Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Liberal, KS

  • Published 2023/03/08

Located roughly ten miles southwest of the Cimarron River is the city of Liberal, the seat of Seward County, Kansas.

The city gets its name from the early settler S.S. Roger’s acts of generosity.

He was well-known for giving water to thirsty travelers, who would respond to him, “That’s quite liberal of you.”

In 1885, Rogers opened a general store and an official U.S. Post Office, which he named ‘Liberal.’

In 1888, they drew up plans for the town after the construction of a nearby railroad.

By 1889, the population in the area had increased to around 800.

Today, Liberal provides a diverse range of activities and attractions, making it a fantastic family-friendly destination.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Liberal, KS:

Celebrate International Pancake Day

Official starting line of International Pancake Day race

Tubafeller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The residents of Liberal celebrate International Pancake Day on the day before Lent.

This unique and friendly competition, held every Shrove Tuesday, started in 1950 between the women of Liberal, Kansas and Olney, England.

The competitors race 415 yards through the streets carrying pancakes in skillets.

This tradition dated way back to the 1400s in Olney, England.

Liberal adopted the tradition after seeing a picture of women racing each other to church in a magazine.

International Pancake Day has grown into a full-day event with several activities, including pancake eating contests, pancake flipping contests, youth races, a parade, and more.

At the finish line is the International Pancake Day Hall of Fame, housing more than 50 years of memorabilia from the festival’s continuous celebration.

Visit the Mid-America Air Museum

The Mid-America Air Museum is Kansas’ top aviation museum and one of the country’s largest.

Located on West Second Street, the museum houses over 100 aircraft and covers an area of 80,000 square feet.

Colonel Tom Thomas, Jr. founded the museum and donated more than 50 planes from his personal collection.

Mid-America Air Museum was established to preserve the region and country’s aviation history.

Its collection represents over 90 years of aircraft design and development.

Besides tours, Mid-America Air Museum offers summer programs for ages 8-12.

Children can learn about the history and the scientific principles of flying, perform experiments, make models, and conduct test flights.

Tour Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz

Explore the magical Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz, inspired by the iconic film The Wizard of Oz.

It’s a 1907 farmhouse renovated and furnished to replicate the movie’s farmhouse.

The idea started with Max and Katie Zimmerman, who shared it with the community in 1978.

However, it wasn’t until 1981 that a local resident found a house that looked like Dorothy’s.

Volunteers transformed the house into a replica of Dorothy’s house in the movie.

Then, the State Governor recognized it as the official residence of Dorothy Gale, which led to annual celebrations that drew visitors to the city.

Located on Cedar Street, the 5,000-square-foot exhibit features elements of the Land of Oz, including the yellow brick road leading up to the house.

Guides dressed in Dorothy’s gingham dresses and ruby slippers tour guests around the exhibits.

To get the most out of your Land of Oz experience, celebrate Ozfest, an annual celebration held every October.

The festival’s contests, special guests, and parade have drawn more than 20,000 visitors in the past.

See the Mighty Samson of the Cimarron

The Mighty Samson of the Cimarron is a railroad bridge located in Liberal, near Kismet, Kansas.

The bridge is a finalist in the “8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture” competition due to its engineering and architecture.

Built in 1939, the bridge is 1,268 feet long and 113 feet high above the Cimarron River bed, designed to last a long time.

Three bridges built in the exact location collapsed within 20 years because of the river’s flooding.

Builders realized they needed to build a new bridge with an Art Deco design.

Marvel at the structure and watch trains go by while having a picnic at a roadside park near the bridge.

Swim at Adventure Bay Family Park

Swimming pool with sea creatures design at Adventure Bay Family Park

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Beat the summer heat at Adventure Bay Family Park, a public swimming pool on North Kansas Avenue.

Adventure Bay Family Park is a refreshing place where the entire family can hang out any day of the week.

It features a lap pool with two drop zones and two slides each.

Likewise, it has a children’s pool with slides, tipping buckets, a family activity pool with basketball rings, and a lily pad rope course.

The water park also features a hydro storm and a pirate ship pool with four slides and play features.

Take swimming lessons and join activities such as Movies at the Bay and Pet Day at the Bay.

Visit the Coronado Museum

Built in 1918, the house-turned-museum houses a collection of artifacts from 1541.

That year, Don Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and 36 soldiers entered Southwest Kansas in search of the fabled “Seven Cities of Gold.”

An eight-foot bronze statue of Coronado welcomes visitors to the museum.

Artifacts such as weapons, quilts, and home furnishings used during the settlement of Kansas are inside the museum.

There is also an exhibit dedicated to the culture of the Native Americans who lived in the area long before Coronado arrived.

Camp at Arkalon Park

Arkalon Park is a terrific place to bring the family for a day or weekend of camping, birding, and hiking.

Situated on Arkalon Park Road, the park’s main campground is in the Cimarron River valley.

Go camping at the tent and RV campgrounds.

Then, have fun at the playground, a volleyball court, a shaded picnic area, bathhouses, and nature walks.

Campers and visitors can enjoy the many ponds where they can fish or see ducks.

Grab fishing licenses from the camp host because you need them in Kansas.

Adopt a Duck at the Annual Duck Festival

Liberal is home to some unique celebrations, including the Annual Duck Festival, held every September.

Sponsored by the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Annual Duck Festival is a fundraiser where citizens “adopt” ducks.

You can buy them at the Chamber of Commerce office or anywhere with the sign, “Ducks Sold Here.”

The highlight of this event is the duck race, where crowds cheer as plastic ducks race toward the finish line.

Exciting prizes await the winners!

Other activities include a cook-off, a water barrel competition for firefighters, trike races, bounce houses, food booths and other businesses.

Your family will enjoy every minute of this festival.

The Annual Duck Festival gathers about 2,000 people each year.

Play Golf at the Willow Tree Golf Course

Play some golf at the Willow Tree Golf Course.

The course opened in 1967.

It’s a beautiful, well-maintained course filled with willow trees, hence its name.

Willow Tree Golf Course is an 18-hole, 72-par, 6,329-yard course.

It has a slope rating of 121 and a course rating of 70.1 on Rye Grass.

At an affordable price, Willow Tree Golf Course is a fantastic place to play golf with friends or family or teach kids how to play.

Exercise Your Creativity at Baker Arts Center

Exterior of Baker Arts Center

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore your artistic side at the Baker Arts Center.

Located along North Pershing Avenue, the Baker Arts Center offers arts and crafts, painting, pottery, music, and even cooking and baking.

The center is the old house of founders Irene Dillon and Francis Marion Baker, who dreamed of starting an arts facility.

They entrusted their house and a section of the block surrounding their home to the Baker Arts Foundation.

After Francis’ death in 1968, Irene continued working towards their goal.

Her private collection had contained over 100 pieces by the time of her death in 1984.

Visitors can explore the center’s gallery housing their permanent collection, new and 3D exhibits, and historic, contemporary, and featured artists.

The Baker Arts Center also has an art and pottery studio, a fun zone area featuring Legos and musical instruments, year-round art, music classes and seminars.

Watch a Liberal Bee Jays Baseball Game

Liberal is proud of its semi-professional baseball team, the Liberal Bee Jays.

It’s part of the Rocky Mountain Baseball League, under the National Baseball Congress.

The Liberal Bee Jays have established themselves as a top baseball team who’ve won 14 conference titles and five national championships.

They’ve also produced more than 60 Major League Baseball players.

The Bee Jays were named after Byron Bancroft Johnson, the pioneer of the American Baseball League.

The team dates back to 1955, spanning more than 60 years of tradition, where teams recruit players from universities throughout the country.

Visit Liberal in the summer and a Bee Jays game.

The season runs from June through August.

Attend the Yellow Brick Road Car Show

Car enthusiasts will surely love the Yellow Brick Road Car Show, an annual event for people with the same passion for cars.

Held every May, the Yellow Brick Road Car Show highlights various car models, but you can bring any model there.

Feast your eyes on the hot rods and vintage cars from across the country.

Vendors also sell food and auto care products throughout the two-day event.

The Yellow Brick Road Car Show’s proceeds go to the Boy Scouts of America’s local chapters.

Grab a Bite at Billy’s Blue Duck BBQ

Billy’s Blue Duck BBQ is one of the places in Liberal where you’ll find locals enjoying a meal.

The restaurant guide “Where the Locals Eat” has named Billy’s as one of the best restaurants in the country.

Billy, the owner, went from adopting a duck at the Chamber of Commerce to winning the $8,000 grand prize at the Annual Duck Race.

He used the prize as capital to put up this Mexican grill and barbecue place, serving exceptional American food and drinks on the menu.

Billy’s also features a bowling alley called Billy’s Ayr Lanes; the restaurant accepts catering and private parties.

Shop at the Liberal Farmers Market

Visit the Farmers Market for your supply of fresh produce, homemade goodies, and arts and crafts.

The Liberal Area Coalition for Families started the farmers’ market with the support and contributions of the Liberal community.

The market allows vendors to showcase different products while also providing easy access to the local community.

Products include meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, preserves, dressings, flowers, artisan soaps, woven baskets, paintings, and more.

The Liberal Farmers Market is open from May through September.

Join the Arkalon Assault

If you dare to test your limits and push yourself, join the annual Arkalon Assault.

It’s the most challenging obstacle course among the five states in the Southwest region.

The Arkalon Assault is a 5k or one-mile obstacle course, with additional entry options for Elite Heat (20 runners only) and Team Entry (4 persons minimum),

Anyone five years old and above can join the competition.

This is a fun activity for family or friends to practice teamwork, strength and balance, motor skills, and coordination.

The Arkalon Assault is held every 2nd Saturday of June at the Arkalon Park.

View the Monuments Erected at Liberal Memorial Library

Whether you’re intending to get some research done or need a peaceful place to read more about the city, Liberal Memorial Library is the place for you.

What started out as a public reading room in 1903 soon became the city’s reliable source for various reading materials.

In 1953, the new—and now current library building—opened to the public on North Kansas Avenue.

But what makes Liberal Memorial Library stand out from other libraries is its standing monuments and signature entrance structure.

Though the Library Book Front now sits at the side of the facility, it remains a sight to behold.

It’s one of the largest structures resembling an open book in all of the state.

Other monuments you can find at this site include the 6-foot Pioneer Mother of Kansas and a mini Statue of Liberty.

Be sure to take a pic of them while you’re there!

Go on a Romantic Movie Night Out at Southgate Cinema Six

Large city service within a small town atmosphere—this is what Southgate Cinema Six promises!

Purchased by Mitchell Theatres in 2009, this movie auditorium takes pride in its high-back rocker seats and digital surround sound system.

The auditorium also offers rentals for private parties and events.

Stay updated on the latest film releases with a trip to this modern-chic theater.

Better yet, take your significant other out for a classic movie date to this place.

Southgate Cinema Six is on South Kansas Avenue.

Get Your Wizard of Oz Souvenirs at Liberal Tourist Information Center & Gift Shop

Your immersive adventure to Liberal’s best attractions is never complete without a stop at Liberal Tourist Information Center & Gift Shop.

This local center has everything you might need on the city’s history, arts, and maps.

Many come by this site for a detailed brochure or a map of Liberal.

In its gift shop, you are sure to find unique Wizard of Oz souvenirs to take home with you.

Head over to Yellow Brick Road to reach Liberal Tourist Information Center & Gift Shop.

Opt for a Peaceful Stroll at Light Park

Ready for a family-friendly outing while in Liberal?

Consider adding Light Park to your itinerary.

This park features two playground areas and an expansive soccer field.

There are also volleyball and tennis courts for everyone to use.

With multi-use facilities paired with good scenery all throughout, this park is a go-to spot for many residents and regular tourists.

Light Park is also the venue for the Annual Duck Race and other community events.

You can find this park on the corner of West 11th Street and North Kansas Avenue.

Join the Festivities at the Five State Fair

Every August, Liberal celebrates with the whole community at the annual Five State Fair.

This event offers your usual carnival and fair festivities but with a unique Liberal twist to them.

Its program includes commercial exhibits, a fair queen pageant, and circus shows.

There’s also a backyard barbecue competition and live music all throughout the day.

Seward County Event Center hosts the yearly Five State Fair on Stadium Avenue.

Final Thoughts

Everyone of all ages will enjoy spending time at Liberal.

The city has museums, outdoor recreation, arts, entertainment, sports, food, quirky places, and festivals.

Consider visiting Liberal for a trip the entire family will love.

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