TOPEKA – Plan a stop at the dare-devilish Evel Knievel Museum, the trumpeted Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley zoo exhibit and “cheers” to first-ever festivals that celebrate local brews, chocolate, the Chisholm Trail and more. Topeka’s new Evel Knievel Museum features the world’s largest collection of the fearless cyclist’s authentic performance leathers, helmets, jump bikes and memorabilia. The permanent museum, housed at Historic Harley-Davidson of Topeka, also showcases Knievel’s first Harley-Davidson, a larger-than-life bronze and copper statue, fan letters, X-rays (the late motorcycle jumper holds the Guinness World Record for surviving the most broken bones—433) and other never-before-seen memorabilia.
WICHITA – The Sedgwick County Zoo boasts the third largest elephant exhibit in the country with seven Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley as they splash into the nation’s largest elephant water pool and roam the sprawling five acres, resembling Africa’s lush river valley. The immersive experience takes visitors on boat rides in the same water as the elephants and on walking paths to a viewing pavilion surrounded by elephants on all sides.
At the new Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes exhibition hall, learn the touching stories of compassionate, everyday people who took extraordinary action to make a difference. The 6,000-square-foot museum, with high-tech, interactive exhibits and a theater, chronicles the heroics of Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who saved over 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, Little Rock Central High School senior Kendall Reinhardt who faced bullying and beatings for simple kindnesses to the nine African Americans who integrated his school at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, brave stray Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated war dog in history, and many other unheralded heroes (www.lowellmilkencenter.org).
DODGE CITY – A new $12-million western-themed water park, named Long Branch Lagoon, is one of the state’s biggest aquatic parks makes waves with its Cowboy Creek lazy river, Wrangler Rapids wave pool, Doc’s Plunge Boomerango slide, Fort Splash play area, Olympic-sized lap pool, climbing wall and Chuck Wagon concessions. Situated in Wright Park, the Lagoon gets its western look from wagon wheels, covered wagon, saddles, hitching posts, tombstones, cowboy silhouettes and other rustic relics worked into the landscape (www.lblagoon.com).
New in downtown Manhattan: a 13-screen movie complex, including an immersive 575-seat IMAX theater and five auditoriums offering full dining and beverage options. The Carmike Cinemas complex adjoins the south end of the Manhattan Town Center shopping mall, replacing the former Sears building (www.manhattantowncenter.com).
Already flying high, Overland Park’s newest attraction iFLY gives visitors the thrill and adrenaline rush of skydiving without plunging from an airplane. Opened earlier this year, the indoor skydiving complex outfits customers in equipment they need to fly comfortably, including flight suits, goggles and helmets. After a brief training session, flyers then get a chance to apply that knowledge to experience the sensation of skydiving in the safety of a three story wind tunnel (www.iflyworld.com/kansas-city).