10 Reasons to Visit Great Bend, Kansas
10 Reasons to Visit Great Bend, Kansas
Located in central Kansas and boasting a population of 16,000, Great Bend has all the fun of a big city and every ounce of the hospitality found in a small town. Where Great Bend is located was in the northern territory of the Kiowa. The area was claimed by the French as part of Louisiana and later acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Kansas became a state in 1861 and Barton County was created in 1867. The railroad reached Great Bend in 1872 and the location was incorporated soon after. Named after its location in the great bend of the Arkansas River, the county courthouse and first public school were built in 1873.
Today, Great Bend is a bustling town full of industry and many tourist opportunities. There are dozens of reasons to visit Great Bend, but we want to focus on a few of our favorites.
Great Bend BatCats: The BatCats are a collegiate summer league team that brings in baseball players from all over the country! This teams plays 9 other Kansas teams within a short drive from Great Bend. They play their home games at Al Burns Memorial Field at West 17th Terrace in Great Bend. Being a non-profit, the games are free to attend! There is simply nothing better than a good baseball game and a family friendly event!
Delicious Food and Drinks: Great Bend is home to some of the most delicious food in all of Kansas! HandleBar and Grill offers something for everyone and some delicious twists your American favorites! Playa Azul Mexican Restaurant offers some of the most authentic and traditional Mexican food we have ever had. Perkins Family Restaurant and The Page may occupy the same building, but both give guests a variety of choices. Perkins Family Restaurant is known for their delicious homecooked classics while The Page markets itself as an American Bistro and bar. Lumpy’s is where we were first introduced to red beer and fried macaroni and cheese balls! This quintessential midwestern diner serves the best bar food while offering a bar, big screen televisions, and pool tables! For breakfast, you cannot go wrong by heading to Great Bend Coffee and RePerks Coffee! Not only can they both give you the cup of Joe you need to start your day, but they deliver the some of the best breakfasts we have ever had! Last, but certainly not least, Dry Lake Brewery is just over a year old and has taken Great Bend by storm! So much so, they are having to put other local beers on tap to keep up with their demand! Stop in and visit with these guys! It is a definite treat!
History: As mentioned a little bit in the introduction of this blog, Great Bend and the area that surrounds it is steeped in American history from the Native Americans that occupied the region originally to Kansas becoming the 34th state of the United States. Visitors can dive even deep into this history by visiting the Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village. The museum and village are full of permanent and rotating exhibits including 300 dolls that date back to the 1850s, archaeological artifacts from the Native American cultures in the region, and several buildings that have been restored to their historical accuracy. Additionally, the site is certified as an official Sante Fe Trail Interpretive Site.
During World War II, Great Field Army Airfield trained many pilots and crew members who flew the B-26 and B-29 planes that helped win the war. Today, a B-29 Memorial is located at the Great Bend Airport for visitors to view.
Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo: One of the coolest zoos we have ever visited, the medium-sized zoo is not only free but is open 362 days out of the year. They are open from 9am-4pm daily. The zoo features animals from around the world and has a Raptor Rehabilitation Program on site as well as other animals they treat for injuries or illnesses. We will be talking a lot more about this incredible experience in a blog dedicated solely to the zoo soon.
SRCA Dragstrip: Located on one of the runways of the B29 Army Air Force Base, the City of Great Bend acquired the base after it was declared surplus in 1946 and in 1953, the first race was held here. The Sunflower Rod and Custom Association was formed in 1954 and joined the NHRA in 1955. The first nationals, started with 219 cars and 15,000 spectators. Art Chrisman ran 146.16 MPH and Lloyd Scott set a new speed record for American drag racing at 151 MPH. In 1956, the one-year-old AHRA said they would like to have their first National event at Great Bend on the 8000-foot-long track and did so until 1959.Don Garlits won his first National title in 1958 driving Swamp Rat and Chris Karamesines won over Eddie Hill in 1959. In 1960 the President of AHRA moved the event to Kansas City International Raceway.
Jack Kilby Memorial: located directly in front of the courthouse in Great Bend is a stirring monument called, “The Gift.’ Jack Kilby graduated high school in Great Bend in 1941 and eventually landed a job with Texas Instruments where he invented the microchip in 1958. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2000 and passed away in 2005.
Explore Santa’s From Around the World: Hands down one of the coolest exhibits we have seen in all our travels! This exhibit displays 24 handmade, life-like Santa’s from around the world with full histories. Artist Loretta Miller is responsible for these incredible figures. The exhibit is free during the month of December!
Events: There is literally, always something amazing going on in Great Bend! From movies and popcorn in the park, to Christmas in July, to racing series at the dragstrip, you never have to look far to find the next great event being planned by this incredible staff. The exploregreatbend.com website will fill you in on all the details of this amazing town and everything they have to offer.
Hospitality: It is safe to say that the Backroads Team talks a little different from the folks in central Kansas but from the first lunch meeting, we were blown away by the hospitality of everyone in this town. We are used to bragging on southern hospitality but with this being our first visit to Kansas, we did not know what to expect. Well, we can assure you, the leaders of the community, business owners, and perfect strangers from all walks of life ushered us into their community as if we had been long lost friends and were staying a while. This place will always hold a very special place in our heart, and we cannot wait to share the rest of our trip with you guys!