Dodge City, Kansas

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Modern day life in Dodge City, Kansas is pretty boring, when you compare it to the wild west days that made the city synonymous with bank robbers, cattle rustlers, and gunfights.  It’s still a cattle town, but those cattle live on the feed lots that surround Dodge City.  Downtown is downright tame, but thankfully, a little bit of Dodge City’s history lives on.

Back in Dodge City’s wild days, Boot Hill is where they buried all the bad guys who were either too slow on the draw, or couldn’t escape a hangman’s noose.  Now, Boot Hill is home to a tourist attraction of sorts, the Boot Hill Museum and Front Street.  All those buildings are not original–they are recreations.  A saloon gives visitors the chance to meet Miss Kitty, and there are daily gunfights on Front Street, along with others shows and performers wearing 1800’s attire.  It might be a little tough to immerse yourself in the wild west state of mind though, since you’re never completely out of sight of busy US 50.

Since I was trying to make it as far across Kansas in one day as possible (and still had about 400 miles to drive), I didn’t visit the Boot Hill museum.  Instead, I just took pictures of Front Street through the fence.

The Boot Hill Museum is a non-profit organization, and admission rates are reasonable ($8 for an adult in the summer–even less in winter).  You can get a preview of what to expect on its website.

The rest of Dodge City’s downtown district partially surrounds the Boot Hill museum grounds.  It’s quite similar to other middle-America downtowns.  As you can see, I managed to find the old, neglected theater.

Modern-day Front Street is a nicely-designed business district, even though many of the storefronts are empty.  The city honors its famous lawman Wyatt Earp with a statue, and US 50/56 is also named after him.

As you visit, you won’t be able to forget the cattle industry–and not just because of this statue of a bull, located in the middle of 2nd Avenue.  You will remember that you’re in a cow town because of the smell.  So many feed lots surround Dodge City, your nose is never out of range.  The smell is unfortunate, because I believe without it, downtown Dodge City would be quite a pleasing experience.

Follow US 50/56 east, out of town.

If you have time for a detour, consider following US 400 to Greensburg, Kansas.  This town is home to the world’s largest hand-dug well, which is large enough that you can climb down 109 feet to the bottom.  Greensburg is currently in the process of rebuilding from a devastating tornado that leveled the entire town, in 2007.  Greensburg reopened the Big Well gift shop in early 2008, and is now making an effort to rebuild “green”–using environmentally friendly construction methods wherever possible.  Read up on their progress here.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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