Whether you’re looking for a memorable farm visit or want to immerse yourself in all-things-Amelia-Earhart, Atchison should be a road trip destination on your radar. Atchison is a small town in northeastern Kansas that’s an easy drive from Omaha. I recently spent a whirlwind overnight trip exploring the town with my daughter. It checked all the boxes:
Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Holiday Inn Express & Suites Atchison. We received complimentary admission to attractions so I could write about them. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
What’s Atchison known for?
In two words: Amelia Earhart. The aviation icon was born in Atchison, and spent quite a bit of her childhood there. The city embraces Amelia, and even has an annual celebration called the Amelia Earhart Festival on the third weekend in July.
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is open for self-guided tours, but the true must-see attraction is the just-opened Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. It’s part-science museum and part-aviation history museum, which creates an engaging experience for all ages!
There’s also the International Forest of Friendship, which is connected to Earhart not only for a statue of her located there, but because it was established as a bicentennial project by the City of Atchison and The Ninety-Nines Inc., an international organization of women pilots. Along the paved path, you’ll find trees from all over the world, as well as one tree that was once on the moon (as a seed…but it still counts).
Atchison is also known for being a haunted city. Every time I told somewhere where I was headed for the day, they asked if I was going to visit the Sallie House. It’s the city’s most famous haunted building. I think I’ll save a Sallie House tour for the fall when I’m more in the haunting mood. The city also has railroad connections, as well as a rather awesome agritourism scene (admittedly, the baby goats have made me totally biased).
What will kids like about Atchison?
So I mentioned goats and Amelia Earhart in the beginning and, well, depending on your kids’ tastes, I’d be willing to bet one or the other will be their favorite thing about Atchison. Unless they’re teens, in which case, they’d probably like all the haunted stuff.
I brought my animal-obsessed daughter on this trip so she was a fan of visits to the goat farms. Yes, farms as in plural. There are two options: Providence Hill Farm and HoneyDo Farm. Both specialize in booking private tours to suit your needs.
So, like, my daughter wanted to cuddle baby goats all day long, so that’s mainly what we did at both places. Of course, you could book goat yoga and get some cuddles in there as well, but she wanted to get right to the chase and cuddle the baby goats ASAP.
Providence Hill Farm also has workshops you can include in your visit – like making soap, cheese, or candles – as well as an outdoor pizza oven just waiting to serve your group. I wanted to do a goat hike because that sounded Ah-mazing (and it was).
At HoneyDo Farm, we met some of the other animals on the farm, including my favorite thing in the world now. Her name is Honey Pig and she does tricks. My daughter also tried milking a goat. Not easy, not at all.
Both farms have some products for sale, and if they host special events, that’s when you can really get for farmhouse goods shopping on.
Now, if your kid prefers to not get so dirty rolling around with goats, there’s another fantastic option: Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. There are so many hands-on activities that explore STEM concepts, and they engage all the senses. It’s an excellent way to learn a little history, as well. The must-see item on display is Muriel, the world’s last remaining Lockheed Electra 10-E, which happens to be identical to the plane Earhart flew on her final flight.
My daughter’s favorite part of the museum, though, was the virtual reality plane ride, and to be honest, it was mine too. The goal was to virtually fly a plane just like Earhart’s all the way to Paris. It took us two tries, but we succeeded!
Another place that appeals to a very specific demographic of kids – the train lovers – is the Atchison Railroad Museum, an outdoor train yard located next to the Visitor’s Center & Historic Santa Fe Depot/Atchison County Historical Museum. All are free to visit, but for the train fans in your group, it will be seeing the railcars up close that will win the day. There’s also a mini railroad nearby and I think they offer rides on the weekends.
We were there on a weekday, and besides, both my daughter and I are far too tall to fit on it anyway. But if you go, the hours “most weekend” are from Memorial Day to October, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.
- Providence Hill Farm, 8096 Pratt Road, Atchison
- HoneyDo Farm, 8299 Pratt Road, Atchison
- Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum, 16701 286th Road, Atchison
- Atchison Railroad Museum located near the Historic Santa Fe Depot/Visitor’s Center/Atchison County Historical Museum, 200 S. 10th St., Atchison
What other things are there to do in Atchison?
You really ought to complete the Amelia Earhart Trifecta (I’m coining the phrase now). In addition to visiting the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum, you should visit the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, which also happens to be in Atchison. This is definitely geared toward history buffs who will love all the artifacts and learning details about her family.
The third part of the Trifecta is the International Forest of Friendship. It’s an easy stroll through this beautiful site, and the cool thing is that there are trees planted from all around the world, as well as every state tree. My daughter and I occupied our time searching out Nebraska’s state tree.
If you’re interested in the arts, I have two places to recommend. First, visit the Muchnic Art Gallery located in a gorgeous, three-story 1885 Queen Anne home. The details in the woodwork are particularly stunning. This was more of a stop for me than my daughter, though she did like learning about all the mythology carved into some of the woodwork.
The Cultural Center for the Arts is a great free place to stop in, and through the summer, they will be showcasing Kansas parks and greenspaces through vintage-style posters. There’s a whole social media portion to it and you have a chance to win prizes if you happen to visit any of the places showcased at the Cultural Center.
And a note to those bringing kids along to the Cultural Center: They can draw a picture of a green space they’ve visited and turn it in to receive a free mini blizzard from Dairy Queen. You bet my daughter partook in that activity! The Cultural Center also has a fun photo opp, and really, who can resist those?
Since the Cultural Center is located downtown, don’t miss a chance to visit a few shops. I had the best luck walking along Commercial Street. My favorite place, hands down, was the darling shop Purveyor, which had a ton of cute gifts and clothes. I also got a summer hat at Twill Trade Atchison located on the same block as Purveyor. There’s also a huge used bookstore on Commercial Street. And a movie theater…but I digress.
For a nice stroll in the evening, head to the riverfront. The trail is wide, and passes near a little playground that’s good for small kiddos with some extra energy.
- Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, 223 N. Terrace St., Atchison
- International Forest of Friendship, Allingham Drive near Lake Warnock in Atchison
- Muchnic Art Gallery, 704 N. Fourth St., Atchison
- Cultural Center for the Arts, 111 N. Eighth St., Atchison
- Purveyor, 715 Commercial St., Atchison
- Twill Trade Atchison, 733 Commercial St., Atchison
What are some recommended restaurants in Atchison?
Ask anyone in Atchison where to eat, and they all will have a favorite. I was there for just a short time, and only had a few chances to go out. My favorite was Pete’s Steak House, which on the outside, does not look like much of a restaurant, I will admit (and I’m sure they will admit it too). But this Greek/American steakhouse is superb and reasonably priced. There’s also a kid’s menu.
We also had lunch at Mueller’s Locker Room along the riverfront (there’s a patio). It’s a college sports bar with the usual bar & grill fare. The fries were good. And if you have a sweet tooth, try Dominique’s Bakery. The cookies were marvelous.
Everyone recommended the one restaurant that wasn’t open while I was there early in the week, Riverhouse Restaurant. So it sounds like the place to go to on my next visit. Willie’s is another restaurant that got some enthusiastic recommendations, so keep that place on your radar, too.
- Pete’s Steak House, 618 Commercial St., Atchison
- Mueller’s Locker Room, 120 S. Second St, Atchison
- Dominique’s Bakery, 626 Main St. S, Atchison
- Riverhouse Restaurant, 101 Commercial St., Atchison
A sample one-day itinerary for Atchison
We did A LOT in about 24 hours. I’ve narrowed down my list of favorites for you to have a little more of a leisurely experience in Atchison. This itinerary is geared toward families visiting Atchison. The hotel we stayed at, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Atchison, is located in downtown Atchison, and all destinations on this are less than 10 miles from there. And those traveling with kids, yes, the Holiday Inn in Atchison has a pool.
Breakfast at the hotel (it’s complimentary at Holiday Inn Express!). The coffee is fine, but if you want a fancy coffee, head to The Sunflower Cafe. They serve Roasterie Coffee, which is a fabulous Kansas City coffee institution.
After you’re fed and caffeinated, head to the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. There, you’ll take a deep dive into the famous aviatrix’s life as you walk through the home she was born in (it was her grandparents’ home).
If, however, you have young kids with you, or simply more energetic kids, this may not be the best place to start at. If that’s the case, head straight to Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum. Plan on spending an hour or two there since there are 14 exhibits plus the cool VR experience (it’s an add-on, but I think it’s worth it!).
The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is located on the outskirts of Atchison, so head back into town for lunch. If you’re not super hungry, get a sweet treat at Dominque’s Bakery. After your quick lunch, it’s choose-your-adventure time. Stop in the Culture Center and browse a few shops in the downtown area. Or, explore if you’re one of those families with a train-loving kiddo, make sure you visit Atchison Railroad Museum, and if time allows, browse the Visitor’s Center & Depot/Atchison County Historical Museum. There are some quirky things in the historical museum.
For the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting one of the goat farms I mentioned earlier. Both private sessions for your family or group based on what you want to do and how much time you have to do it. Call before your trip to set it all up. I put this near the end of the day because the chances of getting a little dirty are high and you don’t want to go to a gallery or museum with goat poo on your shoes. I mean, I did it, but you don’t want to do that.
You’ll want to allow time to freshen up at the hotel if you have any evening plans. Plan for a filling dinner at Pete’s Steak House or Riverhouse Restaurant. Riverfront has the benefit of atmosphere and a patio with a view of the river. Pete’s is a hidden gem of surprisingly tasty food. It’s also located next to a movie theater, so there’s always the option of dinner and a movie.
Atchison has the perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and small-town charm. From exploring the aviation history to relaxing time spent on a farm, your visit will leave you with unforgettable memories.