June 23, 2014

In road-trip ranking, Sunflower State seems idle

The latest survey indicates we’re boring.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Richard Smalley's name.

The latest survey indicates we’re boring.

The fourth-most boring state in the nation in terms of “fun and scenic attractions” to visit, according to a study by, a website specializing in advice on finance and thrifty spending.

The low ranking in “fun and scenic” pulled Kansas down from about average at everything else to 39th of 50 states as the best place to take a summer road trip – narrowly missing the dreaded bottom 10.

Top states to road trip in were Oregon, Idaho and Minnesota. Bear in mind the rankings are for summer trips only, from the beginning of June to the end of August.

Richard Smalley of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said he’s “not really too concerned” about the state’s low “fun and scenic attractions” rating.

“‘Attraction’ means different things to different people,” he said.

For example, he cited a January Green Landscapes report that rated the Flint Hills as one of the seven best places in the world to view a sunset. “Where does that fall in this (study)?” he asked.

For its survey, WalletHub gathered 21 data metrics from highway deaths to hotel prices and gave Kansas middling marks on most measures of road tripability.

Overall, when the 21 specific metrics were boiled down to four general measures, Kansas was No. 17 in the cost of driving and accommodations, 24th in traffic conditions and safety risk and 25th for weather conditions.

But the study concluded there’s just not a lot to do once anybody gets here.

For example, Kansas ranked 48th in the nation for nightlife.

“Not much life going on, nightlife going on, in Kansas, it seems like,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive officer of WalletHub.

Smalley replied that nightlife is a personal choice and depends on how you feel about bars and nightclubs.

“Some people might think that’s a good thing, and some people might think that’s a bad thing,” he said.

One caveat in the numbers is that because of a lack of state data, the measurement for fun attractions is weighted toward states’ three largest cities, Papadimitriou said.

Kansas’ three largest cities are Wichita, Overland Park and Kansas City, Kan.

That also means some infamous Kansas roadside attractions were missed, such as the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, the world’s deepest hand-dug well in Greensburg, the world’s largest concrete prairie dog in Oakley and the world’s biggest abandoned steam shovel in West Mineral.

One puzzler in the study was that while Kansas scored very well on the quality of its roads – usually an indicator for traffic safety – the state ranked poorly in traffic fatalities, 33rd in the nation, Papadimitriou said.

Car theft also is an issue for road trippers – only 16 states have more cars stolen per capita, the study found.

To improve its overall ranking, Kansas should probably work on car theft prevention and safe driving, Papadimitriou said.

“That’s where I would start from,” he said. “I think those are much more in the state’s control rather than number of bars and you know, definitely not the weather.”

The good news for Kansas is there will always be an Oklahoma.

Our neighbor to the south ranked 49th out of the 50 states for overall road trip attractiveness.

Wallethub gave the Sooner State one of the best grades in the nation for the cost of driving and accommodations, a solid No. 4 ranking.

But Wallethub ranked Oklahoma the worst state in the nation for traffic conditions and safety risk.

“The fatalities, those guys are even worse (than Kansas), they’re at No. 42,” Papadimitriou said. “Car theft, it’s almost the best state to steal a car, it’s No. 47 on a per-capita basis. Violent crime, again on a per-capita basis, 41.”

However, if you wanted to steal a car and go on a road trip, “I think Oklahoma would be the place to go,” he said.

Fortunately for Oklahoma, there will always be a Mississippi.

The state that almost always populates the bottom of national rankings was no exception here, coming in at No. 50.

Elsewhere in the Central Plains, Colorado led the pack as the 10th best state to road-trip. Nebraska pulled off a bit of a surprise finish at No. 13.

Missouri and Iowa ran about the middle of the pack at 21 and 22 respectively.

Arkansas joined Oklahoma in the bottom 10, punching in at 47.

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