It all started as sort of a joke. I mentioned to a group of travel writers that I was going to Kansas for 12 days. Someone quipped, “Oh, the 12 Days of Kansas. I wonder what you’ll get?” Then someone else joined in singing a parody of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Before I knew it, I was on Day Three in Leavenworth, Kansas, with the Three-Mile Creek Walking Trail, and I decided it might be fun to tell my story of “The 12 Days of Kansas” with a nod to “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Here are the results. I’ve taken some liberties with some numbers, which are significantly more than the number listed in many cases. For example, Rosewood Winery makes more than two dozen wines, while I assigned them to the ninth day of Kansas.
To avoid repetition in the song, I have waited until the end to summarize all the gifts Kansas gave me.
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Thank you to Visit KCK, Merriam, Leavenworth, Great Bend, Lucas, Lindsborg, and Abilene for supporting my visit to Kansas.
Thank you to Roxie from RoxieontheRoad.com for her musical input and being my guide on my 12 Days of Kansas Road Trip.
Kansas City Gave to Me the Kansas City Taco Trail
On the first day in Kansas, Kansas City gave to me the Kansas City Taco Trail.
Kansas City is famous for its BBQ Trail but recently added a Taco Trail with over 50 participants. I’m sure they’ll be just as renowned for tacos soon. While exploring several taco stops along the trail, I learned that not all tacos are created alike. What seems like a simple dish has a lot of variety.
You’ll find Mexican-style tacos featuring meat, cilantro, and onions, stuffed in double-corn tortillas and American tacos. The American taco uses flour tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. In any case, you’ll enjoy them. No matter the type, you can select from several fillings including, beef tongue, grilled chopped steak, shredded beef steak, ground beef, pork, marinated pork, spicy Mexican sausage, shredded chicken, and even vegetarian Napoles.
Merriam Gave to Me Two Poviticas
On the second day in Kansas, Merriam gave to me two poviticas.
When my road-tripping partner, Roxie from Roxie on the Road, started talking about our trip, she suddenly got excited and exclaimed, “Oh, yes, and we need to get a povitica at Strawberry Hill!”
“What’s a povitica (pronounced “po-va-TEET-sa”)?” I wondered. She explained that it’s a swirled Croatian pastry baked as a loaf with three times as much filling as dough. At Strawberry Hill, they’ve been making them for three generations, after the family came to Kansas from Croatia. While they have many different flavors, my favorite is the English Walnut. I’ve even ordered one online and I plan on ordering some for the winter holidays. They’re just that special.
While the poviticas dominate the Strawberry Hill Baking Company’s fame, the bakery also creates coffeecakes, which are just as delicious.
Leavenworth Gave to Me Three-Mile Creek Walking Trail
On the third day in Kansas, Leavenworth gave to me Three-Mile Creek Walking Trail.
Named for Three-Mile Creek, the Three-Mile Creek Walking Trail is only a half-mile long. But the interesting fact is that the Three-Mile Creek isn’t three miles long either. In 1827, Colonel Henry Leavenworth built Fort Leavenworth. The starting point for measuring the town’s miles began at the Main Parade Post, where Fort Leavenworth’s flag flies today. They named the area’s creeks, One-Mile, Three-Mile, and Five-Mile for their distance from the flag.
White Cloud Gave to Me Four-State Lookout
On the fourth day in Kansas, White Cloud gave to me Four-State Lookout.
The Four-State Lookout sits in Doniphan County, Kansas, high above the Missouri River Valley. Just three miles south of Nebraska in White Cloud, Kansas, the panoramic view featured from the viewing platform high above the treetops highlights four states. So, in addition to Kansas, you’ll see Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa.
To reach the 16-foot by 24-foot viewing platform, you’ll find an accessible concrete ramp. The best times to visit are summer for the verdant leaves and autumn for the fall foliage. Directions: On White Cloud’s Main Street, turn north at the Four State Lookout sign and go up the hill from the community park.
Wilson Gave to Me Five Czech Eggs
On the fifth day in Kansas, Wilson gave to me five Czech eggs.
Standing 20 feet tall, Wilson’s giant Czech Egg considered the largest globally, celebrates and honors the community’s Czech heritage. Wilson’s Czech egg is the focal point for the annual Wilson After Harvest Czech Festival, one of the largest festivals in the region. The festival brings in thousands of visitors from across Kansas and neighboring states. The festival’s mission is to honor the town’s Czech heritage. Programs and activities encourage community and family interaction and attract tourists to the small rural community.
In addition to the world’s largest Czech egg, you’ll find four other smaller eggs located around town.
The Big Kansas Road Trip Gave to Me Six Small Museums
On the sixth day in Kansas, the Big Kansas Road Trip gave to me six small museums.
The Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) is an annual four-day, three-county event that stretches beyond the travel brochure. It features the best of Kansas’ small towns. In 2021, the BKRT showcased the upper northeast counties of Brown, Doniphan, and Nemaha, but every year the area rotates, and three new counties are on display. This event really allows you to do a deep dive into whatever interests you and learn more about specific areas in the Sunflower State.
Nemaha County Museums
While I saw everything from covered bridges, statues, and quirky roadside attractions, I discovered six small museums throughout the trip. For example, in Seneca, I learned how short-lived, only 18 months the pony express was, at the Pony Express Museum. We also visited the Nemaha County Museum in Seneca, built in 1879, and the 20 rooms feature artifacts and memorabilia from the county. The brick museum was once the home to the county sheriff and was the county jail.
Skeezix’s Toy Museum in Goff has thousands of collectible toys, emphasizing toy tractors and other farm equipment. While they don’t have a website or a Facebook page, you can call to set up an appointment to see their collection, 785-939-2587. In Nemaha County, you’ll find them at 1690 State Highway 9.
As a native Michigander, I had a great time in Spring Creek Classic Car and Truck Museum in Nemaha County’s town of Wetmore. Bob Carson’s more than 30 cars and trucks were quite a collection housed inside a restored 1925 Texaco gas station. When I asked Bob how he chose the cars, he told me the story of various cars and they related to his life. One was a car of the same type he and his wife had their first date. When you visit, be sure to have Bob tell you how his favorites joined the collection.
Doniphan County Museum
Located on the same grounds as the historic Nelson Rogers Home, Doniphan County Historical Museum in Troy, you’ll learn about the facets of one of the oldest counties in Kansas. While you’re in Troy, continue your exploration of the Pony Express by taking in the roadside art of the Pony Express Silhouette north of Troy on a hill along U.S. 36. You can also see a Pony Express Monument and Pony Express Station in Troy.
Brown County Museum
While you’ll find many other small museums in these three counties, the last one I’ll mention is the Brown County Agriculture Museum in Hiawatha. The outside portion of the museum features 42 old-style windmills that you might find on a farm from the 1900s. In addition, the museum includes a blacksmith shop, a farmhouse, a mule barn showcasing farming implements, and a hen house.
Cheyenne Bottoms Gave to Me Seven Pelicans A-flying
On the seventh day in Kansas, Cheyenne Bottoms gave to me seven pelicans a-flying.
You’ll find a least seven pelicans a-flying at Cheyenne Bottoms. A more accurate estimate is closer to a quarter of a million waterfowl stop here to recharge during the seasonal migrations. Cheyenne Bottoms in Great Bend, Kansas, encompasses a 41,000-acre wetland complex. It’s only one of 34 designated “Wetlands of International Importance” in the United States. With about 356 species, photographers, bird watchers, and hunters will all have plenty to keep busy here. My itinerary had a whole morning scheduled here, and I could have easily spent the entire day.
I spent an hour at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, where I learned about the wetlands through various interactive exhibits, then I headed out on one of the center’s guided tours. You can go through a self-guided tour driving your car, or you can participate in a 30-minute van-guided tour. I chose the longer 90-minute van-guided tour. While Cheyenne Bottoms and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center don’t have an entrance fee, the van tours do have a tiny associated fee.
I was here during the spring migration season. Since I’m a photographer, I had a lot of fun trying to capture the bird’s water reflections.
Kansas Gave to Me Eight Kansas Wonders
On the eighth day in Kansas, Kansas gave to me eight Kansas wonders.
You’ve heard of the Eight Wonders of the World, well Kansas has The Eight Wonders of Kansas. The Kansas Sampler Foundation, the Big Kansas Road Trip sponsor, conducted a one-time contest and published an 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook. Based on a belief in rural culture, community, and Kansas, Marci Penner and her father, Milferd Penner, identified eight elements of rural culture that would help communities identify who they are and what they have. They identified the top eight wonders entries in each of eight categories—Architecture, Art, Commerce, Cuisine, Customs, Geography, History, People, and the Overall 8 Wonders.
While I was on my 12 Days of Kansas Road Trip, these are the wonders I saw. Unfortunately, I couldn’t experience any items in the areas of Cuisine, History, or People. However, I’m planning a return to the BKRT in 2022, and I’m going to see what other Kansas Wonders I can add to my list.
- Cheyenne Bottoms/Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, Barton & Stafford counties
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum, Abilene
- Clicking your heels and saying three times, Wamego, Liberal
- Displaying an ethnic handicraft, Lindsborg
- Riding a carousel, Abilene/Leavenworth
- Using natural material for fencing, LaCrosse
Great Bend Gave to Me Nine Rosewood Wines
On the ninth day in Kansas, Great Bend gave to me nine Rosewood wines.
Rosewood Winery is a branch of Rosewood Services, which provides opportunities to those with developmental disabilities. Rosewood Wine Cellar offers more than two dozen wines produced by Rosewood Winery in Pawnee Rock, Kansas. Each wine namesake is named after one of the horses on Rosewood Ranch, so the wines have fun names like the sweet light body black raspberry cabernet called “Boots Made for Walking.” Both the wine and the horse Nancy are winners.
Lucas Gave to Me Ten Grassroots Artists
On the tenth day in Kansas, Lucas gave to me ten grassroots artists.
Lucas, known as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas, has a thriving grassroots art scene. The day I was touring, the Lucas Grassroots Art Center’s Executive Director Roselyn Schultz received word that Lucas placed as the fourth Best Small Town Arts Scene in the 2021 USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards. The day was undoubtedly an exciting day for Lucas, a town of only 395 people. While Lucas has many more than ten Grassroots Artists, I am sure you’ll find ten whose work you’ll enjoy.
Lindsborg Gave to Me Eleven Dala Horses
On the eleventh day in Kansas, Lindsborg gave to me eleven Dala horses.
Swedish immigrants settled Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1868. Today Lindsborg celebrates its Swedish heritage throughout the town. The Dala horse is a tail-less, bluntly rounded horse. It’s thought to have originated by the fire during Scandinavian winters, with craftsmen whittling a horse to pass the time, resulting in folk art. The Dala horse symbolizes Swedish culture, identity, and welcome.
Today, local artists decorate the Lindsborg’s streets with large fiberglass Dala horses, like the cows lining Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. While I put this under verse 11 of 12 Days of Kansas, there are about twice that many Wild Dala Horses on the streets of Lindsborg. Here’s a map to be sure you see all of Lindsborg’s Wild Dala Horses.
While you’re in town, the perfect place to experience even more Swedish welcome is Dröm Sött, Sweet Dreams Inn, where, in the morning, you’ll experience a traditional Swedish breakfast.
Abilene Gave to Me Twelve Historic Buildings in Old Abilene Town
On the twelfth day in Kansas, Abilene gave to me twelve historic buildings in Old Abilene Town.
Old Abilene Town offers a sense of the wild west through a combination of replica, and original buildings moved to the site that tells the story of the old west and the actual town from the cattle drive days. You’ll find over a dozen buildings in Old Abilene Town, everything from the general store, a blacksmith shop, and a saloon. Also, be sure to check out the jail. That was an interesting one.
In 2021, True West Magazine named Old Abilene Town’s show the Best Wild West Show. You’ll witness gunfights and can-can dancers, and it will all take you back to the spirit of the old west.
Take the walking tour that starts in Old Abilene Town to the original town on Texas Street. The tour takes you in the footsteps of famous wild west icons that once lived and worked in Abilene like Tom “Bear River” Smith and Wild Bill Hickok. Old Abilene Town will give you a sense of the old west.
To discover more about things to do in Abilene, Kansas, check out this Follow the Piper post.
Kansas gave to me twelve historic buildings in Old Abilene Town, eleven Dala horses, ten grassroots artists, nine Rosewood wines, eight Kansas wonders, seven pelicans a-flying, six small museums, five Czech eggs, the Four-State Lookout, the Three-Mile Creek Trail, two poviticas, and the Kansas City Taco Trail.
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