Road trip day 2: Abandoned amusement parks and General Custer’s britches

banner great plains

After cruising through Lawrence and Topeka on Day 1 of my Great Plains road trip, I moved along to Wichita, Kansas on Day 2, all the while humming the Soul Coughing track “True Dreams of Wichita.”

First stop was the Museum of World Treasures, which houses one of the most bizarre collections I’ve ever seen, just in terms of scope. Imagine a world history museum, natural sciences museum, archaeology museum and sports museum all rolled into one. That’s how you get a piece of the Berlin Wall, ancient Egyptian mummies, and George Foreman’s boxing glove on display in the same facility.

museum of world treasures

For someone like me, who enjoys such a wide range of topics, the museum’s collections were interesting. But I could see a lot of visitors being flummoxed by the seeming lack of focus.

Here’s another example: The random placement of General George Custer’s underwear next to a bison skull. Both of these items are fairly ridiculous, but placing them together in the same display case is accidental genius.

general custers underwear

Other highlights included Marilyn Monroe’s purse and fossilized dinosaur poop (not together in the same case, unfortunately.) I’ll have much more on the Museum of World Treasures in a future Quirky Attraction post, but suffice it to say that I walked out of there thinking, WTF was that?

Before leaving Wichita, I had to check out the Keeper of the Plains, a 44-foot tall statue along the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers that honors Native Americans. Wikipedia says it’s the 12th-highest free-standing statue in the country, and the cool thing about the Keeper of the Plains is that every night, the statue is illuminated with fire pits.

keeper of the plains statue

I really wanted to stay for the evening fire pit lighting, but I had other places to see. And the dozens of geese and ducks hanging around were starting to close in around me so tightly that I feared becoming trapped inside a waterfowl mosh pit.

keeper plains geese

I was excited about the chance to see Joyland, a theme park that closed in 2004 after 55 years of service. Joyland has become a somewhat popular destination for urban adventurists who like spending time in abandoned buildings, but there are a lot of police patrols in the area and the park is often the target of vandals, so it’s not the safest place to get into.

joyland amusement park

I poked around a bit to see if it would be possible to enter the property, but I saw too many police cars driving around in the area, so I settled for the distant photos. For some incredible footage from the inside of Joyland, check out the compelling “No Joy” video on Vimeo.

If you’re wondering how to sneak into Joyland amusement park, I suggest not pulling into the front parking lot, but rather parking on the residential street one block over (Range Road) and following the walking path that provides rear access to the property. That way, you’ll be much less conspicuous.

Coming on Wednesday: Day 3 of the journey, in which I enter Oklahoma and visit the Banjo Museum and Flaming Lips Alley.

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

4 comments on “Road trip day 2: Abandoned amusement parks and General Custer’s britches

  1. My very first job was at a small amusement park in Ohio. It closed about 15 years ago and stood empty and for sale. I wanted so badly to get inside and wander around. I thought it would seem so different, still and abandoned instead of lively and whirling. Then, there were rumors that there was a buyer. I was so excited. I wanted to take my kids there. BUt the deal fell through and then suddenly — the rollercoaster was torn down and the whole thing is gone. Turned into an RV sales lot. Oddly, I keep hoping it will somehow reappear.
    Juliann recently posted..Mmmm…Gas Station Tacos

  2. 3 Things,
    I did not know they wore underwear way back in the day.
    The statue lit by fire would have been cool to get photo of.
    Getting into an old park would have been awesome!
    Thanks for the adventure on a tuesday morning!
    gregory urbano recently posted..Welcome to Gulfport

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