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10 best attractions to visit in Goodland, Kansas

Let’s count the top 10 tourist attractions you should visit in Goodland, Kansas, a small town of 4,500 friendly people — including me. 

Enjoy good times in Goodland, Kansas

Because it’s only 17 miles from the Colorado line, it’s an easy three-hour drive from Colorado’s Front Range.

Goodland has two more things usually associated with Colorado: It’s one of four Kansas counties in the Mountain Time Zone, and its 3,641-foot elevation requires bakers to adjust for altitude.

Nearby Kanorado is the highest incorporated city in Kansas at 3,907 feet. Because of this, the Kansas Legislature proclaimed Kanorado as the Top City of Kansas in 2016.

van Gogh painting and Goodland water tower
In your imagination, add eyes, a nose, and a mouth to the Goodland water tower in the painting’s background. After all, Toto, you are in Kansas.

1. The Giant van Gogh Painting

The Giant Vincent van Gogh Painting towers above the town, easily the most famous Goodland landmark. The 80-foot-high selfie magnet is the World’s Largest Painting on an Easel. The City of Goodland installed it in 2001.

Artist Cameron Cross intended to paint all of van Gogh’s sunflower paintings at sunflower-related sites worldwide. Unfortunately, the derailed project ended after three paintings, one in Altona, Manitoba, Canada, another in Emerald, Queensland, Australia, and the third in Goodland. 

Goodland was a sunflower processing center then, but sadly, that industry is no longer in the county. Goodland’s artwork replicates van Gogh’s Three Sunflowers in a Vase.

Find the painting in Pioneer Park East at 17th and Cherry. The painting is lit at night and is open all the time. Head northwest on Cherry to High Plains Museum.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Dogs may roam in the two-section Pioneer Dog Park behind the painting.

Humans should walk or ride bikes at Pioneer Park West across the street from the painting. Cherry Street connects the twin parks with the 1.74-mile Topside Trail Project.

The project has a pair of connecting loops in Steever Park and Northwest Kansas Technical College. The Steever Park portion surrounds Steever Water ParkGoodland Skate Park, and other amenities. A nature trail on the project’s east side has a pair of graveled loops. Baskets from a disc golf course are interspersed within the trail’s surrounding lots. 

America's First Patented Helicopter
Charles Wilson (left) and William Purvis stand with their helicopter.

2. High Plains Museum/America’s First Patented Helicopter

High Plains Museum is just down the street from the Giant van Gogh Painting. The museum contains a replica of America’s First Patented Helicopter.

William Purvis saw a child playing with a whirligig in a Goodland store. The toy became his inspiration for a gyrocopter. Purvis and partner Charles Wilson built a machine shop and experimented on their invention, but their capital ran out before their patent arrived.

A powered replica is in the museum’s rear. Hold down a button to make the machine’s rotors turn.

More than a helicopter

However, the museum is not solely about the helicopter. View artifacts from early Sherman County, like the rainmakers, Dr. A.C. Gulick’s rope-driven car, and a bison.

Roxie’s reliable report: Note the Keeran real estate and insurance signs. John Keeran preserved Wilson and Purvis’s helicopter after their company failed.

A display case shows spooky artifacts from Goodland’s version of the Great Train Robbery. The Gould Brothers robbed a train around Hugo, Colorado, and later escaped to Goodland.

They eventually convinced the Bartholomew family to shelter them, but the sheriff realized who they were. He brought a posse, and the robbers paid for their crimes with their lives. The museum preserves the robbers’ masks, gun, and money box.

Retired Sherman County Sheriff Doug Whitson used his law enforcement training to investigate the Kidder Massacre site. He uncovered and mapped numerous artifacts to better explain the incident. Whitson’s wife Pam donated Whitson’s finds to the museum after his passing.

Visit the museum at 1717 Cherry. Go west on 17th St. to the White Eagle gas station at 17th and Clark.

#3 of the top 10 things you should do in Goodland, KS
The White Eagle gas station came from Kanorado.

3. The White Eagle Gas Station in Goodland, Kansas

Rod Cooper moved the White Eagle Gas Station from Kanorado. He and his family have completely restored it and filled the building and grounds with petroliana (oil company memorabilia).

All respectful people are welcome to look into the windows and walk the grounds at 17th and Clark.

The next three stops are in Downtown Goodland, Kansas.

#4 of the top 10 things to do in Goodland, KS
United Telephone Building was built in 1931 to house the Goodland, Kansas, exchange operations. United Telephone later became Sprint.

4. United Telephone Building in Goodland, Kansas

Visit the United Telephone Building, the 1931 Art Deco gem that was once the city’s telephone exchange. The exterior and the interior’s public spaces are full of tributes to indigenous art.

The building now houses a research center where the Sherman County Historical Society would love to greet you. The building is worth seeing, but researchers interested in Sherman County history should make it their headquarters.

Carnegie Arts Center was originally built in 1913 as a Carnegie library.

5. Carnegie Arts Center in Goodland, Kansas

Interact with local and regional artists’ works and create your own at the Carnegie Arts Center. The center hosts art exhibitions and has a gift shop upstairs, while their studio is downstairs. They offer classes and other events.

Goodland held a special election to provide a library tax for it, and the election was a victory for women’s voting rights. Eva Morley Murphy, a women’s rights pioneer, actively promoted the library — and later became the second Kansas woman to run for Congress.

Sherman Theatre

6. Sherman Theatre

The 90-year-old theatre at 12th and Main retains all the movie palace charm but offers all the 21st-century amenities. The owner has uncovered many of the theatre’s original decorations, so look for the peacocks and roses along the theater walls. Enjoy first-run movies with reasonably priced concessions.

Roxie’s reliable recommendation
: Explore Downtown Goodland’s shops, including Lou Lou’s BoutiqueHeirloom Baby BoutiqueElliott’s Furniture, Goodland Churches Thrift Shop, and New for You Luxury Boutique before you continue on Land and Sky Scenic Byway. 

Sherman County Courthouse, Goodland, Kansas
Explore the Sherman County Courthouse and Goodland Public Library across the street.

7. Sherman County Courthouse and Goodland Public Library

Sherman County dared to build a new courthouse in 1931 as the twin terrors of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl gathered steam.

The community discussed moving the courthouse to Main Street, but a new courthouse had to be on the original site. The Sherman County Development Company had donated the land for a courthouse but added a restrictive stipulation: If the county seat moved the courthouse, the land reverted to the company or its heirs. 

To avoid losing the land, the county erected the new courthouse behind the 1887 structure. The lot was too small for both buildings, so the contractors removed the back half of the original building. County offices crowded into the remaining half or found other office spaces.

Architects Routledge & Hertz of Hutchinson designed an Art Deco structure with colored terra cotta tiles and a three-dimensional facade.

Explore the courthouse interior

In September 2000, Dixie Chatfield added stained glass to the windows above the front door in honor of L.A. Chatfield. Mr. Chatfield was elected as County Treasurer for two terms starting in 1917. After World War I, he served as custodian for the first courthouse. View them from inside on the landing between the first and second floors. The district courtroom is on the second floor.

The County Commissioners’ Room on the first floor preserves a Homesteaders Union Association (HUA) medallion. The HUA looked after homesteaders’ interests against free-range cattle, claim jumpers, and claim contesters. Judge C.I. Sparks rescued it from the first courthouse’s ceiling. 

A smaller replica of They Came to Stay, the statue on the courthouse grounds, is to the right of the front door in a case on the floor. Above it is a 1907 panoramic view of Goodland.

Old Engine 99 in the Goodland, Kansas, Public Library
Old Engine 99, a/k/a the Railroad Window, adorns the library’s meeting room.

Public art at the Goodland Public Library

The Goodland Public Library is across the street from the courthouse. The first artwork is the statue More Than Words, a mother reading to her children. Two more interesting artworks are inside. 

A stained glass window in the library’s meeting room depicts Old Engine 99, the first locomotive to enter Goodland. The Railroad Window is Charles J. Winsell’s memorial, a Goodland railroader who died in 1911. He was checking a potential hazard behind him when his head collided with a bridge abutment before him. The collision killed him instantly. His colleagues donated the window to the new Methodist Church in his memory. 

Unfortunately, when the congregation built another building, the window went to a salvage yard. That was not the window story’s final chapter, though. Instead, Goodland rescued the window. Martin Eastwood restored the window four years later, and contractors installed it in the library.

The mysterious Kansas Room painting

The Kansas Room stores the library’s special collections, including genealogy, local history, and rare books. A replica of The Gleaners adorns the room’s front wall, and mysteries surround the painting. 

First National Bank commissioned the painting for its newly remodeled facility at 1102 Main. A former Polish count who then lived in Kansas City painted the artwork in 1921, but his name is lost. The bank moved to 202 E. 11th in 1965. The current library building opened in 1975, but records don’t say where the painting was in the decade between the bank’s move and the library’s opening.

Roxie’s reliable report: Visit the Goodland Post Office for another mural, Rural Free Delivery. Kenneth Miller Adams painted the oil-on-canvas mural as part of the New Deal’s work programs. 

Head west on Eighth St. to Highway 27, designated as Land & Sky Scenic Byway.

#6 of the top 10 things you should do in Sherman County
Land & Sky Scenic Byway is America’s first agriculture-themed byway.

8. Land & Sky Scenic Byway

Land and Sky Scenic Byway runs from the intersection of Highways 27 and 40 in Sharon Springs to the Nebraska line south of Haigler, Nebraska.

Look for ever-changing crops in the fields. Mentally erase the power poles and fencing to return to the Wild West past. Imagine indigenous people following the bison herds and cowboys driving cattle to the railroad.

Ravines split the landscape south of Goodland, but the land flattens as the highway approaches Interstate 70. Rolling hills return north of the interstate until the road reaches the Arikaree Breaks north of St. Francis. Then, canyons take over the landscape until the road leaves Kansas.

Goodland grasshopper invasion
A farmer started the gigantic Goodland grasshopper invasion.

9. The Giant Grasshopper

Lloyd Harden created the Giant Grasshopper and palm tree, along with many other creations. After Harden’s death, the Ihrig farm just north of Goodland on Highway 27 bought the grasshopper and tree. Park in their lot and walk to the creations. Bring your selfie stick!

Head north to Road 79, almost to the county line, and turn south at Road 28. At Road 28, go south two miles to the Kidder Massacre marker.

#8 of top 10 things you should do in Sherman County
Lt. Lyman Kidder, the Indian scout Red Bead, and 10 men lost their lives while seeking to find Lt. Col. George Custer.

10. Kidder Massacre

The Kidder Massacre in July 1867 was the first recorded event in Sherman County. Kidder’s patrol was seeking Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer when they were overtaken by Native American warriors. The entire patrol died.

Find the Kansas State Historical Society marker at the intersection of Sherman County Roads 77 and 28. Continue east to find the battlefield and its markers.

To reach No. 10, Soldiers Memorial Park, head back to Highway 27 and go south. The locals also call the park Smoky Gardens.

#10 in the top 10 things you should do in Goodland
The lake at Soldiers Memorial Park reflects the sunset.

Bonus: Soldiers Memorial Park

Leave your cares behind because no place in Sherman County is as restful as Soldiers Memorial Park south of Goodland. The county park along the Smoky Hill River offers playgrounds, picnic areas, camping, and fishing. From Highway 27 south of Goodland, turn west on Sherman County Road 57, then south on Road 17.

Begin your day with breakfast at Good Grounds Coffee & Bistro. We recommend the double sausage bagel sandwich. For lunch, eat fried chicken at L&T Family Restaurant, a Ragin’ Cajun at Crazy R’s Bar & Grill, or homestyle cooking at Mom’s Kitchen. For supper, eat at Tequila’s Mexican Grill. I prefer the burrito fayo. On weekends, hang out at Terra Bona Hawai’ian Shave Ice. Relax with a game or the community puzzle. Or just sit around and talk.

Roxie’s reliable report: “Terra Bona” means “Good Land” in Latin.

Stay at the Holiday Inn Express south of Interstate 70. RVers should camp at Mid-America Camp Inn across the road.

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