|Entrance to the Visitors Center of the Kansas Underground|
Salt Museum located in Hutchinson, Kansas
Once a year the Smithsonian Magazine hosts an event they call Museum Day Live! and on that day you can get free admission to one of over 1,500 museums that choose to participate for you and a guest. It's not just Kansas that participates, this is a nationwide event with FaceBook and Twitter presences in addition to their website. It's a fantastic event and makes me love Smithsonian Magazine that much more for hosting such an event.
This year D1 and I were actually free the day Museum Day was scheduled for so we decided to make a day of it. D1 had been wanting to go to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson for awhile so I signed up for a ticket for us. Tickets are issued by household so at some point he decided to sign up for a ticket to the Salt Museum, also located in Hutchinson. I was excited about going to the Cosmosphere but to find out that we'd be including the Salt Museum in our trip made my day. It had been awhile since I'd been to the Cosmosphere but I'd never been to the Salt Museum. And, oh! A blog post to boot. It doesn't get much better than that.
Hutchinson is about four hours away from Kansas City so we got up at really-stinking-early-o'clock in the morning to get to Strataca early enough for the first tour. The museum is actually below ground...650 feet below ground to be exact. The building that serves as the entrance actually doesn't hold much more than the ticket counter, waiting area, restrooms, locker area and tour prep areas. The tour groups are limited to 28 people because of the capacity of the elevator down to the museum. Even though you're assigned to a tour group, you're not actually tied to that group for the entire time you're in the museum. The museum is self-paced once you get thru the initial tour guide introduction.
|Large piece of salt mined in the Salt Museum|
The museum website recommends allowing at least two hours for the museum experience. You could spend far, far longer than two hours in this museum. The exhibits are interesting, videos informative and staff friendly and knowledgeable. The museum offers two excursion rides, each costing an additional fee after the purchase of the regular ticket (there are several different ticket options, including a Salt/Cosmosphere combo ticket). The Train Ride and Dark Ride are absolutely worth the additional purchase. As an added bonus to the great tours these rides provide, taking the Dark Ride gets you the opportunity to take home your own piece of salt from the museum.
|D1 enjoying the Train Ride at the Salt Museum|
|Having fun at the Salt Museum!|
I absolutely recommend going to see the Salt Museum! Make sure you allow plenty of time so you don't rush through the museum. If you have the time and money to do both rides in addition to the museum, go for it! D1 and I both thought the rides were worth the price paid. Be open minded when you go, it's not all about the mining process. You also learn about the history of the mine, the people who worked in the mine, geology, and you even learn a little bit about post-mining storage facilities that work in conjunction with the mining operation. Don't hesitate to ask questions, the museum staff is knowledgeable and ready and willing to answer them.
And the Strataca doesn't stop with the museum! They have an events area (and often hold weddings, meetings, theater performances and other events there), different opportunities for Scouts, schools and kids in general and various special events, many of which sound like so much fun!
Take a day and go deep into Kansas...underground.