7 Most Beautiful Cities In Kansas

As the de-facto heart of America, Kansas is a fitting representative for all that makes the Midwest a worthwhile visit. Gorgeous parks and historical scenery can be found dotting every green hill, with the warmest of faces manning local markets and museums. Tales of gunslingers and abolitionist martyrs stay fresh in the minds of lifelong residents eager to pave brighter and better futures for themselves and others. So, without further delay, take a peek at 7 of Kansas' most grand urban environments. 

Dodge City 

Dodge City
Bronze sculpture of Wyatt Earp as part of the Trail of Fame in the historic district of the Dodge City. Editorial credit: Michael Rosebrock /

Beautiful places tend to have a contested history when the claims of opposed parties fatefully converge. Dodge City has been an embattled site since Fort Mann was first constructed (and subsequently razed) as a refuge for pilgrims in 1847. Economic disputes over the town's pivotal location between cattle routes cemented Dodge City as a great city of lawlessness and western fable. Today, that antebellum aesthetic is seen in traditional saloons, hotels, and public offices. Western romantics feel at home here, so close to the open trail where legends were born and villains were brought to justice by the likes of the immortal marshal Wyatt Earp. Today, the city is known for pleasant weather, low costs, and a tight-knit community that loves to host countless festivals and theater productions. Although the daring days of gunslingers might be long since over, the town will forever retain its 'must-see' status as a testament to the wild heart that all people possess.


Atchison, Texas
Aerial View of Topeka, Kansas.

The capital and jewel of Kansas, Topeka boasts well over 120 thousand residents and a humble history of agriculture that comes packaged with beautiful greenery and countryside. The great Kansas river creates a fantastical skyline reflection when crossing from the north side towards the capitol. The weather is a powerful reminder of nature's awe-inspiring splendor, as Topeka is known for having plenty of variation between seasons, with occasional tornados and hail. This city also hosts a wide range of cultures, being the location of Evel Knievel's Museum as well as the court decision that ended segregation in public schools. Other attractions are kid-friendly, such as the Children's Discovery Center and Gage Park. An entire street of 1800's structures were picked up and planted in Topeka, such as old mansions and general stores. In Topeka, values like honoring the history and creating a better tomorrow are 'one and the same.'


Aerial view of Atchison.

In northeast Kansas, tucked alongside the Missouri river, a modest town of 11 thousand has been taking care of its own for over one hundred and fifty years. Ornate brickwork malls stretch across the city, where carefully maintained flower plots drift in gentle breezes. Vibrantly decorated shops welcome visitors to Commercial Street, and during the right season, one can spot a plume of orange and yellow woodlands enwrapping the neighborhood just across the street. This environment-conscious town is also the birthplace of the renowned Amelia Earhart and hosts her original house-turned-museum that was first built in 1861. St. Benedict's Abbey rests just east of the northern suburbs, a lovely monument of the group that settled in America in the mid-1800s. The location may be all that defends citizens against the infamous 'Sallie House,' an allegedly haunted home of a little girl who passed away in surgery and who cannot stand the possibility of being forgotten. Ghosts and explorers aside, Atchison is a charming city devoted to ancestors and descendants alike. 


The city center of Lenexa.

A suburban town with grand thunderstorms that paint electric masterpieces across the sky from time to time, Lenexa is an iconic part of Kansas imagery and history alike. Even "Wild Bill Hickok" had to get a piece of Lenexa, buying a parcel of land in 1858, now a park named after him. During Lenexa's gentle winters, a soft blanket coats every rooftop and street from which a shimmer of golden lights shine through, a festival of the reclusive. Lake Lenexa to the west is a reservoir of water lilies and sunlit glades, the perfect spot for a family picnic. Building on top of its family-friendly reputation, Lenexa hosts a summerly event called "The Great Lenexa Barbecue Battle," which is exactly what it sounds like. Typically, visitors cater to their curiosities by visiting breweries, barns, and classic auto shops where legendary mythical roadsters are on display. Above all, the beauty of the town comes from the people that never hesitate to continue cultivating it.


shawnee, Kansas
Sign for downtown Shawnee in Johnson County. Editorial credit: Jon Kraft /

Perfectly arranged, Shawnee boasts countless miniature boroughs that comfortably house its population of nearly seventy thousand. In a twist on roman grid-style planning, Shawnee keeps each resident feeling like the king of their own estate, where woodlands are strategically grown to ensure that each nook and cranny of the town has a unique appearance. Quality education, affordable housing, and proximity to nightlife mean that families are encouraged to settle and prosper here. Furthermore, a lack of extreme temperatures means that making use of the many outdoor spaces is an appealing use of time. Live theater shows are one of the many excuses residents have to get out and make friends in Shawnee, where a passion for performing arts is around every corner. A perfect example of an American city with strong roots, Shawnee will continue to blossom into the future.


manhattan kansas
Aerial view of the college town of Manhattan, Kansas in summer.

Blink, and you might miss it; Manhattan sits squarely west of Topeka among a sea of old forts and nigh-untouched lakes. The region itself is known for rolling grassy hills and was ranked by Forbes to be the number 1 location for "Best Small Communities for a Business and Career." CNN and several other outlets listed Manhattan as one of the best places for young people to retire. The history of the now 50-thousand-person town revolves around settlers from New England, the Kaw tribe ceding the land after a treaty, and an old steamboat running aground in 1854 wherein the passengers decided to settle down permanently. Conflicts with indigenous populations were frequent here during the early years, which is a pattern in the histories of many western towns. However, Manhattan also hosted one of the first universities in the United States that accepted both men and women during the 1860s. So, keep those eyes open, and you might be lucky enough to stumble into Manhattan.


Orange fall colors in Leavenworth.

Leavenworth is a pretty town. Sometimes, however, beauty goes deeper than appearances just like our parents and mentors used to teach us. The city acted as a refuge for slaves fleeing oppression, and from that, it became an abolitionist town. The city acted quickly to consider freed slaves as citizens even before the war ended in 1865. For decades, this righteous city was a sanctuary and place of pilgrimage for formerly enslaved people during an era where much of the US held unfounded prejudices that often turned deadly. The Afro-American Council formed here and later merged with the modern-day NAACP, and Leavenworth proudly remembers that fact. Humid summers and dry winters are the typical experience in Leavenworth, which gives reason to visit places like the Wollman Aquatic Center on the most sweltering of days. Antique shops, breweries, and farmers' markets (such as Haymarket Square) are go-to tourist destinations while stopping through this esteemed city. 

Steeped in memories and with limitless potential for development, each of these cities represents a different side of Kansas pride. That spirit takes form in the investment of the youth, such as the educational centers and museums where lessons from the past are not ignored. Healthy parks, ornate architecture that tells a story, and the cost of living are all noble reasons to consider a permanent stay in each of these areas. Kansas, a state without formidable mountains or endless ocean, is what you make of it; and these cities became jewels by simply going above and beyond.

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