Dorothy and ruby red shoes aside, the Midwestern US state is famous for its sprawling fields of corn, close-knit farming communities, green rolling hills, tallgrass prairies, scary tornadoes, and Dodge City the famous frontier town.
Yes, Wizard of Oz immortalized Kansas but it’s also had some other great mentions over the years, it was the childhood home of Clark Kent (aka Superman), it provided the backdrop for the award-winning Little House on the Prairie series and even travel writer Bill Bryson called it “the most quintessential of American states.”
From my time spent exploring this wonderful state, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Kansas…
1. Kansas City – a bustling city packed with urban adventures
Kansas City is the third-largest city in the state of Kansas of the Wyandotte County. The Kansas State Capitol or the Kansas Statehouse located in the city of Topeka has been serving the Kansas Capitol since 1861.
The distinctive copper dome is a prominent feature of this impressive public monument.
To view some of the city’s best public art, visit the Kansas Avenue of Murals in the historic downtown of Kansas City and the iconic John Brown Statue.
Satisfy your inner history buff at the Legends Outlets to find out more about the famous members of Kansas City and explore the stunning exhibits.
2. Grinter’s Sunflower Farm – one of the most stunning places to visit in Kansas
A phenomenal destination in Leavenworth County, Ted and Kris’s Grinter’s Sunflower Farm is known for its grandeur of beautiful sunflower fields. Far in the eastern part of the state, the Grinter’s sunflower farm is a major agritourism attraction.
Walk and see the stunning sunflowers in the glorious yellow fields to admire the natural beauty.
A great place for photographers, the combination of sunshine and charming sunflowers makes for captivating portraits & worth the drive.
3. Monument Rocks – A little wonder of western Kansas!
One of the eight natural wonders of Kansas, the Monument Rocks or Chalk Pyramids is a series of rock outcroppings located in Gove County.
Rich in fossils, the chunky geological formations were the first landmark to be chosen as a National Natural Landmark.
The towering formations standing up to 70 feet were once a floor of an inland sea some 80 million years ago. The unique shape has been given names such as “the Eye of the Needle” and “Charlie the Dog” for marveling formations.
Enjoy the quiet beauty and the unusual shapes for a lifetime memory.
4. Castle Rock – a rock labyrinth in the prairies and one of the best places to explore in Kansas
Another awesome geological formation located near Quinter is Castle Rock. The ancient limestone formations together with the Monument Rocks jointly form the natural wonders of Kansas.
As you drive through the quaint countryside and pastures, the giant limestone and shale formation stand tall welcoming you.
Carved by water, wind, and environmental forces, Castle Rock contains high levels of fossils. The formations and the nearby badlands provide further opportunities for exploring the state park. For geology nerds, the tall arches, sweeping plateaus are a sight to behold.
5. Prairie Dog State Park – one of the best state parks to explore in Kansas especially if you love wildlife
Nestled around the Keith Sebelius Lake in Norton County, the Prairie Dog State Park is a surprising place to experience the shortgrass prairies of western Kansas. Unlike its name, the prairie dogs are native rodents burrowing in the mounds.
Occupying an expansive area of 1,150 acres along the shores of Keith Sebelius Reservoir, the park preserves the last remaining adobe house in Kansas.
Take a short nature trail or explore the vintage buildings, the park offers sensational views of the beautiful ecosystem.
6. Konza Prairie – a beauty spot to visit in Kansas
A natural preserve of native tallgrass prairie located in the Flint Hills of northeast Kansas, the Konza Prairie Biological Station is home to the largest remaining unplowed prairie of North America.
Stretching over 3,847 hectares, the preserve is located south of Manhattan. Jointly owned by the Nature Conservancy and the Kansas State University, the Konza Prairie serves as a research station and prairie conservation.
A grassland with steep-slopes, shrubs, and forests with dominant tall grass, the Konza ecosystem is a lovely place to hike and appreciate the surrounding landscape.
7. Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park – a pristine natural beauty with impressive scenic views
Kansas’s largest Niobrara Chalk formations, the Little Jerusalem Badlands state park was established in 2018. A mammoth treasure in the valley between Scott City and Oakley, the Nature Conservancy protects and preserves the fragile formations.
Extending over 330 acres, the Little Jerusalem in Logan County lets visitors enamor by the unique history.
Connecting people with the wonders of the prairies, the chalk badlands provide vital habitats to many plants and wildlife. Fossils of native amphibians and reptiles dating back 85 million years are said to have been found in these dramatic formations.
Hike along to witness the beauty and colors of this amazing landscape.
8. Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Canton – a stunning gem in the prairie hills of Kansas
Home to one of the few surviving native buffalo herds, the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton is a perfect place to view the Kansas prairie.
The majestic 2,800 acres wildlife refuge estate was donated by Henry Maxwell in the year 1859 to preserve the midgrass prairie and its wildlife.
Watch the impressive American bison and elk wander from the observation tower or take a tram or horse ride, the refuge is truly a treasure to appreciate the natural ecosystem.
Adjoining the refuge is McPherson State Fishing Lake which is also great for camping.
9. The Flint Hills – one of the most naturally beautiful places to visit in Eastern Kansas
A unique ecosystem of east-central Kansas, the Flint Hills nurtures some of the largest tallgrass prairie left in the world. Also known by the names Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, the Flint Hills extend from Kansas to Oklahoma covering an area of four million acres.
Formed by the erosion of limestone and shale, the Flint Hills ecoregion is a designated distinct landscape.
With rolling landscape and endless open land, the deep-rooted prairie grass provide amazing vistas for those seeking solitude. Extending at a height as much as 10 feet, the best place to experience the Flint Hills is the Konza Prairie and the Kansas Prairie Preserve.
10. Lake Shawnee – a great attraction for family excursions in Topeka
Unarguably the top traveling destination for visitors in the capital city, Lake Shawnee was established in 1939. A perfect place to relax and rewind, Lake Shawnee is full of picture-perfect scenery and recreational activities.
Ride on the waters with canoes and kayaks or explore foot trails with beautiful gardens and campgrounds, Lake Shawnee is a fun experience on both land and water.
Probably the best thing to do in Kansas, the picturesque setting and family-friendly events makes this ever-evolving lake a perfect place to take a break & enjoy the outdoor escapes.
11. Lake Scott State Park – a mesmerizing oasis in western Kansas
A few miles to the north of Scott City is a destination recognized among the top natural sites of America. Tucked in the beautiful Ladder Creek Canyon, the Lake Scott State Park with its beguiling oasis, rocky bluffs, fishing lake, and groves.
Home to the only known Indian pueblo in Kansas and North America, the El Cuartejelo ruins is a National Historic Landmark.
Explore the dwelling of the originals settlers, the Steele home, or visit the historic Battle Canyon, this historic and scenic state park full of recreational activities is sure to leave you awestruck.
12. Dodge City – one of the best places to explore in Kansas
Dodge City is the most famous of all America’s frontier towns and one of the best places to visit in Kansas. More kitsch and interesting than beautiful but it’s still a must-see place in this fascinating state.
Located in Southwest Kansas, visit for a recreated Old West street, gunfight re-enactments, interesting buildings such as Fort Dodge jail, and The Home of Stone Museum which still retains its original 1881 furnishings.
13. Wilson State Park – explore Kansas’s beauty with rugged rolling hills
A premier hotspot for enjoying the outdoors, the Wilson state park is located in the heart of the Smoky Hills. The park features a rugged shoreline, scenic cliffs, and rocky outcrops along with pristine waters.
The 945 acres of the park offers an array of activities like hiking, swimming, camping, and much more.
Revered by hikers, the state park provides marvelous trails to get the best views of Kansas prairie and Wilson Reservoir. The adjacent Wilson Wildlife Area is home to native wildlife and migratory birds.
14. Chalk Badlands, Quinter – the striking rock galore of Kansas’s badlands
Starkly different from its surrounding, the Chalk Badlands contain the striking rock formations south of Quinter. The huge chalk pillars composed of fossils and sedimentary rocks are the soul of the Chalk Badlands.
The easy hike with a wonderful lookout gets you the best view of the scenic wonder of Kansas amid the quaint pastures.
Out on the Kansas prairies, this phenomenal area with beautiful pillars and canyons is a treat for travelers willing to go the extra mile to appreciate nature’s beauty.
15. Kanopolis State Park – Kansas best-kept secret and a great place to explore
The first state park of Kansas, the Kanopolis state park is located in the Smoky Hills region of Kansas covering an area of 22,000 acres. With gorgeous outcrops, clear streams, pedestals, and wildlife, the park offers breathtaking views to enjoy the rugged beauty and stunning vistas.
From the towering Dakota sandstone bluffs to the caves of Horsethief Canyon, the park offers an excellent opportunity for hiking, wildlife viewing, biking, picnicking, and many other recreational activities.
The sprawling lake with a beautiful beach provides excellent opportunities for swimmers. The beautiful scenery and lush-green landscape is a perfect place for a fun-filled family adventure.
16. Gypsum Hills – one of the most stunning attractions to visit in Kansas
The Gypsum Hills is the perfect place to explore in Kansas. It’s located north of the Oklahoma border in a region that consists of rolling hills, mesas, canyons and buttes.
This enchanting spot embraces so many activities for all tastes and likes such as hiking, backpacking, bird watching, fishing and so much more! If you don’t know what to do you will definitely find something interesting.
Furthermore, visitors will be able to go to art galleries, a drive-in theater and museums. If you are a nature aficionado, then this is your heaven!
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Michael Cowley – writer and photographer
Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always had an affinity for adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued seeking out new places and cultures. In his spare time he explores everywhere from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, trying all kinds of street food, playing carrom with random strangers, and fine wine – he knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Goa, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations. Find Michael on Instagram or Twitter.