The legendary film “The Wizard of Oz” celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and, as movies often show, it’s that black-and-white image of boring old Kansas that might reflect some Americans’ perspectives on the Sunflower State. Indeed, Kansas recently was voted tops in a poll by Business Insider for having the “worst scenery” with 12 percent of the vote.
While beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, America’s best scenery was chosen in the poll as Colorado (15 percent), Hawaii, Alaska, Montana and California. Though some might equate Kansas’ “worst scenery” designation as meaning ugly, we’re guessing it is more of a boredom factor than anything else. After all, travelers driving across the state can go for miles and miles without seeing “anything” — if they are hoping to see the tall natural wonders prominent in other locales. Kansas’ tall structures tend more toward grain elevators and wind turbines, but that isn’t all bad. At least Kansas didn’t rank with Alabama as having the ugliest residents, with New York as being the most arrogant or with Louisiana for being the drunkest.
Seth Kugel, a writer for The New York Times, took a trip across the country this summer and he figured out he had “unfair biases” and “significant gaps” in his knowledge about the 10 heartland states, which included Kansas.
“A spin through the middle of my own country was every bit as, well, exotic — revealing you don’t have to go abroad to experience new music, annual rites and political views far different from what you find at home,” Kugel said in his Frugal Traveler column.
A drive through Kansas’ Flint Hills can be breathtaking and, for those seeking something tall, Monument Rocks would be a feast for the eyes too. Listed as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, this national natural landmark, as declared by the U.S. Department of the Interior, is a series of large chalk formations containing fossils in Gove County. The Chalk Pyramid formations, which reach a height of up to 70 feet and include such formations as buttes and arches, are estimated to have been formed 80 million years ago. Kansas has many other unique aspects, including beautiful and historic architecture in this area, that easily should move it off the list of worst scenery.
Dorothy Gale took the road less traveled during her visit to Oz, but Kansas has some of the best roads in America. A few more travelers venturing this way might find they too have unfair biases about Kansas’ scenery and that an actual visit would quickly displace the notions of a boring heartland.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher