Just 40 minutes south of Kansas City, tucked between the Marais des Cygnes and Pottawatomie rivers, is Osawatomie – the quaint, charming, and up-and-coming city with a little something for everyone.
Recognized nationally as the “Cradle of the Civil War,” Osawatomie is steeped in American history and traces its roots back to 1854, when abolitionists laid claim to the territory. John Brown’s time in Osawatomie was the spark that ignited the Bleeding Kansas portion of Kansas history, and brought the battle against slavery to the national stage.
While here many visitors make a point to take in the community’s seven National Register of Historic Sites. They include the John Brown Museum State Historic Site in John Brown Memorial Park, where the storied Battle of Osawatomie was fought. The museum has consistently been voted the Best Museum in Miami County during the last several years and the park was dedicated in 1910 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The museum is housed in the Adair Cabin which functioned as both home and headquarters for John Brown from 1854 to 1856. The historic site also features a monument to Brown alongside two different playgrounds, a shelter house, and full RV hookups plus tent space for sublime camping experiences.
At the Osawatomie History Museum and the Osawatomie Railroad Museum, visitors will get the bigger picture of Osawatomie’s history. Both housed in Osawatomie’s old train depot, it retells the story of Osawatomie and its railroad.
Flint Hills Nature Trail
Midway Drive In
Marais des Cygnes River
Ecotourism continues to grow in Osawatomie with the newly opened Flint Hills Trail “Mile Zero” Trailhead. Located just off the intersection of 12th and South Streets, the trailhead is the easternmost terminus for the Flint Hills Trail, a 117-mile stretch of rail-to-trail that runs across six counties before ending out west in Herington. The seventh longest rail-to-trail in the United States, the Flint Hills trail is the longest trail in Kansas. The trailhead offers plenty of parking for equestrians, cyclists, or hikers looking for any variety of trail exploration, from a family walk to seasoned gravel bikers.
Looking for somewhere else to stretch?
The Karl E. Cole Sports Complex is a modern sport complex replete with baseball diamonds, basketball and tennis courts, and a full-service concession stand and restroom facility.
For a quieter day outdoors, the Osawatomie City Lake is a small, serene spot for fishing and non motorized watercraft located just a few minutes north of town. Heading back over the Creamery Bridge, fishermen are always excited for snagging season. Osawatomie boasts one of the only spots for paddlefishing in Kansas.
Nestled alongside the lake is the Osawatomie Golf Course. The 18-hole irrigated municipal golf course offers a clubhouse, food and beverages, a pro shop, driving range and practice green. The weekend calendar fills quickly with tournaments, so it is recommended that players book their tee times early!
Year-round recreation and exercise can be found at the O-Zone Sport and Fitness Facility and Aquatics Center, the only facility in Miami County with fitness equipment, daycare, gymnasium, lap pool, warm pool, aquatics park, sports programs and fitness classes.
Not much of a sportsman? Osawatomie has plenty of community events year round!
One of the newest events is the Tornado Alley Rally which rockets down Main Street every spring. It is the region’s only soapbox derby race!
Osawatomie makes holiday shopping even easier, too. Each winter, the chamber of commerce hosts its Holiday Bazaar, a wonderful fair full of local artisans and homemade goods perfect for stuffing stockings or wrapping under the tree.
The annual midsummer festival Lights on the Lake is a multi-day celebration featuring a parade down Main Street, fishing derby at the Osawatomie City Lake, Cutest Baby Contest, 5k race and car show. The festival culminates in a live concert and larger-than-life firework display over the lake.
Residents celebrate their rich history every September with the Freedom Festival, a two-day event in John Brown Memorial Park that features battle reenactments, a period baseball game, handcrafts, music, food, storytellers and family-oriented activities.
Held every October, the Spook Parade invites families to come celebrate the littlest of monsters with a too-cute parade down Main Street followed by trick-or-treating at local businesses.
While in town, be on the lookout for the perfect pit stop!
Chris’ Café and Bakery has everything for breakfast or a quick pick-me-up. Her custom coffee bar is a local favorite and the sticky buns have a devoted fan following.
From steak to pizza, Cookie’s Long Shots Bar and Grill has something to satisfy the biggest appetites while patrons play a game of pool.
Across the street, La Hacienda satisfies any cravings for margaritas -- try the jumbo peach -- and has the best puffy tacos around.
The China Restaurant is another savory staple with crispy Crab Rangoon and delicious garlic chicken served family style or to-go!
And visit to Whistle Stop Café is a must. Just like the trail, Whistle Stop is decorated in homage to the community’s roots as a railroad town. Stop in for the downhome comfort food and stick around for stories passed down from generations of railroaders.
Looking to plan an event?
The restored Loft on Sixth offers a classic design with modern amenities. This 15,000-square-foot venue was built in 1904 and holds up to 200 people for weddings, fundraisers and holiday parties in the elegant chapel or reception space equipped with a stage, bar and spacious dance floor. It also offers a smaller space ideal for business meetings and rehearsal dinners.
Shoot House Paintball is quite the group attraction with buildings, obstacles, barriers and more than three acres of fun just waiting for its next players.
The Midway Drive-In, one of only five drive-ins left in the state, has new owners working hard to open for the 2021 season. Located “midway” between Osawatomie and Paola, this venue is a must for families and kids of all ages.
Of course, no trip to Osawatomie would be complete without a stop into one of the local shops, salons, and other businesses. From Wild Cactus Hair Co.’s newly opened and trendy boutique salon experience, Pat’s Signs ever-busy printing presses to Donna and Viola’s Shirts & Etc. custom t-shirt and embroidery shop and all the places in between, Osawatomie has something for everyone.