Tourism and Events
Atchison has grown in popularity as a tourist destination as more travelers have learned about its rich history, picturesque setting, fun-filled festivals, and unique shopping experience.
A fun and enlightening way to see the city is to hop aboard the Atchison Trolley for an hour-long, narrated city tour. The trolley departs from the Santa Fe Depot on weekends and certain weekdays during the summer.
Atchison can boast of five museums devoted to Amelia Earhart, the rich history of the area, railroading, the opulent Victorian era, and regional artists.
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum – the historic home where the world-famous aviator was born and spent much of her childhood – has been restored to its turn-of-the-century appearance.
An impressive display of personal belongings of Earhart’s and her family can be seen at the Atchison County Historical Society Museum in the restored Santa Fe Depot. This display is the centerpiece of the museum, which showcases the history of the Atchison area. Other highlights include a 288-piece collection of rare guns, a large display of Harvey House dishes, plus exhibits on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Adjacent to the Santa Fe Depot is the Atchison Rail Museum, an outdoor collection of railcars amassed by the North East Kansas Railroaders Inc. A miniature train provides rides for children on weekends during the summer.
Visitors are awestruck by Atchison’s impressive Victorian homes, two of which are open as museums. The Evah C. Cray Historic Home Museum is a 25-room, three-story Victorian masterpiece completely furnished in the elegant style of the Victorian era. The Muchnic Art Gallery is housed in one of the town’s most striking examples of Victorian architecture. Built in 1885 by a lumber merchant, the home features parquet floors, intricately-carved woodwork, beautiful stained-glass windows and elaborate fireplace mantels. Upstairs in the gallery, the work of artists from throughout the region are displayed.
Two sites that pay tribute to Amelia Earhart are the Amelia Earhart Earthwork and the International Forest of Friendship, which has trees representing all the states and 40 countries.
Two serene points of interest are St. Benedict’s Abbey and Mount St. Scholastica Convent. About 50 monks reside at the abbey, which sits on a bluff of the Missouri River adjacent to Benedictine College. The Gothic-style abbey, completed in 1929, was built from limestone quarried along the river. The abbey church, designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, was completed in 1957. It features a 44-foot high nave ceiling, facing choir stalls where monks gather three times a day for common prayer, and frescoes by noted French painter Jean Charlot.
Mount St. Scholastica Convent was established in 1863. The chapels at Mount St. Scholastica feature beautiful marble columns and tall stained-glass windows honoring seven martyred women saints of the ancient Canon of the Mass. A Romanesque vaulted ceiling graces the interior of the choir chapel, which has facing choir stalls and stained-glass windows depicting the lives of St. Scholastica and her twin, St. Benedict.
Overnight visitors to Atchison will have a memorable experience while staying in one of two unique bed and breakfast inns.
Family fun abounds at numerous festivals and special events held throughout the year. For 40 years, Memorial Day weekend has been filled with an antique airplane fly-in and a downtown art fair. The Amelia Earhart Festival has become a popular event the third weekend in July highlighted by a lakeside concert, downtown fair, and spectacular fireworks orchestrated to music over the Missouri River. The Atchison County Fair in August offers 4-H, domestic living and agricultural exhibits, food booths, a parade, carnival rides and live entertainment at the fairgrounds in Effingham. During the autumn months, thousands of visitors descend upon Atchison hoping to spot a ghost during the immensely-popular “Haunted Atchison” trolley tours. Other autumn activities include the Oktoberfest Arts & Crafts Festival, a model train show downtown, the Elks’ state-sanctioned barbecue competition, and the Halloween parade. The Christmas season is celebrated with decorated Victorian homes, a downtown festival for shoppers, musical performances and other yuletide festivities.
After experiencing Atchison, visitors come to agree that our slogan – “It’s a great day in Atchison!” – isn’t just a cliché. It’s why so many people spend their entire lives here. And, it’s why so many others – after living elsewhere – return to raise their family in the safe, wholesome environment of their hometown.