High-level art, music, and athletic competition FLOURISH in the Sunflower State.
To the eternal question of “I don’t know—what do you want to do this weekend?”—consider an all-encompassing one-word response: Kansas.
Pro soccer, college football and basketball, NASCAR, symphonies, museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, zoos. If you live here or are just visiting and think there’s nothing going on … well, you’re not trying very hard.
Start with art and the creative realm. Locals know most of this, but if you’re flying into the new Kansas City International Airport, you’re touching down in one of America’s creative touchstone cities. It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Hallmark Corp. has had on the arts in the Kansas City region, not just because it employs so much creative talent but because the company has been a fantastic corporate citizen with its support for both the performing and visual arts.
Three hours to the southwest is Wichita, the state’s largest city and home to the Wichita Art Museum. Perhaps the state’s biggest museum draw in terms of annual visitors, this public/private partnership is owned by the city, managed by Wichita Art Museum, Inc., and supported by hundreds of dedicated volunteers.
How’s this for easy access? You’ll find the art museum near the Mid-America All-Indian Center, at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers overlooking Downtown Wichita. And right there along the river corridor are both Old Cowtown Museum and the Wichita Botanica, the Wichita Garden. You’ll be short-changing the experience if you try to cram all of them into a single day or even a single weekend.
If sports are your thing, you’ve come to the right place, especially for the 2022-23 seasons. At the collegiate level, the University of Kansas is an NCAA powerhouse—having just won another Big XII regular-season championship, while further up the Kansas River, Kansas State University emerged as a football force by winning the conference championship. K-State’s men’s basketball team as of this writing claimed it’s position in the Elite Eight and are eyeing a national championship run.
Pro soccer is on display at Children’s Mercy Park in Wyandotte County, with Sporting Kansas City as one of 29 members of Major League Soccer. The team, purchased from the late Lamar Hunt by an investor group that featured the founders of Cerner Corp., has transformed soccer as a sport in the region with its support for youth soccer programs and facilities. Proof of Kansas City’s rise as a soccer capital came in 2022 when it was designated as a host city for the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
Just a few yards away from Children’s Mercy Park, the Kansas Speedway rises above the Village West entertainment district. Owned and operated by NASCAR, the 1 mile oval track opened to competition in 2001 and hosts two annual NASCAR race weekends a year, in addition to other events.
Speaking of Village West, it’s been the No. 1 tourist attraction in Kansas since its 2006 opening. It offers outlet-mall shopping with name-brand retailers plus dining and entertainment venues that have helped transform the quality of life in western Wyandotte County.
Natural wonders also abound, with the scenic Flint Hills running from the Oklahoma border north to Nebraska in east-central Kansas. This geologic formation, one of the nation’s biggest remaining stretches of tallgrass prairie, is dotted with quaint hotels and bed/breakfast options that appeal to tourists, long-distance cyclers, and others. The state also boasts the Red Hills in the southwest and the Gypsum Hills in central Kansas. One more geologic work of art not to be missed: the Chalk Pyramids in Gove County, well to the west.
For the musically inclined, Wichita and Topeka have the state’s biggest symphonic productions in formal music-hall settings. But mass-appeal events with national appeal aren’t hard to find. The annual Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, famed for its focus on all interpretations of bluegrass, is among the better-known, as is Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual draw that offers classical music on the biggest stage in the state—the great outdoors.