As you make your way along Interstate 70 in the Great Plains, you’ll pass a number of roadside attractions and towns worth a stop to stretch your legs – at minimum. One such spot is Junction City, Kansas, home to 23,000 proud Kansans.
Not far from Abilene, there are plenty of great things to do in Junction City. From history and culture to the Great Outdoors, Junction City offers plenty for travelers wise enough to stop and enjoy their time. Junction City is appropriately named as it sits at the confluence of the Smoky Hill River and Republican River, which goes on to form the Kansas River. Among other claims to fame, Junction City was the first city west of the Mississippi River to distribute Coca-Cola.
So whether you’re planning a road trip and looking for an overnight stop or heading out to discover more of what makes the Great Plains so great, consider stopping in Junction City to enjoy these various activities and enjoy extra time in the Sunflower State.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Washtáge Moⁿzháⁿ (Kaw / Kansa), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Featured photo courtesy of Steve Shook via Flickr.
1. Visit the Geary County Historical Society and Museums
Citing the Geary County Historical Society and Museums is one of the best things to do in Junction City if you love history. The attractive limestone building is ripe with excellent exhibits of Kansas and Junction City dating back to the mid-1800s.
The exhibits cover three floors and portray the evolution of crucial historical processes in the state, such as immigration, indigenous peoples’ conflicts, and the military. They also have remarkable special exhibits and host frequent talks to students or special groups throughout the community.
2. Enjoy a Performance at the C.L. Hoover Opera House
If you’re a culture vulture wondering what to do in Junction City, look no further. Head over to the C.L. Hoover Opera House, a fantastic performing arts and civic center.
C.L. Hoover Opera House has been part of Junction City’s history since 1882. The building itself is a great testament to bygone days! C.L. Hoover Opera House hosts rotating art exhibits and numerous plays/musicals per year featuring national and local talent. They also bring in musical groups, puppets, children’s shows, and even magic shows. There is entertainment for everyone!
3. Hike in Konza Prairie Research Natural Area
Visiting Konza Prairie Research Natural Area is one of the most popular things to do in Junction City, and it is easy to see why.
The scenery is stunning. Your eyes will be feasting on a nearly untouched horizon of the ancient Kansas prairies. It doesn’t matter when you visit; there are gems to be discovered each time of the year; wildflowers and babbling brooks in the spring; sunflowers and green pastures in the summer; fall colors in the autumn; and pristine, crisp days in the winter. It will quickly become one of your favorite places in the Sunflower State.
4. Catch a Game at the Rathert Stadium
Combining history and sports, catching a game at Rathert Stadium is one of the best Junction City things to do if you’re looking for an exciting activity.
Rathert Stadium is not only one of the most beautiful parks in Junction City but also one of the most historic baseball stadiums in the Midwest. Its rich history dates back to 1937, and its fields have seen many baseball legends grow and become top stars in the national league. The stadium also has a lovely family atmosphere and a beer garden for adults.
5. Explore the Milford Nature Center & Fish Hatchery
Milford Nature Center & Fish Hatchery is a small place but packed with surprises. It is an excellent spot to take the kids on an afternoon adventure. The nature center boasts various displays with live snakes, spiders, fish, and taxidermy animals. It also has a fantastic butterfly house.
Outside the nature center, they have live animals that come from rescue. There are bobcats, vultures, a few owls, a golden eagle, and a bald eagle. The hatchery is only open a few months out of the year, so you may not be able to check out its interior. However, you can walk around the outside and see the fish in the tanks.
6. Admire the Kansas Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial
The Kansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial, built in 1987, is one of the historic sights in Junction City. The black granite memorial pays homage to all Kansans who died or are on the list as missing in action while serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
Located in Heritage Park, the memorial features five panels, four bearing the names of 753 Kansans killed in action in Vietnam and a fifth one displaying the names of 38 Kansans who were still missing in action in 1987. It also features two military decorations, the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Campaign ribbon engraved on the panel with the MIAs.
7. Enjoy Kansas City-style Barbecue at JC’s BBQ & Grill
Indulging in a decadent dish of slow-smoked meats is one of the top things to do in Junction City. And I have the right place to do it: JC’s BBQ & Grill. An authentic BBQ and spots grill, JC’s BBQ & Grill is an institution in Junction City. They have a varied menu, serving burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
However, you’re here to try their BBQ favorites. It’s hard to go wrong with any meat selections, but here are my suggestions. Try their brisket, which they smoke to perfection or their moist and savory pork. Ah!, and their tender ribs falling off the bone. Also, their homemade BBQ sauces were amazing!
Have any other questions about things to do in Junction City, Kansas, or do you know of others I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments to help fellow travelers!