Courtesy C.W. Parker Carousel Museum
Published May 04, 2017
Having daytime or after-hours meetings at museums allows groups to gather in places that offer attendees all sorts of educational exhibits and hands-on activities.
In Kansas, groups can take a spin on a century-old carousel, explore a pollinator garden or go on a scavenger hunt — and see a shrunken head — at these museums that cater to meetings.
C.W. Parker Carousel Museum
Carnival and carousel magnate C.W. Parker wanted to expand his factory in Abilene, so when city officials denied his proposal, Parker moved his factory to Leavenworth in 1911. Today, the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth houses three carousels, including a working 1913 Carry-Us-All model that came out of the Parker factory two years after it started operating in its new hometown.
“It’s about 104 years old and running strong,” said Tony Baker, head of the steering committee for the museum, which is run by volunteers.
The Parker Room can seat about 100 guests for a meal, and groups can also use the adjoining patio. The museum also hosts events with tables for up to 130 people arranged around the perimeter of the 1913 carousel. Another small room is most often used for birthday parties but could be used for a meeting for about 25 people. Groups can also reserve the museum during non-operating hours, either after-hours Thursday through Sunday or during off hours Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
A highlight of any event is a ride on the fully operational 1913 carousel, which has 31 unique, hand-carved wooden features, most of which are horses but also include two bunnies, a sleigh and a teacup. The museum also houses a primitive wooden carousel that dates to the 1850s that is too delicate to ride.
Flint Hills Discovery Center
Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres of North America. Today, less than 4 percent remains and nearly all of it is in the Kansas Flint Hills. The mission of the Flint Hills Discovery Center in the town of Manhattan is to educate and promote the stewardship of the Flint Hills eco-region, including the remaining tallgrass prairie.
“It’s a celebration of this very rare and very unique ecosystem,” said Jonathan Mertz, event supervisor for the Flint Hills Discovery Center as well as the city-owned Union Pacific Depot and Blue Earth Plaza.
For smaller, daytime meetings, the center has two private rooms that can each accommodate 40 people and are only steps from the rooftop terrace. Groups of 150 can reserve the terrace, which has green-roof areas planted with wildflowers and grasses and offers views of downtown Manhattan and the Kansas River Valley.
Larger gatherings or after-hours events move into the exhibit space, which can accommodate seated meals for 120 or receptions for up to 400 people. Guests will have access to interactive exhibits, including one of the most popular displays of the tallgrass prairie root system, “showing how deep they go,” he said. Another favorite is the special-effects theater experience: Smoke rolls across the floor when the film discusses fire as part of the prairie ecosystem.
Downtown Manhattan, Blue Earth Plaza park, the historic Union Pacific Depot and four hotels are all within a couple of blocks of the center.
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