As you explore Lindsborg, Kansas, don’t be surprised if someone greets you with “Valkommen till Lindsborg!” They’re just welcoming you to their small community. Located about an hour north of Wichita on Interstate 35, the town of about 3,500 is quite proud of its Scandinavian heritage. From its attractions to its food and architecture, Lindsborg -- nicknamed Little Sweden -- offers a taste of life in the motherland.
Here are a few reasons why you should make time to visit.
You’ll Love The Dala Horse Sculptures
The first thing you’ll notice when you head downtown are the dozens of horse sculptures, or dalas, in front of the stores and restaurants. The dala, one of the national symbols of Sweden, represents the central province of Dalarna. The colorful figures even have names, such as Dolla Dala, who is painted with dollar bills. Other dalas feature the Swedish and American flags, grapes, and characters from local theater productions.
Visitors to the town flock to Hemslojd Swedish Gifts for dala souvenirs. Dalas are the most popular items at the store, and you can personalize them any way you choose. The wooden art pieces are hand-carved daily in a small workshop at the store. Then, two artists hand-paint the horses and use their calligraphy skills to add a family name or message. In the gift shop, you can find dala sculptures of all sizes, as well as gnomes, ornaments, crystal, and even baseballs, all of which can be personalized by the artists.
It’s Home To A Vibrant Art Scene
For a small town, Lindsborg has an impressive art scene featuring everything from downtown art galleries to museums to public art displays.
Lindsborg pays homage to two great artists who once called the town home. The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery on the campus of Bethany College shares the story and artwork of Birger Sandzen, a Swedish immigrant who came to teach in the United States. His early art consisted of broad brushstrokes and beautiful landscapes. Later in life, his paintings became more detailed, with sharper lines. He taught at the college for several years, and he even had a studio on campus, which has been preserved as he left it.
Lester Raymer was a jack-of-all-trades in the art world. There seemed to be nothing he couldn’t create: He produced paintings, woodcarvings, sculptures, and more. The artist even crafted handmade toys for his wife each Christmas, some more elaborate than others. His work included toy soldiers, puppets, and carousels. Raymer passed away inside his Red Barn Studio, which continues to display his final painting. Tours are offered, and admission is free.
Bethany College is home to a series of outstanding sculptures. These are sprinkled around the campus and include unique pieces such as a sculpture appearing to have blades rather than arms. A more traditional piece depicts a boy and girl playing with a small dog. These sculptures are mostly the work of former students.
A European-style phone booth stands in front of the Blacksmith Coffee Roastery and is a popular photo op.
You Can Enjoy The Great Outdoors
Running from near Bethany College to just outside of town, the Valkommen Trail is a 2.5-mile route perfect for walking or jogging. Ending near the McPherson County Old Mill Museum at Smoky Hill River, the converted railroad line offers a bit of history along with pretty views: Historical markers along the path point out important events and buildings. The mill is a lovely place to take in the scenery or do a little exploring off the trail. Nearby, Heritage Square is a living history museum that provides a look at Lindsborg’s early days as a Swedish settlement and railroad town.
About a 10-minute drive from town is Coronado Heights, a stone castle overlook built during the Great Depression. It calls to mind the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s visit to central Kansas in the mid-1500s.
The Architecture Is Unique
Architecture buffs will love downtown Lindsborg, with its buildings dating to the late 1800s. Several structures, such as the city hall, resemble Scandinavian buildings with their traditional colors and unusual designs. The Swedish flag also flies on street corners and in front of businesses.
There Are Plenty Of Dining Options
Lindsborg has some delightful dining options, from a world-famous bar and grill to traditional Swedish fare.
Ol Stuga looks like an ordinary bar from the outside, but once you enter the family-friendly establishment, you’ll quickly learn that a famous Russian leader once ate here and that the bar’s famous sandwich has been featured on national television. Mikhail Gorbachev visited Lindsborg to deliver a speech at Bethany College. Community leaders brought him to Ol Stuga for lunch. Did he try the world-famous Brent Nelson sandwich? You’ll need to read the story at the bar to find out.
The Brent Nelson sandwich -- which features Polish sausage on a hoagie topped with onions, Cheddar, and hot pepper cheese -- was named a finalist in Good Morning America’s search for the best sandwich in America. The Nelson got its name when a local named (you guessed it) Brent Nelson wanted something different for a sandwich, and the cook came up with the unusual combination. From that day forward, Nelson always ordered the same sandwich.
The Swedish Crown restaurant downtown, which is operated by the college, offers a combination of American and Swedish fare. Want a burger? You can order a traditional one or try the Swede Burger, which features lingonberry barbecue sauce. The restaurant also sells Swedish meatballs, dill potatoes, a side of lingonberry sauce, and rye bread. You’ll leave feeling full!
Farley’s Bar and Grill offers traditional American food like chicken-fried steak, coconut chicken tenders, and burgers. There’s a special menu for Sunday brunch.
Coffee enthusiasts should visit Blacksmith Coffee Roastery, which is located in a former smithy. Blacksmith also offers a lunch menu featuring sandwiches and soups. At the other end of downtown is The White Peacock, which features a comfortable lounge area surrounded by books. Both coffeehouses are excellent places to enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and a little conversation.