Exploring Eastern Kansas: You're Not in Kansas Anymore

Despite the state's straitlaced reputation, things have been known to get delightfully strange amid the sunflowers—and it doesn't take a twister to do it.

Hedrick's postcards read I KISSED A GIRAFFE AT HEDRICK'S, and they aren't kidding. Tammy leads a group though the grounds, then she hands out sweet-potato sticks, advising us to stick them in our mouths and aim up at fenced-in giraffes. Everyone who does this gets slobbered in the face. Then she scratches a zebra's butt and declares, "This is how you get a zebra to love you forever." Perhaps. But I'm much more into bottle-feeding goats.

We have an early-afternoon flight out of Wichita, 60 miles away, which leaves just enough time for a camel ride. As we climb onboard, our guide nuzzles the camel and says, "He and I go way back. Best camel in Kansas." And that's quite a distinction.

Finding your way

Flying into Kansas City, Mo., and out of Wichita tends to cost about $100 more than doing a round trip in and out of Kansas City. Looping back to Kansas City from Wichita (I-35 to I-335 to I-70) is about a three-hour drive. Kansas is largely a churchgoing state, so don't plan much for a Sunday morning or evening in the rural areas--you'll find few businesses or attractions open. And Erika Nelson of Lucas travels half the year with her exhibit, The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things, so it's wise to call ahead before you visit.

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