Tourism in Kansas is big business. But why is this industry so important and what does it all mean? Read on to find out…
Tourism in Kansas
Kansas, situated in the heartland of the United States, boasts a unique blend of Americana, with its sweeping plains and historical significance. Often referred to as the “Sunflower State”, it has been a backdrop for pivotal moments in American history and culture. In this article, I’ll explore the facets of Kansas’s tourism industry, highlighting its natural beauty, heritage sites, and the initiatives that promote its attractions. Join me as we traverse the plains and stories that define the character of Kansas.
The Tourism Industry in Kansas
The tourism industry in Kansas revolves around the state’s rich history, diverse natural landscapes, cultural attractions, and recreational activities. Here’s an introduction to the tourism industry in Kansas:
- Historical Sites: Kansas has a significant historical heritage, particularly related to the settlement of the American West. Tourists can visit historic sites such as Fort Larned National Historic Site, Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, and the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison.
- Outdoor Recreation: Kansas offers ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Visitors can explore the state’s many parks, nature reserves, and wildlife areas, such as the Flint Hills, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and Cimarron National Grassland. Activities like hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and birdwatching are popular among outdoor enthusiasts.
- City Attractions: Kansas cities have their own unique attractions. Wichita, the largest city, features the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, and Old Cowtown Museum. Kansas City offers the Kansas Speedway and the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Topeka showcases the Kansas State Capitol and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.
- Cultural and Arts Scene: Kansas boasts a vibrant arts and cultural scene. The state is home to various museums, galleries, and performing arts venues. The Wichita Art Museum, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, and the Mulvane Art Museum in Topeka are popular destinations for art enthusiasts.
- Festivals and Events: Kansas hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating the state’s heritage, culture, and agriculture. The Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, Symphony in the Flint Hills, Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, and Riverfest in Wichita are just a few examples of the vibrant event calendar.
- Agritourism: Given its agricultural prominence, Kansas offers agritourism experiences, allowing visitors to engage in farm visits, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other agricultural activities. Sunflower fields and wheat harvests are also iconic sights during certain times of the year.
- Culinary Experiences: Kansas is known for its culinary specialties, such as Kansas City-style barbecue, homemade pies, and farm-to-table cuisine. Visitors can explore local restaurants, food festivals, and farmers’ markets to savor the flavors of the region.
- Heritage and Cultural Tourism: Kansas celebrates its rich heritage and diverse cultural communities. Travelers can explore the history of Native American tribes, African American heritage, and the influence of European settlers through museums, cultural centers, and events.
- Sports and Recreation: Sports enthusiasts can enjoy various sporting events in Kansas, including college basketball, baseball, and auto racing. The Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, home to the Kansas Jayhawks basketball team, and the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City are popular destinations for sports fans.
- Scenic Drives and Byways: Kansas offers picturesque scenic drives and byways, showcasing its natural beauty and landscapes. The Flint Hills Scenic Byway, Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, and Western Vistas Historic Byway provide stunning views and opportunities for leisurely exploration.
The tourism industry in Kansas aims to provide visitors with a diverse range of experiences, from exploring historical landmarks to enjoying outdoor adventures and immersing themselves in the state’s vibrant culture and traditions.
Statistics about tourism in Kansas
Now lets put things into perspective. Here are some statistics about tourism in Kansas:
- In 2019, Kansas welcomed approximately 36.6 million visitors, including both domestic and international tourists.
- Tourism in Kansas contributes significantly to the state’s economy, generating over $7 billion in visitor spending annually.
- The tourism industry in Kansas supports more than 94,000 jobs, providing employment opportunities across various sectors such as hospitality, recreation, and transportation.
- Kansas has over 400 attractions and more than 300 annual events, drawing visitors from all over the world.
- The state has a diverse range of accommodations, including hotels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds, with over 33,000 available rooms for tourists.
- Historic sites and landmarks, such as the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, the Boot Hill Museum, and the Kansas State Capitol, are among the top attractions for tourists in Kansas.
- Outdoor recreation plays a significant role in Kansas tourism, with over 24 million annual visits to the state’s parks, wildlife areas, and nature reserves.
- Kansas is home to several renowned museums, including the Wichita Art Museum, the Cosmosphere Space Museum, and the Kansas Museum of History.
- The Sunflower State is famous for its agricultural tourism, with opportunities for visitors to engage in agritourism experiences, farm visits, and harvest festivals.
- Sporting events, particularly college basketball games and auto racing, draw a significant number of tourists to Kansas. Notable venues include Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence and the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
These statistics highlight the importance of tourism in Kansas, both in terms of its economic impact and the diverse range of attractions and activities that draw visitors to the state.
Popular tourist attractions in Kansas
Kansas offers a variety of attractions that appeal to different interests. Here are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kansas:
- Sedgwick County Zoo: Located in Wichita, this highly regarded zoo is home to over 3,000 animals representing more than 400 species.
- Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center: Situated in Hutchinson, this museum and science center showcases an impressive collection of space artifacts and offers interactive exhibits and educational programs.
- Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve: Spanning over 10,000 acres, this preserved prairie in the Flint Hills region provides visitors with a chance to experience the beauty and tranquility of the tallgrass ecosystem.
- Old Cowtown Museum: Located in Wichita, this living history museum allows visitors to step back in time and explore the life and culture of the 19th-century frontier.
- Monument Rocks: These towering chalk formations, located in Gove County, are a natural wonder and provide a unique backdrop for scenic photography.
- Botanica Wichita: A beautiful botanical garden in Wichita, featuring themed gardens, a butterfly house, and seasonal displays that offer a serene and colorful escape.
- Strataca: This underground salt museum in Hutchinson takes visitors on a fascinating tour of an active salt mine, providing insights into the region’s geology and mining history.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home: Situated in Abilene, this complex honors the legacy of President Eisenhower and features exhibits, artifacts, and his childhood home.
- Kansas State Capitol: Located in Topeka, this impressive architectural landmark offers guided tours that showcase the state’s history and government.
- Flint Hills Discovery Center: Situated in Manhattan, this interactive museum explores the unique ecosystem and cultural heritage of the Flint Hills region.
These attractions showcase the natural beauty, history, culture, and scientific advancements of Kansas, offering visitors a diverse range of experiences to enjoy during their visit.
Types of tourism in Kansas
In Kansas, there are several popular types of tourism that attract visitors from around the world. Here are some of the most popular types:
- Heritage Tourism: Kansas is known for its rich history, especially in relation to the Old West and pioneer settlements. Many tourists visit Kansas to explore historical sites, museums, and landmarks related to the state’s frontier history.
- Outdoor Recreation: Kansas offers a variety of outdoor activities for nature enthusiasts. From hiking and camping in the Flint Hills to boating and fishing in the state’s lakes and reservoirs, outdoor recreation is a popular draw for tourists.
- Agricultural Tourism: With its vast prairies and agricultural landscapes, Kansas is often referred to as the “breadbasket of America.” Visitors can explore working farms, participate in harvest activities, and learn about the state’s agricultural heritage.
- Cultural and Arts Tourism: Kansas has a vibrant arts and culture scene, with numerous galleries, theaters, and festivals showcasing local talent. The state’s larger cities, such as Wichita and Lawrence, are known for their arts districts and live music venues.
- Wildlife and Birdwatching: Kansas is home to diverse wildlife and is an excellent destination for birdwatching enthusiasts. There are several wildlife refuges and nature preserves where visitors can spot a variety of bird species and other native wildlife.
- Sports Tourism: Kansas has a strong sports culture, particularly when it comes to college basketball. The University of Kansas and Kansas State University have passionate fan bases, and attending a college basketball game is a popular activity for sports enthusiasts.
- Road Trips: Kansas is often a stop on cross-country road trips, especially along iconic routes like Route 66. The state’s open roads and scenic byways provide an opportunity for travelers to experience the quintessential American road trip.
These are just a few examples of the popular types of tourism in Kansas. The state offers a diverse range of experiences, appealing to history buffs, nature lovers, culture enthusiasts, and more.
Economic impacts of tourism in Kansas
Tourism plays a significant role in the economy of Kansas, contributing to job creation, business revenue, and overall economic growth. Here are some key points about the economic impacts of tourism in Kansas:
- Employment: Tourism supports a substantial number of jobs in Kansas. It directly employs individuals in various sectors such as accommodations, food services, transportation, and retail. Additionally, tourism generates indirect employment in related industries like construction, manufacturing, and professional services.
- Revenue Generation: Tourism generates revenue for businesses and the state through visitor spending. Tourists spend money on accommodations, dining, shopping, transportation, attractions, and other services, contributing to the local economy. The revenue generated from tourism helps support businesses, infrastructure development, and public services.
- Small Business Support: Tourism benefits small businesses in Kansas, as visitors often seek out unique experiences and products offered by local entrepreneurs. Bed and breakfasts, restaurants, craft shops, and tour operators are among the businesses that thrive due to tourism.
- Tax Revenue: Tourism contributes to tax revenue for the state and local governments. The taxes generated from tourism activities, such as sales tax, lodging tax, and fuel tax, help fund public services and infrastructure improvements that benefit both residents and visitors.
- Economic Diversification: Tourism serves as a means of economic diversification for Kansas. It provides an alternative source of revenue and employment opportunities beyond traditional industries like agriculture and manufacturing. This diversification helps in balancing the state’s economy and reducing dependence on specific sectors.
- Destination Marketing: The promotion of Kansas as a tourist destination requires marketing efforts, which in turn stimulate economic activity. Destination marketing organizations, tourism agencies, and local businesses collaborate to attract visitors through advertising campaigns, trade shows, and digital marketing, contributing to increased visitation and economic impact.
- Seasonal Employment: Tourism often experiences seasonal fluctuations in visitor numbers, leading to seasonal employment opportunities. These seasonal jobs, particularly in the hospitality and outdoor recreation sectors, can provide additional income for residents during peak tourist seasons.
- Investment and Infrastructure: The growth of tourism in Kansas can attract investment in infrastructure development and improvements. This includes the construction or renovation of hotels, restaurants, transportation facilities, and recreational amenities, all of which enhance the visitor experience and support the local economy.
- Community Development: Tourism can have positive community impacts by enhancing local pride, cultural preservation, and community development. It encourages the preservation of historical sites, traditions, and cultural events, creating a sense of identity and heritage for both residents and visitors.
- Economic Multiplier Effect: The economic impacts of tourism extend beyond direct spending. When visitors spend money in Kansas, it circulates through the local economy as businesses and employees use those funds to make further purchases, creating a multiplier effect that boosts economic activity.
Overall, tourism in Kansas contributes significantly to the state’s economy by generating employment, revenue, and supporting local businesses. It also brings in investment, diversifies the economy, and enhances the overall quality of life for residents.
Social impacts of tourism in Kansas
Tourism in Kansas has various social impacts that contribute to the overall well-being and cultural development of the state. Here are some key social impacts of tourism in Kansas:
- Cultural Exchange: Tourism promotes cultural exchange by bringing visitors from different regions and countries to Kansas. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the local culture, traditions, and history, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation.
- Community Engagement: Tourism often encourages community engagement and participation. Local residents become involved in tourism-related activities, such as volunteering at events or sharing their knowledge and skills with visitors. This engagement strengthens community bonds and fosters a sense of pride and identity.
- Preservation of Heritage: The tourism industry plays a role in preserving and showcasing the cultural and historical heritage of Kansas. Historical sites, museums, and cultural events receive support and attention due to visitor interest, leading to their preservation and continued importance within the community.
- Enhanced Quality of Life: Tourism in Kansas contributes to an enhanced quality of life for residents of Kansas. The availability of tourism amenities and attractions, such as parks, recreational facilities, and entertainment venues, provides opportunities for leisure and recreation for both residents and visitors.
- Community Development: Tourism in Kansas can stimulate community development by creating opportunities for entrepreneurship and small business development. Local residents may start tourism-related businesses, such as bed and breakfasts, restaurants, or tour companies, which can contribute to economic growth and job creation within the community.
- Sense of Pride: Successful tourism promotion and positive visitor experiences can foster a sense of pride among local residents. Seeing their community appreciated and recognized as a tourist destination can boost community morale and inspire residents to maintain the attractiveness of their surroundings.
- Education and Awareness: Tourism in Kansas provides educational opportunities for both residents and visitors. Local museums, historical sites, and interpretive centers offer educational programs and exhibits that increase awareness and knowledge about the state’s history, culture, and natural resources.
- Festivals and Events: Tourism in Kansas often leads to the development of festivals and events that celebrate local traditions, art, music, and cuisine. These events create a sense of vibrancy and community spirit, attracting both residents and visitors and fostering a shared cultural experience.
- Job Creation: The tourism industry provides employment opportunities for residents of Kansas, particularly in sectors such as accommodations, food services, entertainment, and hospitality. This job creation can enhance the economic well-being of individuals and families within the community.
- Increased Social Interaction: Tourism facilitates social interaction between visitors and local residents. Through interactions with tourists, residents have the chance to share their knowledge, stories, and experiences, fostering a sense of hospitality and creating memorable experiences for visitors.
Overall, tourism in Kansas has social impacts that promote cultural exchange, community engagement, heritage preservation, and an enhanced quality of life. It contributes to community development, education, and awareness while fostering a sense of pride and creating economic opportunities for local residents.
Tourism in Kansas- FAQs
Now that we know a bit more about tourism in Kansas, lets answer some of the most common questions on this topic:
What is Kansas best known for in terms of tourism?
Kansas is renowned for its rich history related to the Wild West and the Civil War, its scenic byways, and natural attractions like the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Are there any national parks in Kansas?
While Kansas doesn’t have a “national park,” it does feature several national historic sites and monuments. Notable mentions include the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka and the Fort Larned National Historic Site.
Is Kansas a good destination for history enthusiasts?
Absolutely. Kansas offers a plethora of historic sites. From remnants of the Santa Fe Trail to museums detailing its significant role in the Civil War, Kansas has preserved its past well for visitors.
What are some must-visit attractions in Kansas?
Travelers often flock to the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Monument Rocks, and the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City.
Can visitors engage in outdoor recreational activities in Kansas?
Yes, Kansas provides a variety of outdoor activities. Whether you’re keen on hiking and bird-watching in the Flint Hills or fishing in the state’s numerous lakes and reservoirs, there’s something for every outdoor enthusiast.
Is Kansas a family-friendly tourist destination?
Certainly. With a mix of museums, historic sites, and outdoor attractions, Kansas offers a wide range of activities that families can enjoy together.
When is the ideal time to visit Kansas?
The spring and fall seasons, with their milder weather, are typically the best times to visit. However, many also come during the summer for the various festivals and fairs, despite the hotter temperatures.
Does Kansas host any unique festivals or events?
Kansas has a calendar full of events. Some of the more notable ones include the Kansas State Fair, the Symphony in the Flint Hills, and a myriad of cultural and historical celebrations throughout the year.
How diverse is the food scene in Kansas?
Kansas boasts a rich food scene, with a strong emphasis on farm-to-table offerings. While you can enjoy traditional American fare, especially the renowned BBQ, cities also offer a range of international cuisines.
How can tourists get around in Kansas?
Is public transport an option? Public transportation is somewhat limited in Kansas, especially in the rural areas. While major cities like Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City have local transit systems, renting a car is often the best way to explore the state thoroughly.
To Conclude: Tourism in Kansas
Kansas, with its sweeping plains and rich historical tapestry, embodies the heart and soul of America’s Midwest. Beyond the open fields, the state’s diverse attractions and storied past ensure a unique journey for every visitor. If you enjoyed this article about tourism in Kansas, I am sure you will like these too: