The mellow town of Lawrence lies on the Kansas River, roughly halfway between Kansas City and Topeka, around thirty miles from either. Tree-lined streets, a welcoming historic downtown and an aura of old-hippie culture make it an appealing destination, with a cultural energy owed in part to the University of Kansas, and a long liberal and intellectual history. It was founded in 1854 for the New England Emigrant Aid Company, by Charles Robinson.
A center of Free State activities, Lawrence was the site of a violent Civil War skirmish in 1863. Today Lawrence features the customary staples of college-town liberalism, such as an anarchist bookstore, two microbreweries, locally owned coffeehouses, etc. The city is also known for a thriving music and art scene. Lawrence's culture isn't just political activism and the arts; the town is famous for the University of Kansas's athletic teams.
The highly-ranked Kansas Jayhawks basketball team occasionally qualifies for a bowl game. The University of Kansas is the largest public university in the state with a total enrollment of under 30,000 including the Medical Center. It has over 170 nationally ranked fields of study and nationally known Kansas Jayhawks athletics programs. Haskell Indian Nations University offers free tuition to members of registered Native American tribes with an average enrollment of more than 1000 students representing all 50 states and 150 tribes. Haskell is the home of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and the Haskell Cultural Center.
Dodge City, Kansas, is a gateway to history that began with the opening of the Santa Fe Trail by William Becknell in 1821 and became a great commercial route between Franklin, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico until 1880. Thousands of wagons traveled the Mountain Branch of the trail which went west from Dodge City along the north bank of the Arkansas River into Colorado. For those willing to risk the dangers of waterless sand hills, a shorter route called the Cimarron Cutoff crossed the river near Dodge City and went southwest to the Cimarron River.
150 miles west of Wichita, Dodge City is perhaps the most famous of all America's cow towns. This wildest of Wild West cities had a heyday of only a decade, from 1875 until 1886. Fort Dodge was established in 1865 on the Santa Fe Trail near the present site of the city, offering protection to wagon trains, the U.S. mail service and serving as a supply base for troops engaged in the Indian Wars. Kiowa, Cheyenne and other plains tribes inhabited the area and wild game was abundant including vast herds of Buffalo.
In 1872 the Santa Fe Railroad transported the hides of millions of plains buffalo and by 1875 the town of traders, trappers and hunters had to find a new economic base, once the buffalo had been exterminated. The era of the great cattle drives was already underway, and Dodge City became a den of iniquity where gambling, drinking and general lawlessness was the norm.
A visit to most cities in Kansas will transport you back in time so that you're sure to have a first-hand experience of the Wild West.