Wamego, Kansas, is a small city in Pottawatomie County, Kansas, situated by the Kansas River.
In 1863, the town was founded as a stop along the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and within a decade, shops, businesses, a railroad station, and a roundhouse sprang up.
Wamego took its name from a Pottawatomie Native American chief.
Today in Wamego, you’ll find a vibrant and welcoming downtown, historic landmarks, beautiful city parks, and many notable festivals and events.
Visitors will encounter the Beecher Bible Church, a remnant of the pioneer settlers that began as a camp of abolitionists.
Tourists will love the Oz Museum, the world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia along with a Yellow Brick Road they can travel and an Oz Winery they can browse.
There is also a historic museum with an adjoining Prairie Village, and downtown is the Columbian Theater, inspired by Chicago’s World’s Columbian exposition.
You can also see where notable personas fought Kansas battles at Mount Mitchell Heritage Park, originally part of a farm on the Underground Railroad.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the remarkable city that is Wamego, Kansas.
For an out-of-this-world vacation, read this list of the best things you can do in Wamego!
Get Some Sun at Wamego City Park
Wamego City Park is one of the most beautiful city parks in Kansas.
It touts an Olympic-sized swimming pool, an 1879 Dutch mill, a historic museum and village, and more.
Other amenities are playground equipment, tennis courts, and horseshoe pits.
It boasts a children’s train and depot-sized shelter house, a teeming pond for fishing, and thousands of tulips.
Every spring, the tulips are spread out in front of the windmill and war memorial, coming alive with vibrant colors.
You can take a soothing stroll around the water, cross the bridge, and seek refuge in the natural beauty around you.
Here, there are also 150 craft vendors setting up booths and tents with purses, woodworking, handcrafted jewelry, floral items, pottery, framed art, and more.
At the park, you will also find a Veteran’s Memorial, including a Wall of the Fallen, honoring the heroes who sacrificed everything.
Taste Cozy Comfort Food at Friendship House
You are guaranteed two things at this special restaurant and bakery in Wamego: food and friendship.
In 1988, an Old Dutch Windmill was moved to Wamego City Park and used to grind flour.
The first founders then had the idea to bake the flour into a finished product for Wamego visitors and residents.
Thus, this friendly place was born where one could get together for cups of coffee, baked goods, and tasty lunches.
In May 2008, Mike and Marge Pray bought Friendship House and have since expanded the catering business to include towns 60 or more miles away.
The goal of Friendship House continues to be ‘home cooking just like Grandma makes.’
This includes cookies, bread, bierocks, and delicious pastries.
It also includes soups, sandwiches, salads, gourmet burgers, daily specials, and more.
Discover the Past at Wamego Historical Society and Museum
Founders organized the Wamego Historical Society in 1973.
It comprises a complex of historical buildings, along with the Prairie Town Village, located in Wamego’s city park.
The village comprises a series of connected buildings: a log cabin, the Wamego Telephone Exchange building, a general store, and a restored one-room school.
The museum has many interesting displays, one of which is a crosscut section of the famous Louis Vieux Elm.
It was originally the largest American elm tree in the country; alas, lightning and vandals destroyed it.
The museum also has items from Wamego’s Ames House Hotel, which includes a registration book signed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, PT Barnum, and John Jacob Astor.
Others here are old military items, a working 1950 Chrysler coupe, a stuffed Buffalo named Abigail, an 1899 hand-pulled fire wagon, and paintings from local artists.
You can also find Balderson blacksmithing tools and a forge that Neil Balderson used.
Take Pictures at the Schonoff Dutch Mill
The Schonoff Dutch Mill is a renowned Kansas landmark, noted for its beauty and its mighty heritage.
It was built in 1879 when John Schonoff noted that Kansas farmers were still grinding corn and wheat by hand.
Schonoff skillfully crafted every part of the mill, hammering out the iron parts on a homemade forge.
John Chadwick, a skillful stonemason, erected the yellow limestone for the lower tower, quarried from a nearby farm.
Chadwick also constructed the statue of Ceres, Goddess of Grain, which decorates the second-story window’s wall.
The mill did custom grinding of grain and feed for a few years, ceasing operation around 1890.
In 1924, a group of Wamego businessmen proposed to donate the mill to Wamego’s city park.
They hauled the mill to Wamego using 35 horse-drawn wagons, reconstructing it at its present location.
In 1988, a milling expert designed a plan to restore the mill to its original function, and today grain is still ground here to make flour and corn.
Watch a Show at The Columbian Theatre
The Columbian Theatre is the thrumming hub of cultural activity in Wamego.
In the 1890s, businessman JC Rogers built it as a musical hall, having been inspired by the beauty of exhibits from the 1893 World’s Fair Columbian Exposition.
The hall became a venue for drama, vaudeville, masque balls, community events, and concerts.
In 1912, silent films debuted at the Columbian, and in 1929, ‘talkies’ entered the picture.
It remained in the community’s heart throughout World War II, where hometown girls could catch peeks of their loved ones on the battlefront.
The theatre closed in 1950, but restoration began in 1989, and it reopened for live shows plus special events in 1994.
The theatre still offers entertainment opportunities for the public, with professional productions, Broadway musicals, and concerts.
You can view changing art exhibits in the Swogger Art Gallery and 6 paintings from the Columbian Exposition in the Peddicord Playhouse.
Have a Hearty Meal at Toto’s TacOz!
Toto’s TacOz! is a Wizard of Oz-themed restaurant and has been a local Wamego favorite since 2005.
It maintains a homey atmosphere and upholds its rich history as the best Cal-Mex Restaurant on the Yellow Brick Road.
Toto’s has an ambitious, far-reaching menu prepared by hand, sure to please any visitor.
Start your morning with their tasty homemade salsas, guacamole, and Pico de Gallo, made from scratch.
Their special Chipotle Sour Cream is one of their signature sauces, blended with a secret ingredient and chipotle peppers.
It tastes fantastic on everything, from shrimp and Uncle Henry’s Nachos to Atlantic Cod tacos and Dorothy’s Quesadilla.
Their most popular item is the Yellow Brick Burrito, which is large, mouthwatering, and perfect for a lion-sized appetite!
Other delicious menu items are tortilla soup, tacos, salads, quesadillas, and nachos.
Step Into a Fairy Tale at the Oz Museum
Everybody knows L. Frank Baum’s wonderful and magical tale of Dorothy and her friends in Land of Oz.
If you’re from Kansas, Oz’s cultural footprint is sure to be sought after, and Wamego’s Oz Museum rises to the occasion magnificently.
Opened in 2003, the museum was built to shelter the Oz artifacts of collector Todd Machin for only 5 years.
The museum faced an uncertain future, but by a stroke of luck, a Franciscan monk named Johnpaul Cafiero also expressed his wish to display his large Oz collection.
Today, the Oz Museum holds the largest permanent display of Oz artifacts in the world!
Just like in the 1939 film, visitors enter through a colorless Kansas lobby, emerging into the dazzlingly colorful Munchkinland.
L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz novels throughout his career.
And quite apart from the movie, visitors will see many other beloved book characters such as Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Woggle-Bog.
At the museum, examine Baum’s first editions, Judy Garland’s 1922 birth certificate, Oz documentaries, foreign book versions, and the many pastiches such as The Wiz and earlier silent films.
Admire more than a century of Oz merchandising: toys, dolls, figurines, ornaments, puppets, plates, globes, clocks, board games, and so much more.
Taste Wine at Oz Winery
Oz Winery is at the heart of downtown Wamego.
It opened in July 2007 and has been expanding ever since.
Husband and wife duo, Brooke Balderson and Noah Wright, are the masters behind the winery.
Brooke is a Wamego resident and in the 4th generation of her family to operate a business.
She is a certified pastry chef from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, and her culinary know-how adds a fun spin to the Private Wine Tasting Parties.
Guests can enjoy Oz Wines paired perfectly with Brooke’s hors d’ouevres
Noah is the head winemaker of Oz Winery and a certified wine professional from the Culinary Institute of America.
Noah expertly makes all the wines on-site at Oz Winery.
The winery features an excellent variety of red, white, sparkling, blush, and dessert wines that range from dry to sweet.
Get Your Caffeine Fix at Paramour Coffee
Paramour Coffee is a coffee company that has been roasting coffee for 25 years.
It is a family business built on perseverance, industriousness, and a deep, abiding love for coffee above all.
Owner Jim Hovind was trained by the iconic Sal Bonavita and Alfred Peet who founded Peet’s Coffee.
Paramour Coffee stands today as a monument to these icons.
Sal is still a beloved mentor and friend.
Alfred died years ago, but to this day, ‘what would Alfred think?’ is a question often asked.
Paramour Coffee’s mission is to increase accessibility of gourmet coffee.
They don zero pretense or snobbery, simply making excellent coffee the way it should be.
Try their coffee specials such as aromatic Zimbabwe, deliciously rich Papua New Guinea, and intensely flavorful Wicked Mocha.
Other great coffee specials are full-body Sumatra, chocolatey Monsoon Malabar, and rich-tasting Colombia.
Go Bowling at Lincoln Street Lanes
Lincoln Street Lanes is an excellent place to have fun with family and friends.
It is the best place in town to have excellent fun times that won’t break the budget.
Bowling is the country’s number one participation activity, and Lincoln Street Lanes dedicates itself to providing awesome entertainment in Wamego.
It has 8 lanes and state-of-the-art scoring, pool tables, dartboards, and an arcade.
Their modern bowling center even has child-accessible bowling lanes with light bowling balls and child-sized shoes.
Whether you play alone, play in a bowling league, or team up with family and friends, Lincoln Street Lanes is the place for you.
Try Cosmic Bowling, the hottest bowling experience in town, with black lights, heart-pounding music, and glow-in-the-dark lanes.
Join their different bowling leagues, which include traditional bowling leagues, different premiums, or unusual scoring methods like 9 Pin Tap.
Explore the Past at Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie
Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie is a place to celebrate and honor the Connecticut abolitionists who help defeat slavery.
William Mitchell and his fellow colonists were abolitionists who arrived at Kansas Territory in 1856, intent on Kansas entering the union as a slavery-free state.
Today, you will see the log cabin farmstead of Captain Mitchell and his sister Agnes, who sheltered freedom seekers on their dangerous journey.
Tourists to this tallgrass prairie park will find remnants of the old travelers’ trail.
They can easily imagine the human stories that have transpired in this spread of grass and sky.
The park has 2 ½ miles of walking trails that give access to its diverse plant community, punctuated by the sounds of dickcissels and meadowlarks.
The park is a Monarch Butterfly Waystation, and you can admire these insects in large droves during their fall and spring migrations.
Stand amidst wildlife and past relics and come to know how this special place continues to keep nature and history alive.
Sample Different Wines at 456 Wineries
456 Wineries results from almost a decade of ideas, projects, gifts, and grants.
It has multiple wineries under one roof and acts as a business incubator for winery businesses.
Their staff mentors up-and-coming entrepreneurs and winemakers and guides new businesses through winemaking and marketing strategies.
Each winery has its own space and set of tanks and shares the press, pumps, crusher, and other equipment.
All wineries share a tasting room, each with separate areas to taste samples and buy wine.
456 Wineries was conceived in Highland Community College out of the Viticulture and Enology Program.
This college offers educational programs in winemaking and grape-growing, available during spring and fall semesters every year.
As of autumn 2020, 456 Wineries has five wineries in its facility.
It hopes to grow the Kansas wine and grape industry so that other states may follow suit and make strides in their respective industries.
Go Biking and Hiking Around Wamego
There are many annual bike rides in Wamego that range from 15 to 20 miles.
Proceeds from the rides help fund the WAM-SAG-MAN Trail Project connecting St. George, Manhattan, and Wamego.
The WAM-SAG-MAN trail provides 8 miles of safe riding between Wamego and Manhattan, along Military Trail Road.
The Louisville Roundabout takes you past stately suburbs, ancient historic stone homes, surrounding farms, and ranching countryside.
The Oregon Trail View features hilly, steep roads taking you to overlooks of the river valley.
The Horse’s Head Trail is wild, graveled, and scenic, bringing you through charming, hill-covered areas that are fantastic for bird-watching.
The Vert Trail is a set of fairly steep Kansas gravel roads, with sprawling hills and magnificent views of ranching country.
Rolander Express and Olsburg Marsh pass through some of the most beautiful wildlife areas and backcountry trails in the Glacial Hills.
Take Scenic Wildlife Photography Around Wamego
Wamego is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas in the country.
Photographers everywhere know where to find breathtaking shots of Wamego all year round.
At Riverfront Park, you can catch steam rising from the Kansas River during early mornings in the snappy winter air.
In the Flint Hill, capture the prairie ablaze during the annual burning, with the billowing flames making a striking contrast against the blue Kansas sky.
You can explore north and east of Wamego for remnants left by forefathers as old barns and farmsteads from days gone by.
Stroll over to the City Park and take pictures of the Dutch Mill surrounded by colorful scads of tulip blooms.
Head over to the Flint Hills south of Wamego, which thrive with verdant springtime growth in May, and blazing oranges and reds in the fall.
Take advantage of the early light for the springtime greens and catch the golden hour right before sunset to capture autumn colors.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Get Close to Nature at Oregon Trail Nature Park
If you enjoy outdoor trips in unfamiliar places of the great Kansas outdoors, this nature park is perfect for you.
Over 150 years ago, immigrants traveled on a trail going west, the very same trail present tourists use to reach the park.
Featured at the park are a lake, an amphitheater, picnic areas, and three loop trails: the Natural Neighbors Trail, the Pond Trail, and the Sea of Grass Trail.
Take the Sea of Grass Trail to the top of the ridge for a magnificent 360-degree view which includes the Jeffrey Energy Center and its natural cooling lake.
Southwards, stretching in a panorama is the Kaw River Valley which marks the southern edge of the Pleistocene glaciers.
At this spot, you can easily spy turkey vultures, northern harriers, and red-tailed hawks.
You can also admire a profusion of wildflowers, such as green milkweed, rose verbena, New Jersey tea, and purple coneflower.
On-site, marvel at an old silo with a three-part mural illustrating the Oregon Trail, a bison hunt, and Kansas wildlife.
Wamego is a city bursting with pioneering life-force, imaginative verve, cozy camaraderie, and a true-blue Kansas atmosphere.
You will want to spend all your time exploring the recreations, artistic experiences, fairy tale dreams, cultural flavors, and scenic escapes that Wamego offers.
Book your trip today to let your spirit and imagination fly in the city of Wamego!