One of our goals as a family is to visit all 50 states and one of the best ways to explore a state is via a road trip. So that’s exactly what we did for state number 19, we took a Kansas road trip! We spent four days driving through the Eastern region of Kansas learning about history, seeing locations that inspired movies and spending time outside. It was a great trip and really opened our eyes to the beauty of Kansas and I hope we can show you why this state is worth a visit in this article.
Kansas Road Trip Day 1
Providence Hill Farm
After flying into Kansas City airport the previous night we hit the road and drove 45 minutes to Atchison, Kansas to spend the afternoon at Providence Hill Farm. This was definitely one of our favorite experiences on this trip so we highly recommend it. This farm focuses on goats and offers a few goat experiences. We started the experience by making fresh mozzarella cheese from goat’s milk. It was way easier than we thought it would be and didn’t take a long time at all. When we finished we used the cheese to make caprese salads to eat along with the fresh bread our host had baked that morning.
Afterwards, we went outside to meet the goats and do a little goat yoga. We were pretty unsuccessful but my daughters had the best time playing with and feeding the goats. I highly recommend wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants that you don’t care about along with closed toed shoes. These goats were pooping everywhere!
Even though we weren’t super successful at goat yoga we were very successful in milking the goats. My youngest tried this a few years ago on our trip to Door County, Wisconsin but she was only 3 and scared. This time she milked the goat like a pro along with her big sister. The best part, this milk would be used for our next activity at Providence Hill Farm.
So what exactly did we do with the milk? We used it to make our own soap. Soaps made with goat’s milk are actually very popular so we were happy to make our own. We each got to choose the scent and colors we wanted our soap to be. There were tons of molds to choose from to give each of ours their own unique shape.
Explore Downtown Lawrence
After a very fun afternoon at Providence Hill Farm we drove an hour to the town of Lawrence. It’s a cute college town with lots of mom and pop restaurants. We checked into our hotel and then explored the downtown area. There were so many restaurants with live music, we were dancing as we walked down the street. We ended up eating dinner at RGP which is a super cool restaurant where they have thousands of games you can choose from to play while you wait for your food. They have all the classics plus new games we enjoyed learning. It was definitely a great way to spend time as a family and the food was also really good!
After dinner we stumbled upon Crystal’s Spot, apparently the best lounge in town. But we weren’t here for the lounge, we came because they are said to have some of the best dessert. We tried their oreo cheesecake, twix cheesecake, and Key Lime Pie. We took our desert to go and ate at John Taylor Park where our daughters could simultaneously burn off their energy from this sugar rush.
Kansas Road Trip Day 2
On the second day of our Kansas road trip we started the day with a hearty breakfast from Milton’s Cafe. They have all the traditional options, french toast, omelets and pancakes along with hashes, breakfast sandwiches, and breakfast tacos and burritos.
Kansas surprised us a lot, in a good way. Honestly being a Black family we didn’t know what to expect in this middle America state. However, one thing we didn’t expect was an entire Kansas African-American history trail.
Gordon Parks Museum
After breakfast we drove to Fort Scott, Kansas where we visited one of the stops on this trail, the Gordon Parks Museum. Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, where the population was just 10,463 at the time. He was actually born dead and had to be revived. He went on to become a photographer, musician, writer and film director, the first African-American photojournalist hired by LIFE. His work led him to earn 50 honorary doctorate degrees and the National Medal of Arts, the highest government award given to artists. We had honestly never heard of him and it was amazing to walk through this museum and learn about him
Lowell Milken Center
Afterwards we headed to the Lowell Milken Center, a short 5 minute drive. This museum highlights Unsung Heroes so you can discover ordinary people who have gone on to do extraordinary things to change the world. The museum started thanks to 3 students who discovered the amazing sacrifices of Irena Sendler. While the museum started as a way to highlight her journey the center takes submissions from people all over the world to highlight as unsung heroes. Smaller displays of these people are constantly added throughout the museum. Fort Scott is filled with history and should be added to every Kansas road trip itinerary.
Cars of the Route 66
If you didn’t know the Disney Pixar movie Cars was inspired by an area along Route 66 in Kansas now known as Cars on the Route. It’s a small but cute spot for anyone who loves the movie. They have some “Cars” out front that you can take pictures with.
Fried Chicken Wars
By now we worked up an appetite so we had to participate in our own Fried Chicken Wars. The two competitors were Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s. It was definitely hard to choose a winner, you’ll have to taste them both to decide for yourself!
Kansas Road Trip Day 3
It was our last full day in Kansas but we still had a lot to see. We woke up in Topeka to visit another stop on the Kansas African-American History Trail. There are actually two stops here but unfortunately one wasn’t open as it was the weekend.
Brown vs. Board of Education
Monroe Elementary is where the historic Brown v Board of Education case got its name when the school refused to admit Linda Brown. Now the school is a National Historic Landmark open to the public where you can learn so much about this case and other significant moments in the desegregation of schools in the US.
Upon walking into the school you’re immediately faced with the signs white and colored, where students previously were subjected to different standards of education/living solely based on their race. The museum is filled with activities and simulations to help you learn exactly what it was like for Black students during this time.
My daughters were 5 and 7 when we visited the museum and while there are some very graphic and emotionally draining scenarios we have to remember 5 and 7 year old Black children actually lived through this so it’s our responsibility to teach this history today so future generations don’t repeat it. Don’t forget to get a Junior Ranger activity book before exploring so your kids can earn a Jr. Ranger badge. My kids absolutely love collecting since they earned their first one at Grand Canyon National park on our Southwest road trip.
Prairie Spirit Trail
After an emotional visit we drove 45 minutes to the Prairie Spirit Trail. It extends for 52 miles and you can walk or bike it. There is a bike rental shop in town but keep in mind they don’t offer bikes with training wheels, at least they didn’t during our visit.
BBQ Tour in Kansas City
We ended our Kansas road trip trying out one of the things Kansas City is famous for, BBQ! There are so many BBQ spots and of course we couldn’t try them all so we got recommendations from locals and visited Gates Bar-B-Q, Jack Stack Barbeque and Joe’s KC. All of these have multiple locations and unless you want to visit the original Joe’s KC at the gas station you can really go to the one that is most convenient to you. If you do choose to visit the original Joe’s, get there early, when we arrived the wait was nearly 3 hours.
Where to Stay on Your Kansas Road Trip
Like most road trips we stayed at multiple hotels as we made our way around the Eastern region of Kansas. Here are the hotels we personally stayed at.
Springhill Suites Kansas City Northwest
If you’re flying into Kansas City in the evening like we did and just need a place to crash before kicking off your Kansas road trip this is a great hotel to stay in. We actually stayed there the first night they opened so it’s a newer hotel (July 2021) not too far from the airport. Your nightly rate includes complimentary breakfast and there is no parking fee. It’s not a 5 star hotel but it was clean and new, all that we needed for our overnight stay.
Cyrus Hotel Topeka, KS
The night before visiting Monroe Elementary we stayed at The Cyrus Hotel which is part of the Marriott family under their Tribute Portfolio. It’s a really cute hotel and the nicest one we stayed in on our Kansas road trip.
Springhill Suites Lawrence Downtown
We stayed with the Springhill Suites theme when we were in Lawrence although this one was not new. Honestly, there are not many choices in this town so if you plan on staying here and don’t want an older hotel an Airbnb might be the better choice. The room was clean with a newer couch but the bathroom was very dated.
We had a great time on our Kansas Road Trip, we were pleasantly surprised. Since we only got to visit the Eastern region we hope to return and explore more of the state. Did you find this article helpful? If so please share it!