15 Best Things to Do in Garden City, KS

Garden City, KS
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The close-knit and relatively calm Garden City, Kansas, is the county seat of Finney County.

The name of the city was said to have come from a local visitor who, admiring a certain local garden, suggested that the city should be named Garden City.

For years after it was founded, multiple people from different parts of the world settled in Garden City and made it their home.

Today, about 20 languages are being spoken in Garden City, a testament to its cultural diversity.

The warm atmosphere of Garden City is like an oasis surrounded by the arid weather of Kansas.

For those who are planning to visit, here are the 15 best things to do in Garden City, Kansas, that will make your stay worth your while.

Visit the Lee Richardson Zoo

Name sign of Lee Richardson Zoo
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to take some relaxing time in Garden City, one of your best options is to visit the Lee Richardson Zoo.

This 50-acre zoo is located inside Finnup Park and can be found along East Finnup Drive.

The zoo is free for pedestrians to pass through, giving everyone access to see local and exotic animals such as giraffes, lions, and birds.

A rhino in Lee Richardson Zoo
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sightseeing isn’t the only thing you can do in the zoo; you can also hitch a ride on the Zoo Train for a guided trip within the premises, or you can try some hands-on learning experiences with the Finnup Center for Conservation Education.

Throughout the year, the Lee Richardson Zoo also holds different themed events, such as during Halloween or the Spring Banquet.

Flamingos in Lee Richardson Zoo
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The quaint atmosphere of Garden City is made brighter by the different places to see art, such as the Mercer Gallery.

This homegrown art gallery can be found within the premises of Garden City Community College, and it boasts a wide array of artworks made by students and local and international artists.

Built in honor of Clyde Mercer in 1989, the Mercer Gallery has since hosted over 300 exhibitions, with an average of 8 to 10 exhibitions each year.

Each exhibition has a different theme depending on the time of the year.

There are a variety of art forms across 2D and 3D media that you can find in Mercer Gallery, such as drawings, paintings, and sculptures.

Warm and welcoming, Mercer Gallery is a must-visit when you’re in Garden City.

Have a Unique Shopping Experience at the Garden City Flea Market

Summer months are special in Garden City, and for one really good reason—the Garden City Flea Market.

Every second Saturday of July, vendors flock to the area near Lee Richardson Zoo to hawk their wares and attract locals and tourists alike.

Since it started in 2010, the Garden City Flea Market has grown popular enough to be visited by an estimated 4,000 people a year.

Over 60 vendors from across Kansas open their stalls and sell beautiful antiques, arts and crafts, and food like candy and pie.

The neighboring Finney County Historical Museum also has gently-used items for sale.

Those interested in buying also have the comfort of the shuttle service that will take them to and from the market grounds.

The Garden City Flea Market is a one-day event only.

Step Back into Time with An Evening In The Past

Experiencing the past through films is one thing, and experiencing it through a live reenactment is another.

With An Evening In The Past, locals and tourists can travel back in time and watch as history unfolds before their eyes.

Actors in period costumes reenact stories from the past, such as the Great Depression and the life of Mark Twain.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the history of southwest Kansas, and it’s made even better by an old-style barbecue and live music.

An Evening In The Past is held every May at the Finney County Historical Museum Courtyard.

Join the Fun at the Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta

Your bucket list in Garden City won’t be complete if you can’t participate in the Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta.

This annual celebration began in 1926 and honors Mexican independence from Spain.

A key event occurs at Steven’s Park, where officials from the Mexican Consulate reenact the historic cry of “el grito”; this reenactment is called the grito.

The fiesta also holds a parade with cars, cowboys, and dancers in traditional costumes.

All around the city, there are mariachi bands and delicious Mexican food, as well as Mexican Folk Dancers performing traditional dances complete with the traditional attire.

Celebrate Cattle during the Beef Empire Days

Garden City is proud of its livestock, especially when it comes to cattle.

One of the highlights of your summer stay in Garden City would be the Beef Empire Days, a celebration that deals with everything related to cattle and the beef industry.

Since its founding in 1968, the Beef Empire Days has been annually held in May and June and has over 16 events.

Across Garden City, there are carnivals full of rides that cater to family fun.

There is also the interesting Live & Carcass Show which features the best cattle and beef meat to encourage beef enthusiasts and cattle owners alike.

For those who want more thrill, you can watch Ranch Rodeo, which gives the audience a firsthand idea of how things are usually done on farms.

Overall, Beef Empire Days is one of the unique events in Garden City that you should visit.

Jam to the Music at the Tumbleweed Festival

What’s the best time to visit Garden City?

The answer is during the Tumbleweed Festival, Garden City’s very own music festival.

Head down to Finnup Drive and listen to all sorts of performances across different musical genres, from country and rock to folk.

Like any festival, the Tumbleweed Festival also has loads of food options for festival-goers, such as barbecues and grilled meat.

There is also a kid’s section where children can stay preoccupied with artistic activities.

Guests are invited to roam the festival grounds to get the full experience of the Tumbleweed Festival.

Enjoy a Fancy Dinner at Baron’s Steakhouse and Bar

Your visit to Garden City is made more special with a fancy dinner at Baron’s Steakhouse and Bar.

This restaurant along East Kansas Avenue is the perfect place for fine dining.

Although it has different menus depending on the time of the day, its dinner menu is the best, thanks to its popular steaks such as filet mignon and ribeye.

Aside from this, there are also multiple dinner options like appetizers, side dishes, and entrees from fish, chicken, and shrimp.

As a bar, it also has a wide assortment of draft and domestic beers for customers to choose from.

Whether you’re dining alone or in the company of family and friends, Baron’s Steakhouse and Bar accommodates and welcomes everyone.

Take a Splash at the Parrot Cove Water Park

Dubbed an oasis in the middle of Kansas, the Parrot Cove Water Park is an indoor location to cool the heat.

The water park is located along Stone Creek Drive and offers a lot of excitement for swimmers, whether you’re experienced or total beginners.

For attractions, try out their four-story slides like Riptide Rush and Screaming Tsunami or something calmer like floating on Key Lime Creek.

If you want to try a fun challenge with your friends, the Everglade Lagoon is the spot to test your balance on the pool’s lily pads.

Adults own the night every 3rd Saturday of each month because alcoholic drinks are available.

Parrot Cove Water Park also has an arcade center for those who don’t want to get wet, as well as a snack shack with pizzas, corn dogs, nachos, and frozen sweets.

Experience Paintball Fun with Saints of Fun

For those who crave fun action with your family or friends, Saints of Fun is the destination for you.

Saints of Fun offers a wide area located along North Jennie Baker Road, which is the perfect spot to hold paintball fights with one another.

With Saints of Fun, you’d be supplied with the equipment you need for your paintball fights, such as face masks, pressurized air, gun rentals, and paintballs.

If you run out of paintballs, they also offer refills so you can keep having fun.

If paintballs are a bit too messy for your liking, you can also try their laser tag games which are just like a paintball minus the paint.

Saints of Fun is a place to bond with loved ones and spend the entire day having a great time with them.

Have a Unique Museum Experience with the True Crime Exhibit

Name sign of Finney County Historical Museum
Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Attention, all crime junkies and fans of investigative crime series, Garden City has something that will tickle your brain.

Visit the Finney County Historical Museum and look for the True Crime Exhibit.

This impressive 525 square-foot area of the museum holds historical artifacts from two major crimes that occurred in Garden City, one in the 1920s and the other in 1959.

The True Crime Exhibit was established in 2018 and features real forensic evidence such as fingerprints, rifles, other weapons, and the boots used by the perpetrators.

There are also historical photographs, as well as the addition of the judicial robe of the judge who heard the 1959 case.

Visiting the unique and noir True Crime Exhibit is a sure way to make your museum trip to Garden City complete.

Sip Coffee at the Central Cup Coffee House

Looking for a place to meet up or hang out with friends, or even just a quiet space to work while you’re in the city?

Central Cup Coffee House may just be the place you’re looking for.

This quaint building is located along North 8th Street and is a prime location to spend some time in.

The coffee house has a lot of choices for coffee, espresso, and frappes, as well as keto blends which have an espresso base and are mixed with heavy cream.

If you want something milder, try their tea or tea lattes or even smoothies if you’re looking for non-caffeinated options.

Central Cup Coffee House’s emphasis is on coffee, but they also have some pastries for you to pair their delicious coffee with.

Team Up with Friends in Escape the Clock’s Escape Rooms

Escape rooms are becoming popular options for a great time with friends, and Escape the Clock has a lot of them.

Bring your friends along to North Main Street and try out one of the multiple themed escape rooms that Escape the Clock has to offer.

You can try “The UnDead End,” which sees you escape from a dead end against zombies, or even “Alice in Wonderland,” where you’re trying to leave a magical world.

Because escape rooms promote communication, trust, and planning, Escape the Clock is also a good place for team-building activities that will help teams work together better to solve problems.

Use your wits and combine all your efforts to crack the code of Escape the Clock’s escape rooms!

Explore Wildlife at the Sandsage Bison Range

The wilderness is always a great place to visit, and Garden City offers the comfort of the city with the exotic feel of the wild.

Just south of downtown Garden City along Highway 83 is the Sandsage Bison Range, one of the county's few remaining native sandsage prairies.

Since its founding in 1916, Sandsage Bison Range has witnessed the birth of many generations of bison.

The range’s 3,760-acre land area gives enough space not only for bison, but also for other animals like rabbits, mule deers, and snakes.

Guided tours are available starting March to October, but for your safety, tours are held in protected carriages some distance away.

You can watch some of the baby bison graze alongside the adults, especially after the calving season.

Apart from exploring and appreciating the beauty of the wilderness, you can also do some stargazing in the Sandsage Bison Range.

Join Arts Events and Classes in the Garden City Arts

Stroll along North Main Street, and you’d eventually find the Garden City Arts.

This local art gallery features multiple exhibits each month, making for a unique art experience every time.

But Garden City Arts isn’t just your ordinary art gallery; they also offer art classes that help budding painters on their feet.

Their workshops and lessons focus on various art forms and media, such as canvas classes, watercolor workshops, felting, mixed media, and resin.

Depending on the time of the year, Garden City Arts also features different themed events, such as during the spring season and other public art events.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Experience Thrilling Nights with Airport Raceway

If you’re looking for some more excitement, head 10 miles east of Garden City to the Airport Raceway arena.

Here, feel the thrill and the rush as race cars speed through the 1/6-mile dirt track during the weekly races that Airport Raceway holds.

These races, held in the evening of the summer months, are sure to set the adrenaline pumping through your body with the roar of the engines and the cheering of the crowd.

Airport Raceway also offers classes for those who want to try their hand at racing.

It’s safe enough for your kids to join, too!

Airport Raceway is a great place to make your stay in Garden City a lot more exciting, and it helps that it’s so close to the city.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to its rich history and vibrant community, there are many things that you can do in Garden City.

Art lovers, history enthusiasts, nature lovers, or those who just want to have a good time—there’s always a place for everyone in Garden City.

There are a lot of beautiful things to do, but the only way for you to get the full experience is by visiting Garden City.

Visit Garden City, Kansas, today!