The US state of Kansas is treasured with history related to the Old West. Kansas was a place where a mixture of outlaws and pioneers thrived in the 19th century. Those of you who are fascinated with the American frontier will be wondering about what to do in Kansas.
The good news is that there are two museums in the state where you can go to get your Old West fix. One of the two museums is located in Wichita, Kansas’ largest city. The other one is located in Dodge City which is located in the southwestern part of Kansas, about 2 hours and 35 minutes drive west of Wichita.
Old Cowtown Museum
The Old Cowtown Museum is located on Museum Boulevard just north of the winding Arkansas River in Wichita. This is a living history museum. You are being transported back through time to a Wichita that existed between 1865 to 1880. This museum examines Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town and then into an agricultural and manufacturing hub.
The museum’s staff dress themselves in costumes from that time period in order to heighten your immersion into 19th century Wichita. This museum covers 54 historic and re-created buildings with all of them available for you to explore. The museum is divided into unique districts. They are Residential Street, Business and Industrial Areas, Wichita’s Beginnings, 1880 DeVore Farm, and Blood Family Homestead.
The Business and Industrial Areas district is where you will find the kinds of businesses that were common to most Old West towns as well as these that were unique to Wichita. Some of them include Arkansas Valley Grain Elevator & Scale House, Wichita & Southwestern Depot, Drugstore, General Store, First Arkansas Valley Bank, and Fritz Snitzler’s Saloon.
The Residential Street district is where you can find the houses from 19th century Wichita. There were basically two types of houses depending on which group of people built them. The local businessmen built what was called in Old West Wichita, comfortable homes. The newly arrived settlers built houses using quick and easy construction techniques that were common during that time period.
Wichita was an Old West boomtown. The 1875 census had the town’s population at 62. By 1880, the population had grown to 246 residents. For the sake of comparison, the Wichita of today has a population of 382,368 as of the 2010 census.
The Wichita’s Beginnings district focuses on the economic activity that built the town in the first place. It all began when men came to the Great Plains to hunt for animal meat. The skins of animals, especially the buffalo, turned into a very profitable business for the hunters. They took the opportunity to trade with American Indian tribes, recently arriving settlers, and other hunters.
That helped to fuel the economic activity to start up Wichita. Darius S. Munger was the town’s founder. Even though there were already residents living in the area, Darius was the first person to formally attempt to build the town. His house, Munger House, can be found within this district. The 1880 DeVore Farm district is where the DeVore Farm is located.
When you are there, you can check out the animals and farm machinery that were common to farms in the 1880’s. The Blood Family Homestead district is where you can find the fruit orchard that belonged to multiple generations of the Blood family. The orchard was used to grow the fruits to be sold in the area. At first, the Blood family grew apples in their orchard. They then eventually switched to growing peaches.
The admission prices for the Old Cowtown Museum are $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for ages 12 to 17, and $6 for ages 5 to 11. Those who are aged under 5 will get free admission. There is also a gift shop located at the entrance to the museum. It is called S.G. Bastian and Sons Mercantile.
Hotel Suggestion: Best Western Plus Wichita West Airport Inn
This hotel is located on West Kellogg Street in Wichita. It is about 3.8 miles southwest of the Old Cowtown Museum near the interchange with US Route 54. There is free breakfast available at the hotel. Should you get hungry, a few nearby dining options include Bella Vita, Town & Country Restaurant, and Hog-Wild Bar-B-Q. The hotel contains an outdoor swimming pool.
There is also a fitness center available at the hotel for your workout needs. All of the hotel’s rooms come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $70 to $109. You can go here to explore your booking options and/or view some photos.
Boot Hill Museum
The Boot Hill Museum is located on West Wyatt Earp Boulevard in Dodge City. This museum is similar to the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. That is because this museum takes the form of the Old West-style main street of a Dodge City that existed in the 1870’s and 1880’s during its notorious lawless days in which there were frequent gunfights between the outlaws and the lawmen.
Members of the museum staff are dressed in costumes from that time period in order to draw you into Dodge City during its American frontier days. You can check out the Old West-style stop fronts to soak in the interiors and view more than 60,000 objects from the infamous era. These include firearms, photographs, clothing, personal items, and Native American artifacts.
The most exciting thing about the museum is its shows. The first one is the gunfighting show. It takes place in front of the buildings and reenacts the infamous gunfighting between the outlaws and the lawmen. The second show is the Long Branch Saloon Variety Show. This is where a group of ladies in dress costumes perform the dances from Dodge City’s Old West days.
This dance show takes place in the iconic Long Branch Saloon. Even though you can visit the Boot Hill Museum any time of the year, it would be better if you do so during the summer. That is because this is when the two exciting shows happen. That way, you will have more fun during your time at the museum. The shows take place from Memorial Day through mid August.
The admission prices to the museum are $15 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $11 for those aged from 5 to 12. Those who are aged under 5 will receive free admission. For those of you who would like fudges can get some inside the General Store building. Ice cream is also available onsite at the Beatty and Kelley Ice Cream Parlor. A gift shop is also available at the museum if you would like souvenirs.
Hotel Suggestion: Hampton Inn and Suites Dodge City
This hotel is located on West Comanche Street in the western portion of Dodge City, about 3.6 miles from the Boot Hill Museum. There is complimentary breakfast available at the hotel. A few nearby restaurants for the hungry are Central Station Bar & Grill, Prime on the Nine, and Bella Italia. The hotel houses an indoor heated swimming pool and hot tub.
Those of you who are looking for a place to workout can do so at the hotel’s fitness center. All of the hotel’s rooms and suites come with WiFi, microwaves, and mini refrigerators. The average rate for a standard room range from $103 to $160. You can head here to browse your booking options and/or check out some photos.
Old West buffs looking for what to do in Kansas should look no further than these two museums. These two museums are like time machines that will transport you back in time to that era. Also worthy of consideration is a trip south to the bustling Texas city of Ft. Worth. When you read this post, you will easily see why the city has been nicknamed Cowtown.
What are your thoughts? Are you looking to immerse yourself in the Old West in Kansas? Feel free to leave a comment here.