I’d been wanting to explore an Old West town for some time. I even included a visit to Wild West Country as the One Thing You Must Do with Kids in Every U.S. State for Kansas, so naturally I was eager to check out Dodge City as the kids and I drove from Colorado to Missouri over the summer.
If you look at the map, you’ll see that Dodge City was a bit out of the way (i.e., we could not just take I-70 all the way across the state). But, it was well worth the detour, especially since we rolled into town during the last couple of days of the annual Dodge City Days celebration in late-summer.
Less than three hours from Wichita, Dodge City is the place to go for rodeos, old-time photos and a look back at the gunfighters of the Wild West, like Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane. Take a look at 10 fun things to do in Dodge City with kids.
1. See the Santa Fe Trail Tracks. Just nine miles west of town, it’s a must to see the wagon tracks still in existence on the Santa Fe Trail, which served as a highway for the pioneers in the mid-1800s. Before you go, download a narrated mobile tour of the Santa Fe Trail to listen to on your cell phone.
2. Watch a Gunfight at the Boot Hill Museum. One of the highlights of our time in Dodge City was watching the high noon gunfight at the Boot Hill Museum. There were fist fights, gunfire, good guys, bad guys, all a portrayal of what life was like in Dodge City in the 1870s.
3. Pose for Old-Time Photos. Sure, you can pose for old-time photos at theme parks here and there, but why not put on costumes and pose for old-fashioned photos in an actual Old West saloon. You can do so daily during the summer at the Old West Photo Parlor at the Boot Hill Museum.
4. Meet a Herd of Buffalo. Head to the Live Buffalo & Longhorn Exhibit to meet several longhorn steers and buffalo that make the outdoor exhibit their home. While you’re there, check out the Wild West Walk of Fame complete with hand and footprints from famed Kansans, including rodeo clowns and announcers.
5. Go to the Rodeo. We’d never been to a rodeo before, so it was a real treat to attend the finals of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. There were bucking broncos, bull riding, and yes, mutton bustin’ in which kids ages 4-7 see how long they can ride on the backs of running sheep.
6. See the Animals at the Wright Park Zoo. Spend an hour visiting with animals, like the llamas and bison, at one of the smallest zoos in Kansas. There’s also an aviary with peacocks and quails. Every kid loves a zoo, so the Wright Park Zoo is a great place to relax and explore.
7. Walk Along the Trail of Fame. Take a Trail of Fame Walking Tour, which make stops throughout historic Dodge City, like the restored Santa Fe Depot, Boot Hill Museum and Sundial Park. Along the way, you’ll see statues and memorials dedicated to famous and infamous western figures, like Wyatt Earp.
8. Explore a Replica of Old Dodge City. Go in and out of a saloon, a church, an ice cream parlor and a cemetery, all circa 1870s that’s part of the Boot Hill Museum. Check out various artifacts and exhibits on display, then learn about the history of the American buffalo, which almost went extinct in the 1800s.
9. Take a Historic Trolley Tour. Pick up the Dodge City Trolley at the visitors center across the parking lot from the Boot Hill Museum. The one-hour narrated tour is a great way to learn more about the Wild West history of Dodge City from the comfort of a climate-controlled trolley.
10. Get Up Close with Old West Gunfighters. Pay a visit to the Gunfighters Wax Museum to get up close and personal with well-known gunfighters like Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill and Jesse James (all made of wax, of course). The wax museum is located just inside the Kansas Teachers’ Hall of Fame.