Located along the banks of the Kansas River in northeastern Kansas, you can find the large city of Topeka. As the state’s capital, Topeka certainly brings in a lot of tourists every year to contemplate the state’s history. If was first inhabited by the Great Plains Native Americans until France took over in the 18th century. In 1803, the United States bought the city for 2.8 cents per acre and in 1857 it was incorporated as the City of Topeka.
To learn more about the history of the area, take a trip to one of the museums in Topeka or the Kansas State Capitol Building. The Kansas Museum of History is a great place to spend some time learning about the state. You can even get a selfie with Santa Fe’s oldest locomotive from 1880. Stop by the Topeka Zoo for some animal fun where they have over 50 species including Sumatran tigers, Nigerian dwarf goats, and African elephants.
And the kids will enjoy learning even more at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. They have indoor activities like science experiments, building towers, and painting on the walls. Also, there’s a 4.5-acre outdoor classroom where the kiddos can play in the lake, ride bikes, climb on some rocks, and play music on the outdoor music garden. Then it is time to head to your next destination.
Take I-70/KS-4E/US-40E about 70 miles to Hillsdale State Park in Richland, Kansas. This 12,000-acre wildlife area and playland has something that everyone can enjoy. Be sure to pack your sunscreen and beach toys so you and the family can play on the two large sandy beaches. Pack the fishing gear too because this place has 51 miles of shoreline along the 4,500-acre Hillsdale Reservoir full of fish. Some of the most common you will see are bluegill, crappie, bass, catfish, and even some walleye.
If you brought a boat, the park offers seven boat ramps to help get you into the water. Power boats are welcome, but you can also enjoy some paddling on a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. You’ll even see some sailboats on the lake on a nice windy day. Whatever vessel you choose to enter the water, make sure it is registered and licensed. Also, use safe boating practices at all times.
If you feel like exploring, take the kids along some of the 30 miles of trails at Hillsdale State Park. They are multi-use trails for bikes, horses, and hikers so be alert and courteous on the trails. Two of the trails are for hikers and bikers only (no horses). The Hidden Spring Nature Trail is 1.5 miles long and the State Park Trail is 3.2 miles long. The rest of the trails can be used by all. Have some lunch at one of the picnic areas in the park before heading onto your next stop.
Two hours south on US-69, Joplin is the largest town in Jasper County and is located in the southwest region of Missouri. The city has a lot to keep you busy for a few hours. If you feel like shopping, they have several large shopping malls to choose from including North Point Shopping Center on US-44, the Northpark Mall right across the street, Bel-Aire about a block to the south, and the Southside Shopping Center is just down the street on 32nd and Rangeline. In fact, if you stay on Rangeline you can hit all four of these malls and many other shops as well.
If you want to do some more outdoor activities, Joplin has more than 25 city and community parks to choose from including several water parks, golf courses, and community centers. One of the most popular natural attractions is Grand Falls, just off of I-44. It is the largest waterfall in Missouri that is continuously running and is also one of the widest at 163 feet across. There’s plenty of space to get some family photos to share on your favorite social media sites.
For some historic fun, take a ride over to the George Washington Carver National Monument and Park. They have both indoor and outdoor activities with a museum, discovery area, trails, ponds, and the river. With 240 acres to explore, you should be busy for quite some time. But don’t forget, you still have to get to your main destination.
You will need about two hours to get to Branson, which is the home of Table Rock Lake, Silver Dollar City, and hundreds of shows and restaurants along the Branson 76 Strip. Branson is a major tourist attraction with so much to do, many visitors stay at least a few days to enjoy just a small portion of it. There are over 100 live shows on Highway 76 (Branson Strip). Musical shows include the Haygoods, Pierce Arrow, and the Duttons to name a few. There are also some awesome comedy shows like Yakov Smirnoff, Buckets N Boards, and the Comedy Jamboree.
The kids will love the Amazing Pets Show, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Titanic, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, and the Promised Land Zoo. You should take the time to walk along the bank on Table Rock Lake at Table Rock State Park or one of the other accessible areas on this 43,000-acre lake. Toss in a line to catch some fish, take a boat out on the water, or just enjoy the view.
If you have not chosen a place to camp, make a reservation at Table Rock State Park or the Branson KOA. Table Rock State Park has two campgrounds with a total of 289 campsites with utilities, playgrounds, and showers. Pad lengths range from 50 to 80 feet, so make sure you check that when booking your site. The Branson KOA has 178 campsites with utilities that can accommodate RVs up to 85 feet long. This park is packed with fun too with a pool, hot tub, sports area, café, camp store, and more.