Americas Best Small Towns : Wilson, Kansas
Last Updated on October 12, 2014 by Jody Halsted
Arriving in Wilson, Kansas happens only on purpose. Sure many will make a quick exit from I-70 to shop at Kansas Originals– a souvenir hunters treasure, filled with braided wheat, hand hewn carvings, delicate Czech eggs (hand-painted, of course) and carved limestone Post Rock Country is famed for.
Our own visit to Kansas Originals added a hand carved working lock and key, a precious ceramic bear adorned with September birthstones and locally made munchies for our drive home. But if that is all you see of Wilson, Kansas, you've missed one of the most inviting towns in the Midwest.
Where to Stay in Wilson
We spent one night in Wilson at the beautiful Simple Haven Bed & Breakfast. With all the comforts of home, we settled right in to our rooms. I especially loved that this B&B is kid friendly- a rarity in many US bed and breakfasts. The rooms were spacious, especially the master suite on the ground floor. It is luxurious without being overworked, with a grand sleigh bed and the largest bathroom I've seen in a B&B.
Upstairs an inviting sitting room offers television and games, with a door to the sunny second story porch. The grounds of Simple Haven are beautiful and invite you to explore, relax and be at peace. The original water tower has been lovingly restored and now sits in a garden of flowers. Relax on the shaded rear patio, wander the maze of garden paths or enter the water tower and enjoy a sauna.
Breakfast literally means “to break your fast”. Hosts, Joe and Susan Curtiss, create meals featuring fresh fruits, muffins warm from the oven and specialties which include Apple French Toast. You'll leave Simple Haven relaxed, pleasantly full, and hoping to return. (Phone: 866-514-2744; website)
Where to Eat in Wilson
The most popular restaurant in town is Made from Scratch which, as the name implies, creates their menu from scratch. We enjoyed the Sunday buffet of panfried chicken but were sorry to miss the Saturday German offerings.
If you're after a snack, the Snack Shack has burgers, brats and ice cream. It's a simple shop with very friendly employees. I have no idea what they did to the bratwurst I had, but it was one of the best I've tasted.
What to Do in Wilson
Wilson is the “Czech Capital of Kansas” and the town expands to host thousands the last weekend of July during the annual Czech Festival. Featuring Czech dancers, live music, a beer garden and family friendly fun, the town comes together to celebrate – and heartily welcomes visitors.
One of Wilson's most unique buildings is the Round Jail. It began as a water tower for a city block and, when retired from that duty, served as a holding cell for local ne'er-do-wells awaiting transport. Like the Round Jail, much of Wilson was built with the most common material at hand- limestone. The historic Midland Hotel, the bank, and many of the town's original buildings stand firm and remind you that you have entered Post Rock Country. Wilson is a great place to begin your tour of the Post Rock Scenic Byway.
Along the byway and just north of Wilson, Lucas, the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas, is well worth an afternoon. If you search the fence posts closely during your drive you may find this carved post near Lake Wilson.
Lake Wilson provides many types of outdoor entertainments from boating and fishing to hiking and swimming. Bring sturdy shoes and follow the Rocktown Hiking Trail which leads to massive red sandstone formations that tower above like a city skyline.
If your visit happens to include a Sunday, worship at Excelsior Lutheran Church, famous for the 60 foot lighted cross that has shined every night since 1976.
These are but a few suggestions. Wilson lies in the center of an amazing area filled with natural history, outdoor enjoyments and cultural attractions. Arriving in Wilson feels like coming home. Stay a spell and enjoy the community. You'll be a part of it before you leave.