4 Historic Hotels in South-Central Kansas–One Might Be Haunted! (and what to do when you get there)
Booking a stay at a historic hotel is a fabulous way to engage in local culture and heritage, and get a great night’s sleep as well.
Recently, I was hosted by Kansas Tourism for a recent visit to the south-central part of the Midwestern state, and my media group stayed at four historic hotels. Each one has its charms and quirks, and one is supposedly haunted by spirits. Keep reading as I share my experiences as well as recommended attractions to add to your itineraries while you’re in town.
Aside from Wichita, the historic hotels are located along Kansas Byways, a curated roundup of 12 scenic drives. Most are under 100 miles long. Let’s get going:
Hotel at Old Town, Wichita
Built in 1906, the stately Hotel at Old Town in Wichita is a former warehouse for the Keen Kutter brand of tools, cutlery and sporting goods. The four-story brick building became a modern hotel in 1999 and was renovated in 2022. Surrounding the grand atrium (see feature photo) are 114 studios and suites, appointed with full kitchens and luxe bedding. Artifacts and photography displayed throughout the common areas depict the history of Wichita and Keen Kutter.
The Hotel at Old Town is in the Old Town District, where brick-lined streets bustle with trendy restaurants, eclectic shops and lively entertainment.
What To Do In Wichita
More than a century ago, Wichita claimed the title “Air Capital of the World.” and the city remains a major aircraft production hub today. The Kansas Aviation Museum, housed in the city’s original municipal airport terminal, documents the story.
Among its collections are 40 or so retired and historic aircraft, indoors and on the ramp. Some are rare, and others are undergoing restoration. Among them are military, commercial and private models, including a refueling tanker. The 1957 Boeing B-52D served in the Vietnam War.
Dröm Sött (“Sweet Dreams”) Inn, Lindsborg
Founded by Swedish immigrants in 1868, Lindsborg embraces its rich heritage as well as its nickname “Little Sweden.” The Dröm Sött Inn is a Scandinavian-style bed-and-breakfast with 18 sweetly appointed guest rooms. The two-story mission-style building was built around 1920, and it served as a seed store and a car-and-buggy dealership before becoming a hotel in 1930. It was renovated extensively in 2018.
Sweden’s beloved icon, the gaily painted Dala horse, is represented in images and sculptures throughout the city. There’s even a Dala horse factory and gift shop, Hemslöjd. The blue-and-black one with stars and a crescent moon in front of the Dröm Sött Inn is named “Lullaby Dala.”
Lindsborg is on the Kansas Prairie Trail Scenic Byway.
What To Do Near Lindsborg
Book a tram tour at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge to view herds of bison and elk as they roam throughout 3,000 acres of preserved prairie. Then check out the small-but-mighty Mushroom Rock State Park. With only five acres, it’s the smallest of Kansas’ state parks. It’s also a geologic wonder. The unusual rock formations, created by forceful waters melding sand and sediment a million years ago, resemble enormous and photogenic mushrooms.
Grand Central Hotel, Cottonwood Falls
Decked out in western flair, the Grand Central Hotel in Cottonwood Falls pays tribute to the area’s ranching heritage. The hotel opened in 1884, and each of its 10 oversized guest rooms is named after a prominent cattle rancher from bygone eras. The restaurant, known for steaks and hearty portions, is a favorite among guests and locals alike. The Grand Central Hotel fronts Broadway Street, which is lined with a trove of antique stores, galleries, shops and bars.
Cottonwood Falls is on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway.
What To Do In Cottonwood Falls
Take a guided tour of the Chase County Historic Courthouse at the south end of Broadway Street. The oldest operating courthouse in Kansas, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The three-story courthouse was built in 1873 in the French Renaissance style from locally quarried limestone. Its most dramatic feature is the spiraling black-walnut staircase that spans three floors without any central support. The imposing steel jail cell, no longer in use, looks positively medieval.
The Historic Wolf Hotel, Ellinwood
Five guest rooms are appointed in varying styles of yesteryear. Three have private en suite baths, and two share a bath. An elegantly attired living room is flush with lush textiles and fine antiques. Help yourself to a continental breakfast in the country kitchen and dining room.
Ellinwood is on the Kansas Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway.
What To Do In Ellinwood
Take an Ellinwood Underground Tour of the remaining tunnel system below Main Street. Excavated in the late 1880s by German settlers, the tunnels were lined with shops and businesses. Their secluded location was especially advantageous during the Prohibition era. Most of the tunnels were filled in, but this portion is outfitted as an old-timey harness shop, barber shop, and bathhouse.
Along the tunnel beneath The Historic Wolf Hotel are more storefronts and replica shops, and a real-life saloon, appropriately named the Underground. Some visitors claim the Wolf Hotel and tunnels are haunted by previous guests. I slept just fine. But the shop that displays a parade of mannequins dressed in vintage wedding gowns is downright spooky.
Make a reservation for the underground tour at The Historic Wolf Hotel, and check in at Ellinwood Emporium antique store on the other side of Main Street. ###