While you may never have heard of Hutchinson before you ended up on this article, you’ve probably heard of some of the things to do there. After all, Hutchinson is home to the Cosmosphere, where you can see a NASA Apollo crew capsule, and the Kansas State Fair – famous for deep-fried food and foods on a stick. Oh, and you’ve probably eaten something else Hutchinson is famous for: salt!
No matter the reason you’re researching Hutchinson, it’s worth a stop in this small city of 40,000. Salt City has a lot to offer visitors, whether you’re making a one-night stop on a road trip or looking for somewhere new to explore with your family. Read on to discover the best things to do in Hutchinson, Kansas, and after reading you’ll be ready to plan a fun, nature- and food-focused trip.
Featured photo credit: ercwttmn via Flickr
1. Go Boldly to Cosmosphere
You don’t have to be a space maniac to enjoy a visit to the Cosmosphere. Founded in 1962, Cosmosphere amuses children and adults alike with its immersive displays and hands-on exhibits. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum covers everything from the first rockets made during WW2 to the Space Shuttle. It houses the most extensive collection of spaceflight artifacts globally, with over 13000 pieces on display from US and Russian space programs. Besides the displays, Cosmosphere has the Carey Digital Dome Theatre, a two-story Dome with an amazing 4K digital projection. They feature fantastic documentaries usually about space, nature, and climate-related issues.
Don’t leave without visiting Dr. Goddard’s Lab; it’s one of the best things to do in Hutchinson if you have kids. The show is entirely interactive (you’ll see some explosive surprises) with live demonstrations to show visitors the history of rockets.
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2. Head Underground at STRATACA
Put on your safety helmet, for you’re about to arrive at the center of the earth in only 90 seconds! STRATACA is an underground salt museum inviting guests to explore one of the largest salt deposits in the world and is over 275 million years old.
You can choose to explore the mines on your own or book a tour with the guides. Several guided tours include an underground train ride to explore the salt mines. The most popular is The Salt Mine Express, a 15-minute train ride that takes visitors throughout the salt mine, which remains as it was fifty years ago– you can see the machinery, equipment, and tools salt miners used in decades past! You can also take the 30-minute Dark Ride if you fancy a longer adventure, which goes through an area of the mine that includes lit areas explaining airflow, nuclear waste storage, and mine hazards.
If you enjoy history and industrial tours, visiting STRATACA is one of the top Hutchinson things to do.
3. Visit the Salt Discovery Well
If you’re unsure about what to do in Hutchinson, head out to the Salt Discovery Well, where visitors can enjoy the outdoors and history in one place.
An outdoor historical exhibit, the Salt Discovery Well displays a 1,260 block of locally mined salt. It is the same place, Ben Blanchard accidentally discovered one of the richest salt veins in the world. During September 1887, Ben Blanchard drilled a well looking for oil in South Hutchinson hoping to strike rich. While finding salt instead of oil frustrated Blanchard’s plans, the discovery paved the way for salt mining to become an important Hutchinson industry.
The site also has a small picnic area and sprawling grassland all around to spend a day.
Exploring Sand Hills State Park is one of the top things to do in Hutchinson to get in touch with nature. Located north of Hutchinson, Sand Hills State Park is a 1,123-acre natural area with a myriad of ecosystems ranging from sand dunes, prairie woodlands to wetlands. You have tons of options to explore in each area. There are three hiking trails, including the Cottonwood Interpretive Trail, and five horse and multi-use trails for those who’d like to explore nature on their bikes.
Visitors can also discover Hutchinson’s fauna through the park’s two wildlife observation blinds. If camping is in your plans, Sand Hills State Park has a campground with plenty of facilities, like 50 amp service, fire rings, lantern stands, picnic tables, and upright, covered grills.
5. Experience History at Reno County Museum
Learn all about Reno (and in the most entertaining way) at the Reno County Museum. Adjacent to beautiful George Pyle Park, Reno County Museum traverses several periods of Reno’s history through its exhibitions. You can learn all about Reno’s pioneer life in their five indoor galleries depicting early pioneer days and see how it influenced the city to this day.
Little ones can become protagonists at the “Ooodleplex,” an interactive area where children can play storekeeper at an old-time general store, steer a life-sized boat, or explore an American Indian tepee from the early days of pioneers on the prairie. Reno County Museum also offers educational programs and guided tours for groups who schedule in advance.
6. Bring the Kids to Dillon Nature Center
Introduce your kids to the wonders of nature at the Dillon Nature Center. Set on the northeast side of Hutchinson, Dillon Nature Center is a 100-acre urban sanctuary. It is a wild arboretum and is home to more than 300 species of woody plants, the most exotic wildflowers and native grasses, 200 species of birds, and a large variety of other wildlife.
You can explore the gorgeous flora and fauna by strolling down the three miles of National Recreation Trails. The sanctuary also has a stocked pot where fishing enthusiasts can sit peacefully waiting for their next catch. Once you have explored the surroundings, you can take your children to the playscape or enjoy a snack at the picnic areas.
7. Explore Hutchinson Zoo (for Free!)
Visiting the Hutchinson Zoo is by far one of the (if not the) best things to do in Hutchinson if you have kids. Forget about guided trails with signs explaining what animal you’re seeing. Hutchinson Zoo has prepared interactive tours for your kids to be as close as possible to wonderful species. They can ride the Prairie Thunder train – a historic train that goes throughout the zoo’s native prairie landscape and gives a glimpse of a few animal exhibits along the way. The Prairie Inhabitors is another must-do exhibition your kid will love. The display features prairie dogs and a sample of the countless creatures that visit their towns. The museum has designed a tunnel so kids can view the prairie dogs right before their eyes safely.
8. Discover the Yoder Amish Community
Step back in time and visit the Yoder Amish Community. The largest Amish community in Kansas, the Yoder Amish Community invites visitors to experience a day in the life of Amish people. Not much has changed for the community since the 1800s, except for the new technology and transport they employ to sell their goods. Still, you’ll see horses and buggies remain as their primary form of transportation. Yoder hosts tons of annual events, with the Yoder Heritage Day in August as the most important. This celebration begins with a pancake breakfast and includes a petting zoo, quilt auction, buggy races, and tractor pull. The evening concludes with a fireworks show and live music. If you can’t make it in August, check out their other events, like the Parade of Quilts, Farmers Market, Turkey Dinner, and Christmas Open House.
9. Drink Local at Salt City Brewing Co
There’s nothing like sipping a glass of ice-cold beer at the end of the day. Founded in 2015, Salt City Brewing Co. has found inspiration in Kansas’s salt mines and mineral-rich oil fields to concoct delicious brew choices. Combining science and top-quality ingredients, their brewmasters create varied brews and offer small-batch beers at the taproom. You’ll never sample the same beer as the brewing company has a rotating seasonal menu for beer-lovers to enjoy. For non-beer drinkers, they offer soda and several Grace Hill wines.
All their beers are delicious, that’s for sure. Trust me; you’ll end up taking a growler with you!
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Bonus: Kansas State Fair
If you happen to be in Hutchinson around Labor Day, don’t miss the chance to visit the annual Kansas State Fair, one of the largest events in the state, with over 350,000 people attending each year. Beginning the Friday following Labor Day, Kansas State Fair offers ten days full of Kansas-style fun. Each day of the fair follows a specific theme related to the state’s industry, people, innovations, and entertainment.
The fairgrounds are enormous and offer lots of different foods, activities, and rides. Fairgoers will be able to check livestock exhibitors with blue-ribbon animals or explore the agricultural and educational displays. They can also walk through the food stalls and indulge in the best deep-fried treats and other culinary delights. The State Fair Museum is the most recent addition to the fair, where visitors can explore the fair’s rich past– it’s been around since the 19th century!
Have any questions about these top things to do in Hutchinson, or do you know other fun things I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!