Running some 2,151 miles from Fort Cove, Utah to Baltimore, Maryland, Interstate 70 (I-70) is one of the longest interstates in the United States. Over 25% of I-70 runs across the Great Plains, from Denver to Kansas City – and it’s a long, quite straight 600-mile shot across some of the flattest land on the continent.
I’ve actually driven this route myself, making my way home from college in Iowa to my parents’ home in Colorado one summer. It’s very different than the alternative route I could have taken (I-80 & I-76 from Omaha to Denver) and scenic in its own way.
If you’re planning to make this journey, you might wonder if there are any roadside attractions along I-70 that are worth stopping for. After all, the 600-mile distance between these two cities means you will need to stop at least once for gas – and might as well make a few other stops to experience the unique culture in this part of the country.
Here are the best roadside attractions along I-70 to help you plan your trip, from a giant tee-pee to a Titanic house. Let’s roll!
1. Giant Concrete Teepee
The Giant Concrete Teepee is one of the iconic roadside attractions along I-70.
Built in 1930, this 50-feet tall teepee is a reminder of the 1930s, when businesses along popular routes resorted to unusual buildings and flashy graphics to attract passing motorists. The Giant Concrete Teepee was the centerpiece of “Indian Village,” a complex that included a gas station, restaurant, and motor court of smaller teepee cabins. Locals mentioned there used to be another 14 teepee cabins. Today, however, only remains a one-floor building with a teepee on either end and the main teepee.
2. Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
Few roadside attractions along I-70 are as historically significant as the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site. Established in 1992 by the United States Congress, this site commemorates the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Brown v. Board of Education that ended legal racial segregation in public schools.
The site sits inside the Monroe Elementary School, one of the four segregated schools involved in the 1954 Supreme Court decision. There are about five rooms to walk through with short films, interactive learning boards, a classroom set up from the time, and the summaries of the five court cases which made up the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case.
3. Dorothy’s House Replica
Whether you’ve watched the Wizard of Oz or not, you must stop by Dorothy Gale’s farmhouse. Dorothy Gale was the main protagonist of American author L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – and the movie of the same name.
The city of Wamego, which has tons of Oz-themed locations, has a replica of Dorothy’s farmhouse. The house was built in 1907 and has been preserved and restored to bring to life the story of the Kansas farm girl. Visitors can take a picture in front of the house or do an interactive tour through the house run by the very “Dorothy.”
4. “Atomic Annie”
History buffs may enjoy a stop at the “Atomic Annie.” Developed in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War, the M65 Atomic Cannon was capable of firing a nuclear device. It was the first and only gun to fire a nuclear-armed artillery shell. The site is a good opportunity to stretch your legs as the cannon sits on a hill overlooking the Marshall Airfield to the north. There are several cool areas for the kids – there’s even an old horse ride on which the kids can play.
As a heads up, the Atomic Cannon has been temporarily closed to the public; I’ll be sure to update you when it re-opens.
5. Central Mall Aquarium
Central Mall Aquarium is one of the best tourist attractions along I-70 for families. Tucked inside a nice mall, the Kansas Fishes aquarium is the largest free-standing tank display in the state. It houses 50 to 100 mid-western native fish, including channel catfish, bluegill, crappie, wipers (white bass and striped bass hybrids), largemouth and white bass, and walleye. The mall also has a good food court if you’re feeling peckish.
6. Mushroom Rock State Park
As the name suggests, Mushroom Rock State Park is famous for its mushroom rock formations. Isn’t it just fascinating what nature can do over millions of years?
Located in the Smoky Hills region, the park is the best place to walk around after being in the car for several hours. There are numerous trails that lead to the unusual rock formations.
There’s also a bathroom and a covered bench for visitors. Bring your camera! The mushroom rocks are highly photogenic and provide great photo ops.
7. Garden of Eden
If you appreciate quirky folk art, by all means, pay a visit to the Garden of Eden in Lucas.
The Garden of Eden is a world-renowned grassroots art site. S.P. Dinsmoor, a retired Civil War Veteran, was an eccentric, very talented artist who transformed every inch of his house and yard into unique artworks.
He started building the Garden of Eden in 1904 at 64. His sculptures hold deep political meanings related to religion and the mistreatment of the common person. On the tour, you can even see his mummified body in the mausoleum he made himself.
8. Gc30 Mingo (The World’s Oldest Active Geocache)
If you enjoy challenges, stop in Kansas to look for “Mingo.” Placed on May 11, 2000, “Gc30 Mingo” is the oldest active geocache in the world and the first in Kansas. For those who don’t know, geocaching is a hobby in which a container holding many items is hidden at a particular location for GPS users to find via coordinates posted on the internet.
Once you find Mingo, open the container and take out the logbook inside to sign it. You can also check what previous geocachers left or leave something yourself!
9. Prairie Museum of Art & History
The Prairie Museum-Art & History is an amazing organization devoted to telling the story of Colby, from prehistoric times to the present. It is also home to international artifacts of the Kuska Collection. The museum’s diverse exhibits include ancient artifacts from Rome, stamps, dishware, toys, coins, and memorabilia from Colby’s early days.
Outside, the museum also has numerous buildings, such as the oldest barn in KS, a sod house, a one-room schoolhouse, and a quaint church used by early settlers of northwest Kansas.
10. Giant Van Gogh Painting
The Giant Van Gogh Painting has to be the most beautiful roadside stops along I-70. Located in Goodland, Kansas, the Giant Van Gogh Painting is a stunning reproduction of van Gogh’s “3 Sunflowers In A Vase”. Visitors can see it from I-70, but in all honesty, it is worth stopping to take photos. The painting is the work of Cameron Cross, who began working on the 24-foot by 32-foot reproduction in 2001.
11. Molly Brown House Museum
The Molly Brown House Museum is one of the must-see roadside attractions along I-70. The house was the home of Margaret Brown, an American philanthropist, activist, and socialite. Her life was nothing short of fascinating. She was not only a courageous activist who never stopped supporting the downtrodden, unrepresented, and underprivileged but was also a survivor of the sinking RMS Titanic.
Visitors can explore the house on their own. However, I advise you to book a guided tour to get a good insight into a distinct time in Denver’s history and upper classes.
Do you know of any other roadside attractions along I-70 or have questions about these ones? Let me know in the comments!