Kansas, perhaps best known in tourism
circles for its role in the saga of America's Old West, is
emphasizing its other charms. Becky Blake, director of the Kansas
Travel and Tourism Division, said the state's latest ads promote
the Flint Hills region, the largest swath of tallgrass prairie in
the U.S., and a new Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson.
division has a $1 million promotional budget for 2007, up from
about $750,000 last year.
"It's not big,
compared with some states," Blake said, but it does provide Kansas
with some opportunities to return to TV.
Kansas is buying TV
ads in Midwestern states in cooperation with partners. Other ads
are appearing in magazines, newspapers and on the Web.
that the state has its challenges.
"It does not have a
bad image with the public," she said. "The problem is we don't have
enough of an image [at all]."
Publicity is as
good as any advertising, and the April edition of National
Geographic magazine gave Kansas a boost with a spread on the Flint
Hills. The magazine's signature photographic treatment includes
shots of broad horizons and open spaces that some might say have
nothing in them except for all that grass.
Those grasses have
been spared from farming because of the region's hilly terrain,
thin soil and lots of flint and limestone that could break many a
The Flint Hills
region, in eastern Kansas, is effectively a wide band of hills and
valleys running north to south and into northern Oklahoma. It
encompasses the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Kansas City and
Topeka are the largest cities east of the hills, and Wichita is the
gateway from the west.
There is no obvious
or well-known circuit for seeing the Flint Hills, but Blake pointed
to her division's Web site, at www.travelks.com, where a button on
the home page, labeled Ready-Made Adventures, takes trip planners
to a series of suggested itineraries for seeing the
One trip is a
three-day plan for the Flint Hills. The itinerary combines elements
for nature lovers, such as hikes and interpretive tours to learn
about the ecosystem, with a glimpse of early Kansas history as
experienced by settlers and Native Americans.
sites are the 1870 Cottage House Hotel in Council Grove; the 1884
Grand Central Hotel and Grill, the state's only AAA Four-Diamond
property, in Cottonwood Falls,; and the Clover Cliff Ranch Bed N
Breakfast in Elmdale.
the 1857 Hays House Restaurant and Tavern, the oldest continuously
operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River, and the Trail
Days Bakery and Cafe in the Historic Terwilliger Home, both in
Council Grove. The cafe is an 1861 Santa Fe Trail
The Kansas tourist
office offers several other multiday itineraries and will be adding
more, Blake said.
Meanwhile, the new
salt museum, which is slated for a formal opening next summer, can
be toured by appointment this year. Tours are offered daily, except
The salt museum is
650 feet underground and encompasses 100,000 square feet of exhibit
It also is on the
site of a working salt mine that produces 500,000 tons of rock salt
a year, making this the only salt museum in a working mine in the
The Kansas mine is
part of a vein of underground salt that stretches from Missouri to
New Mexico, Blake said.
Visitors take the
so-called Dark Ride by tram through the mine to see unusual
features of the mine and get a sense of what it is like to work
there. In the exhibit halls -- more precisely, caverns -- there are
displays that highlight the story of salt, the mining process and
Visitors also can
see the extent to which the salt mine is a huge storage locker.
Blake said the mine provides a large dry space for art, movies,
valuable documents, government papers and the like. It is safe,
too, she said, noting that "there is only one way in and only one
To schedule a
preview visit, call (620) 662-1425 or (866) 755-3450. For more
info, visit www.undergroundmuseum.org. For more on Kansas tourism,
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine
Godwin at [email protected].