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Travel back in time
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The Barton County Historical Society Museum has over 300 dolls, some dating from the 1850s. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of things families can do together during the winter break.



When looking at possibilities for a family outing during the winter break from school, consider traveling back in time.

For those who don’t have a time machine, historical interpretive sites and museums are the next best thing. Central Kansans are just a short drive from the Fort Larned Historic Site, located six miles west of Larned on K-156. Except for Christmas and New Year’s Day (and this year, Christmas Eve), the fort is open seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Nine original buildings from the 19th Century fort are standing, and seven of those have been refurbished, along with the blockhouse, which was rebuilt, said George Elmore, chief ranger at the historical site.

The winter break is a great time to visit, Elmore said. While living history demonstrations generally take place in warmer months, a trip to the fort can be fun and educational when the winter break starts to become too boring. Visitors can stretch their legs and experience how life was in the 1860s, before the life of modern technology.

Continue that exploration at the Barton County Historical Society Museum, located just south of the Arkansas River Bridge in Great Bend. It is open from

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is $4 for people 16 years of age and older, but is free to Historical Society members. It will close at noon this Friday, which is Christmas Eve, and will also be closed on Dec. 31, said Berverly Komarek, director of the museum.

The full historical village is not open during the winter schedule, but there are many displays in the main museum building, Komarek said. If it’s a pretty enough day, visitors who request to see inside one or two of the period buildings are often accommodated. Komarek said one of the most frequent requests is to tour the 1950s-era Lustron House.

The Barton County museum tells the story of this area from the Paleo Period through the Indian Wars to World War II and beyond. It is a Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Site.


Just for kids

Fort Larned invites kids to have fun while exploring the site with the Junior Ranger Program. Kids who finish the booklet will earn a badge and be sworn in as official Fort Larned National Historic Site Junior Rangers. In addition, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can work toward Scout Ranger badges at Fort Larned.

The Barton County Historical Society is working on expanding its children’s area at the museum. At present, hands-on activities include allowing children to use a cast iron stamp to create an embossed seal on paper.