Our second year of travel blogging offered us more opportunities for adventure and exploration. There were so many great places we visited that it is really difficult to narrow it down to just our Top 10 stops. This grouping represents some of the best sites we visited in 2018, and each hold a special place in our memories. One common thread between all of these places is the educational opportunities that they each offer. Of course, a few of the places also allowed us to act like kids again, so that was just an added bonus.

Everyone likes to watch the animals at the St. Louis Zoo, and the animals like to watch back.

Saint Louis Zoo

By now, most of you know we love to visit zoos. Seeing the variety of animals and the interesting way that visitors can interact can be amazing. Over the years, most zoological parks have evolved in the way the animals are treated. The Saint Louis Zoo is a good example of how parks are working to make the spaces for animals more personalized. With activities to keep them engaged and materials that better reflect their natural habitats, visitors have a chance to view these often endangered species in near real-life situations. The St. Louis Zoo offers the added bonus of having FREE admission. That’s a hard example to beat. (You can read more about the zoo here.)

City Museum, in Saint Louis, is fun for all ages in this hands-on play place.

City Museum

While we were in Saint Louis, we also visited City Museum, which is a play-place on steroids. Set inside an old warehouse, this multi-story masterpiece offers kids of all ages a chance to get a little dirty. Pulling into the parking lot, we could already see it was going to be a great visit. City Museum is a combination of jungle gyms, ball pits, and slides with a side of art included. Seeing hundreds of guests crawling in and out of the tunnels and passageways was amazing, and it certainly helped us feel a little younger. Definitely a must see on your next St. Louis trip.  (You can read more about City Museum here.)

A boat team gets drenched as they hit a turbulent spot in the river during a run at Riversport OKC.

Riversport OKC

While we are on the topic of acting like kids, we need to mention Riversport OKC. When the opportunity to visit this site came up, it didn’t take much research to decide it was something to be seen. Filled with an amazing array of physical challenges, it offers plenty of chances to challenge yourself. For me, the idea of whitewater rafting, in a safe environment, was something I never believed would happen. This experience is one that I will never forget. (Read more about Riversport here.)

The authors pose for a selfie at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

National Cowboy Museum

We found lots of great sites in Oklahoma City, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Our schedule only allotted around 2 hours for our visit, which we quickly realized was insufficient. This place is filled with amazing artifacts from the Wild West, as well as modern day memorabilia. As we made our way through the galleries, it seemed that they just kept coming. Each one would offer us an opportunity to learn about another aspect of cowboy life. When you plan your Oklahoma City vacation, be sure to block off some extra time for this stop.  (Read more about the Cowboy Museum here.)

Guns blaze and actors drop as they recreate a gunfight at Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas.

Dodge City Days

The Central U.S. is filled with western heritage sites, which we enjoy learning more about. When we contacted the Dodge City Visitors Bureau, they were happy to have us come visit. They suggested we attend during Dodge City days, as it would offer an additional layer of opportunities. One of the main attractions was the gunfight and dance hall shows at Boot Hill. Yes, the Boot Hill you think about when you see old episodes of Gunsmoke. These action packed entertainment venues draws the crowd into the show and soon you are cheering for more and more. It was a rootin-tootin time for all ages. (Read more about Dodge City Days here.)

The Garden of Eden is a main attraction for travelers to Lucas, Kansas.

Garden of Eden

Learning the history that accompanies the places we visit is an added bonus for us. Sometimes, it’s the stories behind the people that are the most intriguing part of the stop. Lucas, Kansas is the home of the Garden of Eden, which was constructed by one man, during the later years of his life. This assortment of statues becomes even more amazing when you know the back story. How many of you take the time to learn about the people who created the sights we all visit? (Read more about the Garden here.)

The Flint Hills Discovery Center is a great place to get a better understanding of the ecosystem of the region.

Flint Hills Discovery Center

How often do you return to a city you have visited in the past? Manhattan, Kansas is a place we frequented during the period that our youngest son was attending college there. We felt we knew everything there was to see there, but it had been a few years since our last stop. When we began researching for a possible visit, we realized just how much had changed over the years. One major addition is the Flint Hills Discovery Center. It tells the history of the surrounding lands with an assortment of interactive exhibits. Hands-on displays really bring the educational message to light, and engages visitors. These types of exhibits are becoming more common place, which is great news for us. (Read more about the Discovery Center here.)

Sometimes we wonder who's watching who when we visit Sea Life KC.

Sea Life KC

Our travel season continues to expand, but we still limit our trips during the winter months. We save this time to explore our home town of Kansas City. It can be hard to fathom the idea of an aquarium being located so far from a coast. Sea Life KC offers us land lubbers a chance to see the amazing creatures that inhabit the salty seas. As with a visit to the zoo, sometimes we wonder who is watching who? (Read more about Sea Life here.)

A playground is just one of the attractions that draws visitors to the Riverwalk in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock Riverwalk

When travel season starts back up, we are really in the mood for some outside time. After being cooped up for the winter, some much needed sunlight is just what we desire. It’s amazing how many destinations are improving their outdoor spaces to draw in more visitors. Little Rock, Arkansas has designed a Riverwalk area that includes playgrounds, walking trails, outdoor sculptures, and even pedestrian bridges that glow at night. It was an amazing space to investigate. (Read more about the Riverwalk here.)

The Des Moines farmers market covers a lot of space in the downtown.

Des Moines Farmer’s Market

Another fun outdoor space we enjoy are farmers markets. On a Saturday morning, these are fun to stroll through, while checking out the local goods. In Des Moines, Iowa, we found the king of farmers markets. This weekly event covers blocks of space, and is filled with all kinds of fun sights, sounds, and smells. When you combine this area with the capital grounds and their outdoor sculpture park, it makes Des Moines a great outdoor exploration destination. (You can read more about Outdoor Des Moines here.)

The authors pose for a selfie during an research trip in one of their Top 10 Spots of 2018 cities.

Reliving Our TOP 10 Stops of 2018

It’s amazing to look back on our annual travels and remember all of the great destinations we explored. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity to see many great places and meet some amazing people. As we move into 2019, we plan to continue our focus on the Central U.S. There are so many more interesting places to share with all of you and we are eager to find them. If you have some towns or cities you would like to have us feature, just drop us a note in the comments or send us an email. We’d love to check out some of your favorites!

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