Mar 26

Stafford Air and Space Museum: Oklahoma

Stafford Air and Space Museum
Not all great museums are found in large cities.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum located in the small town of Weatherford is a fine example of great things coming from small places.  A world class museum that is reasonably priced.  Making the Stafford Air and Space Museum a must see when traveling down I40 in Western Oklahoma.
Apollo Space
The Stafford Air and Space Museum has almost 50,000 sq. feet of exhibit space.  Historical and family memorabilia of hometown hero Thomas P. Stafford.  One of the Apollo Missions astronauts as well as the American commander of the first joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union.  As the name implies it is not just a space museum.  They also house over 20 historic aircraft that depict the history of flight.  A great choice if you are looking for a fun learning experience about the Space Race as well as the technological advancement of flight through the ages.
Aviation Museum
I knew the reviews of the Stafford Air and Space Museum had the museum well received.  So, I expected a good visit.  However, the museum really blew me away.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum is really top flight very similar to my experience at the CosmoSphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.  Another small-town museum that could rival any big city museum.  Both places are well worth your time to visit.
Rockets of the Space Race
It was amazing the amount of history that could be found between the walls of the Stafford Air and Space Museum.  The incredible life story of Thomas P. Stafford would be in itself a museum.  The Titan rocket on display, the replica ½ scale Lunar Module, Gemini Spacecraft, Apollo X Space Suit and thousands of other objects are worth the price of admission.  Even if Stafford never walked on the moon he and his museum were still considered important enough to have a moon rock on display.
Stafford History
While I knew that they would have a variety of NASA artifacts on display, what really made this museum visit stand out for me was their history of flight exhibits.  Just about every major event was covered.   From man’s early attempts to replicas of the Wright Brothers Flyer.  The Stafford Air and Space Museum is a great place to learn about flight.  It really covered all the basics a replica of the “Spirit of St. Louis” to an F16 Fighting Falcon.  The museum ended up being a lot bigger and better than I had imagined it.
Weatherford Museum
I really enjoyed my time at the Stafford Air and Space Museum it is a real gem of an Aviation Museum.  Of course, I am into that.  As a U.S. history teacher, it is always great to see the objects and learn about the people that made history.  If you are interested in space flight, the Cold War, or the history of flight the Stafford Air and Space Museum is the place to go.  Even if you could pass on some of those topics it would still be worthwhile if you find yourself traveling down I40 and looking for a place to stop and stretch the legs for a bit.  Who knows you might find that flight is a little bit more interesting than you thought.

To see our reviews of other Oklahoma Attractions, click here

Stafford Air and Space Museum
Located at 3000 E Logan Rd Weatherford, OK
Hours of Operation Monday through Saturday 9 to 5 and Sunday 1 to 5 closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting Adults $7, 62 and older $5 and Children 6 to 18 $3
For more information visit their website at http://staffordmuseum.org/

Mar 20

Washita Battle Site: Hike

Washita Trail
While there is much to learn at the Washita Battlefield no trip would be complete without a hike to the site of Black Kettle’s Village.  Just a short drive a half mile from the visitor center on Highway 47A.  While there is not much to be seen on the hike.  I found it important to stand on the harrowed ground and pay respects for the tragedy that took place there.
Washita Trail Informative #
At the trailhead of the 1.5-mile trail is a rock engraving about the events that took place.  After reading about the Washita Battle I headed across the open Plains to the bend of the river where the Washita Battle took place.   Along the trail there were several stops with a number to call to hear about the events of the battle.
Washita River
The trail is unremarkable, but the event that took place is.  A horrible tragedy that some would call a battle and others would call a massacre.  History was forever changed at the Washita Battle a flickering light of a proud nation coming towards its end, and the continuing long burn of a fire that swept from seas to shining sea.
The Battle of the Washita 1868
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm

Mar 20

The Dust and Fire Trail: Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Dust and Fire Trail
Outside of the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site visitor center is the short-paved trail that looks at life on the plains.  The Dust and Fire Trail is just .4 miles in length but shows a long history of hard work and turmoil of a settler’s life.
Homesteading
The Dust and Fire Trail has interpretive signs at each stop along the trail.  The information tells about the wildlife, flora, fauna, and homestead that could be expected after the Oklahoma land run.  There was even a working wind mill.  A great little history lesson in addition to the history of the Washita Battle.
Windmill
I liked the fact that the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site tells both sides of the settling of the west.  The tragedy that continued to befall the Native Americans with western expansion.  Also, the fruit that sprung out of the blood drenched grounds.  Having the Dust and Fire Trail at the location that is preserving the battle that started the end of the Plains Native Americans.  By showing what life was like for those that replaced the indigenous people it is allowing the visitors to come to grips in their own mind what took place upon the land.
Washita Battle Site Visitor Center
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm

Mar 20

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site: Oklahoma

Washita Visitor Center
I find it important to know about the past.  The tragedies and the triumphs.  The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site preserves one of the great tragedies in American History. At dawn on November 27th 1868 Lt Col Custer attacked the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle.

This Oklahoma National Historic Site is located on its western edge.  A long drive to the middle of nowhere but worth it to learn about this sad and dark day.  The Battle of the Washita was long in the making and was hastened after the Medicine Lodge Treaty called for the Cheyenne as well as other Plains Nations to move onto reservation lands.  That treaty was a sham.  Most of the higher-ranking leaders of the Cheyenne had refused to sign.  Many of the warriors took to raiding white settlements on their ancestral lands.  Black Kettle, trying to protect his followers, searched for a peaceful way to end the hostilities.  Unfortunately, before hostilities could be ended General Sheridan the commanding officer of the area had sent Lt. Colonel Custer and the 7th Cavalry to seek retribution for the settlement raids.
History of the Washita
At first light Custer attacked the 51 lodges of Black Kettles group.  In American history the fight is known as the Battle of the Washita while Native Americans called it the Washita Massacre.  The aftermath changed the history of the Plains.  General Sheridan’s brutal/ingenious tactics of attacking during winter was a success when the Native Americans realized that cold weather no longer provided protection from war.  After the Washita tragedy, many of the tribal bands took up life on the reservation.

A visit to the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site should start with watching the very informative park film.  A short twenty-minute film on not only the history of the battle but the events before and after it.   There is also a small museum that is worth spending some time at.  They do a great job of telling both sides and views to what happen on that day.  It was incredibly moving to hear the first-hand accounts of the battle from their letters.
Visitor Center Museum
After learning about the history and importance of the site.  A short hike to the hallowed grounds.  Roughly a mile will take you to the river banks where Black Kettle’s camp once stood.  The way is numbered allowing visitors to learn more about the specifics of what took place a number can be called that plays a recording of the events.

I think that visiting places that changed history are important.  One to pay respects for the people and events that lived through it, but also learn about where our country came from.  If we can learn from the past, then we will not repeat its mistakes.  The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site is an important place to learn about the misunderstanding of culture and people led to an awful tragedy.
Washita Trail
To see our reviews of other historic sites, click here

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
Located at 18555 Hwy 47A Cheyenne, OK 73628
Hours of Operation The visitor center is 8 to 5 but the park is open from Sunrise to Sunset
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/waba/index.htm

Mar 08

Route 66 Murals: El Reno

El Reno Route 66 Mural
I am not much of a car guy I have always had the philosophy, if it gets me from A to B it is good enough for me.  However, over the years I have come to a greater appreciation of all things Route 66.  Maybe it is the traveler in me.  Could be the history of it.  I know a part of me likes the hide and seek nature of the Americana attractions littered throughout the Mother Road.
RT 66 Mural
There is some excellent Mural Art on Route 66.  We have not been disappointed in one cities work.  El Reno’s work like many other cities depicts local history as well as the romanticized idea of driving down Route 66 in a supped-up muscle car or convertible.  Located in the historic downtown area of El Reno the murals are mostly in a short walking distance of each other.
El Reno History Mural
While checking out the Route 66 Murals in El Reno, Oklahoma stop and pay respects to the nice humbling War Memorial.  Reverently done.  The memorial lists those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in America’s wars for the freedom we enjoy.
War Memorial
Not as many murals as some other cities along Route 66 that we have been to.  However, if you are out getting your kicks on Route 66 El Reno is a good place to stop.

Feb 13

Spring Break ideas in Arkansas

The Old Mill
Spring break is right around the corner.  As a teacher, I think I am just as excited about it as my students.  The year is slowly winding down and one last break before the big gear up for finals, standardized testing, and end of the year projects.  Spring break offers that last chance to get away for a while and forget about the real world for a few days.  Cast your eyes upon the upcoming spring season and say goodbye to the winter doldrums by opening the doors to these spring break ideas in Arkansas.

Those were just some of the many adventures that could be had in Arkansas this spring break.  Get out there and make some memories, and as always, happy travels.

Feb 08

Spring Break ideas in Kansas

Cowley Falls
Spring break is right around the corner.  As a teacher, I think I am just as excited about it as my students.  The year is slowly winding down and one last break before the big gear up for finals, standardized testing, and end of the year projects.  Spring break offers that last chance to get away for a while and forget about the real world for a few days.  Cast your eyes upon the upcoming spring season and say goodbye to the winter doldrums by opening the doors to these spring break ideas in Kansas.

Those were just some of the many adventures that could be had in Kansas this spring break.  Get out there and make some memories, and as always, happy travels.

Feb 06

Spring Break ideas in Oklahoma

OKC
Spring break is right around the corner.  As a teacher, I think I am just as excited about it as my students.  The year is slowly winding down and one last break before the big gear up for finals, standardized testing, and end of the year projects.  Spring break offers that last chance to get away for a while and forget about the real world for a few days.  Cast your eyes upon the upcoming spring season and say goodbye to the winter doldrums by opening the doors to these spring break ideas in Oklahoma.

Those were just some of the many adventures that could be had in Oklahoma this spring break.  Get out there and make some memories, and as always, happy travels.

Jan 28

Flint Hills Discovery Center – Manhattan, Kansas

Underground Room
At first glance the Plains do not seem like much.  Heck after a second and much longer glance it can still seem devoid of eye catching beauty.  However, a visit to the Flint Hills Discover Center will quickly cause you to reconsider.  As we learned at the history center the Plains are a robust ecosystem with exciting discoveries that can be found in the soil to in the sky.
Making the Brand
The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a state of the art museum that allows its visitors reasons to truly appreciate the land around it.  Dedicated to the Flint Hills an area that stretches from eastern Kansas to north-central Oklahoma.  However, there is overarching theme that can be applied to the rest of the Great Plains.  A newer museum having just opened its doors in 2012.  The Flint Hills Discovery Center is interactive and immersive.
Flint Hills
We really enjoyed our trip to this Kansas museum.  The Flint Hills Discovery Center is very informative starting with the grass roots up.  The center atrium leads its visitors through the Flint Hills ecosystem and to keep the young ones interested they have a scavenger hunt set up. My 4-year-old who loves all things science and loves to be read to, we got lucky with her.  She really enjoyed looking for the scavenger hunt panels and answering the clues. My two-year-old on the other hand enjoyed the underground room and trying to sneak back there every chance she gots.
Horsing Around
The Flint Hills Discovery Center also has several areas devoted to the cultural history of the Flint Hills.  From first Americans who inhabited the tallgrass prairie 13,000 years ago, to modern ranchers and farmers that call it home today.  It is a rich history.  Filled with inspirational stories of hard work, perseverance, and making due with what the land provides.  Once again, the people of the Flint Hills Discovery Center did a good job with making the areas interactive as well as informative.  This museum is truly an all ages place.
Temp Exhibit
While learning all about the Flint Hills was more interesting than it might sound.  What really made it a great outing for my young family was their Stepping into the Prairie kids interactive area.  There was a ton of things for my two little girls to do there.  A tunnel and slide area, puzzles, games, lots of toys to play pretend, and a soft cushion toddler area.  A great place to let their imagination run wild.  It really made it seem like the Flint Hills Discovery Center had two attractions for the price of one.  An interactive nature museum and a kid’s discovery museum.  Making a visit much more attractive to families like mine.
Flint Hills Discovery Center
There is also a nice gift shop, a short movie played in their immersive theater, and nice views from their observation deck.  The Flint Hills Discovery Center also has a temporary exhibit area that changes out on a pretty regular basis.  A good idea would be to check their website before planning a visit.  Especially if you will be visiting without children.  Since a large portion of the museum is designed to entertain children.  Directly across the street from the museum is a nice outdoor space with a large fireplace and water features.  We enjoyed our time in this part of Kansas’ Little Apple.

Flint Hills Discovery Center
Located at 315 S 3rd St, Manhattan, KS
Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 18 to 64 $9 Seniors 65 and up $7 and Youth 2 to 17 $4
For more information visit their website at http://flinthillsdiscovery.org/

Jan 15

Museum of the Kansas National Guard

Forbes Field
The Museum of Kansas National Guard in Topeka, Kansas came on our radar as we were looking for free attractions to see while visiting my parents.  On a fixed teacher’s salary, we are always on the lookout for free.  We usually end up at some nice places.  If not, we can’t really complain because it did not cost us a dime.
Museum Exhibits Kansas Guard
As a history teacher I am always fascinated with military museums.  Filled with tons of history.  Plus, as a guy it is pretty cool to see the heavy equipment, weapons, and uniforms.  Having two grandfathers, an uncle, a cousin, and my dad all who have spent time in the armed forces is just another reason to go and learn about others sacrifices for my family’s freedom.
National Guard Museum
Dedicated to the history of the Kansas National Guard which was first formed in 1855.  It covers its history as well as honors the history of the 35th infantry Division based at Fort Leavenworth.  In all the Museum of the Kansas National Guard has over 120 exhibits to preserve the military history of the citizen-soldiers of the Kansas Army and Air National Guard.
MASH Replica
On the grounds of the Museum of Kansas National Guard is a variety of heavy equipment.  Howitzer and cannons to an Abrams Tank and F-4 Phantom.  Major equipment from World War I to The Persian Gulf War.  They also have a replica MASH tent from the famous TV show.  As well as a mock Civil War encampment, a gift shop, and guided public tours.
Museum of the Kansas National Guard
Overall, our visit to the Museum of the Kansas National Guard was nice.  Not that interactive but very informative.  Lots of things to look at and read.  The vehicles, planes, and helicopters outside the museum were fun to see.  The staff/volunteers that we dealt with were very friendly.  If you are in Topeka and have some extra time, a visit to the Museum of the Kansas National Guard is not a bad way to spend an hour or two.

To see our reviews of other Kansas attractions, click here.

Museum of the Kansas National Guard
Located at 15 SE Airport Drive Topeka, KS
Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday 10 to 4
Cost as of this Posting: Free
For more information visit their website at http://www.kansasguardmuseum.com/

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