When you first start piecing together a trip for your student group, a few states immediately jump to mind: California, Florida, New York and… Kansas? While it might not top the list of typical vacation destinations, this humble state in the heart of the Midwest has just as much to offer your students, if not more. From world-class instruments and rising Broadway stars to untouched prairies and presidents who won wars, the Sunflower State is guaranteed to take your students by surprise.
Lessons from the Wild
Experience the beauty of natural Kansas at Konza Prairie Biological Station, an unencumbered tallgrass prairie owned by Kansas State University. Hike through six miles of trails and watch grassland plants like little bluestem, Indianagrass and switchgrass billow in the wind while your students keep an eye out for the hundreds of fish that swim in the waters of King’s Creek and the myriad of birds that call the prairie home.
Can’t get enough hiking in the great outdoors? Do some group bonding at Flint Hills Nature Trail, one of the longest rail-trails in the world. Whether you’re walking past lush woodlands, biking through rolling farmland or trotting along the Marais Des Cygnes River on horseback, you and your students are sure to love the spectacular views. While on your adventure, make sure to stop at natural marvels like Panther Cave, Red Oak Bluff and the White Poplar Champion Tree.
Journey down towards the center of the earth at Strataca, an active Kansas salt mine in Hutchinson that dives 650 feet below the surface. Tour the Mining Gallery and explore the history of salt mining, then ride the Salt Mine Express through the raw mine that has been toiled in for decades. Collect a souvenir piece of salt on the Dark Ride, a tram that weaves through a maze of looming salt chambers, or visit Strataca’s UVS and see all kinds of Hollywood memorabilia kept secure below the surface.
Spend a day playing in the sunshine at Tuttle Creek, a 1,250-acre state park in Manhattan that offers nature trails, horse shoe pits, sand volleyball courts and more. Take your students fishing for bass, crappie, channel cat and flatheads in River Pond, or let them explore Tuttle Creek Reservoir in canoes or paddle boats. Splash around in the creeks that run through Flint Hills, and be sure to test your aim at the park’s shooting range.
Through the Ages
Get to know the 34th president of the United States through the artifacts he left behind at his boyhood home in Abilene. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home gives visitors an intimate look into the life of one of our nation’s most revered leaders. See Eisenhower’s elementary school, a museum dedicated to his life and the Eisenhower family home that doubles as a World War II Veterans Memorial.
Tumble through time at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita and see everything from dinosaur bones and mummies to sections of the Berlin Wall. Wander through halls filled with Chinese dragons, conquistador gold and artifacts from the Dark Ages, and discover the true story of America’s western expansion.
How many strings does a violin have? What goes into making a cello? Where are these elegant string instruments pieced together? The answers to all of these questions are waiting for you at K.C. Strings Violin Shop in Kansas City. Learn the tricks of the trade from a skilled luthier as you tour the store’s woodshop, retail floor, and conservatory and discover how master craftsmen transform pieces of wood into globally renowned instruments.
Discover what happens before the curtains rise at Music Theatre Wichita. Have a group dinner at Larkspur, Il Vicino or another famous Wichita restaurant then take your seats, sit back and enjoy a classic show like Billy Elliot, Pinocchio or Hello, Dolly! Many cast members who grace Music Theatre Wichita’s stage go on to shine in Broadway productions, so you’re guaranteed an exceptional performance.
Schedule a trip to the rock-n-roll heaven known as GuitarLamp, a rock memorabilia collection that’s housed in a loft in downtown Merriam. Wander through an extensive array of guitar accessories and see household items like lamps, hangers and coffee tables made entirely from recycled guitars. If your students are feeling inspired, GuitarLamp provides a garage band performance venue where they can sing karaoke on stage.
Adventure is Out There
Bring sunscreen, towels and a taste for adventure when you head to Kansas City’s Schlitterbahn Waterpark, home to the tallest waterslide in the entire world. Sit back and relax as your students race through the currents and rapids of the park’s not-so-lazy river or try to ride the waves on the Boogie Bahn surf ride. Join them as they hurtle through the skies on the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, and lose your breath on rides like the Black Knight Tube Slide.
Spend an afternoon with your head in the clouds at Adventure Zip KC. The journey begins with a plunge from a 65 foot tower that overlooks bustling downtown Kansas City and takes daring riders on a 143-acre adventure over and under the trees of Bonner Springs. Enjoy views of the flowing Kansas River as you zip through the foliage at almost 45 miles per hour, and remember to take a picture or two before your feet touch the ground.
Whether they want to explore the last vestiges of the prairies that once blanketed the Midwest, catch a performance by soon-to-be stars or journey towards the center of the earth, your students will be entertained by the Sunflower State time and time again. What are you waiting for? Bring your group to Kansas, and make memories that will last your students a lifetime.