Kansas Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.
Kansas. The nearest many of us have come to Kansas is the classic 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as farm-girl Dorothy. In the film Kansas is portrayed as a pretty isolated, sparse, tornado ridden state, from which Dorothy longs to escape – over the rainbow. It would be unfair to say it hasn’t changed much in almost 70 years, but – well – Kansas is known as a rural exodus, one of the slowest growing states in the nation within which there has been a steady migration out of the country and into the cities. As for the tornados, you can’t move Tornado Alley. Last year a twister just about flattened Greensburg (109 miles west of Wichita) with lives lost as a result.
This Midwestern state, in the American Heartland, is named after the Kansas River which flows through it – in turn named after the Kansa tribe which inhabited the region. First settled by European Americans in the 1830s, it became a hotbed of violence during the political wars over slavery, finally entering the Union as a free state in 1861. In 1866 George Custer formed the 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley in Kansas in 1866 and, ten years later, at the Battle of Little Big Horn, every man and beast of the 7th were wiped out – with the exception of one horse called Comanche.
Kansas-highlighted in redSouthwest Kansas and Dodge City are famously known for the cattle drives of the late 19th Century with Dodge being built on the Santa Fe trail. Wyatt Earp, James Butler Wild Bill Hickok and William B Bat Masterton were three of the legendary lawmen who kept peace during these times in the wild frontier towns of Dodge, Abilene, Wichita and Ellsworth.
Immigration after the Civil War saw the state’s prairie turn into productive farmland and Kansas remains one of the most agriculturally fertile in America.
Bordered by Nebraksa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Colorado, Kansas is equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans with the geographic centre of the 48 mainland states near Lebanon in Smith County. Despite being able to claim being at the centre of everything, it’s not enough to attract a growing population. It is claimed that there are more than 6,000 ghost towns in Kansas – and plenty more with less than 1000 inhabitants.
So, it’s not really the great nightlife centre of the world either……or the greatest state in which to drink (and never has been since the legendary 6ft tall Carrie Nation wielded her hatchet on bars throughout the state in the early 20th Century as part of the temperance movement). Currently some 31 of Kansas’ 105 counties are dry – meaning the government forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages in some form – and only around 17 allow liquor sales by the drink with no food sales requirement. This includes Wichita, the state’s largest city. If you’re visiting, check the rules and regulations locally and remember, the legal drinking age in Kansas is 21.
Flag of KansasKansas has never been greatly into alcohol; in fact the state prohibited it altogether from 1881 to 1948 and continued to ban on-premises sales until 1987 (29 counties still do). Sunday sales of alcohol have only been permitted since 2005 and if you’re in Kansas on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, don’t even bother to try and buy anything alcoholic off-premise. As you might expect, therefore, Kansas doesn’t look too kindly on anyone being found intoxicated in public…so just watch yourself.
One thing it is still relatively easy to do is smoke. The Kansas Legislature has twice rejected a statewide smoking ban, although it is banned in enclosed public places in some counties, so check locally. In Kansas City, for example, smoking is banned in all workplaces but there are numerous exceptions, including bars and restaurants.
Topeka is the capital of Kansas, although as already mentioned Wichita is the biggest city, followed by Overland Park and Kansas City. If you look up Kansas City nightlife, it seems pretty fab but – confusing though it is – the main part of Kansas City is actually in Missouri. KC, Kansas, is just a satellite town of KC, Missouri – and its here that you’ll find most of the nightlife action centred around the Westport area (please refer to Missouri page for further information).
Seal of KansasThe Old Town is Wichita’s main entertainment district with nightclubs, chilled bars, excellent restaurants and live music (try America’s Pub which has recently added a salsa lounge and Flashbacks). Across at Overland Park you’ll also find a good selection of restaurants and bars, including Old Chicago – acclaimed for its fabulous beer selection – and the OP1906 Bar & Grille.
Back to the capital Topeka, which – considering its relatively small size (122,000) – has a good range of nightlife from comedy and karaoke to live music and dancing. Sports bars are popular – try Jeremiah Bullfrogs Live on SW Wanamaker, or for country and dance ‘clubbing’, Electric Cowboy on SW Topeka Blvd is the place to go. The Boobie Trap Bar on W 6th is open til 2am from Monday to Sunday featuring local, regional and national live acts. A complete range of music is on offer at the Classic Bean on SW Fairlawn Rd. Live bands on Friday and Saturday nights include celtic, folk, rock, jazz and blues. On occasional Thursdays there’s poetry…and Big Band jazz the first Monday of each month. Wash down with gourmet sandwiches, soups, salads, coffees, and desserts. Finally, if it’s an Irish pub you’re looking for, head for Frank O’Dooley’s on Westport Drive.
For many out of towners, Topeka is ‘over the rainbow’.