There’s no shortage of attractions and recreation to fill your time on a visit to McPherson, Kansas. The town features some outstanding attractions for the entire family to appreciate and enjoy. When a town’s name precedes almost every attraction offered, you know they are proud of their heritage. And, if the official name doesn’t include McPherson, they’ll certainly call it so. McPherson is very proud that they are home to the first Olympic Gold Medal Basketball Team — the Globe Refiners, and you’ll see just how proud they are with the remembrance of them all around town.
McPherson is located in Central Kansas, about an hour’s drive north of Wichita. My family was hosted in McPherson when we took a multigenerational road trip through Central Kansas. I hope these exciting attractions help you plan your visit to McPherson, Kansas.
1. McPherson Museum And Arts Foundation
The perfect place to start your visit to McPherson is at the McPherson Museum & Arts Foundation. It’s located on the main road going into town from the Interstate. The museum shares its space with the McPherson Convention & Visitors Bureau, so you can tour the museum, learn about the Globe Refiners, and pick up countless brochures on all the fun the town has to offer. While at the museum, be sure to see the collection of the McPherson community’s historical, cultural, and artistic heritage, and the model train exhibit. There is always someone there who can show you around and talk about how the famous basketball team got its start.
2. McPherson Community Building
Continue your tour of the Globe Refiners at the Community Building and walk out on the very same basketball court the team played on many years ago. My family was amazed at all the stories we heard about this famous basketball team — how they got started, how they played, who they played, their height, and every aspect of the team imaginable. We loved how everyone was so enthralled about the history of this team and the fact that the families of the basketball team get invited back every five years to celebrate and reminisce about their Globe Refiners family. The building itself was built in 1928, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, and renovated in 2019. It now occupies its space with community events, weddings, theater productions, parties, etc. It was amazing to see some bricks of the building still left attached from the original structure.
3. Shop McPherson Main Street
A walkable Main Street features shops up and down the street, including The Cooks Nook, where you can pick up a gift or two and sample the richest piece of fudge you will have ever tasted. Don’t leave before you visit the cutest candy store in town called The Pink Flamingo. We were told its homemade baked goods were a must, so off we went to get some. When we got there, the baked items were already sold out, but my grandson wasted no time grabbing a bucket and filling it up with candy! Be sure to hop over to the other side of the street to peek inside The Clayworks to see inspirational and creative pieces of handmade pottery and other fancy items.
4. Dine In McPherson
Small towns have some of the best places to eat. I love how they cater to locals and visitors alike. One place that caught my attention and one we were hosted at was Ristorante Italiano di Famiglia. They have some of the best food in town, and the customer service was outstanding. I’d go back to McPherson just to eat here again. Why? Big portions, great prices, and the very best homemade garlic bread (aka Dr. Pepper bread because it’s made with 2 cups of it) and balsamic vinegar olive oil dip that was out of this world. And that was served before the meal. I could have been happy just filling up on that bread — it was that good! And, if there were a contest in the town for “best waiter,” ours would have won hands down. Tip: If your waiter insists that you ordered too much food for three people … believe him.
If you’re looking for a quaint deli shop in town, Noffy’s Sandwich Shop & Pub is a good one. They served me a great cocktail, and my grandson and I split a hoagie — yes, it was big enough to share. Another deli to consider is Main Street Deli, and Neighbors’ Café is just down the street. To satisfy a sweet tooth, head to The Pink Flamingo mentioned above.
5. Hop Aboard The McPherson Trolley
Board the trolley at the McPherson Museum for a historical tour to see the colorful and magnificent murals downtown that portray the history of McPherson, including the town’s favorite — the detailed mural of the Globe Refiners. You’ll also drive by the beautiful McPherson Courthouse and many old historical buildings. If you’re there in December, you’ll have a wonderful tour of town, plus a bonus of seeing bright and cheery Christmas lights all over town.
6. Tour The Historic McPherson Opera House
Take a tour to see it all and hear the story behind it. The opera house was once an eyesore, and the townspeople wanted to tear it down until a dedicated group of volunteers and donors came in and bought it so they could preserve history and the building and bring it back to life. After many rough years, it finally was restored in 2010. Today, the McPherson Opera House holds several live performances a year, including Elvis Rock N’ Remember and other famous performances from around the world.
7. Have A Splash Day At The McPherson Water Park
There’s a water park in town, too! Kids and adults alike will have fun soaking up the sun in the lazy river and sliding down the giant water slide. Big kids can dive off the board, and the little ones will have fun in the children’s spray area. Everyone in the family can enjoy the McPherson Water Park, no matter the age!
8. Get Up Close To Bison At Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
About twenty minutes from McPherson in Canton, Kansas, is a place to explore the great outdoors, see native grasses, wildflowers, birds, bison, and maybe an elk in the distance. Claim your seat on the tram for a 45-minute guided prairie adventure through the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll hear stories about the Santa Fe Trail, and how the people lived on the land many moons ago. You’ll even get up close and personal with the bison herd and their babies. I know one thing — I’ll never call a bison a buffalo again — because they are not the same … so I learned!
9. Dyck Arboretum Of The Plains
Dyck Arboretum is located in Hesston, Kansas, which is about 20 miles south of McPherson. It was our first stop on our road trip, and we could have lingered there all day. The weather was nice, and we had a wonderful guided tour with the director. The arboretum offers several types of gardens showcasing Kansas native plants, and a garden for each of their peak seasons — summer and fall.
Locals come out to sit on the benches to watch the birds fly in and out, and children and their families come out to engage in the Book Walk, which showcases a book of the month on stands throughout the grounds. You can walk and read along through the entire book. It was one of my grandson’s favorite parts of the arboretum — that, and the snakes he saw by the pond!
Pro Tip: Guided tours can be arranged at the arboretum office.
10. Take A Day Trip To Lindsborg
About 15 minutes from McPherson, Lindsborg, aka “Little Sweden USA,” is a charming small town full of quaint shops, Swedish souvenirs, and Dala horses on every corner. Lindsborg prides itself on being a friendly town. Perhaps that’s why it was named a finalist in the “Friendliest Small Town” category in a recent poll by TravelAwaits.
If you plan to include a trip to Lindsborg, put Coronado Heights Park at the top of things to see. It’s a 3-mile drive from town to this spectacular landmark in the Smoky Valley, with a scenic overlook that will keep you there for hours. You can walk the trails, bring a picnic to enjoy on the many picnic tables there, and climb to the top of the stone castle for more gorgeous views of the valley.
Pro Tip: Locals exude excitement all over town. We met some mighty fine people, and they will all tell you how to pronounce their town’s name if you say it wrong. They will proudly say, “there’s no ‘fear’ in McPherson” … with a great big smile. And, if you’re looking for a place to stay in town, the Holiday Inn Express took very good care of us and its hot breakfast won my grandson’s heart!