Fewer than 900 people call Wilson home, but the small city offers plenty to attract visitors. It’s only 15 minutes from Wilson State Park, home of the clearest lake in Kansas. The World’s Largest Czech Egg stands proudly in the Ed & LaVange Shiroky Park in Wilson. Wilson is also the Post Rock Scenic Byway’s southern anchor. The city’s Post Rock buildings, including the Midland Railroad Hotel, attest to pioneer ingenuity. Because the land lacked trees, pioneers turned the native Greenhorn limestone into building and fence materials.
Use Interstate 70’s Exit 206 to visit Wilson. The city is 47 minutes from Hays on the west and Salina to the east.
Whether you desire to spend a night or a week, Wilson is worth your time.
Wilson partially hosted me, but all opinions are my own.
1-3. Wilson State Park, Reservoir, and Wildlife Area in Kansas
If you believe Kansas is flat, Wilson State Park will persuade you otherwise. Its cliffs, rocks, and rugged shoreline create unique scenery. Blend the rocks with wildlife to experience a nature lover’s delight.
Wilson Reservoir is Kansas’s only lake that isn’t part of a municipal water supply. Why? Because the Saline River renders the water too salty for drinking. While the river may be salty, the grass allows mud and silt to filter out before reaching the lake. Waders can see their feet in the reservoir.
Anglers will enjoy the 9,000-acre reservoir’s white bass, walleye, and striped bass population. Wilson Lake holds the Kansas record for walleye (29 inches and 13.16 pounds) and striped bass (44 inches and 44 pounds).
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Check the fishing forecast for advice before you go.
Happy trails around Wilson Lake in Kansas
The Rocktown Trail is my favorite at Wilson. The 3-mile trail undulates through rolling hills to Rocktown on the shores of Wilson Lake. Rocktown’s red Kansas sandstone spires rise 15 to 30 feet from the narrow sand beach. The spires look like a city skyline from a distance. Before you start, pick up a self-guided trail brochure at the trailhead.
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: For the best experience, leave the trailhead in time to reach Rocktown shortly before sunset. The setting sun illuminates the rock spires and marks a trail on the water. The sun’s trail beckons visitors to follow it out to space.
Related: Rocktown is one of our seven favorite Kansas rock formations.
The Kansas park turned a disaster into a walking trail in the Otoe area. A flood destroyed Otoe’s facilities, so the agency built the Cedar Trail, a one-mile hard-surfaced accessible walking path near Wilson Lake.
Bikers will adore the Epic-rated Switchgrass Mountain Biking Trail. The 24.5-mile trail feels wild and remote, but riders can shorten it with 12 cutoffs. The course is primarily easy to moderate, but short sections are rocky or choked with sand. The trail includes arduous climbs, cliffs, and sharp drops, but most technical areas are short. Allow 2-5 hours, depending on your skill.
Roxie’s reliable report: Before you go, check the Switchgrass Facebook page for updates.
Wind-powered at Kansas Wilson Reservoir
In Kansas wind is generally abundant, but Wilson’s Lucas Park is special. Why? Because ravines on the reservoir’s north shore funnel wind onto the lake. The ravines force the wind to create waves up to 4 feet high. The conditions make the area a prime spot for kite flying, sailing, and windsurfing.
Wildlife watching at Wilson State Park
The Wilson Wildlife Area sprawls across 8,069 acres of the reservoir’s upper end. Most of it consists of rolling hills. Look for waterfowl, upland birds, songbirds, deer, and furbearers inhabiting the area.
Roxie’s reliable report: Both the Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks have land around the reservoir. Please check the differing regulations and fees.
Love bluegrass at Lovegrass
The park hosts the free Lovegrass Music Festival each August. Enjoy live music, educational sessions, art, and kids’ activities.
4. Shop Kansas at Kansas Originals
Bring home Kansas products from Kansas Originals on the north side of Exit 202. The store stocks food, books, and many arts and crafts. Miniature Post Rocks are an appropriate souvenir of the Post Rock Scenic Byway. In the book section, pick up autographed copies of mine and other authors’ books. Outside, take a selfie with your favorite Oz characters.
Related: Explore Oz in Kansas.
5. The World’s Largest Czech Egg, Wilson, Kansas
Francis Swehla arrived from Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic, in 1874. Because of the rich farmland, he encouraged many of his compatriots to join him in Wilson. Many of them were artisans but became farmers on the rich land around Wilson.
Roxie’s reliable report: Wilson adopted the title Czech Capital of Kansas in 1974.
A gazebo protects the World’s Largest Hand-Painted Czech Egg in Wilson. The black fiberglass egg stands 20 feet high and 15 feet wide. The project started in 2003 and required 13 years to complete. After nine years of fundraising, Hess Services of Hays delivered an 8,000-pound white egg in August 2012. Over the next three summers, volunteers sanded the egg, painted it black, then finished it with Wilson art teacher Christine Sletcha’s kraslice-style design. More than 500 volunteers donated over 2,000 hours.
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Look for a detailed design explanation on interpretive panels within the park.
Maico Industries installed a gazebo to shelter the egg four years after it arrived. Tripp Fencing of Kanopolis hauled it from Ellsworth to Wilson. Wilson finally dedicated the egg on July 29, 2016.
Related: Explore the Kansas world’s record holders.
Czechs have painted Easter eggs as gifts for centuries. The Czech Embassy was one of the egg’s lead donors.
Roxie’s reliable report: Walking through Wilson is like a giant Easter egg hunt. Little Czech eggs are everywhere.
6. Midland Railroad Hotel, the hub of Wilson, Kansas
The Midland Railroad Hotel is one of my favorite Kansas lodging options. Each unique room bears one of the founding Wilson families’ names. The structure’s combination of dark wood and native stone ensures a warm, relaxing vibe. The hotel has an elevator, but I enjoyed walking down the elegant front staircase. I felt glamorous, even though I was wearing jeans.
I envisioned a steam train waiting outside with a luxurious Pullman car, ready to whisk me off to a delightful destination – after I enjoyed the fabulous Wilson hotel.
In 1899, Wilke Power built the three-story Power Hotel beside the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. The elegant 28-room hotel had the ultimate modern convenience, including acetylene gas lamps. Shoppers met salespeople in the basement so frequently that the floor gained the name “The Sample Room.”
Roxie’s reliable recommendation: Eat a chicken-fried steak with hand-peeled mashed potatoes and gravy in the Sample Room Tavern. The combination is the best anywhere.
A fire gutted the hotel in 1902. When it reopened with state-of-the-art heating, it gained its current name, the Midland Railroad Hotel. Times were good through the 1920s, but the staff had to raise chickens on the third floor to survive the Great Depression. The chickens shared the floor with the house ghosts. Now the chickens live in the backyard and provide fresh eggs.
Related: The ghosts put the Midland on our Kansas haunted places list.
Hang a Paper Moon in Wilson, Kansas
In 1973, a production company filmed Paper Moon in Wilson, and the hotel showed in many of the scenes’ backgrounds.
Roxie’s reliable report: Find the movie’s locations in The Movie District’s guide. Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar for her performance.
The Wilson Foundation returned the hotel to its 1920s glory in 2003. The restoration won a Kansas Preservation Award.
The Barn, Kansas Libations Club
The hotel installed a large barn and decorated it with farm chic. Enjoy the barbecue with fine whisky while gazing at the décor. It’s a perfect venue for weddings and corporate events.
Murals on the barn’s south wall depict Czech immigrants debarking in Wilson and horses racing beside a steam train. During warm weather, relax in the adjoining garden.
7. Wilson Czech Opera House
Wilson built its Opera House in 1901. It stood two stories high with a seating capacity of 500; however, A 2009 fire left only the exterior stone walls. The determined town obtained grants to stabilize it. Now it hosts open-air performances.
8. Wilson After-Harvest Czech Fest
Celebrate everything Czech in Kansas at the Wilson annual festival held after the wheat harvest ends. Shop at booths, celebrate a new queen’s crowning, and enjoy entertainment.
9. Post Rock Scenic Byway
Drive Highway 232 to enjoy the 18 miles from Wilson to Lucas, noting the post rocks along the way. The Kansas byway route offers spectacular Smoky Hills and Wilson lake views.
10. Made from Scratch, a Kansas Pie Pantheon
Do you long for a mile-high meringue on your cream pie? Then you must eat at Made from Scratch. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the baker carrying a tray of those delectable pies past you. We recommend the raisin cream pie. It’s full of fruit underneath that incredible meringue.
The daily buffet is good, but leave room for the pie. It’s so good that I included Made from Scratch in the Kansas Pie Pantheon.
11. Wilson RV Park
If you bring your home, stay at the 18-site Wilson RV Park. Walkable Downtown Wilson is only a short distance.
Whether you enjoy luxury at the Midland, or camp in the state park or RV park, Wilson welcomes you.
1 thought on “11 things to do in attractive Wilson, Kansas”
My family lived in Wilson until I was 10 yrs. old.
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