Bronze sculpture of Wyatt Earp as part of the Trail of Fame in the historic district of Dodge City, Kansas. Image credit Michael Rosebrock via Shutterstock

7 Towns in Kansas That Have The Best Main Streets

Sitting in the middle of the United States is the great state of Kansas. Kansas is a state that is usually associated with untouched wilderness and stunning natural beauty, but rarely do the small towns of this state get their time in the sun. All across Kansas, there are countless small towns that all have something worthwhile to offer those who are willing to visit. On their main streets, you will find much of the charm and allure that these towns possess, along with plentiful attractions to keep both residents and tourists alike entertained.

Dodge City

Longhorn Statue on Front Street, Dodge City, Kansas.
Longhorn Statue on Front Street in Dodge City.

Dodge City's heyday was back in the Wild West. During the middle of the 19th century, Dodge City served as a crucial outpost for settlers continuing to move westward towards places like California. Today the city still holds on to its Old West past, and this cowboy culture shines in the heart of town.

Talking a walk through the main street, you will stumble across the Long Branch Saloon and the Boot Hill Museum. Both of these establishments are like stepping into a time capsule and are still equipt with much of the same furnishing and design as the originals. You will feel transported back 150 years ago to the frontier. Dodge City is a must-visit for anyone who has a fascination with this time period.


Aerial View of Salina, Kansas in late Summer

An aerial view of Salina during the summer.

This small town can owe its settlement to the discovery of gold in the nearby hills outside of town. By the middle of the 19th century, thousand had flocked to Salina to try and strike it rich. As the gold dried up, Salina's character changed, but not in the way you might expect.

In the past few decades, Salina has made a concerted effort to try and rebrand its image as a lively and fun town to visit. Both the Rolling Hills Zoo and the Kenwood Waterpark are great places to visit; however, there is still a ton to do in Salina's downtown. Both the Stiefel Theatre and the Hickory BBQ are top-notch places to visit. The theatre is constantly putting on high-quality shows, and Hickory BBQ has nothing but rave reviews.


Aerial View of Downtown Hutchinson, Kansas in Summer
Downtown Hutchinson in summer.

Hutchinson is often thought of as a base of operations for the nearby oilfields in the Midwest. This is not entirely unwarranted, but Hutchinson is much deeper than just oil and drilling. Beneath that, there is a rich, lively culture just waiting to explore.

The downtown area of Hutchinson is usually thriving on weekends, with great restaurants and even better live music and street performances. Some cities have tried to do away with musicians performing on street corners, but Hutchinson has embraced it. Try a meal at the famous Hickory Stik. It might be the best BBQ you have ever had.

Fort Leavenworth

Buffalo Soldier Memorial, Circle of First, and walkway of units honoring the heritage of the Buffalo Soldiers, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Buffalo Soldier Memorial Park. Image credit JOHN ERIC JACKSON via Shutterstock

Known as a jumping-off point during the heyday of the Wild West, Fort Leavenworth served primarily as a military outpost for the United States Army as they pushed out from the east. Today the town still honors its military past. The main street of Fort Leavenworth leads straight into Buffalo Solider Memorial Park. This park features a stunning statue of a Buffalo soldier riding a horse over a water display. The rest of the park is quiet and charming. After a walk in the park, visitors should check out the various antique shops that inhabit the main strip.


People browse the booths set up along Commercial street in downtown today, Emporia, Kansas.
A farmer's market taking place in the middle of Emporia's main street. Image credit mark reinstein via Shutterstock

Nestled into the Flint Hills, the residents of Emporia enjoy some of the most stunning views in the state. This small town is best known for its love of disc golf and gravel racing. As odd as it might seem, the locals in Emporia are hooked on disc golf in particular. Known as the Disc Golf Capital of the World by some, each year in April, there is the Dynamic Discs Open. This event usually shuts down most of the town as there are thousands in attendance, all participating in the games. Walking down the main street at this time will certainly be hectic but also unforgettable.


Aerial View of the College Town of Manhattan, Kansas in Summer
Downtown Manhattan, Kansas.

Jokingly referred to as the "little apple" by its residents, Manhattan, Kansas, has had no issue playing second fiddle to the much more famous Manhattan in New York City. Its Kansas counterpart is a small town that centers around the local university. Like most college towns, much of the local infrastructure and economy is based around Kansas State University.

This has led to Manhattan having a surprisingly robust and fast-paced nightlife. Places like Bourbon and Baker are the perfect way to start or end a night out on the town with friends. The Chefs Cafe is also a great place to stop by and grab something to eat while you are moving to and from the various bars around town.


The business buildings downtown on a cloudy day, Ottawa, Kansas
Main street in Ottawa, Kansas. Image credit Sabrina Janelle Gordon via Shutterstock

Another town that shares a name with a much larger city, Ottawa in Kansas, is much more slow-paced and laid back than the one in Canada. Ottawa is still very much a farming town. You will be able to find tons of local produce and meat at the grocers and restaurants in town.

The main strip boasts eclectic mom-and-pop shops, such as the Cornerstone Bookstore, with stunning historic architecture. However, what really makes Ottawa stand out is its lovely parks. Both Kanza and Forrest Park are great places to go for a calming walk or picnic with your significant other.

There is no denying the striking beauty of Kansas. The mountains and prairie make for outstanding backdrops. However, pay attention to what the small towns of Kansas have to offer. There are tons of hidden gems all over this great state, just waiting to explore. Next time you find yourself in Kansas, instead of driving through these towns or just stopping to get gas, take a moment to see what you can find.

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