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Discover the charm of six unique towns in the heart of Kansas, each offering a blend of rich history, cultural treasures and warm hospitality. Lindsborg celebrates its Swedish heritage, Abilene showcases its presidential connection and Wamego enchants visitors with its whimsical Wizard of Oz attractions. Atchison honors aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Dodge City tells stories of the Wild West and Council Grove preserves its Santa Fe Trail heritage amid the scenic Flint Hills. A trip to these must-visit towns in the Sunflower State gives visitors a glimpse into Kansas’ diverse, friendly and welcoming spirit.

Lindsborg

The original Farmers State Bank building in Lindsborg, Kansas.
The original Farmers State Bank building in Lindsborg, Kansas. Image credit: Stephanie L Bishop via Shutterstock

Lindsborg is a small town founded in 1869 about 70 miles north of Wichita. Known as “Little Sweden USA,” it is famous for its rich Swedish heritage and culture, similar to other towns such as Solvang, California – the “Danish Capital of America”; New Glarus; Wisconsin – “America’s Little Switzerland”; and Frankenmuth, Michigan – “Little Bavaria.” Lindsborg is best explored on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, the 56-mile historic route through the town. Visit Coronado Heights, the southernmost cliff of a series of seven cliffs known as the Smoky Hills, and the stone building known as Coronado Heights Castle, which offers views of the sprawling Kansas prairie.

The streets of downtown Lindsborg are lined with Swedish-inspired shops, restaurants and cafes like the Blacksmith Coffee Shop & Roastery, which is housed in the oldest building in town, a former blacksmith shop. A few doors down, you can grab an ice cream at Indigo Moo’d Ice Cream or share a mug of beer on tap at the Öl Stuga tavern (which translates from Swedish to “beer house”). Keep an eye out for the ubiquitous Dala horses. Sweden’s most recognizable Dala symbol is a blunt-rounded, tailless horse that symbolizes identity and welcome. The town is known for its biennial festival, Svensk Hyllningsfest, which is celebrated every October in odd-numbered years. The next festival will be October 17-18, 2025.

Abilene

Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.
Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. Photo credit: Michelangelo DeSantis via Shutterstock

Like the 1960s country song of the same name that reached No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, the small town of Abilene celebrates the folksy charm and simplicity of small-town America. Abilene is located in the central part of the state, full of flat hills – a seemingly unlikely place for a world-class museum like the Eisenhower Presential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home. Abilene is ranked No. 3 on the USA Today’s The 10 best historic small towns for 2024.

Abilene is rich in history and offers a friendly atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy a full day of activities, including a ride on a 100-year-old steam locomotive on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, a tour of the late 19th-century Seelye Mansion filled with furniture purchased at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and a visit to the Greyhound Hall of Fame Museum, a museum dedicated to greyhound racing. See the world’s largest belt buckle at Eisenhower Park, which measures 19 feet, 10.5 inches wide and 13 feet, 11.24 inches tall. Finally, visit Old Abilene Town for a taste of the Wild West, complete with cancan dancers and gunfights. The city also celebrates Chisholm Trail Days on August 30 and 31, 2024, with live music, more cancan dancers, and a longhorn parade.

Wamego

Windmill in Wamego City Park.
Windmill in Wamego City Park.

While the setting for L. Frank Baum’s book, The wonderful world of Ozwas set in the fictional land of Oz; it could also be set in Wamego, thanks to the many attractions and themed events that celebrate the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Located on the banks of the Kansas River, Wamego is a small, welcoming town of less than 5,000 residents. Visitors to the town can literally follow a yellow brick road in downtown Wamego to discover places like the OZ Museum, which houses more than 2,000 artifacts, including hand-painted ruby ​​slippers, a reproduction of the Haunted Forest sign, and illustrations from the 1st edition of The Wizard of Oz (1900).

Stroll the streets and look for “Totos Around Town,” an exhibition of creative Toto statues. Grab a Tin Man Burrito at Toto’s TacOZ, then head to Oz Winery for a wine tasting or purchase a bottle of Drunken Munchkin or Flying Monkey as a souvenir.

On October 5, 2024, Wamego will celebrate Oztoberfest with a street festival featuring an OZ costume contest, an outdoor OZ market, Munchkinland and more. Finally, take a break from all that Oz has to offer and visit the beautifully restored 1890s Columbian Theater, which features the most extensive collection of decorative arts from Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, the “Columbian Exhibition.”

Atchison

Aerial view of downtown Atchison, Kansas.
Overlooking downtown Atchison, Kansas.

Located on the banks of the mighty Missouri River, Atchison is a town known for its historic charm and Victorian architecture. It is also the birthplace of pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart, whose Lockheed 10-E Electra may have recently been discovered on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. A guided or self-guided tour of the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is a must for aviation enthusiasts.

From July 19 to 20, 2024, Atchison will host the “Amelia Earhart Festival” in front of her parents’ house: a “Concert in the Sky” – named after USA Today’s The 10 best places to watch fireworks in 2024.

Other attractions in Atchison include the International Forest of Friendship, a living, growing memorial to those who served in aviation and space. The forest features a walkway with plaques honoring aviators and explorers from all 50 U.S. states and over 35 countries, as well as an Astronaut Memorial honoring ten astronauts who lost their lives in space. An example of Victorian-era wealth is the 25-room Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum, built in 1882 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dodge City

Dodge City's historic district.
Dodge City’s historic district. Image credit: Michael Rosebrock via Shutterstock

Dodge City is known as a legendary frontier town of the Wild West. There are several attractions that highlight its connection to all things cowboys, such as the Boot Hill Museum, built on the original site of the Boot Hill Cemetery. Visitors can explore over 60,000 artifacts, including photographs, documents, and exhibits such as an extensive gun collection. Stroll down historic Front Street and visit the Saratoga and Alhambra Saloons, as well as the old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Walk the Trail of Fame and see bronze statues honoring famous figures from Dodge City’s history, including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Visit the Gunfighters Wax Museum and take selfies with life-size wax figures of Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Miss Kitty, and many others. Historic trolley tours of the town are also offered several times a day, taking visitors on a journey back in time to the 1870s.

Dodge City celebrates Dodge City Days from July 27 to August 6, 2024, with a 10-day festival celebrating the city’s great western heritage. The festival welcomes over 100,000 visitors annually and has grown into an international event with a parade, professional rodeo, barbecue, live music and KidFest.

Ratsgrove

Washunga Days parade in Council Grove, Kansas.
Washunga Days Parade in Council Grove, Kansas. Photo credit: Mark Reinstein via Shutterstock

Council Grove, with a population of about 2,200, was an important town on the Santa Fe Trail for many traders and pioneers. It lies along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, a scenic route that gives visitors a glimpse of where the West begins. Enjoy stunning views of rolling hills covered in tallgrass prairie, a unique ecosystem found primarily in the Flint Hills, where only 4% of the world’s tallgrass prairie remains. Stop along the way at the Hays House 1857 Restaurant and Tavern, a restaurant and trading post on the Santa Fe Trail founded by the great-grandson of frontiersman Daniel Boone. Another landmark is The Cottage House and Motel, built in 1867 and once a three-room cottage and blacksmith shop, then a boarding house.

Council Grove is a history buff’s paradise. The Kaw Mission State Historic Site is a landmark school founded in 1851 by the Methodist Church to house and educate Kaw’s Native American children. Nearby, visitors can tour the town’s oldest commercial building, the Last Chance Store, so named because it was the last opportunity for travelers to purchase supplies en route to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From Swedish culture and Wizard of Oz spectacles to Wild West history and Victorian charm, make 2024 the year you explore Kansas’ friendly towns. Travel scenic back roads and attend vibrant festivals, as visitors will soon discover that “there’s no place like Kansas when you click your heels and come home.”