Make plans for a packed itinerary of Kansas adventures in 2017. First up – the solar eclipse. It will darken the state’s northeast corner on Aug. 21 – the first time since 1918. That’s almost 100 years since an eclipse swept coast to coast. The celestial celebrations will be visible to Atchison, Hiawatha, Kansas City, Leavenworth, Marysville, Troy, Wathena and surrounding skies. The eclipse reaches Kansas at 1:02 p.m. on Monday, August 21, and covers 41 miles before exiting the border at 1:09 p.m. Short, sweet and celebratory. Eclipse chasers plan full-fledged watch parties and consider this year’s eclipse one of the best and longest views. Atchison will celebrate its two minutes and 19 seconds of darkness with festivities at Benedictine College, Mount Saint Scholastica Convent and Amelia Earhart Airport (www.TravelKS.com/solareclipse).
In Concordia, the National Orphan Train Complex hails a trio of milestones at its June 1-4 celebration: the 10th anniversary of the Orphan Train Museum, 30th year of the Orphan Train Heritage Society and 100th of the Union Pacific Depot. Also, life-size statues depicting orphan train riders are popping up around Concordia. With 60 expected to be installed by this summer (www.orphantraindepot.org).
Hike, bike or ride horseback through the state’s stunning scenery on the 117-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail, which runs from Osawatomie to Herington. Parts of the rail trail from Council Grove to Osawatomie are now open for 91 miles. The crushed limestone route crosses the tall grass prairie, farmland, wooded stretches and – at the eastern end near Ottawa – the Marais des Cygnes river valley. A family bicycle ride and relay run Oct. 7 along the trail celebrates the grand opening (http://kanzatrails.org/flint-hills-nature-trail).
The iconic land formation known as Little Jerusalem near Oakley was recently acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Kansas and is expected to open to the public for the first time this summer. The 330-acre valley of 100-foot-deep canyons, towering spires and buttes is the largest Niobrara chalk formation in Kansas.
Lucas – a town in North Central Kansas – is known for its folk art funkiness. It contains the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, which moves into a new downtown museum space this spring. The quirky collection will be displayed in temporary, antique mobile units. The exhibit will feature the fully-playable, 18-hole replica of the Goony Golf course, miniature replicas of Kansas monuments, more than 60 of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things, an array of circus wagons and the attraction’s Mobile Museum (www.worldslargestthings.com).
In December, Exploration Place in Wichita unveils a totally renovated aviation exhibit, “Design Build Fly.” Dozens of interactive stations, a factory setting, a deconstructed full-sized plane and a lab modeled after the real-world process of plane design fill the 5,100-square-foot permanent gallery. Currently at Exploration Place, travel back in time to a frigid world with “Discover the Ice Age,” a national traveling exhibit on display through April 30 (www.exploration.org).