Day 6 of our three week self-planned road trip exploring the American Midwest and after ticking off Illinois with a few days in Chicago, then Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, we were briefly venturing into Missouri, the first of two visits to this state along our trip, with an overnight stop in Kansas City.
Kansas City actually lies across two states, Missouri and Kansas but on our visit, we would be staying in the Missouri part of the city, travelling across the border into Kansas the following day.
As usual, we had a few road side stops planned before reaching our destination. But, also as usual, after our Nebraska airboat river tour finished later than we had expected that morning, we were already behind schedule and stops for food, conveniences, driver swaps, snack shopping etc etc just put us further and further behind schedule – meaning, if we were going to make it in time for the KC BBQ Food Tour we had booked for that evening, we didn’t have time for any other random stops along the way!
The city skyline finally loomed into view late afternoon and after checking into our hotel, we had just a bit of downtime before it was time to set out for the meeting point of our tour, Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque restaurant.
We’d been inspired to do a BBQ food tour here after being huge fans of London BBQ chain, Bodeans, which has always claimed to get its inspiration from Kansas City BBQ. We were told by our guide that the taste of American BBQ food differs from state to state, mainly because of the sauces used, and we were keen to get started and try some authentic KC BBQ.
We visited three restaurants over the course of the tour, Arthur Bryant’s, LC’s Bar-B-Q and Gates, getting to sample different dishes at each. While the food was delicious at each stop, my favourite was without a doubt the tender burnt ends in a delicious sweet BBQ sauce at LC’s.
Between stops, we were also given a brief tour of Kansas City, our guide pointing out the National World War 1 Museum and Memorial – the most comprehensive WW1 museum in the World – amongst other sites from our tour minibus. It seemed like Kansas City actually had a lot to offer and I wished we had more than one night in the city to explore it properly.
The next morning, we crossed the border into Kansas, eventually leaving the Kansas City limits behind. Kansas was one of the states on our trip we were most excited about with it’s links to the Wizard of Oz and the Wild West and our first stop was in the town of Wamego to visit the Oz Museum.
The museum had displays of a range of Oz-themed memorabilia related to the original books, the famous 1939 film and various other productions including the 80s Disney film, Return to Oz. Some of the displays and models of the characters were on the tacky side and I’d have liked to have seen more memorabilia from the Wizard of Oz film but it was still a fun stop with a great gift shop attached!
After a lunch stop at a nearby Cracker Barrel – a restaurant which then became a staple stop on our trip after we found vegetables to be on the menu!! – we continued through Kansas State to Old Abilene Town, a reconstructed old West town populated with actors dressed as cowboys.
It was free to wander around the town and look in the old buildings and we arrived just in time to see a shoot out being recreated in the town square!
We made one more stop to stretch our legs along our drive, in the town of Kinsey. Said to be the midway point between New York on the East coast and San Francisco on the West coast, there is a huge marker celebrating the fact so we posed for photos with it, excited to be stood exactly in the centre of the USA!
Just as the sun started to set, we arrived at our destination for the next 2 nights – the infamous Dodge City, a Wild West frontier town which has been the setting for many Western-themed films and TV shows.
We were staying at the Wild West themed Dodge House hotel and loved it’s fun decor and saloon door entrance to it’s bar and restaurant!
The next morning, we headed straight to the town’s Boot Hill Museum, a Wild West recreation town which also houses historic exhibits on Dodge City and the Wild West.
We arrived in time to watch the morning shoot-out, a much more exciting and involved production than the one we had witnessed at Old Abilene Town the day before. Then deciding to get into the spirit of things, we paid to dress up as saloon girls for an Old Time Photo!
The museum offered re-entry with its wristband throughout the day, so we took some time out over lunch to explore the rest of Dodge City a bit more before returning later to explore it’s museum exhibits in more detail.
After a late lunch at the local Pizza Hut, we drove up to Cattle Overlook where we found the famous Dodge City welcome sign just across the road making for some fun photo opportunities!
That evening, we returned to the Boot Hill Museum once again, this time for some Wild West-style entertainment at Miss Kitty’s Saloon Show at the museums’s Long Branch Saloon.
Before the saloon opened, there was another chance to watch a good old-fashioned shoot out outside then we were invited to take a table inside for an enjoyable evening of singalongs, skits and dancers.
The following morning, it was time to “Get the hell out of Dodge!” as we continued our journey through Kansas state.
After a long journey past endless fields of corn, we arrived at our final stop in the state, the small town of Liberal.
Liberal is the site of Dorothy’s House, another Wizard of Oz themed Kansas attraction.
Here, a guide in character as Dorothy herself took us into a recreation of the type of house Dorothy Gale would have lived in and talked us through the events of the Wizard of Oz as they were recreated around us.
After we were ‘hit by a tornado’, we entered a recreated Land of Oz and followed Dorothy along the Yellow Brick Road to meet all the characters from the story along the way.
Then, after all clicking our heels together and chanting “there’s no place like home”, we exited into a small Wizard of Oz exhibition with memorabilia from the film and a gift shop.
The experience was very much aimed at young children and we had to supress a few giggles being three grown adults being taken on such a tour but we played along and it was a lot of fun!
Kansas state had been just as much fun as we had anticipated and we were sad to be leaving it behind but we still had lots more adventures ahead of us on our epic Midwest road trip!