Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at Abilene, Kansas. Editorial credit: Michelangelo DeSantis / Shutterstock.com

8 Most Scenic Small Towns In Kansas

In Tornado Alley, let yourself be swept away into the Wheat and Sunflower State of Kansas. Where trouble melts like lemon drops, you will be awed by the beauty and quirks of the most scenic small towns beyond the cityscapes of Wichita and Kansas City. From emerald-lively villages like Cottonwood Falls to Oz-like towns such as Wamego and Lucas, you will not wish to click your ruby red slippers thrice. Let the haunting atmosphere of Atchison keep you on your toes, or the vibrant histories of Fort Lucas and Abilene permeate you with knowledge and wisdom. Go over the rainbow in the most scenic small towns in Kansas.


The original Farmers State Bank building in Lindsborg, Kansas
The original Farmers State Bank building in Lindsborg, Kansas. Editorial credit: Stephanie L Bishop / Shutterstock.com.

Lindsborg, only 46 miles from Abilene, feels like its own kingdom of Oz due to the stark difference between itself and other towns. The town proudly displays its title, “Little Sweden of the US,” through the biennial Svensk Hyllningsfest, a celebration of Swedish heritage happening in September. Among the many attractions in the area is the Coronado Heights Park. There, one can marvel at the extraordinary sights of the American prairies surrounding the Swedish-themed town. The past comes alive in Lindsborg's Old Mill Museum, while the Swedish Pavilion connects the residents with its former relations to Europe. In a town founded by Swedish immigrants from Scandinavia and Germany in 1868, give yourself a relaxing time while staying in the Rosberg House Bed & Breakfast, the Vacation Rental, or the Drom Sott Inn (Sweet Dreams Inn).

Council Grove

Washunga Days Parade in Council Grove, Kansas
Washunga Days Parade in Council Grove, Kansas. Editorial credit: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com.

Want to appreciate more about the early American settlers and the Osage Nation? Then, follow the Santa Fe Trail towards the scenic town of Council Grove. The town’s Main Street of the Flint Hills contains numerous historic structures harkening to a bygone era, and the nearby Kaw Mission State Historic Site creates an enduring heritage for the Osage Nation. For those wanting to taste the past, the Hays House Restaurant has enough modern food and a pioneer-era atmosphere to make you feel like an early adventurer. At the Post Office Oak, you can find the names of these great pioneers who helped build Council Grove. Close by, the town’s Twin Lakes—Council Grove Lake and Federal Reservoir—provide bountiful experiences in the water. Around November, the 18th Gathering In The Grove will summon many artists from the Flint Hills to celebrate Council Grove’s founding. For places to stay, look to the Cottage House Hotel, Weathered Wood Home, or Territory Ballroom for accommodations.


The Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
The Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. Editorial credit: Robert D Brozek / Shutterstock.com

Somewhere over the rainbow, the town of Wamego truly brings Oz to Kansas. About 45 miles from Topeka and situated on the banks of the Kansas River, one can venture into the Oz Museum, where movie references welcome you to town. Follow the Yellow Brick-themed Road to admire murals on The Wizard of Oz. And on your adventure through Wamego, you might come across uniquely colored and sculptured Totos. Beyond the cinematic memorabilia, Wamego also has the Schonhoff Dutch Mill and the historic Columbian Theatre, where history and modernity come to life. And on April 13 - 14, you can attend the annual Tulip Festival, or you can wait for October to celebrate OZtoberFest. Do not kick those ruby red slippers just yet, not while staying in fine abodes like Simmer Motel and the Victory Inn Bed & Breakfast.


Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at Abilene, Kansas
Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at Abilene, Kansas. Editorial credit: Editorial credit: spoonphol / Shutterstock.com.

American achievements are on high display in the town of Abilene. To begin your tour of Abilene, visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home to better appreciate President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s contributions to the nation. Next, pay homage to America’s racing industry at the Greyhound Hall of Fame, then visit historic structures like the Seelye Mansion and the Old Abilene Town for a better experience of the Wild West. Elsewhere, the World's Largest Belt Buckle at Eisenhower Park can be photographed by all, and on Valentine’s Day, one can hop aboard the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad Valentines Dinner Train. On April 27, get yourself ready for the Abilene Marathon. Only an hour away from Wamego, book a room at the Budget Lodge Inn Abilene or Abilene's Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast.

Cottonwood Falls

Old downtown of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
Old downtown of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

As the heart of the Flint Hills, Cottonwood Falls protects the last remaining tallgrass prairies in America. The Flint Hills and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve are fine examples of how prairie ecosystems beautify and sustain the wonderful landscapes of Kansas. Meanwhile, the Chase Lake Falls and the Chase State Fishing Lake are excellent additional features in the tallgrass prairie. To have a better glimpse of Cottonwood Falls’ history, the French Renaissance-style Chase County Courthouse showcases the judicial system of 1872, while the Roniger Museum exhibits early Americana life in 1854. The Chase County Veterans Memorial memorializes war veterans for their services, and you can always attend the Symphony in the Flint Hills and the Folklife Festival, both happening on the second weekend of June.


Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas
Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Editorial credit: Robert D Brozek / Shutterstock.com.

Praised as the "Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas," Lucas welcomes travelers far and wide with a village-sized gallery of avant-garde artworks. One can stroll through the whimsical and fantastical Garden of Eden, a mesmerizing folk-art nexus made by Civil War veteran Samuel P. Dinsmoor. Close by, the Grassroots Art Center​ exhibits the grassroots art culture of the Kansas prairies. You can admire fascinating rock collections at Miller's Park or relieve yourself at Bowl Plaza, declared in 2014 as the 2nd Best Public Restroom in the US. Last but not least, you can gawk at the World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things. Should you wish to spend a longer time in Lucas for all the quirkiness and macabre scenery, the Horseshoe Lodge has rooms right for you.

Fort Scott

Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas.
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas.

Fort Scott is a fortressed haven an hour away from Kansas City. With its location on the Marmaton River, the Fort Scott National Historic Site once played a pivotal defensive barrier during the Railroad Expansion, Bleeding Kansas, and the American Civil War. People who need guidance can take a 50-minute-long trolley tour through several of Fort Scott’s historic and cultural landmarks, such as the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes. There, a performance called Life in a Jar commemorates many underrated heroes in American history. A yearly Veterans Celebration also transpires in Fort Scott, beginning on November 11 and ending on November 12. At the Gordon Parks Museum, visitors can appreciate the empowering photographs of Gordon Parks, an influential filmmaker. When it comes to lodgings, the Courtland Hotel and Fort Scott Inn have all that you require for a happy and safe stay in Fort Scott.


Aerial view of Atchison, Kansas
Aerial view of Atchison, Kansas.

Atchison is a place of haunting beauty. Situated on the Missouri River, at the border between Kansas and Missouri, the town is the birthplace of legendary aviator, Amelia Earhart. The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum and the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum chronicle her soaring career, and on the third weekend of July, Atchison celebrates the Amelia Earhart Festival. Furthermore, a bronze statue of Earhart can be found in the International Forest of Friendship, an arboretum built by an international organization of women pilots called The Ninety-Nine Inc.

Atchison is also a vital station for the Lewis and Clark expedition, particularly an old French trading post that served as an embarkation point for the two travelers in 1804. But Atchison is renowned for its many haunted houses that few people dare to spend the night at. First is the Dilgert House, an 1890 abode said to be now haunted by Frances Dilgert, who died of double pneumonia at age 22. Then there is the hauntingly picturesque McInteer Villa, former residence to many of Atchison’s prominent elites. And last is the Sallie House, one of the most haunted houses in the world. It is famous for having multiple spirits and paranormal phenomena occurring in the site, and was investigated by The Discovery Channel, The Syfy Channel, and more. If you have no desire to spend the night in these haunted domiciles, then let the Hotel Eatin Atchison keep you safe and sound.

The Wheat and Sunflower State of Kansas is, naturally and obviously, bountiful with wheat, sunflowers, and also oil wells. But the true treasures to be cherished at the most scenic small towns in the tallgrass prairies and windswept landscapes of the region. In places visited by Lewis and Clark, or where pivotal figures like Amelia Earhart were born, these towns each have their own attractions that are as wonderful as the mythical land of Oz. So let the wind and breeze of Central America sweep your feet towards these many panoramic towns worthy of your photo galleries and your memories.

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