You may be balking at the idea of a road trip of such proportions, but traveling by car is often cheaper than by plane or train, especially if you have a large family or friends going with you. Happily, the drive across Kansas can be fun if you plan for several stops along the way. The beauty of Highway 36 isn't the scenery; but in the number of small towns you travel through and the plenty of stops you can take in your voyage.
Travel west from St. Joseph, Missouri, cross the Missouri River and you will encounter the small towns of Elwood and Wathena. Both have convenient stores and restaurants if you need them, and both have awesome city parks, although they are a bit off the highway. Hiawatha and Seneca follow next, both towns definitely bigger than a wide place in the road. Get out and stretch your legs, let your kiddos run around and take a bathroom and snack break. Marysville is next, and in addition to all of the above amenities, it has a few fun places to visit, such as an original Pony Express station and museum and the Koester House Museum.
The best part about crossing Kansas along Highway 36 comes in the town of Washington. A few blocks off the highway, there is an enormous play area for children, crafted almost entirely from wood, and based upon The Wizard of Oz. Called "Munchkinland," there are tire swings, enormous structures with bridges and stairs to climb up, in and around, and plenty of things for little ones to do as well. The park is clean and has a picnic area so it makes for an ideal place to stop for lunch.
The center of your trip features several more small towns, from Belleville, Mankato, Smith Center and Phillipsburg. Each town is rather small, but there are gas stations for fueling opportunities — both for you and your vehicle. Don't deprive yourself of fluids on your trip because you are worried about not being able to find a restroom. Staying hydrated is so important when you travel and the breaks to find a restroom also allow you to stretch your legs and get your circulation going.
By the time you get to Phillipsburg, you have gone up in elevation to nearly 2,000 feet above sea level. As you continue to climb, hydration is extremely important to help stave off altitude sickness.
Norton, Oberlin, Atwood, Bird City and St. Francis round out your trip across Kansas. The terrain becomes more flat here in this part of Kansas, and the air is thinner and drier. The landscape begins to look more western. Norton is a nice town with several hotels and restaurants. Near Oberlin, there is an enormous cemetery. Although there are no facilities, it is an excellent place to get out and walk around for a bit. The last town in Kansas on Highway 36 is St. Francis, which also has several restaurants and motels.
With plenty of towns along the way, a journey across Highway 36 can be enjoyable with plenty of built-in stops and fun things to do as you head toward your destination.
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