Kansas is a state in the Great Plains region of the United States of America. It is generally considered the center of the country, at least in geographical terms, though one of its nicknames is "the Heart of America." Thanks to the Wizard of Oz, many non-Kansans (and some Kansans as well) think of it as a place from which to escape; however, there are a lot of great places to visit, particularly if you are interested in the history of the American West. With a little exploration, almost every little town has something of interest.
There is no clear division between Eastern and Western Kansas, but there are clear regional distinctions.
Although Native Americans have lived in Kansas for thousands of years and the first Europeans visited in the 1600s, most Kansas communities date from the early to mid-1880s. The real development of Kansas didn’t take place until the 1850s when pro-slavery settlers from Missouri and antislavery settlers from New England flooded into the area. This period of "Bleeding Kansas" included a great deal of violence and some people consider this area to have been the cradle of the Civil War. In communities like Lawrence, Kansas many organizations and businesses still proudly display the "free state" name.
Most residents of Kansas speak a neutral American Standard English. However, in the southeastern region there is a faint southern influence -- both in accent and word choice. This dates back to Civil War era, many pro-slavery citizens moved into this part of the state to land grab and sway elections. Many of the communities in the area still have connections to southwest Missouri and northeast Arkansas communities.
The farther west you go you may run into pockets of communities with German, Russian, or even Swedish accents. This due to the large number of immigrants that settled in Kansas during the late 1800s
If you are driving to Kansas from the east or west, it would be best to take Interstate 70. I-35 travels from the south center of the state and passes northeast meeting I-70 in Kansas City. I-135 travels from Wichita to Salina, connecting the other two major interstate highways.
Wichita has the only major airport in the state, with service to about a dozen cities. Several other smaller cities have very limited commercial service. Many people flying into the state (especially the eastern part) would come through Kansas City (Missouri).
The only regular train service is Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which travels east-west across the state, passing through Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, and Garden City. This train continues to and from Chicago daily from/to the east and Los Angeles from/to the west. There is also daily connecting daily service to and from St. Louis at Kansas City.
Greyhound Lines and Jefferson Lines provide daily regular serice to and from many destinations in Kansas.
The only way to travel in Kansas is to drive. Part of the experience of being in the state is to spend time on the road, which is as interesting an experience as you make it. Take the time to plan a route off of the main highways and see the country. Otherwise, if you require public transportation, Kansas may not a place for you. Even the larger cities, like Wichita, Topeka, and Kansas City, offer very limited public transportation.
Intercity bus transportation in western Kansas is provided by Bee Line Express (which is part of Prestige Bus Lines). Keep in mind that these buses do not have frquent departures.
Kansas' best known regional food is Kansas City-style BBQ, associated with the metropolitan Kansas City area including Wyandotte County and Johnson County, as well as portions of Missouri. It is a slow "pit" style barbecue; sauce is usually an important component to the finished meal. Well-known restaurants include Rosedale and Wyandotte BBQ in Kansas City, Hayward's Pit BBQ and KC Masterpiece and Gates BBQ in Overland Park (Gates, however, is based in Kansas City, Missouri -- an important distinction to some), and Zarda BBQ in Lenexa. KC Masterpiece in Overland Park is the original restaurant that started the chain and its nationally distributed "sweet sauce." In the small town of Spring Hill, K&M BBQ was voted the best BBQ in the Kansas City metro area.
In Abilene, The Brookville Hotel offers family style fried chicken dinners. Stroud's in Fairway serves the best fried chicken in the Kansas City area.
In Crawford County, in the extreme Southeastern corner, there are six "chicken houses." These serve fried chicken dinners, and the side dishes differ from each house. Fried chicken is a distinctive dish in Southeast Kansas, making the region known for their chicken dishes.
Kansas has very complex and restrictive liquor laws. The short of it is that only 3.2% ABV packaged beer may be sold outside of retail liquor stores. Drinks by the glass were only restricted to private "clubs" until 1987 (jobs). Kansas today has 29 "dry" counties that prohibit all on-premise liquor sales and as of 2005 only 2 counties and 26 communities have provisions for Sunday sales. Kansas has never ratified the 21st amendment to this day.
The only craft beers easily found throughout the state are Boulevard and Fat Tire. Fans of Mexican beer rejoice! There is a huge variety of cerveza that rivals what can be found deep in the heart of Texas.
There is hardly any crime in the state, however, this does not mean that one should be naive during their travel to the state. Always take common sense precautions no matter where you find yourself, but pay particular attention in the more populous areas such as Topeka and Wichita. All in all, you are very unlikely to experience any problems while traveling through the state.
Kansas is central within the country's "tornado alley". Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms with high winds and hail are not uncommon during the spring and summer months. Make sure you keep a radio on in the car. Should you hear the tornado sirens sounding, locate a suitable tornado shelter at once - DO NOT stay outdoors to get a picture! Also, DO NOT try to outrun the tornado in your car! Tornadoes can shift their paths very suddenly and you may wind up driving directly into it.
Should the skies be cloudy, and the light take on a greenish-yellow cast, this is an indication of an imminent hail storm - again, seek shelter at once.
Keep in mind, these storms are spread over a wide area and many residents have never seen a tornado; however, tornado drills are a regular part for all Kansas school children and residents do not hesitate to run to the basement/cellar if a tornado warning is announced.
Refer to the Tornado safety article for analysis of the issues here.
Ice storms and blizzards are also common during the winter, especially in northern Kansas. As with most weather in the region, these storms tend to be intense, but roll in and out fairly quickly due to lack of natural obstruction (e.g., mountains).