Kansas is one of the states that I knew very little about and assumed there wasn’t a lot to experience. Gosh, I was wrong! In one week, we had some of the best animals encounters of our lives, ate a wide variety of delicious meals in unique restaurants, and stayed at amazing, family-friendly accommodations. I travelled to Kansas assuming it would be a one-time visit, but I left anxiously planning our return. Check out our Kansas bucket list and you’ll totally understand why we fell in love with Kansas.
Kansas Bucket List
Our Kansas bucket list is so long that we needed to break in down into categories so you wouldn’t miss any of the best experiences.
Activities on our Kansas Bucket List
Tanganyika Wildlife Park
Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a family-friendly destination where visitors have up-close, hands-on interaction with the animals. It is the most interactive wildlife park I have ever experienced, and it’s only a short drive from Wichita, Kansas.
The Best Day Bundle at Tanganyika Wildlife Park includes admission to the park, unlimited feedings, and two animal experiences, as well as access to the splash park and jungle gym, parking, early entry, a souvenir cup, and more. It’s the ultimate Kansas bucket list day for animal lovers.
While Max is a little too young for some of the animal encounters, he was still able to participate in the Penguin Meet and Greet, Giraffe and Friends experience, and Unlimited Animal Feedings. He also loved the jungle gym and the seeing all of the other animals.
Athena was able to participate in the Otter Meet & Greet. She helped train the otter, watched otter antics, and got a photo with an otter on her lap.
Max’s favorite animal is a penguin and he was able to watch how they behave, play with them, and get photos with them all while learning about their interesting behavior. It was such a beautiful experience.
From the VIP lounge and check-in to one-on-one time with the animals, this is as close as you can get to going on a safari without leaving the country. Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a must on any Kansas bucket list.
Manna Meadows is an alpaca farm located in Bonner Springs, Kansas.
Visitors have a chance to learn about these cuddly, friendly creatures by petting them, walking them, taking photos with them, and talking to their owner.
Manna Meadows was a beautiful encounter and learning experience. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to spend so much time with the alpacas and be able to pet, hug, touch, walk, and hang out with the alpacas in such a relaxed setting. The owner made us feel like we were visiting family. The kids really felt comfortable and enjoyed the entire experience.
There is an on-site farm store as well where you can purchase alpaca mittens, scarves, socks, hand-made alpaca ornaments, and other alpaca related products.
Special events include birthday parties, yoga with alpacas, and more.
Tours are by appointment only so be sure to book before making the drive to Manna Meadows.
Sedgwick County Zoo
At Sedgwick County Zoo, guests can come face to face with some of the wildest animals from around the world including gorillas, elephants, bison, rhinos, and tigers.
Some of the possible wild encounters at Sedgwick County Zoo include a rhino encounter, equine encounter, ectotherm encounter, elephant encounter, and tortoise encounter. Other attractions include Stingray Cove, Camel Rides, Giraffe Feeding, and a boat ride.
Exploration Place is a science museum located on the west side of the Arkansas River in the Delano neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas. It is one of the best science centers we have visited anywhere in the world!
The interactive museum emphasizes aviation and Kansas geography, and it hosts traveling exhibits that showcase the importance of math and science in the world around us.
Permanent exhibits include: Health Inside Out, Design Build Fly, Drone-Tography, Where Kids Rule, Explore Kansas, Kansas in Miniature, and Kansas Kids Connect.
Visitors can also enjoy the live science show, dome theater, Explore Store, and the outdoor Exploration Park.
Our favorite part of Exploration Place is the Dome Theater. The soaring 60-foot screen with a 360-degree view and booming surround sound is the largest dome theater in Kansas. We watched Superpower Dogs and it held the attention of our entire family for the full 47 minutes.
Restaurants on our Kansas Bucket List
We enjoyed a variety of unique restaurants while we were in Kansas from trains that delivered our food to the best BBQ in the state. Here are some of our favorites.
Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant
Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant is definitely worth visiting while in Kansas, especially if you have children. The wonder on a child’s face as they watch a train chug-chug-chugging along with their dinner is magical.
Order your food by telephone and watch your meal be delivered to your table by an overhead train!
You’ll go for the trains but stay for the food. Delicious burgers and milkshakes await.
There are two locations in Kansas including one in Shawnee and one in Kansas City.
Nortons Brewing Co.
At first, I wanted to visit Nortons Brewing Co. because I could have a beer or cocktail with dinner and the restaurant was walking distance to the hotel so I wouldn’t need to drive. It ended up being way more fun and interesting that we anticipated.
The sprawling beer garden provides a relaxed setting and kids get a free popsicle as soon as they arrive. The food is delicious with large-sized portions, but it was the dessert that really put Nortons Brewing Co. over the top. The good ol’ fashion s’mores are made at a campfire right at your table.
Add scrumptious slushy cocktails and Nortons Brewing Co. deserves a spot on our Kansas bucket list.
The Pennant is the place for delicious burgers, scrumptious salads, and heavenly milkshakes.
That sounds like reason enough to visit, but they also have over 50 vintage arcade games and bowling.
Located in historic Downtown, it’s the perfect stop during any visit to Topeka.
Joe’s The Original Gas Station Restaurant
If BBQ is what you’re after, Joe’s The Original Gas Station Restaurant is the best Kansas bucket list stop.
From the brisket sandwich smothered in hot sauce to the Open-Faced Lean ‘n’ Mean smoked turkey on Texas toast topped with spicy slaw, it’s no wonder Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que has earned local, regional, national, and even international attention.
Chicken N Pickle
When the weather is great and the kids want to run around, there’s no better restaurant than Chicken N Pickle.
It’s a family-friendly restaurant and entertainment complex that includes pickleball courts, bocce ball and shuffleboard courts, a variety of yard games, a game room with ping pong and TV screens, and enough space to kick back and relax.
Chicken N Pickle strives to source all food from local family farmers in each market while offering a delicious menu.
Accommodations on our Kansas Bucket List
Great Wolf Lodge Kansas
Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City is our first choice in accommodations in Kansas.
It offers a variety of suites from a standard Queen Sofa Suite to a Deluxe Wolf Den Suite that sleeps up to 12 guests and includes an in-suite cave-themed sleeping area with a queen-sized bed, a private bedroom with two queen beds and two bathrooms.
Additionally, there is a 38,000 sq. ft. water park kept at a warm 84 degrees. There are water experiences for everyone from toddlers to grandparents. If you’d prefer dry-land experiences, there are tons of free kid’s events and character appearances throughout the resort. Add in on-site family dining, attractions, and shopping all under one roof, and you have the ultimate family experience.
Ambassador Hotel Wichita
The Ambassador Hotel Wichita is luxury boutique hotel that is the perfect starting place for a Wichita adventure.
There are 117 modern rooms and suites that offer complimentary Wi-Fi and bottled water, along with elegant custom furnishings, plush robes, and gourmet room service.
A 24-hour fitness center is available, and the hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse Restaurant offers dining experiences for breakfasts, lunch, dinner, and cocktails.
The Inn at Meadowbrook
The Inn at Meadowbrook is tucked away from the hustle and bustle. It’s surrounded by walking trails and a beautiful lake that is perfect for family evening strolls.
There are 54 distinctive rooms that come with luxurious amenities,, 5-star service, and abundant hospitality.
The Market at Meadowbrook is the perfect spot for fresh pastries, coffee, house-made soups, salads, and entrees, and Verbena restaurant features reimagined favorites with East Coast influence, seasonality, and sophistication.
The Raphael Hotel
If you want to hop across state lines and visit two states in one day, The Raphael Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri is the best choice for you.
It has stunning views and it’s walking distance to shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
It’s a luxury boutique hotel with European style elegance and charm. It offers 126 beautiful rooms and suites with modern conveniences such as gourmet coffee and fast, free hi-speed Internet.
You’ll feel at home in one of the suites with separate living area and a large enough table to host the entire family.