Under the auspices of the Kansas Historical Society, the Kansas Museum of History, winner of the American Association for State and Local History award, enlightens guests with a culturally rich reservoir of exhibitions showcasing the Wheat State's triumphs and tribulations. Revel in Kansas's 150th year of statehood with a peek at the motif-centered "150 Things I Love About Kansas", which pulls Kansan allegories and clichés from The Wizard of Oz to national breadbasket status out of context for examination as a whole. Ongoing exhibits highlight the Native American influence with a Cheyenne tepee, the hardship of westward movement through a covered wagon, and the wonder of 21st-century science with a cryogenically frozen Jayhawks mascot. Young children hop back in time at the fully interactive Discovery Place, primed with frontier dress-up ensembles and a locomotive ready to be commandeered.
Inside the lobby of KU Natural History Museum, unsuspecting guests mill underneath a 45-foot-long mosasaur, seemingly oblivious to the marine creature’s razor-sharp teeth and whip-like spine. But the fossilized cretaceous-period animal remains harmless as visitors ogle it and many others housed in the museum’s 50,000-square-foot space. They run their fingers through the grooves in femurs dating back 150 million years, then time travel to the modern day in the panorama of North American animals, a sprawling display of animals frozen in realistic tableaus that often include fast food franchises in the background. Guests can also soak up insect energy in Bugtown, an area filled with human-size worm tunnels and a live bee colony.
The purveyors of literary pleasure at Signs of Life enable learning and leisure through an expansive collection of printed-word wares, delectable café snacks, and local art pieces. Dabble in fiction with Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic novel, Crime and Punishment ($5.99), or acclimate yourself with American history by reading David McCullough's 1776, a riveting account of how George Washington led almost 2,000 men into battle to defeat the Duke Blue Devils on a last-second three-pointer by Paul Revere ($14.99, paperback). Ecclesiastically curious guests can peruse one of many theologic selections, such as Augustine for Armchair Theologians by Stephen Cooper ($13.99), while sipping a tasty bean-based beverage at Signs of Life’s convivial café. For even more aesthetic enjoyment, art-magnets can scurry over to Signs of Life’s adjoining art gallery, featuring the work of more than a dozen local and national artists in a charming space.