Those of us who live in or around Kansas City are blessed to have so many interesting destinations within easy striking distance for day trips. We love heading off in the morning for a new location with a list of places to explore. Sometimes we will even seize the opportunity for an overnight stay. There’s something magical about spending the night in a new location, especially when it has unique features or historical significance. Our visit to Council Grove, Kansas was only 24 hours long, but as you will see, we packed a weekend worth of fun into our stay.
We want to thank Visit Council Grove for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
We left home, in KCK, around 6:00 in the morning, which gave us time to stop for breakfast along the route. Council Grove is less than two hours from our home and offers some nice views of the countryside. It’s located just 55 miles southwest of Topeka, in the Flint Hills. Before long, we found ourselves cruising through the rolling hills. We rolled into the town of about 2200 residents just as the business day was beginning.
Getting Our Bearings
Our first stop was at the Visitors Bureau. This is a great place for travelers to begin their exploration, since the staff knows the area as well as anyone you will find. They will usually have plenty of maps, brochures, and information about all of the local attractions, sights, and businesses. We also find them to be a good resource for dining recommendations. Give it a try next time you visit a new destination. We bet they will become your go-to resource on most every trip.
History Abounds in Council Grove
One of the main purposes for our visit to Council Grove was to check out their large quantity of historic sights. They list 25 individual attractions, which seemed like a huge number for a town of their size. Some pre-trip research shed a little light on why this place would have so much to see. Council Grove was an integral stop on the santa Fe Trail. It was the last place to rest up and restock supplies, before wagon trains made the 600 mile journey to Santa Fe. It was also one of the last places to find hardwood trees, which were a vital source of repair parts for wagons. If you want to understand that last bit better, be sure to ask Diane Wolfe at the Visitors Bureau. (You can read more about the historical sights here.)
An Old Friend
Council Grove is split in two by the Neosho River, which flows south toward Oklahoma. In this part of the state it is a fairly manageable body of water. This is one of the main reasons why the wagon trains passed this direction. It made for a good crossing point and these days the Riverwalk celebrates that occurrence with commemorative signage and this beautiful waking park. While I had done research before our visit, somehow I completely missed the name of the river that flowed through the town. In my younger days, I would spend my summers with my grandparents in a little town called West Mineral, Kansas. Just west of town, the Neosho River passed by on its way to become Grand Lake in Oklahoma. Many times we would head to the river to fish or swim, and even noodle once in a while. It’s amazing how the mention of a name can bring back so many pleasant memories.
What would a visit to such a historic town be without a trip to the local museum? Diane was happy to show us around the Post Office Oak Museum located on Main Street. We noticed the odd name, but she was quick to point out the reason. In the past, travelers on the Santa Fe Trail would leave messages for others in a hollow in an old oak tree located at this site. Before long, a building was constructed nearby and over time served multiple purposes. These days it is the local/regional museum. It is filled with artifacts from the early days of the town all the way through the more recent past. When you visit be sure to set aside a good amount of time to view all of the collections. (Read more about the Post Office Oak Museum here.)
After our lunch, we wanted to do a little different type of exploring in town, so we headed to Main Street to check out some of the shops in Council Grove. We strolled along, and popped in a variety of retail stores. It gave us a chance to talk with some of the locals and get their views of their hometown. No matter how large or small the destination, we always try to get a flavor for the place by interacting. We find it to be a good way to meet some very interesting people and even make new friends. It amazes us how many times we even find a connection with some of the people we meet. One of the shops we stopped in was owned and operated by the Council Grove mayor. I would bet that this small tidbit would have easily been undiscovered if we hadn’t struck up a conversation.
Since I started my blogging life with restaurants, we are always mindful to try to sample plenty of the local flavors wherever we travel. After all, one thing we all have in common is the need to eat. Council Grove offered up some historic dining destinations, which we were more than willing to sample. A couple of our stops were in buildings that have been around for over 100 years. We could almost feel the history in them as we entered and getting the opportunity to learn more about these historic stops was humbling. We are sure that many of you have noticed a high volume of historical sites in our catalog of articles. It is our belief that travel is one of the best ways to continue education into our adult years. Getting a good meal, while learning some history is an added bonus. (You can read more about Council Grove eats here.)
While Council Grove makes an excellent day trip destination from Kansas City, it would be a shame to leave without experiencing a historical stay. We had the opportunity to spend a night at The Cottage House, which is a quaint hotel just a few feet off of the Santa Fe Trail. It makes a perfect home base for exploring the town, as it puts you right in the middle of everything. The clean, comfortable rooms are spacious and offer Victorian charm. (You can read more about Cottage House here.)
Since we were spending the night, it gave us a chance to head out to the lakes just north of the town. After taking a short drive around them, we settled on a nice spot that overlooked the water to the west. We soon were joined by others who know of the beauty that was about to unfold before our eyes. As we waited, we discussed the historical draw of Council Grove and wondered how many others in the region don’t realize all the jewels this hidden treasure holds. Soon the sun sank into the horizon, and everyone’s attention was drawn to the wildfire of colors that spread across the sky. While we are blessed to have the opportunity to travel to many places, we always have loved our Kansas sunsets! We hope you liked this overview of Council Grove and would love hearing from you. Please leave us a little love in the comments section below!