From Kansas - The State Of Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected in Kansas

From presidential history to outer space, the Sunflower State never disappoints.

Cowboys and horses.
Photo courtesy of Kansas Tourism

Kayaking on the Kaw River, Pottawatomie County.
Kayaking on the Kaw River, Pottawatomie County.
Photo courtesy of Kansas Tourism

ooking for a good place to learn about World War II, UFO sightings or the World’s Largest Belt Buckle? You’ve come to the right place. Kansas offers all of that and more in a plethora of tourist attractions sure to satisfy almost any taste.

Kansas Tourism Director Bridgette Jobe says to expect the unexpected when you visit her home state. 

From Topeka to Wichita and everywhere in between, the Sunflower State blooms brightly with attractions you won’t find anyplace else. Take Abilene and Lindsborg, for example. Both were named recently to the exclusive list of the top 14 “Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA” by TravelAwaits. Abilene, a town of 6,500 people in Dickinson County, ranked first for the third straight year, while McPherson County’s Lindsborg, with 3,500 residents, came in at No. 5.

“I was not surprised,” says Jobe. “Abilene is known as the home of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. It is one of my favorite places to visit. Abilene is also home to the World’s Largest Belt Buckle. You walk up these stairs and then stand behind the belt buckle like you are wearing it. We constantly have people visiting here to take their photo with it.”

TOURISM-lead-2Lindsborg, meanwhile, continually reinvents itself, says Jobe. “They are always adding something new,” she says. “Lindsborg is a hidden little gem. It is called Little Sweden USA. They have an annual Swedish Festival. It is just beautiful country, and they have a great arts scene.”

Abilene, Lindsborg and a whole bunch of other places combined to deliver record-setting years for tourism in Kansas since 2020. According to the most recent data on visitor traffic, total visitor spending in 2022 surpassed pre-COVID levels, says Jobe. “People are spending more than they did before the pandemic.”

Kansas attracted 36.4 million visitors in 2022, marking an increase of 2.7 million tourists from 2021. “Meanwhile, 2021 was a record year for our state parks,” notes Jobe. “We are seeing those trends continue. People are still looking for wide-open spaces, and they are finding them in Kansas.”

The Kansas Tourism report quantifies the total economic impact of tourism in Kansas at $12.5 billion in 2022. The sector accounted for 88,509 jobs and generated $777 million in state and local revenue that year too, according to the study. Visitor spending was up $717 million to $7.7 billion.



Eisenhower Statue, Abilene.

Photos courtesy of Kansas Tourism


Even more visitor spending could be on the way soon, thanks to $30 million in tourism grants approved by Governor Laura Kelly and awarded to 18 recipients who will use the funds to develop and improve tourism sites statewide.




In many ways, says Jobe, the visitor appeal of Kansas is the state’s best-kept secret. “We have wonderful breweries, wineries and steakhouses all around Kansas. And whoever would have expected to find the UFO Capital of Kansas in the Geneseo City Museum?”
Where else are you going to find dog hair from Venus, a Saturn laboratory spacecraft, or a gentleman who tells tales of a UFO experience he had in 1972? Drive 90 minutes northwest of Wichita, and you will find that in this quirky museum in 200-resident Geneseo in Rice County. With any luck, local author and historian Jim Gray, dressed in full cowboy garb and 10-gallon hat, will greet you at the door and give you the guided tour.

And if you happen to be an interplanetary traveler, don’t worry. A welcome sign in town politely says, “Spaceships Welcome.” 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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