At the intersection of Interstates 70 and 135, Salina is the crossroads of Kansas. Any Kansas road trip should include the beautiful city of Salina, just over an hour north of Wichita. As the crossroads of the state, Salina offers numerous cultural and recreational activities along with excellent shopping and dining.
Here are 12 great things to do when you’re in town.
1. Explore SculptureTour Salina
Many of the city’s amenities are clustered in Salina Downtown. For an excellent orientation, explore SculptureTour Salina. Each year, sculptors install between 15 and 25 sculptures in Downtown Salina. Silver boxes on the sculpture pedestals hold ballots. You can also pick up ballots at downtown businesses. At the end of the exhibition season, the city of Salina buys the winning sculpture. Anyone interested may also purchase sculptures. We always look forward to seeing the new sculptures.
Pro Tip: The SculptureTour makes a great stop on an Interstate 70 road trip through Kansas.
2. Attend A Performance At The Stiefel Theatre For The Performing Arts
The Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts fits in well with the sculptures, because the theater is an art deco gem. The venue opened in 1931 as the Fox-Watson Theater. The $400,000 building featured lavish art deco chandeliers, an elaborate staircase, and opulent gold leaf.
All that glamour needed rescue when the theater closed in 1987. Two years later, its owners donated it to the city. The city installed a new roof and then mothballed the structure until 1997. Eventually, the city gave the theater to a nonprofit group for renovation. In 2003, the restored former cinema reopened as a live performance venue.
Because of Salina’s crossroads location, the theater has welcomed top names like George Carlin, Darius Rucker, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Frampton, Bonnie Raitt, and Emmylou Harris.
Pro Tip: The venue lost its spire in a 1954 storm. In November of 2020, a crane lifted a new spire into place. The spire turned the building into a fun reminder of Ghostbusters’ Shandor Building. Don’t be afraid of ghosts; enjoy the spire’s lights in the evening.
3. Watch An Indie Movie At The Salina Art Cinema
Step into an alternative vision at the Salina Art Cinema. Across the street from the Stiefel, the cinema shows first-run independent, documentary, and international films at its 92-seat venue. During the free Science on Screen events, the cinema pairs a movie screening with an expert-led discussion of scientific topics in the movie.
4. Buy Artists’ Creations At The Salina Art Center
The Salina Art Cinema is a division of the Salina Art Center. At the art center, stroll through the galleries to enjoy the rotating exhibits. Many of the works of art are for sale. Add a little mystery to your life and buy some artwork from the Art-O-Mat machine. Purchase a $5 token from the art center and drop it into the machine. A tiny work of art will come out. Embrace the mystery, because you won’t know exactly how it will look.
5. Experience The Crossroads At The Smoky Hill Museum
The Smoky Hill Museum moved into the 1931 art deco post office in 1985. On your way up the front steps, note the high-relief sculptures on each side. Inside, you’ll walk through the arch that says Salina, Your Opportunity. The sign originally greeted railroad passengers. After you finish exploring the museum, you’ll see what makes Salina a great opportunity to visit.
The museum’s exhibits rotate every six months, and the staff members change the permanent exhibits’ artifacts frequently as well. Come to the lecture series on first Thursdays, but arrive early to obtain a seat. On the fourth Saturday in September, you can attend the museum’s street fair, featuring live music, historic demonstrations, and more.
Pro Tip: Look for the WalkSalina and When Houses Became Homes logos outside the museum. Scan the QR code to access walking tours of the downtown area. Take the Gypsum Hill Cemetery walking tour to hear stories of early Salina. Henry David Lee, who founded Lee Jeans, is buried there. The city of Salina also has a trail system. Download a map here.
6. Talk To The Animals At The Rolling Hills Zoo
The Rolling Hills Zoo includes two parts, the zoo and a wildlife museum. This is not your father’s zoo, where the animals are penned in cages. They live in beautiful, naturalistic habitats. The critically endangered cotton-top tamarins all sport different hairdos, while the Amur leopards display spectacular fur coats. During monarch butterfly migration season, watch for them in the zoo’s butterfly garden. Throw in tentacled snakes, Gila monsters, and giant hissing cockroaches for a memorable visit.
In the 64,000-square-foot museum, animatronic “humans” within displays narrate stories about their environment in climates from the Arctic to the tropics. In the education gallery, you’ll find several hands-on activities.
Pro Tip: Explore the zoo when the temperatures invite the animals to be outside. When the weather is too hot or cold for the animals, visit the wildlife museum. Reserve times online. Strollers and wheelchairs are available for rent. You can ride the tram on summer weekends. Free air-conditioned kennels are available for pets.
7. Stretch Your Muscles At The Alley And The Salina Fieldhouse
If you still need exercise after exploring the zoo, visit The Alley and The Salina Fieldhouse downtown. The Alley offers bowling, laser tag, virtual reality, and arcade games. The Fieldhouse offers space for every kind of team game, including basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, and football. The Fieldhouse also allows walkers.
8. Watch Hard-Hitting Action At The Tony’s Pizza Events Center
The 6,500-seat Tony’s Pizza Events Center is home to two full-contact sports, Salina Sirens roller derby and Salina Liberty indoor football.
The Liberty won their regular season conference title in 2018 and 2019. They also won the conference championship in 2019 before losing the Champions Bowl. Indoor football is a fast-paced game played in a much smaller area than traditional football. If you sit in the front rows, be aware that players may crash over the barriers.
The Sirens belong to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. Roller derby bouts comprise two 30-minute halves, which are divided into three 2-minute jams. Each team’s jammer tries to score as many points as she can by passing blockers. The blockers impede the opposition’s jammers.
9. Fill Your Garden At Stutzmans
Stutzmans Greenhouse sits in the open air under a canopy. All kinds of plants are available for purchase, including unique vegetables. You need look no further than Stutzmans for your plantings. Whimsical outdoor decor items will complete your yard. Have a question? Ask the knowledgeable staff.
10. Show Off Your Salina Visit
Salina Downtown is very walkable, with many boutique shops. Curl up with a book, coffee, and a bagel and lox at Ad Astra Books & Coffee House. Show everyone that you’re visiting Salina: Take a picture with the 67401 mural on the building’s north side. Use the hashtag #6740wonderful.
11. Shop Salina Downtown
We recommend Auld Lang Syne for antiques. You can’t miss their beautiful sign, which looks like it came from a grandfather clock. Flipping Fabulous flips rundown into refurbished. PB&J is one of my favorite clothing and accessory shops. Rebecca Jane’s offers original artwork, flea market finds, and antiques. Choose and paint your own food-safe pot at On the Pot. Look for the Champion sign to find Quilting Station. Find your perfect fit with multigenerational clothing at Sanity Boutique.
12. Dine With Delight In Salina
Salina offers some of the state’s best food within an easy walk. The Cozy Inn is one of our favorite Midwest hole-in-the-wall diners. Buy a bag of burgers and eat them in The Cozy’s picnic area. Then rub your hands with salt to remove the scent of onion-drenched hamburgers.
Savor a wood-fired Rosie’s Special Pizza at Blue Skye Brewery and Eats. It features cream cheese, homemade pork chili verde, a mix of black beans and corn, and house blend cheese, all topped with red peppers. Yum, yum! Enjoy their Fire Engine Red or Crank Case IPA.
Martinelli’s Little Italy is a Salina institution, the place we gather after meetings in Salina. We recommend the lasagna and the beef ravioli followed by tiramisu or the Molten Vesuvio chocolate cake.
Pro Tip: To sound like a local, pronounce the city’s name Sah-LINE-ah, even though it’s the seat of Sah-LEEN County on the Sah-LEEN River.