Outer space or inner Earth are both options for off-site events in Hutchinson, home to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center as well as the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. The only Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Kansas, the Cosmosphere and Space Center houses the second-largest collection of space artifacts in the world, second only to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
“It is very popular with meeting groups, as it is within three minutes of our Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, which has 215 sleeping rooms and can accommodate 1,500 for meetings,” said LeAnn Cox, director of the Greater Hutchinson CVB, which markets this city of 40,000 near Wichita. “Groups of 250 can hold a reception in the Cosmosphere’s Grand Lobby under an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane or have a dinner for 200 in the banquet room.”
In early April, a new permanent gallery, “Investigate Space: Our Universe,” opened; visitors now have the chance to drive a virtual Mars rover, fly through space to objects in the universe and try other interactive activities that teach them about unmanned exploration of space.
The KloudBusters, a club for high-powered rocketry enthusiasts, will rent the entire Cosmosphere for a private event when it meets there in September. The center’s 114-seat Imax Dome Theater and the 108-seat Justice Planetarium can also be rented.
For a complete change of scenery, groups can go 650 feet belowground at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. Reaching the museum’s 250-person events room is quite an adventure because it is located in an active salt mine.
Groups first watch a 15-minute safety video; then they don hard hats and breathing apparatus and take a 70-second, pitch-dark trip in a double-decker elevator.
“Once there, groups are loaded onto trains with guides who interpret exhibits and mining equipment seen on the way to the reception site,” said Cox. “Events usually take three to four hours, and groups can choose to add on activities like a new train ride that journeys to deeper parts of the mine.”