Spring Break Getaways from KC That Won’t Break the Bank
Spring break is a perfect opportunity for a budget-friendly family vacation. These two getaways are both less than four hours away and offer engaging, exciting and educational attractions.
Hutchinson, KS: A STEM Adventure
Hutchinson is just three to four hours from Kansas City, making it an ideal weekend getaway destination. Educators are placing a greater emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, and Hutchinson is home to two phenomenal attractions that are a perfect fit for an exciting and educational family adventure.
The Cosmosphere (1100 N. Plum St., Hutchinson, KS, 800.397.0330) is our family’s favorite museum in the state of Kansas. The facility is phenomenal. Boasting exhibits, planetarium showings, science demonstrations and attractions, the Cosmosphere is an all-day or multiple-day attraction. This outing is ideal for grade school students through adults. The exhibits and attractions are engaging and well done. As you purchase your ticket, you may choose which attractions to enjoy during your visit.
The museum is home to the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. The exhibits take visitors through the history of the Cold War and up through the modern era and include both the history and science of the space program. Sputnik I and II, space suits, rockets, a moon rock and more than 100 artifacts tell the story of the astronauts’ experience, how movies have been made and the history of the American space program. Visitors may even experience what it is like to fly on the naviGATOR Simulator.
In addition to spacecraft and exhibits, the museum offers several shows. The Carey Digital Dome Theater shows documentaries on American history, the space program and flight, as well as feature films. The Justice Planetarium presents a selection of planetarium shows. Dr. Goddard’s Lab was our favorite show, as it was a live interactive program taking the audience through the history of early rocketry exploration with live science demonstrations. This interactive museum tells the story of space in a way that is captivating and inspiring. This is a Kansas must-see!
Strataca (3650 E. Ave. G, Hutchinson, KS, 866.755.3450) is a one-of-a-kind experience through an underground salt mine museum. This is another must-see! Visitors are taken on a 650-foot journey underground to the 68-degree mine (bring a light jacket), where they discover the history of salt mining in Kansas.
Our journey underground began with a ride aboard the Shaft, a double-decker “elevator” taking us to the mine. Once underground, we began our tour through the galleries, which included beautiful views of the salt mine, exhibits explaining the history of the mine from when it opened in the 1920s, the life of the miner with videos and exhibits telling the story from the miners’ perspectives, and the science of mining. The mine is still in operation today with much of the salt being used to deice roads in the winter.
My children were intrigued by the Myron-mobile, a car driven through the salt mine, and the antique train that ran through the mine. The kids also enjoyed riding the Salt Mine Express, a 15-minute narrated ride through the mine. We saw items that miners left behind while working, including litter and the underground “restroom,” illustrations of the raw and real side of mining. The favorite ride, though, was the Dark Ride, a 30-minute tour through the mine that ended with the opportunity to select a souvenir piece of salt from the mine.
In addition to its history as a salt mine, the facility is also used to store historic artifacts and documents. With an ideal cool temperature and salt that absorbs moisture and creates a low humidity environment, the mine is used to house movie memorabilia, art artifacts, old computers and newspapers. We took photos with superhero costumes and artifacts from Hollywood. This is an educational adventure the entire family enjoyed! Plan to spend at least four hours at this site. There is much to see and do! Note: Children under the age of 4 are not allowed underground. Each visitor is provided with a hardhat to wear on tour for their safety.
Hannibal, MO: A Literary Adventure
Foster a love of early Americana and classic literature with a visit to Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal. Hannibal is a small town that takes great pride in its native son. With many family-friendly attractions, this charming small hamlet is a great weekend getaway.
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (415 N. Main St., Hannibal, MO, 573.221.9010) is a fun way to learn more about Mark Twain’s childhood and how his experiences shaped many of his most famous stories. We took a self-guided tour through eight buildings including his boyhood home and shops. Exhibits give children the opportunity to wear costumes and pretend to live alongside young Samuel Clemens. Children also relish “painting” the famous fence for Tom Sawyer. We especially enjoyed the new interactive museum with galleries offering visitors a chance to experience Twain’s most beloved stories. The girls enjoyed exploring caves, listening to conversations between Tom and Huck, “riding” a raft down the Mississippi River and pretending to be steamboat captains. The museum complex is interesting and well done. We spent about half a day exploring the various buildings and exhibits.
Mark Twain Cave Complex (300 Cave Hollow Rd., Hannibal, MO, 573.221.1656). Missouri offers many cave tours, but this is one of our favorites. The Mark Twain Cave is Missouri’s oldest show cave and is a registered national landmark. It is one of the few caves in Missouri with evidence Jesse James did in fact use it as a hideout. The cave was a favorite place to explore for young Samuel Clemens (Twain) and his friends, and their adventures inspired many of Twain’s stories. Guides tell the famous tale of Injun Joe on the tour, capturing the audience’s imagination as the lights dim and suspense builds. At the complex, visitors may take in a show with Mark Twain and learn more about the author’s life in Hannibal.
Karlock’s Kars & Pop Culture Museum (114 S. Third St., Hannibal, MO, 573.719.3411) offers an interesting tour featuring classic cars and movie memorabilia.
Rockcliffe Mansion (1000 Bird St., Hannibal, MO, 573.221.4140). Visitors may tour the turn-of-the-century 13,500-square-foot mansion and learn about one of the wealthiest families of Hannibal.