With AAA projecting the national average price for a gallon of gasoline to increase 40 cents this summer, many travelers are looking for vacations or weekend getaways close to home.
Here are four trips from Wichita that are within one tank of gas. We’ve even included a tip for each destination to prevent that fear-of-missing-out feeling we all get when exploring new areas.
Warm Springs Ranch, near Boonville, Mo.
Just off I-70 in mid-Missouri is Warm Springs Ranch, one of the country’s few Budweiser Clydesdale breeding farms. Tours are offered March 25-Nov. 5 daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (closed Wednesdays).
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Online reservations are required, and tours often sell out well in advance. During the 90-minute walking tour, $14 per person, you’ll meet the horses and learn about the training and lives of the Clydesdales selected to be part of the prestigious Budweiser traveling hitch.
To finish the tour, you can take a photo with a Clydesdale in front of a 1903 beer wagon. Guests 21 and over can sample Budweiser beer.
A private VIP tour, $500 for up to 16 people, takes you across the 300-plus acres of rolling pastures to interact with Clydesdales.
Tip: Combine your trip to the ranch with a stay in Rocheport, a tiny Missouri River town known for its winery with blufftop views, antique shops and access to one of the most scenic stretches of Katy Trail State Park, the longest developed rail-trail in the U.S. More info: warmspringsranch.com
Des Moines has everything you’d expect in the state’s largest city: a zoo, a 100-plus-ride amusement park, a science center, art and history museums, gardens, James Beard-nominated chefs, the state capitol (free guided tours) and a downtown ballpark where the AAA-affiliate of the Chicago Cubs play.
If that’s not enough to entice you, plan your trip around one of at least five food and drink festivals this summer, the 80/35 Indie Music Festival (July 7-8) or the Iowa State Fair (Aug. 10-20).
Tip: Zombie Burger and Drink Lab in Des Moines’ Historic East Village uses a three-cut beef burger blend to create its menu of “goremet” burgers with names like The Walking Ched and Dead Moines. They also serve inventive milk shakes and cocktails. More info: catchdesmoines.com
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail, which was used post-Civil War to drive cattle from Texas ranches to Kansas railheads.
The Wichita area is hosting events throughout the year to highlight the city’s place in the trail’s history, but in the southwestern Oklahoma town of Duncan, you can explore the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center (admission $4-$6), which True West magazine ranked in 2016 as one of the top 10 western museums in the U.S.
Interactive exhibits, a 4-D theater and galleries showcase the history of the trail and the art and culture of the American West. The museum rotates special exhibits and hosts special events, including a free National Day of the Cowboy outdoor celebration on July 22.
While in Duncan, visit several other historic sites and museums and take photos of the other trail in town: the Crapemyrtle Trail, showing why Duncan is called the Crapemyrtle Capital of Oklahoma.
Tip: Turn this into a classic road trip by tapping into the Chickasaw Nation’s adventureroad.com website, which lists more than 200 stops along the I-35 corridor from Oklahoma City south through 13 counties that comprise the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation. More info: visitduncan.org
North Platte Neb.
East meets west on Union Pacific’s rail line in the western Nebraska town of North Platte, and the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center offers a bird’s-eye view of it all. The eight-story tower overlooks Bailey Yard, the largest railroad classification yard, where 15,000 freight cars are sorted daily.
Grab lunch and take the elevator to the top (admission $5-$7), where you can talk to volunteers who once worked on the railroad.
Visitors also come to North Platte, population 24,000, to see where Buffalo Bill Cody called home: the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park ($5 admission per vehicle), a 25-acre park open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day and weekends-only one month before and after. You can also tour Cody’s house, barn and grounds (admission $1-$2).
Next to the park, outfitters rent canoes, kayaks, inner tubes and tanks on the North Platte River.
Tip: Route your drive so you pass these roadside attractions in north-central Kansas: world’s largest ball of sisal twine in Cawker City and the geographic center of the contiguous U.S. in Lebanon. Both are free and take just a couple of minutes to explore. More info: visitnorthplatte.com