Conjuring up images of flat plains, sunflowers that decorate the landscape, and miles of meandering waterways, Kansas has long been renowned for its natural beauty. However, it also has a lot of small-town charm. Whether you're looking for a big adventure or a weekend getaway, there are many historic and scenic towns to visit. Get to know some of the places that will have you saying, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"
From the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home to the Greyhound Hall of Fame, Abilene has no shortage of cultural attractions. For a more nature-based experience, explore the state's largest lake at nearby Milford State Park. You might even spot one of the city's wild turkeys! Experience the life of a 19th-century settler by exploring an original log cabin and schoolhouse at the Dickinson County Heritage Center.
Filled to the brim with beautiful historic buildings that are remnants of the town's era as a transportation hub, Atchison's Victorian-style houses are worth taking the time to see. Local folks believe that parts of Atchison may be haunted, and you can find out the truth for yourself during a Haunted Trolley Tour. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum celebrates the life and work of the pioneering aviator. Visitors can also catch a show at the Theatre Atchison, which has been entertaining audiences since its opening in 1984.
Known as the "Oasis of the High Plains," Colby is a picturesque town that combines outdoor exploration with plenty of local flavor. Nearby, Sappa Creek provides opportunities for fishing, while outdoor lovers and travelers with tots can enjoy Fike Park. Be sure to visit the Prairie Museum of Art and History for more information about this region's history and culture.
Council Grove has history around every corner, from the Kaw Mission State Historic Site to the Council Oak, which witnessed a meeting that changed the history of the Santa Fe Trail. Council Grove is also known for its restaurants, including the Hays House 1857 Restaurant and Tavern, a long-time local favorite.
Located in the western part of the state, Dodge City was an important stop on the Santa Fe Trail and was once one of the most famous frontier towns in America. At its peak, it was infamous for embodying "Wild West" lawlessness, earning it the nickname "The Wickedest Little City In America." Visitors can explore historic sites such as the Boot Hill Museum, the Ford County Courthouse, and the Mueller-Schmidt House, known locally as the "Home of Stone."
Walking into Fort Scott after a drive on the Frontier Military Historic Byway can be like walking back in time. The town was founded in 1842 and has been carefully preserved since then, with brick streets and impressive, often original architecture that is now home to modern boutiques and restaurants. The Fort Scott National Historic Site includes 20 historical buildings and exhibits with era-specific furniture and accessories that tell the story of the town's role in American history.
Another city that was once on the Santa Fe Trail, this history-laden town is known for being the site of the first NHRA-hosted national drag race. Visit the Barton County Historical Society museum and village for a taste of what Great Bend used to be like. If you want to get out into nature, try birdwatching at Cheyenne Bottoms or the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.
The largest city in Ellis County, Hays provides visitors with a robust roster of activities. Start at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History for a trip back to the dinosaur age before visiting Buffalo Bill's stomping grounds at Fort Hays State Historic Site. Play disc golf, go skating, explore some trails, and even visit bison at Frontier Park, which is located on the grounds of what was once a garrison when the town was first settled.
Leavenworth is located along the Missouri River in the northeastern corner of the state and is often referred to as the "First City of Kansas." The town has retained its historical charm, with many buildings from the nineteenth century still standing today. While you're here, take the opportunity to explore the Greater Leavenworth Museum or Fort Leavenworth, which is now the oldest Army base west of the Mississippi River.
Located in northeast Kansas, Lecompton was an important settlement during the Civil War. Wander through Constitution Hall State Historic Site to learn how this small town played a pivotal role in Kansas statehood. You can also visit the Territorial Capital Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts from the mid-1800s or take a self-guided walking tour to get a sense of what life was like in Kansas during this tumultuous period.
Located in central Kansas, Lindsborg has a rich history that dates back to its founding in 1869 by Swedish immigrants. It celebrates its heritage with the biennial Svensk Hyllningsfest, a festival that features art vendors, traditional Swedish food and music, and a parade. Visitors can also learn more about the town's founding at the Swedish Pavilion, a replica of a traditional wooden church found in Sweden that was used at the 1904 World's Fair.
This small town is home to a quaint Main Street and the famed Grassroots Art Center, where visitors can view art created from recycled materials. Despite being a small town of 400, Lucas is widely known today as an art hub and is even home to the second-best bathroom in America. If you have to go, it's located at the Bowl Plaza, with an entrance that suggests the shape of a toilet.
Norton's original business district has become the historic downtown locals love today for international cuisine, coffee shops, and independent businesses. However, this small town is also renowned for nearby opportunities to hike, hunt, and fish in the Norton Wildlife Area (also known as the Keith Sebelius Reservoir). You can even spot prairie dogs in Prairie Dog State Park, where a small family of about 300 prairie dogs has made a home just south of the park office.
Home to many attractions, such as The Columbian theater, and a lively downtown area, Wamego may be most famous for claiming the Wizard of Oz as its own. The town's Oz Museum is a must-see for classic movie fans, while the annual Oztoberfest brings the city together every fall. There's even the Oz Winery for a truly unique tasting room experience.