Whether you prefer to take in the beauty of the natural environment or soak in the culture of the local art scene, there are plenty of great towns situated within a short drive of Wichita, Kansas. Book a Wichita vacation rental for a night or two, then embark on a short road trip to check out one of these nearby getaway spots.
1. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Just a short four-hour drive from Wichita, Lake of the Ozarks provides the perfect combination of quiet natural beauty and fun activities. Imagine waking up in a lakeside vacation rental to the sound of songbirds and waterfowl plus the gentle lapping of the waves upon the shore. Bring your kayak or your speed boat, and spend the day on the water, or head to Bridgeport Boat Rental a rent a fishing boat for the day, and enjoy the relaxation of casting your line out on the reservoir. If you’d prefer more land-based activities, Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers miles of hiking trails, sandy beaches perfect for sunbathing, and fun lantern-lit cave tours with just the right amount of excitement for budding spelunkers. If you’re looking for something a little different for lunch, check out Shorty Pants Lounge for its Cajun specialties or Baxter’s Lakeside Grill for fresh seafood sandwiches. Baxter’s also offers an excellent selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options, and an extensive kids’ menu, making it a great option for the whole family.
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2. Manhattan, Kansas
Travel a little under three hours north from downtown Wichita, and find yourself immersed in the beauty of the Flint Hills with the Great Plains stretching wide in every direction. Select from vacation rentals outside of town to enjoy the majestic prairie sunrise to its fullest, or opt for a downtown rental to be within walking distance of Manhattan’s attractions, such as The Flint Hills Discovery Center with opportunities to learn more about the Prairie ecosystem. Manhattan is a great choice for a getaway in every season. Winter brings the MHK Festival of Lights and ice skating in Wefald Pavilion in City Park, and summer brings the Country Stampede Music Festival as well as great weather for hiking and wildlife observation. Nature lovers will enjoy the abundant bird-watching opportunities in the area in both spring meadows full of blooms and fall’s autumn leaf show. In the evening stop in at the Tallgrass Taphouse for a flight of house craft beers served on a rooftop deck with a gorgeous Flint Hills view. Order a growler of your favorite to take back to your vacation rental.
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3. Lawrence, Kansas
History lovers are sure to enjoy a weekend getaway in Lawrence. Drive a little over two hours northwest toward Kansas City, and find yourself in a true center of Midwestern culture with plenty of attractions designed to take you back to frontier days. Start at the Watkins Museum of History to learn about Kansas’s journey to statehood as well as its history during the Civil War. Then take a stroll through Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area in downtown to see exhibits providing multiple viewpoints about the struggle for freedom during the Civil War. Finish your historical explorations at Black Jack Battlefield Park for a narrated tour of the historic Civil War battle. The park also has nature trails and picnic areas so bring a picnic basket and spend some time enjoying the view after your trip through history. If you want more outdoor time, add a trip to Baker Wetlands Discovery Center to your agenda for the chance to wander nearly 1,000 acres of countryside, featuring different ecosystems and plenty of wildlife. If the arts are more your thing, add an afternoon tour at the Lawrence Art Center, and take in an evening show at the Black Box Theater.
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4. Dodge City, Kansas
Nearly directly west of Wichita, Dodge City offers a weekend getaway full of Wild West excitement with less than three hours travel time one way. Plan a summertime getaway to take in the Dodge City Rodeo with bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, and more. Year round, Main Street offers historic trolley tours, the Gunfighters Wax Museum, the Kansas Heritage Center, and the Boot Hill Museum with its restored 1870s storefronts and historical interpreters to take you back in time to Dodge City of the 19th century. In the evening, stop in at the museum’s Long Branch Saloon for a period variety show and country-style dinner. While you’re in town, be sure to browse through the many eclectic boutiques around town, such as Boot Hill Antiques, Boot Hill Distillery, and 2nd Ave Art Guild and Gallery.
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5. Oakley, Kansas
Head four hours west out of Wichita toward the Northwest portion of Kansas for a weekend getaway in Oakley, and explore some of the state’s most amazing geologic formations. Monument Rocks are a must see. Rising over 70-feet tall, these chalk pyramids formed over 80 million years ago when the state of Kansas was under water. Be sure to stop in the Keystone Gallery while you’re in the area to get a glimpse of fossils found throughout Kansas plus view an incredible art collection of works by acclaimed photographers Barbara Shelton and Chuck Bonner. The Fick Fossil and History Museum in downtown Oakley has even more information on the geology of the area. For an awesome lunch after a busy morning fossil hunting, stop in at Buffalo Bill’s Bar and Grill for the John Wayne burger, smothered with Swiss cheese, sauteed onions, and barbecue sauce, or opt for a fun experience at Don’s Drive-In where waitresses bring down-home cuisine, such as country-fried steak and deep-fried pickle slices right to your car.
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6. Scott City, Kansas
A Scott City vacation rental is the perfect home base for spending a day or two at Lake Scott State Park, the perfect relaxing getaway for couples and families. Start enjoying yourself right away by traveling to Scott City via the Western Vistas Historic Byway. The gorgeous views of the terrain make the four-hour drive fly past. After a good night’s sleep in your vacation rental, head to the park for fabulous hiking through a wooded canyon with over 25 archaeological sites. The park also offers fishing and swimming on Scott State Fishing Lake, a preserved historic home from one of the area’s original settlers and the remains of a Native American pueblo. Be alert for bobcats, deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife plus the numerous species of birds who call the park home, or pass through it during spring and fall migration periods. Before returning home, take the short drive to Battle Canyon, the site of the last Native American battle in the United States. After a day adventuring, head to the Majestic Theater for a fabulous meal accompanied by a show in a beautifully restored vintage theater.
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7. Elk City, Oklahoma
For those who value a great brew just as much as a fine wine, Elk City is the perfect place to spend a weekend. Small enough to feel cozy but big enough to keep you occupied, Elk City is only a little over four hours away from the center of Wichita. If you enjoy nightlife, spend your first evening in town chatting with locals, catching a game on the big screen, or trying your hand at karaoke at The Payzone Lounge. Enjoy a quiet night at your vacation rental and get an early start the next day with a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy or an oversize omelet at Home Cooking Cafe. For a look at the rich history of the region, spend your day browsing the exhibits at The Old Town Museum Complex which includes the Historic Route 66 Museum and a restored one-room schoolhouse, and then in the afternoon browse the excellent shopping in Elk City’s downtown district, including Bazaar On 66 for eclectic souvenirs and Crooked Spur Boutique for cowboy flair. In the evening, head to Prairiefire for excellent cuisine and craft beers. Try their local trout and ask your server for recommendations for brew pairings. Alternatively, check out the menu in the tasting room at Elk Valley Brewing for an assortment of local beers and small plates.
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