Enjoy a relaxed, down-home Thanksgiving amid the rolling fields, scenic views and wide rivers of Kansas. Whether you’re heading to the busy urban center of Kansas City or the unusual chalk formations at Monument Rocks, Kansas is sure to welcome you with friendly locals and fun holiday activities. These Kansas cities offer a wide range of Thanksgiving activities to start your holiday season off on the right foot.
Thanksgiving in Wichita kicks off a week early with a favorite city tradition: the Wichita Turkey Trot 2-mile and 10-mile. The fun continues on Thanksgiving Day with the Say Grace Race, a family-friendly 5K that brings in wildly costumed runners and live music. In the evening, head to Country Club Plaza for the annual KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony; come early for giveaways, and stay afterward for fireworks and a special concert. The day after Thanksgiving brings Botanical Wichita’s Illuminations, a Christmas light display that features visits from Santa, live carolers, and a hot toddy bar. Enjoy the lights as you explore the musical maze, stroll down Candy Cane Lane, and wander through a grove of lighted trees that dance to music. On Saturday, check out the annual Christmas Express concert at the Orpheum Theatre.
2. Kansas City
Holiday festivities begin the weekend before Thanksgiving in Kansas City. If you’re in town early, check out the Annual Legendary Tree Lighting Ceremony. On Thanksgiving morning, put on your best costume and head to the Kansas/Missouri border for the Ward Parkway Thanksgiving Day Run and Walk, where every participant walks away with a pumpkin pie. Black Friday brings the crowds to Legends Outlets for all-day discounts, live entertainment, and family activities. On Thanksgiving weekend, step back in time to the Victorian age at the Strawberry Hill Museum’s Olde World Christmas.
Thanksgiving weekend fills Topeka with fun activities for the whole family. The week before, tour professionally decorated homes as part of the CASA Homes for the Holidays fundraiser. On Thanksgiving Day, get active with the Kansas Turkey Trot for Heroes or the Annual MKA Rescue Run. If you’re traveling with little ones, don’t miss the Topeka Christmas tree lighting and the Miracle on Kansas Avenue lighted parade, and experience Topeka’s most famous Christmas light display at the drive-through Winter Wonderland at Lake Shawnee.
The day before Thanksgiving, Beloit comes alive with the opening of Chautauqua Isle Of Lights. This annual Christmas light display brings thousands of larger-than-life displays to Chautauqua Park, summoning more than 10,000 visitors each year. Vacation rentals in the southern end of Beloit place you within walking distance of the event. The weekend after Thanksgiving, make the short drive to Glen Elder for the annual Christmas Lighting in the town square. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and sing along with carolers during the lighting, and stick around for photos with Santa.
5. Dodge City
Dodge City, the home of the famous Old-West Boot Hill Museum, buzzes with during the holidays. The weekend before Thanksgiving, get a head start on your festive shopping at the Ho-Ho Holiday Expo, or pop by the Historic Santa Fe Depot for the annual Holiday Table Event. On Thanksgiving evening, work off your dinner with a stroll the downtown light displays that are part of Christmas in Old Dodge City. A few days later, attend the Christmas ChiliFest and the Parade of Lights.
Enjoy a guilt-free turkey dinner by starting your Lawrence vacation at the runLawrence Thanksgiving Day 5K. The day after Thanksgiving, head downtown for the annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony; stay downtown for the Final Fridays event, which features street performers and pop-up galleries. If you have kids, be sure to check out the US Bank Plaza, where Santa is “rescued” from the roof of Weaver’s Department Store by a fire department ladder truck. On the weekend, drive a few minutes to the Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton to see the largest indoor Christmas tree exhibit in the Midwest; each tree is decorated with spectacular vintage ornaments. Other local weekend events include the Bizarre Bazaar and the Holiday Art-A-Fair.
Enjoy a visit to the Monument Rocks formations during a Thanksgiving getaway in Oakley. After you’ve recovered from dinner, gear up for Thanksgiving weekend. Saturday starts with a pancake and sausage feed with a special guest: Santa. The same night, wear your warmest clothes for the town’s annual Fabulous Holiday Light Parade. Before the parade starts, downtown street lights are switched off to show off the brilliantly lit floats.
With its scenic location on the banks of the Kansas River, Manhattan is one of the state’s most picturesque Thanksgiving vacation destinations. Get an overview of the city during the MHK Turkey Trot 5K, which passes city landmarks such as Triangle Park, City Park, and Manhattan Town Center Hall. The next day, Blue Earth Plaza hosts the annual Manhattan Festival of Lights, and Manhattan Town Center Center Court offers photos with Santa. If you’re in town the weekend after Thanksgiving, the Kansas State Wildcats football team holds a game at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium; book your tickets in advance to join in the fun.
Salina’s holiday season gets into full swing around Thanksgiving. Start with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Frosty Fun Run, which features a live DJ and real snow in downtown Salina. Shop for gifts and holiday decorations from more than 200 vendors at the See and Sell Holiday Market, and enjoy antique fire truck rides and photos with Santa at the Annual Christmas Festival and Parade of Lights. On Thanksgiving morning, get active at the YMCA Turkey Trot, which features a different costume theme each year.
–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice
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Can You Help?
As you read our articles and notices of events, don’t forget the advertising that the Topeka Metro Voice relies on for survival. For 16 years, Topeka Metro Voice has been a leader in community and faith-based news. We have historically relied on advertising to fund the mission of our publication and sharing the Good News, as well as supporting local small businesses and community events.
We are now seeking partners who want to support our publication and our mission of faith-based journalism and supporting the community and local small businesses.
Do you like what you read here? Help us continue our mission by supporting the Topeka Metro Voice in print and online for as little as $5. Every contribution counts, big or small. We sincerely thank you for your continued support and encouragement in these critical times.