7 incredibly charming little towns to visit in Kansas
Any list of charming little towns in Kansas begins with Abilene, our 2021 Best Small Town USA winner, and Lindsborg, winner in the film’s Most Famous Category – Esque Small Town and finalist for the Little Town title. friendliest city in the United States, but don’t stop there. Kansas is full of small towns that you will love. Each offers fun meals, history and recreation. These are seven of my favorites.
Some of these communities have hosted me, but all opinions are mine.
1. You’ll love Ike and everything else on Abilene
When General Dwight Eisenhower returned from World War II, his hometown staged a parade for him. Eisenhower had won many honors, but he told the crowd: “The proudest thing I can say is that I am from Abilene.” Eisenhower, nicknamed “Ike,” later became the 34th President of the United States, and his legacy is throughout his hometown. Eisenhower’s Presidential Library, Museum and Childhood Home underwent a $ 12.25 million renovation in 2018-19.
While Ike is Abilene’s main claim to fame, the city offers more. Visit the 25 rooms of the 1905 Seelye Mansion. The Seelyes made their fortune in patented medicines, displayed at the back of the Museum of Patented Medicine. Pet retired greyhounds at the Greyhound Hall of Fame. The Dickinson County Heritage Center includes the CW Parker Carousel and the Independent Telephone Museum. From May to October, take the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railway. Look for Ike’s signature paddle at Mr. K’s Farmhouse restaurant. Stay at the Abilene Victorian Inn. Camp at Walt’s Four Seasons Campground.
Pro tip: Candy lovers will love the Russell Stover store in Abilene. Take a walk through the giant spur of Rittel’s Western Wear.
2. Visit Sweden without a passport in Lindsborg, Little Sweden USA
I’m a Swedish quarterback and my husband graduated from Bethany College Lindsborg. I fell in love with the city on my first visit. But you don’t need Swedish ancestry to enjoy Little Sweden USA.
Start your day at Blacksmith Coffeeshop & Roastery. Start shopping at HemslÃ¶jd Swedish Gifts, where they make Lindsborg’s signature Dala holiday horses. Rent a quadricycle there and cycle around Lindsborg town center. We recommend The Good Merchant, TrollslÃ¤nda toy store, Small World Gallery jewelry and art, and Rendezvous Adventure Outfitters. Take a break at The White Peacock Cafe, then look for the Wild Dala Herd horses. The Blue Colla Dala is my favorite.
Birger SandzÃ©n arrived in Lindsborg from Sweden in 1894. The works of the prolific artist are exhibited in many art museums, including the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. See his work in his memorial gallery. Check out Lester Raymer’s work in multiple media at Red Barn Studio, Raymer’s former working studio.
No visit to Lindsborg is complete without stopping at Ãl Stuga Restaurant. Enjoy a Brent Nelson sandwich. Stretch your legs on the VÃ¤lkommen Trail. Near sunrise or sunset, drive to the top of Coronado Heights for fabulous views. Discover the Swedish pavilion at the 1904 World’s Fair and the Old Mill Museum. Stay at DrÃ¶m SÃ¶tt, Sweet Dreams Inn.
Pro tip: Download and enjoy the Swedish Treasure Hunt.
3 and 4. Explore the beautiful Flint Hills at Cottonwood Falls and Strong City
If you’ve heard that Kansas is flat, the Flint Hills will show you otherwise. Discover the Flint Hills and the last major segment of tallgrass prairie in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, north of Strong City. While hiking in the reserve, stop, close your eyes and listen to the song of the grass and birds. Watch for the 100 bison that live on the reserve. The Southwind Nature Trail to Lower Fox Creek School is my favorite hike.
On Friday nights, head to downtown Cottonwood Falls for Emma Chase Friday Night Music. Take part in the concert or sit back and enjoy it. In bad weather, Prairie PastTimes hosts the weekly event. In warm weather, bring your lawn chair and sit outside the Symphony in the Flint Hills Gift Shop & Gallery. Check for location updates.
In the city center, shop for art and antiques at the Flint Hills Gallery, Tallgrass Vistas Photography, and Tallgrass Antiques.
Eat Chase County quesadillas at Ad Astra Food & Drink, Strong City, while sipping an Ad Astra Ale. Stay upstairs at the Grand Central Hotel in Cottonwood Falls and enjoy a steak at the Grand Grill on the first floor.
Pro tip: Cottonwood Falls and Strong City are within two miles of each other. Walk between them on the Community Connection Trail and stop to admire the Cottonwood Falls. In late spring, visit the waterfalls of Chase State Fishing Lake.
5. Meet unsung heroes at Fort Scott
I cried when I visited the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott. The centre’s history began with Irena Sendler, a heroic Catholic social worker who saved more than 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II. She buried the lists of the children’s real names in jars in front of the German soldiers’ barracks. By the end of the war, almost all the children had lost their parents in the Treblinka extermination camp. His story inspired the center to tell his own and that of many other heroes.
Black photographer, filmmaker, writer and musician Gordon Parks grew up in Fort Scott. He was the first black man to make a great film, The learning tree, an autobiography filmed in Fort Scott. Parks bequeathed his memories to the Gordon Parks Museum. His family and friends continued to donate to the museum.
Fort Scott began with the Army’s Fort Scott. The fort was active from 1842 to 1873, from the permanent Indian border to the Mexican War, Bleeding Kansas, the Civil War, and the construction of railroads.
Stay at the Courtland Hotel & Spa, a former railroad hotel. Drink a bourbon in Bourbon County at Crooner’s.
Pro tip: Bring your all-terrain vehicle to the Kansas Ozarks at the Kansas Rocks Recreation Park.
6. Greensburg: The Town an EF5 Tornado Couldn’t Kill
On May 4, 2007, a 1.7 mile wide EF5 tornado with winds of 205 mph killed 11 people and injured 63 others in Greensburg. The city is reduced to ruins.
Instead of giving up, Greensburg has gone green, constructing buildings certified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design as part of its master plan. 5.4.7 Arts Center, named after the date of the tornado, was the first LEED Platinum building in Kansas.
In 1888, the citizens of Greensburg hand-dug a record-breaking well 109 feet deep and 32 feet wide! During the tornado, the museum above the Grand Puits crackled above the well. The museum reopened in 2012, including bizarre reminders of the day Greensburg nearly died.
The terrible tornado was not Kiowa County’s first sky visitor. The museum contains the Space Wanderer, a 1,000-pound Pallasite meteorite, one of the largest ever found.
Savor a treat at the Soda Fountain at the Kiowa County Museum and the Soda Fountain in the Kiowa Commons building. Dine at Crazy Mule Food & Brew, Kook’s Meat and Pueblo Nuevo. Stay at the Best Western Plus Night Watchman Inn.
Pro tip: In nearby Mullinville, admire MT Liggett’s kinetic art exhibits. Liggett, a folk artist, skewered politicians with his designs. Visit the giant Fromme-Birney Round Barn on 16 sides 3.5 miles south and 1.75 miles west of Mullinville.
7. Great Bend is for the birds – and for you
Great Bend’s attractions center around flying, birds, and airplanes, as well as drag racers running around an old track.
The largest inland marsh in the United States, Cheyenne Bottoms, is a giant bird magnet. Vast flocks of birds visit the funds during the migration seasons, but the spring migration brings the most. Of these, 352 come to Cheyenne Bottoms. Start your tour at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center and sign up for one of their guided tours.
The Raptor Center at Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo repairs wounds suffered by birds of prey. When they are healthy, the center releases them back into the wild. Watch the process as the birds heal.
During WWII, another breed of bird flew to the Great Bend Army Airfield. Great Bend trained B-29 Superfortress crews. The city honors the Airmen at the Great Bend B-29 Memorial Plaza. At the Scra Dragstrip, dragsters replaced planes on one of the airfield’s long runways.
Rosewood Services places people with intellectual disabilities in real jobs. Savor their creations at Rosewood Wine Cellar. We especially enjoyed the Daisy Duke Green Apple Riesling, Cowboy chocolates and candies. Buy a gift box full of goodies. Rosewood Furniture Gallery manufactures quality boxes and other furniture.
Heart of Kansas Mercantile / Miss Pretty Pickles is as adorable and fun as its name. Choose from nearly 200 board games at Mind Sculpt Games.
Jack Kilby, who invented the integrated circuit, is Great Bend’s most famous son. Admire the sculpture of the Nobel Laureate at the Barton County Courthouse.
Eat the hot beef sandwich at Great Bend’s biker bar, The HandleBar. Savor the yellow curry, sweet and sour chicken soup and fried banana with Sarocha Thai. Stay at the Best Western Angus Inn. Ask for a courtyard room in an interior corridor.
Pro tip: Ride or walk the 7-mile bike and walking trail over the Arkansas River Embankment System to Great Bend. Remember that in Kansas the river is called the Ar-KAN-sus, not the name of that other state.