Ranch Living/ Travel Notes

An Old Fashioned Chase County, Kansas Christmas

Spring Hill Ranch house decorated for Christmas

Chase County, Kansas is one of my favorite places on earth.

It tops the list of places I’d like to live.

While it may not look like much according to its Census Bureau stats (less than 3,000 people, miles away from the closest grocery store, terrible cell reception, almost no infrastructure), Chase County is a community with a whole lot of heart.

Hailed as one of the crown jewels of the picturesque Flint Hills, Chase County’s strategically situated as a quiet hamlet along the Flint Hills Scenic Byway (K-177), nestled up against the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and its impressive buffalo herds. Chase County has a ton of history, a gorgeous Courthouse, and lots of unique cultural events (ever heard of the Symphony in the Flint Hills? It’s amazing.).

While the community vibe is still going strong, Chase County’s population’s been in decline since the fall of the railroads, and not much industry has been recruited to replace it.

I love Chase County, Kansas

In a perfect world, I’d purchase a 600-acre cattle ranch in Chase County, receive an invite to teach Marketing at the neighboring Emporia State University, and move my Marketing and Public Relations company to downtown Cottonwood Falls (a little village that just a beautiful as it sounds).

Alas, we do not live in a perfect world, so I live outside the Kansas City commute circle and head south to visit Chase County every chance I get.

Christmastime is a particularly special time to visit Chase County, as they really roll out some old-fashioned holiday cheer.

Attending the Annual Cottonwood Falls Christmas events (conveniently held the weekend after Thanksgiving) has become my family’s Kansas Christmas tradition. When you don’t live around extended family, finding some type of community holiday event to connect and celebrate is a must. The generous residents of Chase County are quick to welcome out of towners into their community for the holiday celebrations.

Here’s the rundown of fun stuff to do in Chase County, Kansas mid-holiday season:

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is a national park consisting of over 10,000 acres situated just off K-177, just a few miles north of the Chase County county seat of Cottonwood Falls. It offers many uniquely Kansas points of interest for visitors – narrated bison tours, historic ranch house, an impressive stone barn, 40 miles of hiking trails, a one-room schoolhouse, and an interactive learning center.  Visitors can literally spend days at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, exploring the Spring Hill Ranch grounds, roaming the Flint Hills, and watching the bison herds.

It’s my all-time favorite Kansas hiking destination. While the winter wind can get quite chilly, I try to make the six-mile main hiking loop at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve at least once a month, year round.

Tallgrass Prairie Bison Kansas Hiking Trails

Explore Strong City, Kansas

Strong City, Kansas is another Chase County gem. It’s a photographer’s dream – so many interesting buildings, so many great angles. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • The historic Strong City train depot and caboose are really fun, and all hands-on (translation: your kids can climb on everything).
  • St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is a lovely historic stone church that pays homage to Strong City’s stonemason legacy.
  • Downtown Strong City has multiple abandoned and historic buildings, including a really neat vintage car garage (Austin Healey, anyone?).
  • And no Strong City trip is complete without a mouth-watering refuel at one of Kansas’ best restaurants – Ad Astra Food & Drink. Pretty much everything here is good.

Ad Astra Food and Drink restaurant Strong City, KS Strong City bar

Venture down to Cottonwood Falls

South of Strong City is Cottonwood Falls – another Chase County must-see.

The ornate French Renaissance-style courthouse has repeatedly been lauded the most beautiful courthouse in Kansas. It’s really that lovely. The building materials – limestone and walnut – were all sourced locally. Scheduled tours are available through the Chamber of Commerce.

Cottonwood Falls offers an interesting museum – the Chase County Historical Society Museum. The Flint Hills Gallery showcases local artisans work, and the downtown area is home to multiple antique shops that offer just about everything.

The Salty Cow Mercantile is one of my favorite shops. It carries a great selection of ranchwear, cowboy boots, and western-inspired home decor. Walking into the Salty Cow is like stepping back in time one hundred years, to Cottonwood Falls’ glory days. You can almost hear the horse hooves clopping along the brick-laid main drag.  

Flint Hills Gallery Cottonwood Falls, KS Strong City Catholic Church

Christmas in Chase County

The Chase County Country Christmas, my family’s annual holiday tradition, offers several distinctly-Chase County events each year, including an Ugly Sweater 5k, Visits from Santa Claus, Lighting of the Courthouse, and a Victorian Christmas ball (yes, you read that right – a ball – hoop skirts, wigs, and all).

It’s a great way to ring in the holiday season and spread some Kansas-style Christmas cheer.

Cottonwood Falls Christmas Parade Cottonwood Falls Courthouse Christmas lights

If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate, consider marking your calendars for the Annual Chase County Country Christmas. It’s a Christmas tradition that you won’t forget!

Happy Holidays!

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