One of the best parts about the Great Plains is how much there is to explore. Honestly, most people just take a flight if they find themselves needing to travel across the Plains – hence them earning the nickname of the “flyover states” – or drive through at the fastest safe speed without stopping to enjoy the experience.
Among those places you can enjoy all the Great Plains has to offer is the town of Newton, Kansas. Located north of Wichita on Interstate 135, Newton is an easy getaway from Wichita, Topeka, and even Kansas City. Newton might be a small Kansas town, home to fewer than 20,000 people, but it’s got a lot to offer visitors. As the Travel Kansas site says: All roads lead to Newton.
If your road leads to Newton, you’re in luck! There are some fantastic things to do in Newton, and here are my favorites to help you plan your time there.
In this post, I promote travel along a route that crosses the traditional lands of the Gáuigú (Kiowa), 𐓏𐒰𐓓𐒰𐓓𐒷 𐒼𐓂𐓊𐒻 𐓆𐒻𐒿𐒷 𐓀𐒰^𐓓𐒰^(Osage), Wichita, Nʉmʉnʉʉ Sookobitʉ (Comanche), and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Featured photo courtesy of Choose Newton via Facebook
Dig into Newton History at the Harvey County Historical Museum
History buffs will find one of the top attractions in Newton, Kansas. However, knowing about the history of a place makes a trip even more enriching, which is why you should consider exploring Newton’s past at the Harvey County Historical Museum.
This museum is housed in Newton’s Carnegie Library building, which is a landmark in itself that was built in 1904. The collections include permanent and rotating exhibits that illustrate the characters and events that made Newton and Harvey County into what they’re today.
Take a Photo at the Blue Sky Sculpture
Taking a photo with the Blue Sky Sculpture in the background is one of the most popular things to do in Newton, Kansas nowadays.
To be honest, it isn’t surprising as the gorgeous sculpture is pretty photogenic! Set across from Centennial Park, the Blue Sky Sculpture is one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art. It was designed and created by artists Phil Epp, Terry Corbett, and Cory Snider, who drew inspiration from the Kansas sky. The juxtaposition of the Kansas sky and the Blue Sky Sculpture creates a fascinating effect worth capturing, first, with your eyes, and then, with your camera.
Visit the Historic Warkentin House
If you’d like to experience first-hand how the first European settlers lived in the 1800s, visiting the Historic Warkentin House will satiate your curiosity.
The Historic Warkentin House used to be the home of Bernhard and Wilhelmina Warkentin. Bernhard was from Crimea and among the first Mennonites who moved to Kansas in 1873. After arriving in Kansas, he built his house in 1886 with a gorgeous Queen-Anne style that’s preserved till today. The furniture and artifacts are also originals, from when the Warkentins lived in the house. For your visit, you can choose to do a guided tour or explore it individually at your own pace.
Unwind at Harvey County Camp Hawk
It’s a beautiful day outside and you’re wondering what to do in Newton, Kansas. Spending a few hours in Harvey County Camp Hawk may be what you’re looking for.
This urban park offers plenty of fun activities for every member of the family. There is a playground, a disc golf course, a four-acre fishing pond on-site, softball diamonds, and a basketball court. There’s even a campsite to spend the night if you’re feeling outdoorsy!
Explore the Art Scene at Carriage Factory Art Gallery
If your visit to the Blue Sky Sculpture has left you wanting to explore more of the Kansas art scene, Carriage Factory Art Gallery will be up to the task.
Although to be fair, this galley should be on the top of your must things to do in Newton, Kansas anyway. This gallery houses rotating exhibits, featuring the works of Newton and Kansas artists who portray their interpretation of life on the prairie and state. The building where it is housed used to be a carriage factory and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So that’s another reason to visit!
Discover Kansas Flora at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains
Photos courtesy of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains via Instagram
When the words Kansas and flora are mentioned, images of grassland are what come to people’s minds. However, there’s more Kansas flora than endless miles of prairie.
Dyck Arboretum of the Plains is a 13-acre botanical garden that contains more than 600 species of native and adaptable trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses you’ll find across southern Kansas. You can book a guided tour or explore the grounds on your own. There’s a trail with signage explaining each plant and its role in the ecosystem. Don’t forget to feed the fish and turtles before you leave!
Cool Off at Springlake Splash Park
When summer arrives, going to Springlake Splash Park is one of the most popular Newton things to do.
Located south of Newton, Springlake Splash Park features a splash park where adults and kids can cool down while having fun. Near the splash park is also a playground, bike path, and fishing pond. There are also sheltered picnic tables where moms and dads can have a chat while their little ones enjoy some water.
Learn Mennonite History at the Kauffman Museum
Kansas is one of the largest Mennonite centers in the United States. Kaufmann Museum revisits the history of the Mennonites immigrants who chose to settle in south-central Kansas in the 1870s.
The permanent exhibition, Of Land and People, features a stunning collection of immigrant Mennonite furniture, with pieces from Prussia, Poland, and Russia. There’s also an outdoor farmstead with buildings originally constructed between 1875 and 1886 which were moved to the Kauffman Museum grounds from farms in south-central Kansas.
Indulge in German Fare at The Breadbasket
The Breadbasket first opened its doors in 1984 and has become an institution among hungry locals.
It is famous for serving hefty portions of American fare, but mainly for preparing authentic German fare. Loyal customers are quick to confirm the food in this place is as close to it being prepared in a real German home kitchen. Their German buffet is only on Fridays and Saturdays from 3-8pm. I hope there’s enough room in your stomach for you’ll indulge in all the German delicacies. There will be verenika, sauerkraut and sausage, hot potato salad, baked ham, ham gravy, and lots of German drinks!
Have a Picnic at Athletic Park
Newtonites love Athletic Park and are always looking for excuses to visit it. Families go to let their children have fun in the playground, teenagers meet to practice for their next baseball and basketball games, joggers use their trails to prepare for their next marathon… you get the idea.
As a visitor, you can make the most of an afternoon here by bringing a picnic! Find a spot in one of the picnic sites and enjoy a lazy afternoon watching the locals go by or reading your favorite book.
Taste Kansas Wine at Grace Hill Winery
Last but not least, here’s one of the best things to do in Newton, Kansas if you’re a wine lover: visiting Grace Hill Winery. A family-owned Winery, Grace Hill Winery is the perfect place to taste handcrafted Kansas wine. They have three wine flights to choose from and delicious food to pair with. After your tasting, feel free to explore the vineyard and take a tour of the beautiful vineyard. During harvest season, the winery accepts volunteers to help with the grape harvest and let them taste fresh-squeezed juice from the grapes they just picked – sounds like a perfect family activity!
Know of any other great things to do in Newton, or have questions about these activities I recommend? Let me know in the comments!