One Tank Trip: Old Cowtown Museum brings history to life

(Illustration by Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

For history lovers interested in an interactive museum experience — without breaking the bank on gas money — the Old Cowtown Museum is only a tank away.

Located in Wichita — about two hours from Manhattan — sits Cowtown, an interactive museum with 54 historic buildings and others remodeled to look like real 19th-century houses and establishments.

The Old Cowtown Museum, established in 1952, takes up about 23 acres just off the Chisholm Trail and is one of the oldest museums of its kind. It is positioned on the Chisholm Trail — historically used for cattle drives from Texas — hence the name Cowtown.

Historical accuracy is a large part of the Cowtown experience. Twenty-seven buildings were transferred from Wichita and other parts of Kansas and restored. The rest were built to mimic other structures from the period.

Cowtown has several different districts to walk through, including businesses, farms and residential areas.

There are several activities to enjoy when visiting, but the main attraction is the history immersion experience which involves touring each building. The buildings feature reenactors who act as guides, retelling the history and stories of the 1800s and whatever their jobs may have been like.

Some of these include houses, a jail, a saloon and a blacksmith. Most of the reenactors can demonstrate their trades for you, and there are over 10,000 historical artifacts to look at. Some areas of Cowtown even include real animals.

According to the museum’s website, “Cowtown’s unique programming tells the story of Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town to an agricultural and manufacturing area.”

Many reviews say this part of the experience will take a few hours, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Other daily attractions include the gunfight show, a Saloon snack bar and more. Additional information about events, hours and pricing is available on the website.

Hey! I’m Maddie Daniel and I am a junior in mass communications. This semester, I'm the assistant culture editor and have previously served as a staff writer. After I graduate, I plan to go to law school to pursue a career in Federal Indian Law. I love art, history and anything outdoors.