Main Street in Wamego, Kansas. Editorial credit: Sabrina Janelle Gordon /

The Best Small Towns In Kansas For A Weekend Retreat

Admitted to the Union on January 29, 1861, as the 34th State, the landlocked Midwestern state of Kansas is bounded by the neighboring US states of Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Holidayers heading for a vacay in the Sunflower State usually flock in large numbers to the bigger metropolises like Topeka, Overland Park, Wichita, and Kansas City to soak in the local culture and enjoy diverse city views. Nevertheless, the excellent small towns peppered all over the state captivate the hearts of travelers with their engrossing Wild West histories, incredible sceneries, exciting year-round events, and Midwestern hospitality, making them perfect picks for your next weekend escapade in ‘America’s Heartland.’


A shot of the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas
A shot of the Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas. Editorial credit: Robert D Brozek /

Lucas is situated in north-central Kansas’s Russell County, at the intersection of K-18 and K-232 highways, around 115 miles northwest of Wichita. Designated by Governor William Preston Graves as the “Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas,” this tiny farming town is renowned for its numerous sites dedicated to local folk art. The enchanting ‘Garden of Eden’ established in the downtown by the Civil War veteran and eminent sculptor Samuel Perry Dinsmoor comprises his home, a mausoleum, and more than 150 sculptures depicting scenes from world history and the holy Bible. Lucas’s other extraordinary art-centric sites include the Florence Deeble Rock Garden, the World’s Largest Souvenir Travel Plate, Bowl Plaza, Grassroots Arts Center, Miller’s Park, Flying Pig Studio & Gallery, Fork Art Park, and the World’s biggest collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction & Museum. The Garden View Lodge and Horseshoe Lodge are ideal places to spend a night.


Atchison, Kansas
Aerial view of Atchison, Kansas.

Dubbed in honor of David Rice Atchison, this delightful Atchison County town is at the convergence of US Route 73 and US Route 59 highways along the Missouri River’s western banks, approximately 25 miles northwest of Leavenworth. Apart from its impressive riverside setting offering panoramic views of the Missouri River bend and Victorian-era properties on the tree-lined brick streets, holidayers visiting Atchison must not miss the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, International Forest of Friendship, Atchison County Historical Society Museum, Muchnic Art Gallery, Atchison Santa Fe Depot Rail Museum, the haunted Sallie House, St. Benedict’s Abbey, and Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum. Have a comfortable stay during your visit at any of the town’s top-tier accommodations like Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Quality Inn Atchison.


 Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.
Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.

An Old West-style settlement in North Central Kansas, Abilene is in the Great Plains’ Flint Hills region in Dickinson County on the northern side of Smoky Hill River. Established by Timothy & Elizabeth Hersey as a stagecoach stop named “Mud Creek,” the town was rechristened ‘Abilene’ after a Biblical verse. Being the hometown of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, visitors here can get to know more about the country’s 34th President through a mandatory tour of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home. Furthermore, the A.B. Seelye House & Museum, Heritage Center of Dickinson County, Old Abilene Town, Great Plains Theatre, Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, American Indian Art Center, and Greyhound Hall of Fame are not to be missed. Doze off after an eventful day at the home-like Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Abilene’s Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast.

Cottonwood Falls

The beautiful town of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.
The beautiful town of Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

The biggest community and Chase County’s administrative center, Cottonwood Falls, is at the center of the Flint Hills region along the southern shores of Cottonwood River to the south of Strong City. The town’s most notable site of interest is the eye-catching Chase County Courthouse, constructed in the French Second Empire architectural style, which is the state’s oldest continuously used courthouse. Walk down the brick-lined streets of the town’s appealing downtown and take note of the different art galleries like Flint Hills Gallery, antique shops like Tallgrass Antiques, award-winning restaurants, and hotels like Grand Central Hotel & Grill and The Lark Inn on Main. Also, stop by the Chase County Historical Society Museum & Library, Cottonwood River Dam & Bridge, and Roniger Memorial Museum, in addition to discovering the abutting Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve with over 40 miles of hiking trails to conveniently access the tallgrass prairies.


Old Dutch Mill in Wamego, Kansas
Old Dutch Mill in Wamego, Kansas. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Wamego, called after the leader of the native Potawatomi tribe, is situated along the Kansas River in Pottawatomie County, at the meeting point of K-99 and US Highway 24, exactly 14 miles east of Manhattan, Kansas. Promoted as a “Small Town with Big Experience,” holidayers visiting this 4,841-inhabitant town must survey its downtown district, chock-a-full of several flourishing small businesses, novelty venues, and hotels like Wamego Inn & Suites. Wamego City Park, Columbian Theatre, Wamego Public Library, Beecher Bible & Rifle Church, Oz Winery, Walter Percy Chrysler’s boyhood home, and Wamego Historical Society Museum & Prairie Village are the town’s outstanding sites of interest. Additionally, Wamego hosts various yearly community events such as the Tulip Festival, Oktoberfest, and Fourth of July festivities.

Fort Scott

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas
Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas.

Christened after Winfield Scott, the American Military Commander, this Bourbon County seat occupies the Osage Plains on the Marmaton River’s southern banks, approximately 143 miles east of Wichita. Laid out in 1857 on the erstwhile frontier fort grounds, Fort Scott became a principal city of the frontier after the Civil War and then slowly transformed into an agricultural and small industrial mecca at the start of the 20th century. Aside from some Victorian-era properties, boutiques, antique shops, galleries, entertainment venues, and accommodations like Courtyard Hotel & Spa in the downtown, the town also houses the Fort Scott National Cemetery and Fort Scott Historic Site, which provide exclusive insights into the town’s bygone days. Boating, camping, golfing, fishing, hiking, biking, and other family-friendly activities are offered for the adrenaline junkies at the 155-acre Gunn Park.

Council Grove

the Washunga Days Parade in Council Grove, Kansas.
The Washunga Days Parade in Council Grove, Kansas. Editorial credit: mark reinstein /

Council Grove, the administrative center of east-central Kansas’s Morris County, is situated on the shores of the Neosho River, around 55 miles southwest of Topeka. The town was originally set up in a grove of oak trees as an Indian campground, where a treaty between the heads of the Great and Little Osage Indian tribes and a council of US officials was signed to allow the westward passage of wagon trains via the Osage Territory along the Santa Fe Trail. Council Grove’s prominent attractions include the Kaw Mission State Historic Site, the 1857 Hays House, the Neosho Riverwalk, Council Grove Aquatic Center, Allegawaho Heritage Memorial Park, Hermit’s Cave, and the Madonna of the Trail monument. Head to the adjacent Council Grove Federal Reservoir and Council Grove City Lake for recreational activities and unwind after a hectic day of explorations at either the Prairie Lodge Motel or The Cottage House.


The Romanesque style Thomas County Courthouse in Colby, Kansas
The Romanesque style Thomas County Courthouse in Colby, Kansas.

Thomas County’s seat of government, Colby, occupies Northwest Kansas’s High Plains region along the southern side of Prairie Dog Creek, approx. Two hundred thirty-two miles northwest of Wichita. Travelers visiting this progressive agricultural community must tour the National Register-listed Thomas County Courthouse, Colby Aquatic Park, the art-deco sand-colored Colby City Hall, Pioneer Memorial Library, Colby Visitor’s Center, Colby Event Center, Fike Park, the 24-acre Prairie Museum of Art & History which houses the Copper Barn - the “Largest Barn in Kansas,” and the Villa High Park featuring picnic shelters beside the city-made Villa High Lake. Have a good time at Hampton Inn Colby or Holiday Inn Express & Suites Colby, and try to partake in any of the town’s annual celebrations like the Great Oasis Cookoff in April, Pickin’ on the Plains Bluegrass Festival in July, and a meet with Mr. & Mrs. Claus in December.


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

Initially founded in 1869 by a group of immigrants from the Värmland province in Sweden, this small McPherson County town dubbed “Little Sweden, USA,” is situated just an hour north of Wichita. Acclaimed for its dynamic cultural scene and rich Scandinavian heritage, tourists visiting the town must peruse the numerous downtown gift shops selling Swedish souvenirs and wonder at the scores of vivid Wild Dala horse statues adorning the sidewalks. The Lindsborg Old Mill & Swedish Heritage Museum, Clara Hatton Center, Broadway RFD Outdoor Theatre, Red Barn Studio Museum, International Chess Institute of the Midwest, Bethany Lutheran Church, Small World Gallery, Coronado Heights, and the Bethany College’s Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery are some noteworthy sites of interest. Rest for the night at the family-owned Viking Motel and find time to attend any of Lindsborg’s events like the Chocolate Lovers Affair & Art Auction, Smoky Valley Classic Car Show, Midsummer annual Summer Solstice Festival, Messiah Festival of the Arts, and the biennial Svensk Hyllningsfest.

From Lucas - the “Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas” to the Swedish heritage of Lindsborg, the small towns in the nation’s 15th largest and 36th most populous state are waiting to be explored by holidayers. Whether you want to traverse the unparalleled landscape of tallgrass prairies, have an adventure-filled vacation, or check out quirky attractions, look no further than these alluring Kansas towns for your quick weekend trips and extended holidays.

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