Kansas is best known for its rolling prairies, with seemingly endless rows of golden wheat stretching out beneath wide, cloud-scudded skies. Aside from the tornadoes that plague the area (and famously deposited Dorothy and Toto in Oz) it all seems gloriously peaceful.
The state has a turbulent history, however, with violent clashes between white settlers and Native Americans and between pro-slavery and abolitionist factions that earned it the sobriquet of “Bleeding Kansas”. After the Civil War, farming flourished as immigrants flooded in – among them Russian Mennonites, who brought the wheat seeds that would make Kansas rich.
The Wild West, too, was born, as cattle were driven across the state from Texas. Lawless boomtowns, home to saloons, drifters and gun-slinging cowboys, flourished along the trail. The most famous, Dodge City, today celebrates its nefarious history with a reconstruction of the main street and its gunfights. East of here is Wichita, another former trail town. With some fine museums and a varied cultural calendar that includes annual jazz and river festivals, it’s more tourist-friendly than Topeka, the capital city.
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One of the Great Plains states, Kansas has hot and humid summers, cold winters, and thunderstorms, droughts, blizzards, hailstorms, and frequent tornados.Summer temperatures can climb to the 30s, and the winter temperatures are usually zero or lower during the day and about minus 6 at night. April through August are the wettest months. Tornados can strike any time of year, and their peak season is April, May, and June.Late spring and early autumn typically have the most moderate weather.
Kansas has so few tourist attractions that it does not have as high a peak season as other places. But May through late September is when everything is happening, particularly in June. There are also fairs, rodeos, festivals, and sporting events, and the well-known Kansas City Renaissance Festival is one of the largest in the country. The festival starts on Labor Day and runs for seven consecutive weekends, ending on Columbus Day.
Off season does have some lower rates and cheaper Kansas flights, but there is not as much going on and many of the attractions are closed, particularly in winter.
Kansas has rolling prairies and the terrain gradually rises as you head west. The best way to get around the state is with a car or RV. Buses run between the major cities and there is some train service to major towns and cities. There are also lots of trails, open for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and snowshoeing.