Disclosure: My trip was hosted by Kansas Tourism. However, all opinions are my own.
If you like to explore off the beaten path, there is no shortage of things to do in north central Kansas. So pack your suitcase, load up your car and get ready for a road trip that’s sure to surprise and delight.
From historic hotels and natural wonders to roadside attractions and offbeat art installations, this region of Kansas is teeming with quirky places to fill your itinerary. Whether you like obscure military history or enjoy sampling new craft brews, you’re sure to discover something unexpected as you crisscross the region’s backroads and delve deep into its rural communities.
So the next time you’re in need of an offbeat road trip, consider setting a course for some of these unexpectedly quirky attractions.
Atlas Ad Astra Adventure Resort
Did you know that there are dozens of decommissioned missile silos hidden beneath Kansas fields? At Atlas Ad Astra Adventure Resort near Wilson, Kansas, you’ll have the opportunity to head hundreds of feet below ground and tour one.
Its owners have big dreams for the silo and its surrounding area. But currently the 24-acre property serves as a boondocking-friendly campground. Regardless of if you’re spending the night or not, the owners of Atlas Ad Astra offer an hour-long historical tour of the Atlas F Missile Base which includes a now-gutted Launch Control Center and the 176-foot-deep silo.
In the future, the owners hope to fully revamp the underground space and turn it into a sustainably-minded resort with a spa, guest lodging, creative studio space, theater and so much more. But even now, this unique piece of Kansas history is absolutely worth the adventure.
Atlas Ad Astra Adventure Resort, 354 4th Road in Wilson, Kansas
Eyegore’s Odditorium & Monster Museum
After you visit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, head up the street for a wacky visit to Eyegore’s Odditorium & Monster Museum. Part offbeat gift shop, part slightly spooky monster museum, Eyegore’s is a must-visit spot if you’re passing through Cawker City. Pick up a twine-themed souvenir and keep your eyes out for puns galore. See a baby alien from Roswell, New Mexico and check out the real Frankenstein skeleton alongside some human brains.
EYEGORE’S ODDITORIUM & MONSTER MUSEUM, 732 WISCONSIN STREET IN CAWKER CITY, KANSAS
Geographic Center of the U.S.
Kansas is in the heart of it all — literally. When you explore north central Kansas, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Geographic Center of the U.S.
While the site itself is pretty sparse, it’s a fun photo opp and good spot to stretch your legs if you’re passing through the area. You can even go into the U.S. Center Chapel like Bruce Springsteen did in his 2021 Super Bowl commercial for Jeep titled “The Middle.”
To find this momentous spot, take Highway 281 north one mile from Lebanon then turn west on K-191 for another mile until you reach the historic marker.
Geographic Center of the U.S., Lebanon, Kansas
Enjoying a local craft beer is the perfect way to get to know a community. And at Irrigation Ales in Courtland, Kansas, you’ll discover a unique piece of the region’s agricultural history. Named for the irrigation canals that you’ll find across north central Kansas, this craft brewery truly celebrates its rural roots.
Stop into their taproom on Courtland’s Main Street to soak up some of the owner’s entrepreneurial spirit and enjoy an incredible pint or two. With eight rotating taps, Irrigation Ales creates a variety of different libations including a non-alcoholic root beer.
Irrigation Ales, 414 Main Street in Courtland, Kansas
Lucas: The Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas
You won’t find a quirkier Kansas town than Lucas. Known as the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas, Lucas is an artist’s enclave that embraces all things unusual and avant garde.
Start your time in Lucas at the Grassroots Art Center, which has been featuring the work of self-proclaimed “outsider artists” since 1995.
Then head up the street to what I promise will be the most elaborate public toilets you’ve ever seen. At Bowl Plaza local artists Mri-Pilar and Eric Abraham joined forces to create a mosaic masterpiece you won’t find anywhere else.
Quite possibly the most well-known installation in Lucas is the Garden of Eden created by S.P. Dinsmoor. The Lucas local spent more than 20 years creating his Cabin Home and the Garden of Eden, which is now open for visitors to tour.
Don’t miss the World’s Largest Souvenir Travel Plate as you enter town and be sure to make a stop at the unparalleled World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Versions of World’s Largest Things.
Midland Railroad Hotel
Spend the night in a historic hotel at the Midland Railroad Hotel in Wilson, Kansas. Originally opened in 1899, this 28-room boutique hotel was once considered one of the most impressive hotels in the Midwest.
Like many historic hotels, this piece of Kansas history welcomed many guests over the years but eventually fell on hard times and sat vacant for almost 10 years before it was purchased by the Wilson Foundation. The Midland Railroad Hotel reopened in 2003 after a $3.2 million renovation and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The rooms at this historic hotel are true to the 1920s era, but also include all the modern comforts and amenities you could want. The hotel even has an on-site restaurant, The Sample Room, which serves hearty Midwestern fare like chicken fried steak. After dinner, head next door to The Barn for a nightcap before heading to bed.
If you believe in ghosts, the Midland Railroad Hotel is also allegedly haunted, which shouldn’t be surprising given the decades of guests it’s welcomed. During my visit, I stayed in one of the third-floor rooms that apparently sees quite a bit of ghostly activity. I didn’t notice any paranormal activity, but apparently the staff receives frequent reports of a little girl who likes to run up and down the halls and knock on doors.
Midland Railroad Hotel, 414 26th Street in Wilson, Kansas
Public Art in Salina
If you’re looking for some artistic inspiration, you’ll find plenty in Salina, Kansas. Wander the SculptureTour Salina throughout downtown and marvel at the annually changing sculptures. Downtown is also a great place to spot murals and snag a quick photo opp. Be sure not to miss the Mural on the Mill, a beautiful large-scale mural on a grain silo near downtown.
Rock City Park
Discover a natural phenomenon like no other at Rock City Park in Minneapolis, Kansas. This area is north central Kansas is the only place in the world where you can find so many of these giant Dakota sandstone concretions together.
Today, you can find more than 200 of these otherworldly rock formations here, formed in the millions of years since Kansas was covered by an inland sea. Wander the unique landscape, climb the rock formations and snap a photo or two at this natural attraction.
Rock City Park, 1051 Ivy Road in Minneapolis, Kansas
Whole Wall Mural
In Concordia, Kansas, you’ll find a three-dimensional mural that you have to see to believe. Known as the Whole Wall Mural, this impressive installation is the longest sculpted brick mural in the United States. The mural measures 140 feet in length and is made up of 6,400 bricks. There’s plenty to see in this unique piece of public art and lots to learn from its depictions of Cloud County history.
Whole Wall Mural, 130 E. 6th in Concordia, Kansas
World’s Largest Ball of Twine
It’s no secret that I love “world’s largest” things. And the World’s Largest Ball of Twine has been on my travel bucket list for quite awhile now. Located in Cawker City, Kansas, this big attraction was started by Frank Stoeber in 1953. After only four years, the ball weighed more than 5,000 pounds and stood over eight feet tall. In 1961, Stoeber gave the ball to the city and it’s been a tourist attraction ever since.
The World’s Largest Ball of Twine can be viewed 24 hours a day. But one of the best parts about this attraction is that you can help it grow even larger. If the twine ball’s caretaker Linda is there when you visit, she’ll help you add your own length of twine to this roadside icon.
WORLD’S LARGEST BALL OF TWINE, 719 WISCONSIN STREET IN CAWKER CITY, KANSAS
World’s Largest Czech Egg
I can’t think of a more egg-celent way to continue your road trip than with a stop at the World’s Largest Czech Egg in Wilson, Kansas. In the early 2000s, this Czech community had the idea to celebrate its heritage by creating a giant homage to one of its most beloved traditions.
The project was a true labor of love and took more than 12 years to be fully realized. Today, the World’s Largest Czech Egg stands 20 feet high and 15 feet wide. Local artist and teacher Christine Slechta created the egg’s traditional Czech design. Then the project was executed by students and volunteers from the community. After a lot of hard work, the giant egg was officially dedicated on July 29, 2016.
WORLD’S LARGEST CZECH EGG, 2520 AVENUE D IN WILSON, KANSAS
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! Have you explored this part of the state? What are your favorite quirky things to do in north central Kansas?