North Pole is the place to be. Beginning mid-May, Santa’s workshop is open for business seven hours west of Manhattan. The charming Christmas-themed village has over 25 of the usual amusement rides, all of them kid-friendly, as well as magic shows, an old-fashioned arcade, glass-blowing, gift shops and of course, the man himself, Santa Claus. Tickets begin at $23.
HISTORY AND BUILDINGS
With the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library Musem and Boyhood Home, Old Abilene Town and Heritage Center just 45 minutes down the road, Abilene, Kansas, is a dream come true for local history buffs. Hometown of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, among others, Abilene first made a name for itself as one of the wildest towns in the Old West, lived in by legends like James “Wild Bill” Hickok and Tom “Bear River” Smith. The Eisenhower Library and Museum ($9 admission), as well as the Dickinson County Heritage Center ($6), stand just across the train tracks from Old Abilene Town (free), a group of buildings restored to emulate the Wild West.
Rising 630 feet into the sky above St. Louis, Missouri, the Gateway Arch is an unforgettable symbol of adventure, built in honor of President Thomas Jefferson’s dream to expand America and dedicated to “the pioneering spirit,” according to the monument website. Arch visitors can pay $13 to ride to the top of the arch, cruise the Mississippi on a riverboat and, beginning this summer, explore a museum to “trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers and rebels who made America possible.”
The “Museums at 8th and Vine” in Kansas City, also known as the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, draw visitors to the Jazz District with exhibits and collections dedicated to showcasing African-American contributions to music and sports. The Jazz Museum claims to brings art to life with interactive displays, rare historic artifacts, a music and visual arts library and live performances in its very own nightclub. Meanwhile, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the “rich history of African-American baseball,” offering multimedia displays with photographs and artifacts. $15 earns admission to both museums.