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Posted On 01/21/2019 17:32:05
Trip Date 10/03/2018
Destinations | Kansas | Dodge City | Larned | Liberal | Fort Larned | Dorothy's House | Tourist Sites in Kansas | Historical Sites in Kansas | Things to See and Do in Kansas | Family Friendly Ideas for a Kansas Road Trip
Our eight week RV adventure to see some of the southwest United States took us first from Texas to Kansas City, Missouri
to visit family. Leaving Kansas City, I have to admit that I wondered what there would be for us to see during our three
night stay in southwest Kansas. The good news is that I was pleasantly surprised and we actually could have filled more
time seeing the sights.
If you are considering a road trip that will take you through southwestern Kansas, take a look at this post for some
sightseeing ideas. Whether you are traveling alone, with a spouse or significant other or even with some youngsters,
there is something for everyone. There's even great news for the budget traveler as many of the sights we will introduce
to you are either free or low cost!
Fort Larned, Kansas
While on the road in route to Jetmore, Kansas, Scott noticed a sign advertising Fort Larned. After sitting in the
car for about 4 1/2 hours with only a quick stop to fill up our gas tank, the fort's location was perfect for a "get out and
stretch" break. We agreed that if there was parking for "RV There Yet?" and the entrance cost was reasonable, we'd
spend some time exploring. An internet query answered both questions about Fort Larned - entrance was free and a section of the parking lot is
devoted to buses and RVs!
Entrance to Fort Larned National Historic Site
Once parked, we crossed the footbridge over the river and were amazed at what we saw and learned in our 1 1/2 hour
visit. Originally built to protect and secure the US mail route along the Santa Fe Trail, the role of the fort changed
several times once the railroad was complete and used for mail transit. Nine of the original buildings surrounding the
parade grounds have been restored and a self-guided tour helps visitors get a feel for the daily life of those who served.
Front Porch of Company and Commanding Officers' Quarters
Barracks at Fort Larned
The goal was an authentic frontier fort circa the late 1860s, and in our opinion the restoration was a success. The nine
buildings were built between 1866 and 1868 with much of the original structures still intact. Only one of the buildings
standing today, the octagonal blockhouse, was rebuilt from the ground up.
Blockhouse (Left) and Commissary (Right) at Fort Larned
Many of the interior rooms have period furnishings and even the flag flying atop a 100-foot flagpole has 37 stars as did
the US flag in 1868. We got lucky as a volunteer blacksmith was on site during our visit to provide a demonstration.
Period Furnishings at Fort Larned
Barracks at Fort Larned
Hospital at Fort Larned
Fort Larned's US Flag circa 1868
Blacksmith Demonstration at Fort Larned
Commissary at Fort Larned
The fort was a privately owned ranch from the 1880's and into the 1960's when it was acquired by the National Park
Service. We learned that much of the graffiti that we saw was from visitors to the fort during those years.
Graffiti at Fort Larned
The fort is open seven days a week (closed only on public holidays) from 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM and there is no admission
fee. Although not one of the first buildings that you approach when entering from the parking lot, the Visitor
Center is the ideal place to start your visit. The exhibits and short ten minute video help to set the stage for better
understanding the history and life at the fort.
Dodge City, Kansas
Did you know that between 1872 (when the railroad reached Dodge City) and 1874, it has been estimated that
850,000 buffalo hides were shipped out of the city? Then, beginning in 1875, cattle drives from Texas brought over five
million longhorns which replaced the buffalo as a revenue source. People from all over came to this city to take advantage
of the opportunities of the last frontier. The significant influx of people is said to have brought lawlessness - that is until
some legends such as Wyatt Earp brought law and order to the city's streets.
Welcome to Dodge City
Of the three cities that we are introducing you to in this post, we found the most to do in Dodge City. Although we only
spent a day seeing what we could, there was definitely more that we could have seen before "getting outta Dodge"!
Here's some ideas to consider for a visit to this city which was founded in 1872. If you only have one full day and want to
see most or all of the attractions on our list, you may want to pack a lunch ... or there are plenty of restaurants in the
ranging from fast food to family dining or international cuisine.
Cattle & Feedlot Overlook
Since cattle have such a long history in Dodge City, why not take the opportunity to check out a Feedlot
Operation. Located on Wyatt Earp Blvd., the main road leading in to historic Dodge City, you'll find an
overlook directly across from Dodge City Regional Airport. From this vantage point, you'll have an excellent view
of a large cattle operation still in business today. There's also signage which gives you some historical information of how
the cattle industry became so important to the area.
View from Cattle and Feedlot Overlook
Driving a Little Closer to Get Up Front and Personal with a Cow
Take a Trolley Tour or Walking Tour of Old Dodge City
Between Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend, visitors can join one of the regular daily Historic Trolley
Tours departing from the Visitor Information Center. The one hour long tour offers an overview of the area at
a price of $8.00 for adults ($5.00 for children).
As our visit was during the off-season, we picked up a guide for the Historic Dodge City Walking Tour at the Visitor
Information Center. With 77 points of interest including life-size (and even some larger than life) bronze statues, walk of
fame style "medallions" and storyboards, you can take a look at the list and the provided map and search for your
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp
Medallions for Roger Ewing, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake and Ben Bates
Custom Pole Art Banners in Dodge City, Kansas
Boot Hill Museum
One of Dodge City's biggest attractions is located at the original site of the Boot Hill Cemetery. It was at this
cemetery that people with no friends or money were buried in the early days of the city. The cemetery got its name as
the deaths were often sudden (some due to shootouts) and many of the burials were of people who died with their boots
With 35 sites listed on the guide provided upon paying the entrance fee ($12.00 for adults or $9.00 for children; 10% off
season discount), visitors can easily spend a good part of their day at Boot Hill Museum. (In fact, just seeing what's for sale in the large gift shop housed in the former Great Western Hotel
can take a good while for anyone interested in souvenir shopping!) During our off season visit, the two of us spent over
two hours wandering through many of the museum exhibits and seeing only a portion of the 28,000 artifacts. Between
Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, there's even more to see including:
World Famous Boot Hill Gunfights (12:00 PM and 7:00 PM daily)
Can Can Lessons
Country Style Dinner (6:00 PM nightly; extra cost)
Long Branch Saloon Variety Show (7:30 PM nightly; extra cost)
Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant (extra cost)
Old West Photo Parlor (extra cost)
Welcome to Boot Hill
Great Western Hotel (Gift Shop, Admissions, Theater & Business Offices)
We started our visit in the theater where we viewed the introductory video presentation. In our short visit, we had time to
see the jail, stroll through the cemetery and quickly look at some of the exhibits in the Boot Hill Building. We spent most
of our time touring the exhibits along Front Street, a replica of the 1876 Dodge City, before ending in the church.
Fort Dodge Jail
Boot Hill Cemetery
Located outside of the gated area, visitors can also see the train depot and even enter the Santa Fe Locomotive.
Santa Fe Locomotive
If you didn't grab a bite to eat in the museum you may be getting hungry, and if you have kids along they may enjoy a
break from all of the history. Located just a couple of blocks off of Wyatt Earp Blvd. on North 2nd Ave. is
Wright Park, Dodge City's largest park. In addition to picnic tables and shade trees, there is a dog park,
playground, a free zoo open daily, a seasonal water park named Long Branch Lagoon ($7.00 adults / $5.00 children) and more. If the weather is nice and you brought your lunch, this is the perfect
place for a picnic - or you can pick something up from one of the many restaurants in town.
Wild West Heritage Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit
Make sure to save a little time before the sun goes down to see the Wild West Heritage Buffalo & Longhorn
Exhibit. Located less than four miles from Boot Hill Museum (near Comanche Ave. and Hwy. 50), you can (hopefully)
catch a glimpse of animals like those who played such a big part of Dodge City's history. Although he never looked our
way, we did quickly spot He-Man, one of the two Longhorns.
Wild West Heritage Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit's He-Man
Of the four American Bison, we finally spotted the gold buffalo bull Wyatt who, along with either Miss
Kitty or Miss Belle, finally sauntered closer to the viewing area.
American Bison at Wild West Heritage Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit
Santa Fe Trail Ruts
Back in the 1800's, the Santa Fe Trail was a commercial highway which connected Independence, Missouri with
Santa Fe, New Mexico. A preserved section of the original Santa Fe Trail now owned by Boot Hill Museum is
located just nine miles west of Dodge City. We have since learned that we could have seen the ruts in the ground along
the original wagon trail used beginning in the early 1820s. I sure wish we had known about this before leaving the area
as it would definitely have been worth the short drive to see history from the bridge overlook and hike the trail to the
While on our southbound drive from Kansas City, we spotted a sign advertising what looked like a unique Wizard of
Oz attraction. After reading a bit about it online, I decided that it was a must see. Based on our route, it made sense
for us to visit while in route from Jetmore, Kansas to Amarillo, Texas, so I patiently waited for three days!
Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz
Before arriving, I called to confirm the availability of parking for our RV. We were pleased to hear that there was a lot just
down the street where we would be able to leave "RV There Yet?" during our visit. After parking, we found the outdoor
exhibits where we wandered along the Yellow Brick Road and listened to "Dorothy" sing "Follow the Yellow
Yellow Brick Road outside Dorothy's House
Dorothy with Toto outside Dorothy's House
Guided tours of Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz are available daily at a cost of $7.00 ($4.50 for kids). During my online research, everything that I read referenced
Dorothy (dressed in a gingham dress with ruby slippers) leading visitors through both Dorothy's House and the
Land of Oz. I have to admit that I was more than a little disappointed to learn that "Dorothy was at school" so
our tour would be led by another staff member. (We learned that the application process for "Dorothy's" requires high
school girls to have teacher recommendations. In addition to previous community involvement, applicants must also write
an essay and participate in an in-person interview. Once hired, the training course takes about two weeks and Dorothy's
are required to maintain good grades in order to continue in the role.)
Dorothy's House, a 1907 era Kansas "Farmhouse"
Ruby Slippers and Suitcase inside Dorothy's Bedroom in her House
The Tin Man and Lion inside The Land of Oz
The tour wraps up in a room filled with memorabilia including the actual model of the home filmed in the tornado scene in
the original 1939 "The Wizard of Oz" movie.
Either before or after your tour of Oz, plan to spend some time walking through the Coronado Museum - after all,
your Dorothy's House tour admission is paid on the museum's ground floor. All set in a former residence originally built in
1918, permanent exhibits range from the Native American Indians to the early years of Seward County including the "Wild
West" years. In addition to having a collection of antique photos and documents, the museum also hosts traveling
Railroad Exhibit at Coronado Museum in Liberal, Kansas
Tips for Visiting Southwest Kansas
Here's a few tips to help plan your travels through and time in southwest Kansas:
Depending on your final destination, all of these sites can be visited as day trips from a single place of lodging (or, if
you are traveling in an RV like we were, from one campground / RV park). Dodge City is central to all of these
sites in southwest Kansas, so it is the likely choice - plus to take advantage of all that it has to offer will take several days.
For us, it just made sense to hit each on our drive as we were traveling past them anyway.
Route from Fort Larned, Kansas through Dodge City to Liberal, Kansas
Before you go, be sure to check out the Fort Larned website
for the most up to date information about events scheduled during your visit.
If you are interested in a tour led by a Fort Larned Park Ranger, you may have more luck during the summer
months unless you make a reservation in advance. To inquire about the tour schedule or request a tour reservation, call
Although prices are higher and I'm sure that the city will be more crowded, there is also more to see and do in Dodge
City between Memorial Day and Labor Day, especially if you are traveling with kids.
If you are planning to visit Dorothy's House and the Land of Oz, call (620) 624-7624 or e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about the times when Dorothy led tours will be available. Although this is especially
important if you are traveling with children, in my opinion the tour experience will be enhanced even for adults.
Horse Thief Reservoir
If you are an RVer (or interested in staying in a yurt or cabin), check out our post titled Review: Horse Thief
Reservoir for a place near Dodge City to hang your hat. With a selection of outdoor activities (both land and water),
plus some elaborate seasonal events, it's a park to which we would happily return for another stay.
Sightseeing in the State of Kansas
What tourist sights would you most recommend to a fellow traveler who is planning to spend some time in Kansas?
Created On 01/17/2019 17:13:24
Updated On 04/01/2019 20:38:58
Scheduled On 01/18/2019 15:32:05
Posted On 01/21/2019 17:32:05
Last Editor Scott
Location Dodge City, Dodge City, KS, United States