Some Roadside Attractions in Kansas


If you have ever caught the KCPT Public Television series, “Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations,”  you know that not all of their stops include self-taught art and visionary sites.  At times there are visits to some of the places your dad wouldn’t stop on those long family vacations…or that you flew over on your way to the coast.  Here are the ones we saw today and Friday…


Prairie Nut Hut

1306 Quincy Street  |  Altoona, KS  |  (620) 568-2900

Deep fried prairie oysters are not for the faint of heart…”ya gotta be nuts to eat them.”


Monkey Island—Home of America’s First Space Monkey

Ralph Mitchell Zoo  |  Oak & Park Street  |  Independence, KS

Built in the 30s as a WPA project at zoos across the U.S. , “monkey islands” were islands surrounded by ponds that kept the primates without an escape route and close to the visitors.  Independence, Kansas’s Ralph Mitchell Zoo became home to Miss Able, a rhesus monkey, “the first non-communist primate to travel into outer space.”  


Old Frisco Wooden Water Tower  |  Beaumont, KS

Nestled in the Flint Hills, Beaumont was a cattle town and an important point on the Frisco railroad line.   Still standing near a grass airstrip, is the last remaining Frisco-built wooden water tower in the U.S. (think “Petticoat Junction.”) We arrived at sunset as the parachuted motorized aircraft began returning for the evening.  It was a momentarily surreal experience to see the once-aloft dune buugy-like vehicles drive past us and stop at the sole stop sign, before heading on to the Beau
mont Hotel.


The Underground Tunnels

Santa Fe and Main  |  Ellinwood, KS

Back in 1887, Ellinwood was a German-Austrian settled town of the wild west.  The folk built the town with it’s underground passageways, initially for coal storage and later for a wide variety of businesses —  a dentist, brewery, house of ill-repute, etc.  These underground businesses, especially the saloons, became quite prosperous during the 30s and Kansas-born Carrie Nation’s prohibition fever.  Some of the tunnel businesses have been restored and you can still visit some of these businesses, as we did.