The site of the present-day town of Ellis was first settled in 1867, when the Kansas Pacific Railway built a water station there and then bought the land. Within the next few years, a post office, hotel, and shops sprang up?again thanks to the railway?creating growth and contributing to the town that exists today. The railroad has been a part of Ellis since its inception, and the Ellis Railway Museum celebrates that history. The museum features artifacts and photographs of the railroad and trains from as far back as its earliest cow-shipping days. A meticulous, 5,000-square-foot model-train exhibit recreates that magic of the rails, and a miniature train outside the museum runs along a 2.5-mile track?known as the BK&E Railroad?that brings passengers to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and back.
A wraparound porch winds along the perimeter of the Henderson House, its flowerpots framed by white columns and spindles that have stood for more than a century. Inside, guests lounge in double parlors and sleep in guestrooms adorned with stained- and beveled-glass windows, brass lighting fixtures, and antique bed frames. Part of a collection of homes built between 1903 and 1905—which includes the Spickard House, Littlefield House, and Weide House—the Henderson House maintains standing on the National Register of Historic Places through its turn-of-the-century architecture and decor. In addition to opening rooms for bed-and-breakfast-style lodging, the staff entertains guests with murder mysteries, such as the 1950s-themed Murder on the Grill where guests must figure out who killed Tom Dooley and what temperature steak is best cooked at. They also package stays with area attractions, such as guided birding with a nature photographer. Other nearby activities range from visits to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to making plum jelly.
The Long Drive Driving Range hosts private rounds of golf ball-bashing for parties big and small. Groups of family members or coworkers can wallop buckets of balls from eight artificial tees and two true-grass tees. A pair of picnic tables and a fire pit are nearby as well, allowing parties to continue well into dusk or after a solar flare short-circuits the world's electrical grids.
At any of the 15 Great Life Golf and Fitness locations, guests are encouraged to invent their own triathlon of gusto, switching from swimming in the pool to getting a total body workout to playing a round of golf. Great Life has facilities scattered throughout Kansas and Missouri, including golf courses such as the National Audubon Society–certified River Oaks and the links at The Oaks, which were designed by Tom Bendelow and opened in the 1920s. Golfers looking for quick rounds can drop by the nine-hole courses at Maple Creek, Abilene, and CedarBrook. Gyms such as the 14,000-square-foot fitness center at Berkshire allow members or guests to pump iron or run on treadmills when they aren’t helping their golf balls safely reach the greens by paying golf carts to drink all of the water hazards dry. Although amenities vary at each club, all of Great Life Golf and Fitness’s venues boast a pro shop, and the courses at Berkshire and Prairie View maintain driving ranges where golfers can make golf balls practice flying without their parachutes.
At each of its 12 locations in Kansas, the staff of Genesis Health Club strive to create a one-stop health-and-fitness center for the entire family. Supervised childcare programs entertain kids with arts and crafts, and Muay Thai classes help youngsters improve coordination and strength under the tutelage of a fifth-degree black belt. Adults can head over to yoga, Pilates, cycling, or MMA cardio classes, which are all led by nationally certified instructors. Guests can also take advantage of the rows of cardio and strength-training machines, or work one-on-one with an instructor to learn correct form and the best way to walk on your hands on a moving treadmill.