Go west and explore the cultural treasures of Abilene and Salina along I-70
1.If you like Ike, visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in his hometown of Abilene. With more than 25,000 square feet of exhibit space and five major galleries, there is more than enough to keep your interest. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m and admission is $9 for students. Other Eisenhower-related sites include the visitor center, Ike’s boyhood home, the Place of Meditation and The Pylons.
2.With a five-star museum district and 21 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, Abilene has plenty to see and do. Sites include Old Abilene Town, Dickinson County Heritage Center, Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, the Greyhound Hall of Fame, Seelye Mansion, Jeffcoat Photography Museum and the Kansas Auto Racing Museum.
3.Explore Salina’s artsy downtown district, which is home to the Salina Art Center’s galleries, cinema and warehouse as well as the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, Salina Community Theater and Smoky Hill Museum. As you’re walking, take note of the various sculptures — they’re part of SculptureTour Salina, an annually rotating collection of works from artists around the country. Vote for your favorite and it may become part of the city’s permanent collection.
4.Blue Skye Brewery and Eats on Santa Fe Avenue offers a variety of beers including Fire Engine Red, a nod to brewer John Goertzen’s 20 years as a firefighter. Don’t worry if beer isn’t your thing; the brewery also serves dangerously tasty Long Island iced teas. It also has an extensive menu of wood-fired pizzas, including the option to build your own, that cost between $9 and $13. If you’re with friends, I suggest ordering a few to share and trying some of each.
5. Visit lions, tigers, bears and more than 100 other species at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure Zoo, which includes a 64,000-square-foot wildlife museum on site. Rolling Hills is open seven days a week throughout the year, though specific hours depend on the season. Admission is $12.50 and includes both the zoo and the museum.
Explore the great outdoors and the small city of Council Grove along K-177
1.Council Grove Lake offers a variety of outdoor activities from swimming to hiking to camping. Boating, fishing and swimming are available at the lake, but if you want to stay dry, explore the surrounding woodlands on the park’s walking trails and hike the 1.25-mile Pioneer Nature Trail. Campsites are available for reservation for as little as $22 per night.
2. A ton of history is packed into the small city of Council Grove, once a town on the Santa Fe Trail. The town boasts 25 historic sites, most of which date back to the 1800s, and its downtown historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
3. Where wagons once crossed the Neosho River you can now follow the paved trail from the Guardian of the Grove statue to the Kaw Mission. If you’re looking for a more casual outdoor experience than hiking trails, the river walk is a good option.
Concurrent with the Council Grove Fall Festival on Sept. 17, the Voices of the Wind People drama about the clash between the Kaw Indians and early settlers will be put on Sept. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. at Old Riverbed Amphitheater.
4. One of Council Grove’s historic sites, the Hays House is the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. (The only time it has closed for a long period is after a fire damaged the building a few years ago.)
Try one of its traditional, comfort-food dishes. I had the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes from the “specialties” menu — and if you like chocolate, I recommend the Kahlua pie. While the main dining room is open most of the day, Hays Tavern is open only on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
5. The Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve is about a 20-minute drive south of Council Grove. Near the entrance is a visitor center and a collection of limestone buildings from mostly the 1880s, remnants of the park’s ranching legacy.
Feeling adventurous? Miles of hiking trails snake through the prairie including the 6-mile Prairie Fire Loop and the Scenic Overlook Trail.
Hiking trails are open 24 hours a day, year-round.