Columbus Day weekend in Kansas is typically warm and comfortable following the hotter months of July and August. Early October brings the fall harvest of corn, wheat, and pumpkins. Look forward to warm weather without the summer crowds; enjoy fantastic nature walks, fishing trips, and outdoor activities a few weeks before the fall leaves change. A Kansas vacation rental is the perfect home base for a fun-filled Columbus Day weekend. Discover the most noteworthy three-day weekend getaways in Kansas.

1. Louisburg

Louisburg, in southeast Kansas, hosts the Louisburg Cider Mill’s annual fall activities. Get lost in a pumpkin maze, purchase some pumpkin doughnuts and make sure to taste some of the yummy apple cider. Columbus Day weekend features the mill’s Ciderfest, a two-day extravaganza of apple cider, bounce houses for the kids, pony rides, craft booths, and doughnut-making demonstrations. Just 4 miles east of Louisburg sits the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education, a habitat for endangered species of big cats, including Siberian tigers. Weather-permitting, take a tour of the educational facility and see the big cats chow down on their afternoon meals. Vacation rentals here give you a chance to rest after a long day of outdoor exploring.

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2. Colby

Colby sits in north-central Kansas away from the hustle and bustle of Kansas’ biggest cities. This out-of-the-way place offers modern vacation rentals without a lot of crowds or tourists during the Columbus Day weekend. Prairie Museum of Art and History provides 24 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including native buffalo grass plantings and the Kuska Collection of more than 28,000 pieces of Americana, with dolls, furniture, quilts and children’s toys from the early 20th century. The Cooper Barn, a venue popular with newlyweds for wedding ceremonies, is the largest barn in Kansas.

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3. WaKeeney

Your vacation rental in WaKeeney serves as a home base for several outdoor adventures that cater to a wide variety of interests as the weather turns cooler in early October. Drive along the old Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail to see the limestone markers that show where Pony Express mail carriers traversed northern Kansas. Some of the fields harbor the remnants of abandoned wagons to serve as monuments and memorials to the brave men and women who traveled this area. Threshing Machine Canyon offers a scenic tour east of Cedar Bluff State Park. See old rock carvings from the mid-1800s that marked where settlers passed through the area. The state park is a great place for hiking, fishing, and boating to play in the great outdoors before the weather gets nippy. Drive along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway for a self-guided tour of the area.

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4. Great Bend

Great Bend takes its name from the huge bend in the Arkansas River, and vacation rentals here create a headquarters for several outdoor activities. The historic Great Bend Depot still stands, with grain silos behind it, as a monument to the area’s rich railroad history. The gray building arose in 1911. Northeast of Great Bend sits Cheyenne Bottoms Refuge, a wildlife refuge for migratory waterfowl that use the massive lake for food on their journeys. On a good day in early October, you might see great blue herons, sandpipers, killdeer, dowitchers, and avocets. Mammals here include beavers, armadillos, muskrats, and opossums.

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5. Hutchinson

Hutchinson provides a metropolitan vibe with plenty of nearby countryside for outdoor lovers during the Columbus Day weekend. Nearby Strataca gives you and your family a tour 650 feet beneath the Earth’s surface in a salt mine. Take a tour to learn what it’s like to mine salt from underground, and explore the area in a historic train. The Cosmosphere space museum tells you about the early history of spaceflight, and it pays homage to Dr. Robert H. Goddard, whose experiments with rocket flight led to America’s fledgling space exploration programs.

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6. Columbus

Aptly named Columbus hosts a hot air balloon regatta every year on Columbus Day weekend. The fun starts on Friday of Columbus Day weekend and runs through Sunday. Take in the great barbecue, participate in human foosball, help your kids find treasures at the pumpkin hunt, and, of course, view plenty of hot air balloons on all three days. The Columbus Day Hot Air Balloon Festival has something for everyone.

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7. Olathe

Olathe is a big city that prides itself on being a starting point for stagecoaches moving westward. It’s now a suburb of Kansas City with plenty of restaurants and retail shopping, but also a place for families to spend a weekend getaway. The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site shows you what life was like in the late 1800s. You and your kids can ride in a historic stagecoach pulled by horses. Adventurous types fly through trees on as many as nine zip lines at Zip KC. When you’re done for the day, relax at your vacation rental with food, TV, and a hot shower.

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8. Wallace

Wallace, in extreme southwestern Kansas, truly lets you get away from it all. Thirty miles away is Mount Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas. It’s not really a mountain as you see flat plains for miles. However, at 4,039 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point in the state as it starts the gradual upward climb towards the high plains of Colorado. Logan County State Park has a large lake that serves as a habitat for various ducks, geese, and herons that stop for food during their fall migrations. If you’re lucky, you might view mule deer or coyotes at this vast nature preserve.

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9. Marysville

Marysville touts its history as a stop on the Pony Express. Check out the Pony Express Barn Museum, which operated as a stop for just 18 months from 1860 to 1861, and was one of the first stops for riders heading west from St. Joseph, Missouri. Alcove Springs Park presents opportunities for hiking and exploring nature, and it gives you a glimpse into immigrants who moved west towards better opportunities. The rocks surrounding the spring contain old carvings of people’s names who came through this area on their way to points west along the Oregon Trail.

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10. Lindsborg

Lindsborg marks a region where Swedish settlers called home. The picturesque downtown area looks like a place that modern America forgot with its quaint storefronts and local restaurants. Coronado Heights Park is named for the legendary Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who, as legend says, gave up his search for the lost city of gold just north of Lindsborg in the mid-1500s. There’s a small, castle-like shelter on top of a 300-foot hill there, built in the 1930s during the Great Depression. When a college professor found a gold Spanish coin on the site in 1881, local residents perpetuated the legend of Coronado’s presence. Golfers can take a swing or two at Lindsborg Golf Course, a nine-hole, par-64 course surrounded by farmers’ fields.

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11. Cottonwood Falls

Cottonwood Falls also has a vintage vibe with many old buildings still in use today. Chase County Courthouse highlights a beautiful structure made of walnut and limestone built in 1873. A three-story spiral staircase is the pride and joy of the courthouse’s interior, so be sure to climb the steps on your self-guided tour. North of the town sits Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a sprawling property of rolling meadows covered in native prairie grasses that harbor a working bison ranch. Grab a picnic lunch and explore one of the last stands of America’s once-vast rural prairie.

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