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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Dodge City aims to protect Old West past

Courtesy Kansas Tourism

Where is Dodge City, Kan.?
The town of 27,000 is in southwestern Kansas, 120 miles southwest of Hutchinson, Kan.; 150 miles west of Wichita, Kan.; 230 miles northwest of Oklahoma City and 320 miles southwest of Kansas City.

How do I get there?
U.S. Highway 400 ties Dodge City to Wichita; U.S. Highway 50 connects the city to Hutchinson. Dodge City Regional Airport has daily service to Denver on Great Lakes Airlines; the airport also serves private aircraft. Amtrak’s Southwest Chef makes two stops in town each day.

What’s new?
• A 108-room Hampton Inn and Suites is expected to open early next year adjacent to the Boot Hill Casino and Resort, the United Wireless Arena and Magouirk Conference Center.

Tell me about recent awards or recognitions.
True West magazine has named Dodge City a Top 10 True Western Town; American Cowboy Magazine called it one of 20 best places to live in the West.

Tell me about some sites worth seeing.
• The Old West rolls happily along at Boot Hill Museum, where visitors can learn to can-can with Miss Kitty and her dancers. Among the artifacts is a gun collection that the museum claims is the best west of the Mississippi. The original site of the Boot Hill cemetery is in the museum as well as a one-room school, a railroad depot, a dry goods store, a print shop and a saloon.

• Try your luck at Boot Hill Casino and Resort, the first state-owned and operated casino in Kansas.

• The Depot Theater Co. has entertained Dodge City for three decades with dinner theater, cabaret and cutting-edge plays. The troupe’s new home is the historic Santa Fe Train Depot.

• A one-hour trolley tour gives new appreciation for the town’s colorful past. Or, see the sights and break in those new cowboy boots on a self-guided walking tour. The Gunfighters Wax Museum and Teachers Hall of Fame is a good place to start; the Carnegie Center for the Arts makes a colorful conclusion.

Tell me about Dodge City’s main meeting venues.

• A 7,200-square-foot ballroom dominates 10,000 square feet of meeting space at the Magouirk Conference Center. For larger events, Magouirk can be used in conjunction with the adjacent events center, which has more than 20,000 square feet of column-free tradeshow space.

• About 5,000 square feet of meeting space and a 100-room hotel makes the Dodge House Hotel and Convention Center an option for small meetings.

Describe some interesting off-site venues.
• The restored Santa Fe Depot’s El Vaquero Dining Room is a graceful location for dinner meetings of 80 to 100. After dinner, groups of up to 170 can have dinner and watch presentations in the depot’s theater.

• Give meetings a frontier feel at Old Front Street in the Boot Hill Museum.

•A recent restoration has made the art deco Hoover Pavilion a prime reception space.

Tell me about local places to dine.
About 12,000 cattle are processed each day in Dodge City, so it is no surprise that steak headlines many menus at area restaurants. The Western décor echoes Dodge City’s at Casey’s Cowtown, one of the city’s oldest steakhouses. The Dodge House Restaurant at the Dodge House Hotel and Convention Center also serves a tasty piece of beef. Central Station, in a renovated freight house, stores its liquor in a safe that once held the payrolls of cowboys herding cattle into town.

Dinner in a dining car is an option there. A fine dining establishment, Mariah Hills Steak and Ale, overlooks Mariah Hills golf course and Dodge City.

What can the Dodge City CVB do for me?
The CVB can line up a welcome by the Drovers, a lively bunch of volunteers who don Western wear and give visitors a warm howdy. To add a bit of levity to the event, they can arrest the CEO or make a VIP an honorary Drover. Or, the bureau can arrange for part or all of the group to be deputized by an official marshal. During a swearing-in ceremony, they’ll receive a badge and certificate.

Did you know?
•    Among the words believed coined in Dodge City are “stinker,” which referred to the smell of a buffalo hunter, and “cooler,” which described the city’s first jail, a 15-foot-deep well where drunks were placed to cool off and sober up.

•    Excel Corp., said to be the largest beef-processing facility in the world, is Dodge City’s largest employer.

•    The cow-to-person ratio in Ford County is 6:1.