In 2020, get set to “play ball” when Wichita’s new $75 million baseball stadium and its upstart Wind Surge team celebrate opening day on April 14. All year long, Kansas’ all-star lineup of attractions and events score big with stylish new downtown developments in Salina and Topeka, an out-of-this-world Apollo 13 50th anniversary gala at Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere, the opening of the expanded Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, and a full roster of other highlights.
Catch a big-time game throughout the inaugural season when Wichita’s Triple-A farm team, affiliated with the Miami Marlins, plays 70 home games in its brand-new park. Fireworks, bands and kids’ play and splash areas add to the game-day fun.
While in the city, visitors can take a nostalgic spin on Botanica Wichita’s renovated, antique 36-horse carousel that used to delight Wichitans at Joyland Amusement Park. Work begins soon on a new garden, outdoor patio, bistro and children’s play area surrounding the carousel. Also just opened in Wichita, the new downtown Hilton Garden Inn with its unique rooftop glass-bottomed pool that juts out over Douglas Avenue.
Topeka plans to unveil its new downtown hub, Evergy Plaza, in March. The gathering space features a performance stage, digital screen, splash park, fountains and ice-skating in winter. A new multi-million-dollar Japanese garden is coming to the Topeka Zoo this summer. Seasonal flowers, koi fish, a flowing stream, bridges and experiential trails will accent the spacious 2.5 acres.
Salina is putting finishing touches on its $160-million revitalization of downtown, giving it a modern, open-space, art deco-inspired streetscape. The Alley bowling and family fun center and the Salina Fieldhouse indoor sports facility are among attractions already open. Downtown additions in 2020 include Homewood Suites, the American Classics Car Museum and additional restaurants.
The home of the original Apollo 13 command module, Hutchinson’s Cosmosphere, marks the 50th anniversary of the historic mission with an April 4 gala, starring Apollo 13 astronauts and many of the mission control team. Also in spring, the Cosmosphere gets more kid-friendly with the completion of its first dedicated children’s section, the CosmoKids interactive science education center.
At Dodge City’s Boot Hill Museum, feel the thunder as the floor shakes during an immersive buffalo stampede video at the new exhibit hall, set for a May 23 grand opening. Nine new permanent exhibits, a gift shop and traveling exhibit hall fill the 13,000-square-foot addition.
On May 1-3, geocachers from around the world will converge on Colby to commemorate the 20th anniversary of geocaching and the oldest active geocache in the world – planted off I-70 in nearby Mingo in May 2000. Enthusiasts can cache in on a GPS adventure maze, a mega geocaching event, educational sessions and a ceremony commemorating Mingo’s geocache.
Abilene pays tribute to its hometown hero with a week-long Eisenhower Legacy Trip to Washington, D.C., May 4-9, for the unveiling of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Memorial. Open to the public, the trip is a joint effort by Abilene, Denison, Texas, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to honor their common former resident and explore “Ike” sites throughout D.C. and Gettysburg. Highlighted by the May 8 dedication of the Eisenhower Memorial near the U.S. Capitol, the trip also includes a tour, led by Ike’s granddaughter, Mary, of the Eisenhowers’ Gettysburg farm. OPENING MAY 2020; Come explore the newly completed memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II and 34th US President. Designed by world-renowned architect Frank O. Gehry, this one-of-a-kind memorial and urban park is located near the U.S. Capitol along Independence Avenue, S.W. Commemorating his military accomplishments, the memorial’s core features heroic-size sculptures of General Eisenhower and paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division before the Battle of Normandy. Behind the sculptures is a bas relief depicting the beach landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Eisenhower as the 34th President, with military and civilian advisors, is honored in sculptures symbolizing the balance of security and liberty he strove to achieve. A map of the world in bas relief stands behind, reflecting Eisenhower’s internationalism and role as preeminent world leader.
The Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” comes to six Kansas communities in 2020 and 2021. “Crossroads” is designed to spark conversations about the future and sustainability of rural communities. In addition, host sites plan complementary exhibitions and public programs that explore local stories. Stops in 2020 include Iola, August 29-October 11; Greensburg, October 17-November 29; and North Newton, December 5-January 17, 2021. In 2021, stops include Independence, January 23-March 7; Alma, March 13-April 25; and Norton, May 1-June 13.
Across the state, join the festive fun at celebrations and milestone events. For starters, Ottawa’s new Legacy Square – a downtown event space at the intersection of the Flint Hills Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail State Parks – is base for the city’s newest festival, Rhythm & Ride, April 25-26. Explore the trails on bike tours and enjoy music along the way, then gather at Legacy Square for a concert and Outdoor Adventure Expo.
Back again after a successful first year, Hays’ Tour Die Kapellen (Tour of Chapels) on May 30 offers a two-wheeled way to experience western Kansas’ Volga-German history and its historic small-town German cathedrals. Choose from 30- to 100-mile routes that lead to churches tucked in rural areas and tiny towns, including the “Cathedral of the Plains” in Victoria. At each, a guide tells the history and classical music groups perform. Everyone pedals back to downtown Hays for a hearty German meal.
Volleyball takes center court June 9-11 when Wichita hosts the U.S. Women’s National Team, along with Japan, Turkey and Belgium, in a Volleyball Nations League Tournament. Fans get a rare opportunity to cheer on the U.S. Olympic representatives before the team heads to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
High-performance Boss Mustangs wheel into Marysville August 28-30, for the Boss Nationals gathering of Boss cars and enthusiasts from around the country. Cruise around town to the car show, swap meet, live music and beer garden.
It’s a milestone year for communities turning 150 years old in 2020. Waterville marks its birthday during its annual Nickel Day festival May 22-24 and with fireworks on July 3. Seneca’s 150th party, June 12-14, gets nostalgic with a street dance, historic tours, games and turn-of-the-century demonstrations. Lincoln County reminisces all year long with gallery displays, historical museum exhibits and programs, living history and other monthly events. Wichita’s sesquicentennial year features live music and a variety of celebratory events, such as “150 for 150” on August 15 that brings together 150 of the city’s top high school athletes, including keynote speakers Lynette Woodard, Jim Ryun and Barry Sanders.
Among attractions and festivals celebrating anniversaries:
- Wichita’s Exploration Place observes its 20th year with a Birthday Bash April 4-5, and 20th Anniversary Gala October 10.
- 15th Annual Dirty Kanza, May 28-31, in Emporia. More than 3,000 riders tackle gravel-grinding rides through the Flint Hills.
- 60th Dodge City Days, July 23-August 2, in Dodge City. Kansas’ second largest festival carries on with a pro rodeo, barbecue contest, western parade, longhorn cattle drive and more.
- 75th Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo, July 29-August 1, in Abilene. Saddle up for bulls, broncs and barrels, along with a western parade, carnival and demolition derby.
- 25th Annual Elk Falls Outhouse Festival, November 20-21, in Elk Falls. Tour the town’s decorated outhouses and vote on a favorite, then check out the crafts, food and music.
- 70th Annual Christmas City of the High Plains, November 28-January 1, in WaKeeney. A 35-foot tree handmade with fresh pine is the centerpiece of the downtown draped in greenery, lights and wreaths
Also on the horizon:
- Construction begins next summer on the American Royal’s new agriculture complex near Village West in Kansas City, Kan. Plans call for more than 800,000 square feet of indoor event space, including barn and expo areas, three performance arenas, more than 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, plus 2,400 parking spots and outdoor areas to host festivals and events. Significant progress should be completed by December 2021.
- Fort Riley’s U.S. Cavalry and 1st Infantry Division museums – closed through 2020 for renovations – are expected to re-open summer of 2021. In the meantime, a temporary museum features the “Duty First: 100 years of the Big Red One” exhibit.
- Work continues on new exhibits and renovations at Kaw Mission State Historic Site in Council Grove. Closed for 2020, the museum is tentatively set to open Kansas Day weekend in late January 2021.
For more information about attractions in Kansas, visit TravelKS.com.