Traveler’s Itch: Your Escape to Rural Towns

Getting stir crazy in Manhattan? Take a weekend or day trip to one of these rural cities in Kansas!  You’ll find historical timestamps, unique stores, tasty restaurants and charming outdoor parks. The pandemic has caused many establishments to alter their hours of operation and procedural methods, so check online or call before starting your trip. Look into student discounts offered, like at the OZ Museum in Wamego.


Photo by Emma Witter

Wamego is roughly a 20-minute drive away from Manhattan. This small town welcomes you to visit the OZ Museum, the historic Columbian Theatre, Toto’s TacOz, the Oz Winery, and the Wamego City Park, which even has an old Dutch windmill.

Everything listed is within walking distance, despite no yellow brick road. 

The OZ Museum includes over 2,000 artifacts, memorabilia from the “Wizard of Oz”, and so much more. The price for students is $7 with a current student ID and the museum is open throughout the week at various times. 

Photo by Emma Witter

The Columbian Theatre, founded in 1893, hosts fall shows including an OZtoberfest Murder Mystery and “Elton Dan and the Rocket Band with Gypsies, Doves and Dreams.”

For lunch, stop by Toto’s TacOZ, a Cal-Mex restaurant. Try their signature sauces like “Toto-ly OZsome” and “Glinda’s Glow.”

Photo by Emma Witter


To end the night, explore the OZ Winery with free wine tastings! Sip on the classic white, red, blush, dessert, sparkle or try their special limited options.



St. Mary’s

Just 30 minutes east of Manhattan sits the small town of St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s Pay Station Museum and Sugar Creek Country Store will catch your eye as soon as you arrive because of its antique charm.

Photo by Emma Witter

St. Mary’s Pay Station Museum is a historic site established in 1857 as an Indian Agency for the Pottawatomie Indians. The city of St. Mary’s and the historical society now keep it open to the public during the week. The museum has many historical pieces such as antique farming equipment, vintage articles of clothing and beauty pieces, and much more that are iconic to Kansas history. It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Sites.

The Sugar Creek Country Store is locally owned and one of the only Amish bulk food stores in Kansas. It’s also home to the only New York-style deli in Kansas. The shop has everything you could want to eat from sandwiches, soups and sides, to deli meats, cheeses and homemade ice cream.

Photo by Emma Witter

Sugar Creek was awarded the 2018 KSBDC Emerging Business of the Year. The store is open Monday through Saturday and closed on Sundays.




An hour’s drive from Manhattan, Marysville has plenty of fun things to check out. Venture to the Blue River Rail Trail and Alcove Spring Historic Park, or scout out all the Black Squirrels on Parade. If you’re a history buff, the Doll Museum, the Koester House Museum and the Pony Express Museum are right up your alley.

Photo by Emma Witter

Running a span of 11.5 miles, the Blue River Rail Trail winds through beautiful shaded wooded areas, grassland prairies and fields of corn and soybeans. The trail is perfect for a jog, walk, or bike ride. Channel your inner explorer and experience true Kansas nature. The trail eventually collides with the Homestead Trail on the Nebraska border.

The Alcove Spring Historic Park is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 233 acres with a walking tour and interpretive exhibits. There’s also a beautiful natural spring. This spot is considered to be one of the most historic places from the Oregon Trail.

Photo by Emma Witter

The Black Squirrels on Parade are not just cute and fluffy squirrels, they are Maryville’s official mascot. Scattered through the town are 34 five-foot-tall fiberglass black squirrels painted with murals and pictures, each one distinctively unique. Visitors can stop by the Black Squirrel Interpretive Site in the City Park on 10th and Walnut St. to learn more about their history.

The Doll Museum is nationally recognized for its expansive collection of dolls, toys, Indian artifacts and history. Hundreds of dolls made from china, bisque, wax, wood, composition, papier mache and clay can be seen on display. Artifacts from the Otoe-Missouria Indian tribe such as antique toys, miniatures, carriages, old rocking horses and much more can be explored at The Doll Museum.

The Koester House Museum was built in 1876 and has original features like the 13 white statues of figurines and fountains around the gardens. Showcasing Victorian life, the house was built by Charles F. Koester for his wife Sylvia Broughton, who was a local school teacher. Visit the museum before public tours close Oct. 31.

Photo by Emma Witter

The Pony Express is a staple of Kansas history. Between April 1860 and October 1861 riders traveled day and night through any weather conditions to move mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Trips would take roughly 10 days with riders changing horses every 12 to 15 miles. The home station in Marysville features a stone barn built by Joseph Cottrell in 1859 that was leased to the Pony Express in 1860. The museum, which is the oldest building in Marshall County, now consists of the original stable and has been expanded to include railroads and trails, emphasizing the importance of transportation in Marysville.

Road trips can be like medicine for the soul. Each of these locations are unique and have different charming spots within them. Bring a friend and be sure to follow COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a fun and memorable experience. 


Photo by Emma Witter

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