The Best Roadside Attractions in Kansas
Something’s a little off along Interstate 70 in Kansas – a bit askew. From the odd to the offbeat to the bizarre, here are five of the best places to experience quirky Kansas.
Start your wacky journey just east of the Colorado border in Goodland. Make your way to Commerce Road (Highway 27), between Sherman County Road 67 and 68, just past the three grain silos on your left, to find a giant 9-foot by 4-foot green and yellow grasshopper. No, locusts didn’t invade; it’s just a sculpture by Lloyd Harden. He also created an adjacent Caribbean scene, perfect for ‘gramming.
If you are a big fan of the arts, take your passion to new heights with the 80-foot painting at Pioneer Park. This enormous replica of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in a Vase was painted by Cameron Cross to honor the town’s sunflower production. Kansas is the Sunflower State after all.
At the High Plains Museum, see The Kansas Flying Machine. Never heard of it? Perhaps you will know it by its other name — the helicopter. This was the first patented working prototype in America, but the maiden flight didn’t go very well. One account said it lifted off with “the grace of a crippled praying mantis” before crashing into a silo.
See how people filled up back in the day at the White Eagle Gas Station. Take a peek into the windows of this meticulously restored building on 17th Street.
Call ahead to schedule a tour at the National Weather Service and learn about the weather, including when a huge tornado hit Goodland. Then, enjoy a grand evening at the restored 1928 Sherman Theatre.
Speaking of odd, check out the sculpture of the American Doughboy at the city office on Hudson Avenue in Oakley. The sculptor, Ernest Moore “Dick” Viquesney, had hoped to place one in every state but only made it to 39. The inscription reads that World War I ended in 1920 rather than 1918, and no one knows why.
At the Fick Fossil Museum, learn about the history of Logan County. What’s unusual is that many of the art paintings are made from sharks’ teeth and fossils that were found in the vicinity of the Fick family’s property.
One of the county’s former residents was William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He earned that title from a contest he had with the scout William Comstock. Today, Cody and his rifle are immortalized with a 16-foot sculpture atop his horse chasing a 9,000-pound buffalo at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center.
Plan a 45-minute drive to your next oddity: Monument and Castle Rocks. These large, eroded chalk-type structures stand out against the flat plains like mythical monoliths. Listed as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, these dual attractions are truly amazing (and photo worthy) anomalies.
After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast with the locals at Meridy’s, take a drive to the Post Rock Scenic Byway toward the town of Lucas. Along the way, you will see buildings and fence posts made from limestone by the early pioneers who didn’t have access to wood on the treeless plains.
Continue driving into Lucas and you will see the world’s largest souvenir plate along the side of the road. In town, you will find the second best public restroom in America and certainly the most artistic. Inside is pure artistic fun adorned with all manner of toys, colorful tiles, teacups, and, of course, a pristine throne. Yes, this isn’t your usual toilet art, and as you saunter up, you will see the architecture mimics a lid and bowl.
For what might be considered the granddaddy of all roadside attractions, head to The Garden of Eden in Lucas. Self-taught (and some would say eccentric) artist Samuel P. Dinsmoor carved his political art in concrete starting in 1904. Scoundrels, grafters of society, and a Goddess of Liberty all tower over the property, which is available for tours. If this isn’t enough strangeness, you can also view Dinsmoor’s body in his own mausoleum.
Located at 214 Main Street is the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things Museum. This was a traveling exhibition and due to open soon in a more permanent location.
In Lawrence, start off at the popular Ladybird Diner. They have uniquely flavored donuts like Garden Party, made with lemon, chamomile, and lavender.
Waxman Candles is a family-run business where owner Bob Wertz has been using Old World craftsmanship for nearly 50 years. “Nobody does what we do, except in China,” says Bob. They use high-quality oils and fragrances, and others, well, just can’t hold a candle.
At Love Garden Sounds, browse the massive collection of CDs and vinyl records and meet their cats, Stuffin and Chardonnay, who have the run of the place
One hidden gem in Lawrence is the DeBruce Center on the University of Kansas campus. The new $22 million facility, home to Jayhawks basketball and named after basketball’s inventor James Naismith, also houses Naismith’s 1891 document outlining basketball’s original rules.
The Hotel Eldridge (known as the Free State Hotel in the 1800s) was burned to the ground on opening day by Sheriff Jones and his band of ruffians in 1856. Today, guests have reported ghostly encounters in room 506 with Col. Eldridge himself.
If, by now, you feel like you have lost your marbles, you can find them again at Moon Marble Company in Bonner Springs. Here, learn how marbles are made and peruse their vast supply of one-of-a-kind marbles as well as games and knickknacks.
Then, make an appointment to soar through the treetops and across the Kansas River at Zip KC. Featuring nine zip lines that transport you from station to station at speeds reaching 50 mph, Zip KC has various tours available. Advance reservations are required.
Finally, take a short 10-minute drive into Kansas City to the Piano Technicians Guild, also known as the Jack Wyatt Museum. Founded in 1994, this little-known location houses some of the most unusual pianos you will ever see, including miniature versions. They are currently displaying the Chickering that was on stage at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. the night of Lincoln’s assassination.
As you can see, any trip along I-70 through Kansas isn’t complete unless you take the time to explore the quirky sights and attractions. Here, you will find some of the most delightful diversions hiding in plain sight in America’s Heartland.
Where to Stay:
Goodland: Super 8
Oakley- Sleep Inn & Suites
Russell- Fossil Creek Hotel & Suites
Lawrence- Hampton Inn
Bonner Springs- Back in Thyme Bed & Breakfast