With this app, Kansas families can go to more than 200 attractions for free this summer

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Families with children in Kansas who don’t want to travel far for vacation have the perfect opportunity this year and they won’t have to pay an admission fee at several attractions to do so.

Back again is the 2024 edition of Sunflower Summer, a program happening from May 25 to Aug. 11, that offers a way for Kansas families with school-aged children to explore their state, providing complimentary access to tourism attractions across the Sunflower State.

Kansas Tourism announced more than 220 attractions will be part of the program, nearly doubling the amount from 2023.

“The Sunflower Summer program plays a pivotal role in making in-state travel affordable for Kansas families,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “It offers amazing opportunities for parents to nurture their children’s love for travel and appreciation for our incredible state and everything it has to offer.”

Participating attractions this year are located in all regions of the state and includes places like museums, discovery centers, historic sites, arboretums, water parks, amusement parks, zoos, guided trolley tours, live theater events and professional sports events.

How does the Sunflower Summer program work?

To use the program, families with school-aged children need to download the Sunflower Summer app in either the App Store or Google Play Store beginning May 1. From there, they can create an account and claim tickets to participating attraction venues, which will be redeemed upon arrival at the venue.

Free tickets are available to all Kansas students from pre-K through 12th grade and up to two adults accompanying them. The Sunflower Summer App allows one free admission ticket per student for each attraction. Once a ticket is used, the app will “stamp” the ticket and it will no longer be valid to be re-used for that attraction.

A list and map of participation attractions, as well as links to download the app, can be found on the Sunflower Summer website, sunflowersummer.org.

What kind of impact does the Sunflower Summer program have for Kansas attractions?

Attractions and cities that have taken part in the Sunflower Summer program speak highly of it, saying that it offers a great way for Kansans to have fun, learn and experience their state in a cost-effective way.

“I’ve heard from a lot of families that say this is how they travel in the summer,” said Julie Roller Weeks, director of the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Previously, Abilene only had the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum as part of the program, but this year, the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad and Dickinson County Heritage Center are also taking part.

“Now packaging (all) three attractions, we’re a great vacation now,” Weeks said. “All of them are in the same block and very walkable.”

While the tickets are free for those participating, each attraction gets reimbursed for each ticket used, which Weeks said is a win-win for everybody.

“The family gets to go for free, but the attraction… isn’t out anything,” Weeks said. “So this is a way for (the attraction) to increase revenue and increase visitation…thanks to the State of Kansas.”

One attraction that is able to expand what families can do for free this year is the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. Chuck McClary, Digital Specialist and Public Relations Coordinator for the international science education center and space museum, said last year, the Sunflower Summer Program only included access into the Hall of Space Museum.

“Reno County residents already get into the…museum for free, so they weren’t getting the full benefit of the Sunflower Summer program,” McClary said.

This year, the program includes a free All-Access Mission Pass, which includes access to Hall of Space Museum and CosmoKids, one Carey Digital Dome Theater documentary, one show in the Justice Planetarium, one show in Dr. Goddard’s Lab and one ride on the naviGATOR Flight Simulator.

“It’s a pass to pretty much everything in the building,” McClary said.

There are currently renovations happening in the Hall of Space Museum, but McClary said people who come are still able to see things like the Apollo 13 command module and the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft on display.

Plan a vacation or weekend around the Sunflower Summer program

With cities and towns like Abilene or Salina that have multiple attractions participating, there is an opportunity for Kansans to plan a whole trip in one place.

“We’re drawing in a lot of people from outside the area,” said Linda Henderson, director of development and marketing for Rolling Hills Zoo.

Henderson said Salina is trying to create a destination for people to travel to, and with this program, that allows families multiple things to do when they come here, with not only the zoon, but The Garage, the Smoky Hill Museum, Kenwood Cove Aquatic Center and the Art Center and more participating in Sunflower Summer.

“(We want people to) come and spend the weekend in Salina, and check out all of the great venues we have,” Henderson said.

For more information about the Sunflower Summer program, visit sunflowersummer.org.

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