Located in south-central Kansas 140 mi/225 km southwest of Topeka, Wichita has grown to become the state's largest city—largely because of the many aviation plants located there, including Raytheon, Airbus, Bombardier, Boeing and Cessna. Before it became an aeronautical center, Wichita was a cow town, and nothing shows off its origins better than the Old Cowtown Museum. Stroll around restored buildings from the days of cattle drives and westward expansion to learn what life was like on the prairie. During summer, the museum offers living-history presentations.

Some of Wichita's other attractions are the Coleman Factory Outlet Store & Museum, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum and the Kansas Aviation Museum. The Lake Afton Public Observatory has a 16-in/41-cm telescope that is available to any stargazer. Botanica, a botanical garden with beautiful fountains, is a lovely spot to relax. For those with children, we recommend the Sedgwick County Zoo (its Pride of the Plains exhibit features lions, meerkats and warthogs) and Exploration Place (high-tech exhibits on flight, anatomy and the environment).

Fans of architecture and design won't want to miss Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen Lambe House. It's one of his prairie houses, and many of the original furnishings are still in place (admission available by reservation only). The Ulrich Museum of Art and the Wichita Art Museum are must-sees for art lovers. Many of the city's best museums are located along the river. The Wichita River Festival, Kansas' largest special event, is a 10-day celebration in May.

Farther south, on the border with Oklahoma, is Arkansas City, where thousands of homesteaders lined up in September 1893 waiting for the gunshot that would signal the start of the Cherokee Strip Land Rush. Today, the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum in town depicts the turf race, and there's a marker just south of town on Highway 77.

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