Daytrip to Independence Kansas: Close to Wichita and My Heart

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”   — Laura Ingalls Wilder

Independence Kansas was my home during childhood ages 10-19. In 3rd grade as my family packed up our belongings to make our trip across the Midwest, I remember my mom and I reading Little House on the Prairie. We spoke of the symbolism to Laura Ingalls traveling across the Midwest; to my parents moving to Indy, a young family’s journey. As with Laura Ingalls, a little piece of my heart will always reside in Independence KS, and we love to visit.

Here are 4 fun kid activities and the itinerary from our daytrip to Independence.  

Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo

You will love this charming park set on 50 acres along the Verdigris River. Riverside Park has a host of attractions including a large playground, kiddy playground, carousel, miniature golf, kiddy train, and a steam locomotive to climb on. The Ralph Mitchell Zoo includes Lion, tigers and bears oh my, along with Monkey Island, the birth place of Miss Able a famous NASA space monkey. The park is big and refreshingly blends in with the natural landscape. The zoo and park has free admission, a concession stand and attractions (train, carousel, mini golf) which cost at the most 25 cents.   

Elk City State Park

Kansas is a beautiful state with hidden treasures when you explore. Located about 5 miles outside of Independence, Elk City State Park offers a quiet, family orientated get-away. The area offers picturesque views ranging from open prairie, to wooded hills and limestone bluffs. The park allows easy access to boat ramps, a swim beach, camping, playgrounds, and hiking trails. Our family loved hiking part of the Table Mound Hiking Trail starting at the overlook. 

Neewollah (Halloween spelled backwards)

Neewollah is the largest annual celebration in Kansas. Each October the city of Independence will grow from a town of just under 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000 in the final days of the 10-day celebration. The celebration includes 3 parades, a Doo Dah Parade (adult Kiddie Parade), a Kiddie Parade and a Grand Parade. Additionally the celebrations hosts a Chili Cook-off, a hometown musical, the queen Neelah pageant, a Marching Band Competition, 5K and 10 K Run, and a Medallion Hunt. During Neewollah the main downtown is filled with 30 plus food vendors, a large carnival and bandstand for nightly entertainment. As impressive as the festival, is the diligent efforts of over 500 community volunteers, who make Neewollah a success.

Little House on the Prairie

Make the Little House on the Prairie Museum part of your daytrip. The museum stands on the original land where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived with her family in a one-room log cabin in 1870. Memories of her time here later inspired her to pen the indelible classic, Little House on the Prairie. She then created a series of nine books geared towards children but loved by all. 

Our Independence Daytrip Itinerary

Plan: Enjoy a fun day hiking then explore the park and zoo before heading back to Wichita. From our westside home it was a 2-hour drive, and we decided on NO screens in the car, we were hitting the road 1980’s style!

Night before – Pack lunches and snacks, prepare beverage cooler, prepare back packs for hike with extra change of clothes and aid kit.

6:45 – Parent wake up time (get coffee, relax for 15 minutes, then get busy) 

7:10 – “Soft” wake up -cuddles and snuggles (snooze button for kids)

7:30 – Get up, eat a healthy breakfast, get stuff together, get loaded up.

8:15 – Departure time

10:15 – Arrive at Elk City State Park 

10:15- 12:30 – Hike, Eat packed lunch and snacks, have fun, make memories.

12:45-2:45 – Explore Riverside Park and Ralph Mitchell Zoo (eat “big” healthy snack we packed)

3:00pm – Depart from Indy

5:00 – Back to Wichita (Dinner out)

8:00 – Kids Bedtime

10:00 – Tired Fulfilled Parents go to Bed.

Are you from Independence Kansas?  Tell me what you love to do!

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Megan has lived in Wichita since 1999, graduated in 2003 as an RN, and received her MSN in Nursing Education in 2016. Megan loves teaching and works in healthcare as Director of Simulation at Kansas College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is a survivor of childhood cancer that led to some complicated reproductive issues, including the loss of their son Lincoln (18wks, 2008) and daughter Basil (23wks 2010). With a best friend to spend a life-time with and a vision of a family David and Megan embarked on three amazing adoption journeys. With active kids (London 2012, Locklyn 2013 & Ronnie 2015) and busy careers, life is anything but slow-paced.