February 2015

Interesting icons bloom around every corner of Kansas

by Beth Bartlett

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    Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Topeka

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    Keeper of the Plains, Wichita

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    Strataca Underground Salt Museum, Hutchinson

Everyone has tried and true favorites in Kansas, like Kansas City barbecue, Dodge City lawmen and Fort Riley military heroes, but the state will also surprise visitors with iconic experiences in space, under the earth and on the canvas. No matter where you meet in Kansas, there will be plenty of fascinating history and a hearty welcome.


With a nickname like “Cowtown” derived from 19th century cattle drives, it’s expected that Wichita’s most iconic attraction is its Western heritage. Those days live on at the Old Cowtown Museum, a 23-acre living history village that gives visitors the full Old West experience, from cold sasparillas to wagon rides and even an occasional gunfight in the streets, just like in the movies. With more than 50 historic and re-created buildings, planners can build the perfect event, from a small reception to renting the whole village for a true Old West blowout with costumed performers.

On the other side of the historic coin is Wichita’s Native American heritage, which is memorialized in the Keeper of the Plains, a 44-foot-tall statue located on ancient sacred ground by the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers.

“It’s the most photographed public art in Wichita and is dedicated to the Native Americans who once called the area home,” says James Williams, communications manager for the Go Wichita CVB. “At night, massive fire pots around the Keeper illuminate the sky, creating a setting that cannot be missed while in Wichita.”

The site is less than five minutes away from the Mid-America All Indian Center and Exploration Place, which offers meeting and event space for up to 700 attendees, making it a lovely evening walk after a reception.

In the greater Hutchinson area, they’ve laid claim to treasures in the sky and underground. If it’s difficult to think of Kansas exploring the wild blue, remember that this is the state that gave the world Amelia Earhart, so the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center is a natural fit. Each meeting space is amazing, from the Discovery Room and its full-scale replica of the International Space Station to the Grand Lobby with a full-scale space shuttle replica hanging from the ceiling. With a museum, space simulator, lab simulator, IMAX theater and planetarium, planners can rent the whole complex and have an evening’s entertainment custom-built for their group.

At Strataca, attendees can enjoy a truly unique experience: exploring an active salt mine 650 feet underground. Strataca is the only active salt mine in the U.S. that allows tours, and activities include a train ride through parts of the mine cleared in the 1950s to the mining gallery, where attendees can peek into the life of a salt miner. An event in the StrataCenter, which can accommodate up to 250 people, will top off a one-of-a-kind day.

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