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Kansas typically isn’t the first place you think of when planning a vacation. But anywhere you visit, it’s the people that make a place special. Kansas is Midwest hospitality at it’s finest. Throughout the region, you’ll find hardy homemakers with incredible stories who are proud of their state, land, and life. Get to know a few of the residents and you’ll soon see Kansas is not a flyover state at all: it’s a beautiful place with warm and welcoming locals keen on sharing their home with you. Join me on an All-American Kansas tour:
From the farmers to the hipster coffee joint, everyone I crossed paths with had a story to tell and seemed to be doing what they love. St. Francis, the small rural community right over the Colorado border is certainly not where I expected to find some of the tastiest bites of locally sourced, scratch-made foods I’ve ever had, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. They set the daily salad and sandwiches menu simply based on what’s fresh and available.
Started by an entrepreneurial couple, Fresh Seven was once the town’s only food truck. What began as a mobile coffee roaster is now a permanent fixture in the eclectic, antique-chic space, repurposed as the restaurant’s interior bar. The building doubles as Heidi’s husbands’ motorcycle repair shop, combining both of their loves into what has become the most unexpected of town gathering spaces. If a business like that can thrive in a city with a population of under 2,000, anyone can make their dream a reality with the right drive and determination.
There’s Incredible Nature Around Every Turn
Kansas gets a bad wrap for being a lot of flat farmland in Middle America, but there’s heart in the heartland. If you venture beyond the highways and byways, there are plenty of hidden gems to uncover. The Sunflower State is aptly named with wildflowers aplenty (even lining some of the roads), while ancient fossils and chalk beds create natural sculptures hidden down country roads at Monument Rocks and Castle Rock. Lush greens can be seen at the Arikaree Breaks, while deep red hills and bluffs make up the Gypsum Hills. If that’s not enough for you to explore, the state is sprinkled with 26 state parks, 108 wildlife areas, and a smattering of other protected wilderness areas around every corner of the plains.
Small Town Charm
There’s something to be said for places where everyone knows your name. Small town life can be refreshing if you push the stigma aside. It’s nice not to have to lock your doors at night and to be in a place where everyone genuinely wants to get to know you. In Medicine Lodge, the town to-do was the local baseball game. In Quinter and Greensburg, it’s cooling off at the old-school soda fountain. Driving through the farmland can be therapeutic, watching the wheat gently blowing in the breeze — I’ll take that over blaring horns, endless construction and road-rage fueled traffic any day. I’m definitely a city girl but rural life can be a much-needed reset. Everyone I met seemed to swear by it.
They’re Resilient as Hell
Greensburg survived a crippling tornado and somehow rebuilt the city even better. Instead of letting it break their spirits, they looked toward the future and thought how they could improve their community with all new green, energy-efficient buildings. Gypsum Hills also recently battled the 10th worst fire in the history of the country, but you don’t see anyone there complaining. The devastation even brought the community closer together.
It’s a Place to Live out your FarmVille Fantasies
I had a lot of firsts on this trip from riding in a tractor and combine during harvest season to herding cattle on horseback. It’s not a traditional getaway by any means, but farm stays and ranch visits are all the rage for a reason. These experiences are unique and brought me back to my Midwest roots. I was told you can learn a number of life lessons by hanging with the animals and looking up at the night sky. I don’t doubt it: horses have wise eyes and great instincts.
There’s History from the Indians to the Outlaws
Kansas was an important route of passage as the original settlers migrated west. You can see a variety of different stops along their journey from remnants of the original pueblo settlements at Historic Scott Lake State Park to the days of the Wild West and outlaws in Dodge City. Medicine Lodge is where five tribes signed the original peace treaty with the U.S. government, while various other places marked major milestones in the civil rights movement. A trip through Kansas is not only a trip through American history but a trip through time.
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