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10 Charming Small Towns In Kansas Worth Stopping For

10 Charming Small Towns In Kansas Worth Stopping For

You may not be wearing ruby slippers, but click your heels and wish to be in Kansas. The state is home to great history, traditions, and culture. Whether you’re a western fan, enjoy impressive art, or prefer to spend time in nature, you’ll find it in Kansas. While there, check out some of the charming towns which call the Sunflower State home.

A car driving in the Flint Hills of Kansas
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Marysville

Just south of the Nebraska border, Marysville is home to black squirrels. And, how they love those furry little rodents. As the town’s mascot, you could face jail time for harming a black squirrel.

With more than 30 large black squirrel sculptures scattered about – each decorated in unique themes, such as patriotic, healthcare, and mosaic – grab a map and explore the city while you search for the squirrels.

Marysville, Kansas is home to the Pony Express Home Station Museum
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Marysville is also home to unique museums, including the first stop on the Pony Express route. With eight famous trails overlapping here, you can hike along history, including the California and Mormon Trails, as well as a stretch of the infamous Ponca Trail of Tears, where hundreds of Native Americans were forced to walk several hundred miles from Niobrara, Nebraska, to a new reservation in Oklahoma.

Don’t forget to get your photo taken in front of the Love From Marysville mural.

Lindsborg

Nicknamed Little Sweden USA, Lindsborg celebrates its Swedish heritage through festivals, food, and Dala horses, which are displayed along downtown’s main street, as well as other spots around town. Make sure to stop in at Hemslojd for fun and beautiful Swedish souvenirs and gifts.

Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Lindsborg is also home to fantastic art, such as Small World Gallery, Birger Sandown Memorial Gallery at Bethany College, and Red Barn Studio. Stroll along the Valkommen Trail, a 2.5-mile-long route that takes you past the Old Mill Museum.

Offering a view of the Smoky River valley, Coronado Heights Park – named for a Spanish conquistador in search of gold – includes a Scottish battle stone castle. It was one of my favorite stops on our drive to Wichita!

Wamego

You’ll want to click your ruby slippers and travel to Wamego for a visit to the Oz Museum. Check out more than 2,000 items on display celebrating everything Wizard of Oz, including replicas of movie props, as well as actual items from the popular feature.

Inside the Oz Museum in Wamego Kansas
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

With collections of books by L. Frank Baum, you’ll learn a few things about the author. The museum follows the movie, beginning with a display of Dorothy’s house landing in Oz through the dark forest past the wicked witch’s lair to the Wizard.

Grab lunch next door at Toto’s Tacoz, where dishes are named after characters. Follow an actual yellow brick road from downtown to the city park, home to a Dutch windmill and a pond shaped like a whale. Explore the town as you search for the 15 decorated Toto sculptures. Stop by Oz Winery downtown and check out wines named after characters.

Dodge City

Welcome to the Wild West, home of Marshal Dillon and all the cowboys. Dodge City embraces its connection to the television classic Gunsmoke, as well as its western history.

Explore downtown Dodge City, visiting its shops, as well as the Trail of Fame, featuring medallion blocks in the sidewalk recognizing Gunsmoke actors and other celebrities, including native son Dennis Hopper. Pose for selfies with statues of Marshal Dillon, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday.

Boot Hill Museum and Front Street
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Experience the area’s history with a visit to Boot Hill Museum, and enjoy a sarsaparilla at the Longhorn Saloon on the boardwalk. Learn how whiskey is made with a tour at Boot Hill Distillery, and top off your visit with a shot like a cowpoke.

Dodge City is a must-visit during Dodge City Days, a 10-day event featuring an old-fashioned cattle drive.

Goodland

The western town of Goodland is home to the world’s largest Van Gogh painting – Three Sunflowers in a Vase – which sits on the outskirts of town.

The world's largest Van Gogh painting - Three Sunflowers in a Vase - which sits on the outskirts of Goodland
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

The first helicopter to receive a patent is on display at the High Plains Museum. With historical attractions such as the Gulick House and White Eagle gas station, Goodland provides a look into mid-20th century Kansas.

Take a drive in the country and visit Mt. Sunflower, the state’s highest point.

Related post: For what might be Kansas’s strangest attraction, you’ve got to visit Hiawatha.

WaKeeney

Welcome to the Christmas City on the High Plains. Home to possibly Kansas’ best Christmas celebration, thousands of people visit WaKeeney during the holidays.

WaKeeney during the Christmas holiday season
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Spend an afternoon exploring history while enjoying nature during a drive along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Check out Castle Rock, a chalk formation that rises from the surface, resembling a castle. Shiloh Vineyards and Winery features 10 varieties of wines, produced from grapes raised on the farm.

Leavenworth

It may be known as the home of a federal prison, but there’s so much more to Leavenworth. From the Buffalo Soldier Monument to the Walkway of Units – recognizing major achievements by African American soldiers, such as Gen. Colin Powell – at Fort Leavenworth, the city is full of history.

A soldier's hat at Fort Leavenworth
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

While at Fort Leavenworth, learn about the post’s story at the Frontier Army Museum, including exhibits covering Army engineers, dragoons, and each of the military conflicts since the fort opened.

Ride an old-fashioned carousel at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, which is located inside an old warehouse of the Parker Carousel Company. While there, enjoy a walk through the history of carousels.

Learn about Leavenworth’s role during the Underground Railroad at the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum. The Carroll Mansion reflects on the city’s history through a series of exhibits in a Victorian Era mansion.

The Carroll Mansion in Leavenworth
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

For a fun time, find the murals that highlight Leavenworth’s history and pop culture, including a mural of Spock from Star Trek and a Rastafarian lion.

Clay Center

What started as one mural to help tell the northeast Kansas town’s story and increase tourism has grown into more than 15 beautiful murals. A Mural Movement of Clay Center includes murals of dogs at Clay County Animal Rescue & Education Center, a peacock at the local park’s zoo, a postcard of the city, and a mural supporting reading at the library.

A mural in Clay Center, Kansas
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

You can park downtown and walk the area to see most of the murals. A few murals may require a short drive to a market and the zoo.

Manhattan

Nicknamed the Little Apple, Manhattan is home to Kansas State University. In the heart of Kansas’ Flint Hills, you can enjoy a walk through tallgrass, wildflowers and beautiful views at the Konza Prairie trail at the Konza Prairie Biological Station at K-State.

Offering a look at the region’s culture and science, the Flint Hills Discovery Center includes interactive displays for children. Featuring Kansas and regional artists, you can see unique artwork at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.

Interior of the Flint Hill Discover Center
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

From antique vehicles to muscle cars, the Midwest Dream Car Collection grew from a private collection to more than 60 automobiles on permanent display. The museum also features temporary exhibits.

Lawrence

Kansas University anchors Lawrence. History, culture, and architecture highlight a visit to Lawrence. The university is a great area to explore, with beautifully designed buildings dating back to the early 1800s.

Street scenes downtown Lawrence, Kansas
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Museums, such as the Spencer Museum of Art, call the campus home. With more than 35,000 pieces, the Spencer’s collection runs from ancient Egypt to the 17th century.

A candidate for president in 1996, Bob Dole’s life and career are celebrated at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics. While the center combines a museum with conference space, the building is an architect’s dream. Built with Kansas limestone, the building’s exterior resembles a Washington, D.C., monument, complete with a reflection pond in front. The center also features a floor-to-ceiling mosaic of the American flag.

Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence
Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Sports fans will want to tour the Phog Allen Fieldhouse, home to the KU Jayhawks basketball team. James Naismith, the man who invented basketball, coached at the university. The rules of the game, as Naismith designed them, are listed on a hallway exhibit. The Kansas University Hall of Fame on the first floor of the Booth Family Hall of Athletics recognizes teams and athletes from each of the school’s sports decades. You’ll find displays recognizing Jayhawk greats such as Wilt Chamberlain and Gale Sayers.

Long before it was a college, Haskell Indian Nations University was the site of a residential school, where Native American children were sent to learn Euro-American customs and traditions. Today, the university’s Cultural Center recognizes its past and celebrates Native American traditions, history and culture.

Kansas is a fun state to visit, and you’ll find a great variety of things to do in any city you visit. From rural attractions to political and sports accomplishments, Kansas is the place to click your heels to visit.

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George Murchison

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

I love this article, however as a resident of Clay Center I would like to point out several inaccuracies. The first being that the firsr Mural in Clay Center was NOT the one depicted on the Grain Elevator as you mentioned. In fact that one was one of the more recent one to be done. And the Mural of Dogs is NOT on the Humane Society building, we don't have a Humane Society in Clay Center. We do however have the Clay County Animal Rescue & Education Center at 109 4th Street, that is where the Mural is located.

Otherwise, thank you for your attention directed towards our small Kansas communities, they are truely diamonds in the rough.

Kim

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

Hi George - I appreciate the corrections. I'll get those fixed!

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