There are a lot of ways to define Northeast Kansas. It’s a region where you’ll find an equal mix of rural and suburban communities, with farmland on the outskirts of college towns and big cities alike.
The region offers quality outdoor recreation, music and the arts, historical sights, professional sports, engaging small towns with cool downtown areas, and a whole lot more.
From Oskaloosa to Lawrence, Topeka to Leavenworth, right in the heart of Kansas City and all points in-between … let’s take a closer look at the appeal of Northeast Kansas for both residents and new visitors.
Northeast Kansas offers its fair share of opportunities for outdoor recreation amid the scenic beauty of lakes, rivers, forests and plains. Close to Oskaloosa, Perry State Park has hiking, biking and horse trails; campgrounds; and great fishing and boating on Perry Lake.
In nearby Lawrence, the 1,500-acre Clinton State Park and its namesake lake are ideal for recreation on the water, day picnics and wildlife viewing. The city’s Lone Star Lake Park is another popular spot, while about an hour south in Paola, you’ll find anglers casting for catfish and bass at Hillsdale Lake.
Elsewhere in Northeast Kansas, the 51-mile Prairie Spirit Trail can be tackled on foot or bike, running from Ottawa to Iola. It connects with the Southwind Rail Trail, taking you through charming rural communities. Just west of Lawrence in Osage County, Eisenhower State Park offers nearly 1,800 acres for equestrian enthusiasts looking to ride, plus adventures on Melvern Lake. In nearby Vassar, Pomona State Park is the hot spot for family camping, disc golf fishing and more.
Lastly, we can’t leave out Kansas state capital Topeka. The city’s Lake Shawnee is a top travel destination used for festivals, tournaments, golf events and other fun. And also in the city, Kaw River State Park is Kansas’ only urban state park. Day use only, you can kayak the river and hike area trails as you watch for Eagles, wild turkey and deer.
Outdoor adventures may be one of the reasons people love Northeast Kansas, but there’s a world of other sights, sounds, experiences and attractions to enjoy across the region. From arts and culture, to historical discoveries, tasty dining, shopping and so much more … it’s all waiting for you.
Besides being one of the best college towns in the nation and home to the basketball powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks, Lawrence offers fun shops, bars and restaurants on Massachusetts Street and the surrounding downtown area. Catch local music at The Bottleneck or The Granada, or see a movie at the historic Liberty Hall.
State capital Topeka is around 30 minutes west of Lawrence. Topeka’s Gage Park offers rides, an aquatic center, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center and the Topeka Zoo. If public art is your thing, head to the North Topeka Arts District. The city also has amazing shopping downtown, dinner theater at the Topeka Civic Theatre, and offbeat attractions such as the Evel Knievel Museum.
Roughly an hour northeast of Topeka, Leavenworth is big on local history, and you can take the self-guided “Historic Wayside Tour” to learn all there is to know. Experience murals and statues on Shawnee Street’s ART WALK, and check out 28 blocks of locally-owned shops and eateries downtown. The River City Community Players venue is always a good time for lovers of local theatre, while at Fort Leavenworth you can tour one of the oldest active military installations in the country.
Finally, while Kansas City itself (both KCK and KCMO to you newbies) is generally more urban than the Northeast Kansas communities around it, it’s still a must-visit destination. Pro sports rule here, highlighted by the Kansas City Chiefs, Royals and Sporting KC. The Country Club Plaza and Crown Center are two of the city’s popular cornerstones (the lit-up Plaza at Christmastime is pure holiday magic). And of course, we can’t forget to mention KC’s own style of popular barbecue; best to start exploring with this list of BBQ hot spots.