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The 25 best places to visit in Pittsburg, Kansas

I live as far away from Pittsburg, Kansas, as a person can live and still be in Kansas. Even with the long drive, I visit the de facto capital of Southeast Kansas at least annually. I find something new every time I visit, and you’ll enjoy discovering Pittsburg, too.

Explore Crawford County sponsored my visit, but all opinions are mine. If you use our affiliate links, including Amazon Associates and Stay22, to make a purchase, we might earn a small commission for our time and website costs (at no additional cost to you).  These links are always disclosed. 

Crawford County, Kansas, differs from much of the state because it was the center of the Kansas coal-mining industry. (I never knew Kansas was a mining state until I saw a Sunflower Coal ghost sign in Wilson a few years ago.)

Even though the coal fields are now closed, the county’s mining heritage is still strong in Pittsburg and surrounding communities. The mines brought miners from Eastern Europe, creating a fascinating melange of cultures in the Southeast Kansas city. Pittsburg State University adds to the city’s eclectic flavor. 

Pittsburg, population 21,000, is 40 minutes northwest of Joplin, Missouri, and two hours from Kansas City and Tulsa. This is your Pittsburg checklist. Joplin (JLN) is the closest regional airport.

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Table of contents

Crawford County Museum | Miners Hall Museum | Library | Little Balkans Festival | Mined Land Wildlife Area | Crawford State Park | City Parks | Shopping | Pitt State | Dining | Kansas Crossing Casino

Related: While Pittsburg is the largest city in Southeast Kansas, Girard is the Crawford County seat.

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Vintage red pickup in front of the Crawford County Historical Museum
Exterior of the Crawford County Historical Museum

1. Crawford County Historical Museum north of Pittsburg

The Crawford County Historical Museum displays aspects of Southeast Kansas history, like the Civil War, mining, the fight for women’s suffrage, transportation, Prohibition, industry, education, recreation, law enforcement, and communication.

Helmeted coal miner mannequin drilling for coal by hand with a single candle for light in the Crawford County Museum
Coal miners drilled coal out by hand while crouched in underground mining shafts.

Gain a new appreciation for coal miners at the museum. They excavated the Pittsburg-Weir Coalfield’s 290 mines in dangerous underground shafts before the advent of strip mining. A museum exhibit shows a helmeted miner bent over his drill bit in a shaft lit by a candle.

Copper stills and wooden barrels in the bootlegging exhibit
Miners families and others supplemented their income with Prohibition-era bootlegging.

Bootleggging: Another “underground” way to make a living

The mining industry became unprofitable after World War I, and miners lost their jobs. Therefore, they had to supplement their income, and bootlegging was a profitable alternative. A commission labeled Crawford and neighboring Cherokee counties as the worst Prohibition offenders. The museum’s collection includes homemade stills and bathtubs used for bathtub gin. Many of the illegal potations included lethal poisons.

Roxie’s reliable report: Debra Dene Barnes was crowned Miss America in 1968. She played four variations of the “Born Free” theme during the pageant as her talent. She completed her music degree at Pittsburg State afterward. The museum houses some of her memorabilia.

A tiny two-headed calf in a glass-front box.
This two-headed calf is cute and scary, just like the twins in the classic horror flick The Shining.

A Pepsi truck, a parking meter enforcement motor tricycle, and a carriage driven by a skeleton are on the floor. A two-headed calf is the creepiest exhibit.

Explore historic buildings and vehicles outside, including the Marion Steam Shovel. Sign up for the museum’s numerous events.

Roxie’s reliable reportThe McCune Osage Township Library and Museum has exhibits about McCune’s basketball Olympians, Dean and Allen Kelley. Dean played for the 1952 Olympics’ gold-medalist team, while Allen won his gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the entire team in 2010. 

Miner's Hall Museum exterior
The Miner’s Hall Museum stands on the historic Jefferson Highway route that bisects Crawford County.

 2. The Miners Hall Museum and the Amazon Army

A large group of women met in Franklin’s Miners Hall, now the Miners Hall Museum, on December 11, 1921, because their miner husbands, fathers, brothers, and sweethearts were struggling. Commodities prices had tanked after World War I, and mining companies responded with pay cuts.

Even worse, Governor Henry Allen had created a new labor dispute arbitration body, and the local union leader Alexander Howat refused to accept its authority. The miners defied the arbiters and went on strike. Allen threw Howat into jail in response. The governor’s action spawned the Franklin meeting, and the women decided to march in protest. 

Despite the bitter cold, thousands of women and children marched from coal camp to coal camp. The New York Times mocked them as the Amazon Army, but the name became a badge of honor.

Any extra expense was a hazard for families existing on strike pay, but the courts didn’t care. Some of the women paid dearly for their actions when the sheriff arrested them. The local court’s judge assessed fines from $17 to $3,400 in current dollars, plus court costs.

The museum, 15 minutes north of Pittsburg, honors the Amazon Army and documents miners’ lives. Innovative coal bucket sculptures explain aspects of the mine stories. Disclaimer: The museum hosted my Secret Kansas book tour and sells the books.

A world’s record sidewalk

The 1.7-mile sidewalk across the street from the museum is the world’s longest between two towns, one of the state’s world records. Children died walking from Franklin on Highway 69 to school in Arma. To avoid more tragedies, the community built a 3-foot-wide walk. It’s now a walking trail.

Related: Continue south on Highway 69 to the 13.2 miles of Kansas Route 66. Baxter Springs, Riverton, and Galena welcome you.

Statue of miner in fr ont of a brick-paved walk with vertical granite tablets in Immigrant Park, Pittsburg, Kansas
Johann (John) Christian Ott represents all Southeast Kansas miners.

3. Miners Memorial in Pittsburg, Kansas

At Pittsburg’s Miners Memorial, a life-size bronze statue of a miner, Johann (John) Christian Ott, walks wearily home from the mine. His lunch pail is tucked beneath his arm, and his helmet and light are still on his head. Ott represents thousands of Crawford County miners from over 50 nationalities. Black granite slabs list those miners’ names, with asterisks designating those who lost their lives in mining accidents.

A nearby mural in Immigrant Park depicts immigrants arriving at the Pittsburg railroad depot. Interpretive panels and machinery also tell the story. 

Bronze sculpture of two children sharing a book outside the Pittsburg, Kansas, Public Library.
Little readers outside the Pittsburg Public Library

4. Pittsburg Public Library

The mural Solidarity inside the Pittsburg Public Library honors the Amazon Army. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie granted Pittsburg $40,000 in 1907, equivalent to $1.3 million in 2023. However, the miners resented Carnegie’s anti-union actions and did not want his name on the library building.  Therefore, the board banned Carnegie’s name from the building’s façade.

A Prairie Style library

The community also desired a subdued building, contrary to the Carnegie libraries’ usual ornate styles. The architects used a Prairie Style architectural design with Arts and Crafts motifs in the interior. The building opened in 1912, then the community restored and added to the building in 1996 to 1998.

Looking for Mr. Wright

Related: Prairie Style was Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature style. Governor Allen’s Wichita home and the Corbin Education Center at Wichita State University are the only Wright-designed structures in Kansas. Stay in the Wright-designed Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa.

5. Little Balkans Days Festival 

Because many miners arrived from Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, Crawford County got the nickname “Little Balkans.” Celebrate this heritage at the annual Little Balkans Days Festival held annually during Labor Day Weekend.

Buy a passport to access all the events, like the Little Balkans Cooking School. The school teaches 50 students how to prepare various cuisines. Other events include a Pasta School, the Felt Embroidery Class, a quilt show, a car show, a concert, a photography contest, and more.

Big Brutus, the world's largest shovel, from the side
Big Brutus, the Pride of West Mineral, and machines like it carved Mined Land Wildlife Area.

5. Mined Land Wildlife Area

The miners escaped the pits and strip-mined the land instead. The remaining holes are now part of Mined Land Wildlife Area. Surface coal mines covered 83 percent of the 14,500-acre wildlife area from the 1920s to 1974. 

The preserve includes over 1,000 strip-mined lakes between steep hills cloaked with thick vegetation. The smallest lake is only a quarter of an acre, with the biggest at 50 acres, while the Trout Pit in Unit #30 is 60 feet deep. Numerous fish species swim in these lakes, so check the fishing report before you make plans. All anglers must have a Kansas fishing license from age 16. Trout requires an additional permit.

On land, park patrons may hunt, hike, camp, pick mushrooms and berries, and watch wildlife. Look for whitetail deer, eastern turkey, mourning dove, bobwhite quail, fox squirrel, cottontails, and waterfowl. All hunters aged 16 and over must have a Kansas hunting license.

The sun setting into the trees on Crawford Reservoir's western shore
Savor the sunset at Crawford State Park.

6. Crawford State Park

The 500-acre Crawford State Park surrounds Crawford State Fishing Lake near the small town of Farlington, half an hour north of Pittsburg. Enjoy fishing, swimming, motorboating, kayaking, jet skiing, hiking, and just being. Spring wildflowers and blooming redbud trees in the spring and fall colors add to the park’s scenic beauty and serenity.

Related: Explore Crawford State Park.

7. Visit Pittsburg’s parks

Mined Land and the state park are not the only outdoor recreation opportunities in Crawford County. Pittsburg’s city parks offer biking trails, basketball courts, fishing, playgrounds, disc golf, tennis and pickleball, a skate park, bocce courts, and more.

Lincoln Park features Kiddieland Amusement Park, the Pittsburg Aquatic Center, the Don Gutteridge Sports Complex, Jaycee Ballpark, and the Four Oaks Golf Course. Wilderness Park (PDF) has four miles of trails, some of which are accessible. Others surmount the ridges surrounding open-pit mining scars. Wetlands, grasslands, and forests surround four fishing pits.

Sign Brothers neon sign in Downtown Pittsburg, Kansas
Sign Brothers light the night in Downtown Pittsburg.

8-14. Shop in Downtown Pittsburg

Historic buildings fill Downtown Pittsburg, Kansas, centered on Broadway. Learn their history on the walking tour, where the city’s first four buildings occupied the corner of Fourth and Broadway. Two of them still stand.

The sign for Embellish Boutique
The stylish Embellish Boutique sign shows off the shop’s flair for fashion.

These are our favorite Pittsburg shops:

 Embellish Boutique is full of gift and clothing options. Buy a gift or pick the perfect outfit from Clara Barnes’ eclectic selection.

• Sign Brothers provides whatever needs your name and logo. The company imprints everything from vehicle and wall wraps to signs to apparel and drinkware.

• Miners + Monroe‘s name honors Pittsburg’s mining past and Marilyn Monroe. The store’s décor is full of warm bricks and wood. It stocks men’s apparel, accessories, and vinyl records — appropriate for a live-music event host.

Books and other products on a round table at Books and Burrow, Pittsburg, Kansas, with other furnishings and inventory in the background
Choose all your reading needs at Books and Burrow.

• Books and Burrow‘s comfortable furniture, relaxed décor, hardwood floors, and shelves of new books hearken back to traditional bookstores. The owners belong to Oklahoma’s Peoria people. Because of this, they highlight indigenous authors. Books & Burrow sells my books and sponsored my Pittsburg book event.

• Visit Southwind Cycle and Outdoor before you hit Pittsburg’s bike trails. Gravel grinding was born in Kansas, so take the store’s advice on regional gravel experiences.

• Fulfill all your landscaping needs at In the Garden. Show your Pitt State pride with a Gorilla yard decoration, or choose from many other options. From their stock, you can enliven your yard with trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals while controlling pests.

Pittsburg's veterans memorial at night.
The impressive veteran’s memorial encourages citizens to recall and honor those who served.

15-17. Pittsburg State University Campus

Pitt State is an NCAA Division II powerhouse, and since 1925, Gus the Gorilla has been the only gorilla mascot in college sports. Southeast Kansas embraces Gus, and his image is everywhere.

PSU’s campus is in the city’s southern section, and these are the best places to visit:

Pittsburg State Veterans Memorial Amphitheater

• Pittsburg State Veterans Memorial Amphitheater is across the street from PSU’s ROTC program. It’s one of the most inspiring veterans’ monuments I have seen.

The entry rampart includes the US, Kansas, and university flags with the seals of each military branch. The plaza includes over 3,400 engraved granite pavers. An arch stands behind the reflecting pool. Low walls with inspirational quotes flank the arch, and a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall stands behind it. All 50 state flags fly above a berm behind the Wall.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Visit the wall twice, once in daylight and once in the dark.

Carnie Smith Stadium at Pittsburg State University
Pitt State’s on-field success makes Gus the Gorilla feel very proud.

Carnie Smith Stadium

• Carnie Smith Stadium, known as “The Jungle” and “The Pitt,” hosts Gorilla football, track and field. The teams that play in its confines have won five titles, two in football (1991 and 2011) and men’s outdoor track and field (2022 and 2023), and one in women’s track and field (2016). Carnie Smith was the team’s first football coach. Under his direction, the Gorillas won two NAIA titles in 1957 and 1961. The stadium’s “Jungletron” video scoreboard is Division II’s largest. 

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Grab Gorilla Gear at the Overman Student Center Bookstore.

Bicknell Family Center for the Arts

• The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts is Southeast Kansas’s premier performing arts venue. The facility hosts Broadway shows, concerts, plays, and top-notch lecturers, including former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Laura Bush.

Venues within the center include an art gallery, a 1,000-seat-plus performance hall, and a 280-seat black-box theater. Rehearsal space, dressing rooms, green rooms, VIP lounge, scene and costume shops provide all necessary support.

Fried chicken with all the sides at Chicken Mary's, Pittsburg, Kansas
Which Pittsburg fried chicken dynasty do you support?

18-24. Eat in Pittsburg, Kansas

Pittsburg, Kansas,  has numerous quality eateries, but visitors must eat at Chicken Annie’s or Chicken Mary’s. Or try them both and choose your favorite. Only a parking lot separates the legendary chicken restaurants. Ann Pichler started her restaurant in 1934, and Mary Zerngast opened hers in 1942. The women had similar stories. Mining accidents had disabled their husbands, and they both started their restaurants in their homes in response.

My group ate at both places. Half preferred Annie’s, and half preferred Mary’s. I slightly prefer Annie’s because I enjoyed the pickled pepper strip. Did Peter Piper pick the pickled pepper? Maybe so.

I recommend these additional eateries:

Three Drop the H pizzas and a glass of beer with a wood-fired pizza oven in the background
Pizza pairs perfectly with beer at Drop the H. (Drop the H Brewing Co.)

Drop the H Brewing Company

• Pittsburg, Kansas, got its name from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but the city in Kansas lost the final letter in the 1800s. Drop the H Brewing Company picked up the H motif for its name. They specialize in craft beer and craft pizza. They bake New York-style pies in a custom brick oven, but the menu also includes salads, wraps, wings, and a charcuterie board. My Belgian-style beer paired well with the charcuterie.

The Pitt

The Pitt inhabits a place between a bar and a restaurant. Even to a newcomer, the eatery felt comfortable and welcoming. It’s like visiting your favorite pub on the weekend, the place where the wait staff already knows what you want, and the live music is hot. But the food is too good to be a simple bar. I ordered the Midwest school lunch classic, a bowl of chili and a cinnamon roll. Yum, yum!

Roxie’s reliable report: Order a “Six Pack for the Back” if you enjoy your food. The $6 charge buys beer for the cooks.

Bob's Grill full of diners with sports memorabilia on the walls
Bob’s Grill’s menu is stacked with delicious diner classics, served with a side of Pittsburg memorabilia.

Bob’s Grill

• Bob’s Grill has served diner delicacies since 1964. The local license plates outside and the packed seating inside say the food is good. The signature Cowboy, a mass of breakfast meat, hash browns, eggs, green peppers, and onions, will fill you up, especially if you smother it with gravy. If that sounds like too much, order a Half Cowboy. Is he a right-handed or left-handed cowboy? Who knows.

A pair of upside down coffee mugs on the Root Coffeehouse counter in Pittsburg, Kansas
Coffee mugs ready for an order at Root Coffeehouse

The Root Coffeehouse

• Get to the root of craft beverages at The Root Coffeehouse. Savor all the coffeehouse drinks you’ve ever wanted with decadent crepes. Flavors like Berry Happy, French Toast, and S’mores will tantalize your taste buds. Look for the clever ghost signs on the brick walls. Buy a Root souvenir or craft items from local makers.

Seated man checking his phone at the Mall Deli in Pittsburg, Kansas
The Mall Deli is a comforting place to eat.

The Mall Deli in Meadowbrook Mall makes the best creamy Italian dressing. Dip your crackers in the dressing just like you would dip corn chips into salsa. I also enjoyed a Reuben sandwich with delectable deviled eggs. Yum, yum!

Kansas Crossing Casino entrance
The Kansas Crossing Casino offers many entertainment and dining options. (Sara Broers/Travel with Sara)

25. Kansas Casino Crossing & Hotel, Pittsburg

Mine for a different kind of prize at the Kansas Crossing Casino & Hotel at the junction of Highways 60 and 400 south of Pittsburg. The 18,000-square-foot facility offers slots, casino poker, poker cash and tournaments, dice and lottery games, blackjack, roulette, and sports betting.

It’s like the Hotel California: you’ll never need to leave after you check in.

The Two Brothers Mining Co. and the Bronco Bar provide food and drinks, and the management books live entertainment. Performers include Kylie Morgan, Aaron Tippin, Three Dog Night, Trace Atkins, and Lita Ford. The casino’s meeting space occupies 4,000 square feet and can host 250 guests for dinner and seat 400 in a theater format.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Examine the casino’s promotions before you go.

Go, go, Gorilla, to Pittsburg, Kansas.

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