Disclosure: Newton Convention & Visitors Bureau sponsored this post. However, all opinions and photographs are my own.
When people ask me about my favorite Kansas towns, Newton tops the list. It’s less than a 30-minute drive from Wichita and offers a long list of entertaining attractions, dining options, and locally-owned shops that make for a nice day trip. Recently, I traveled via I-135 N to Newton ready to tackle a fun itinerary starting with breakfast and ending with exploring the area’s nature trails.
NORM’S COFFEE BAR
Having heard that Norm’s Coffee Bar (613 N. Main St.) was known for their menu of delicious waffle dishes, I knew I was in for a treat. It turns out breakfast dreams do come true. I chose “The One With the White Sauce” from a shortlist of options. The waffle arrived pillowy soft and warm drizzled with vanilla custard and raspberry sauce. One bite and I was in heaven. A large portion, I cleared my plate.
While I love to indulge in sweet waffles, I think I’ll try a savory waffle during my return visit like one made with cornbread topped with chili and cheese aka “Ring of Fire.” The waffle options are everchanging, but you’re guaranteed to find sweet and savory options with creative toppings.
But I needed a sidekick to go with my breakfast waffles. I ordered a Dirty Chai Tea Latté. It arrived to my table in a mug so large that I had to use two hands just to sip my tea. Absolutely delicious. Norm’s serves espresso, brewed coffees, and blended drinks of all kinds.
The coffee bar is also well-liked by locals. You will always find a few people in line or waiting for their to-go coffee orders. The service is swift, so you never wait long. But even if you had to wait, it’s a comfortable space to enjoy. On the day of my visit, I listened to the sounds of John Mayer playing from the speakers while watching the barista hard at work steaming milk and pouring latté art in each cup.
When in Newton, stop into Norm’s Coffee Bar. The cafe is nestled in the heart of Main Street making it the best stop for breakfast with easy access to downtown shopping. Don’t forget to purchase a few to-go baked goods from the illuminated case before you head out for the day. Two hour free parking is available on Main Street.
Newton’s historic downtown district is a walkable area, so leave the car parked and let the exploration begin. Do you need a little retail therapy? A number of stores along Main Street are tried and true gems. During my recent visit, I had the pleasure of shopping a few stores that were new to me, which I highly recommend, as well as some old favorites.
ANDERSON’S BOOK & OFFICE SUPPLY
The front windows of Anderson’s Book & Office Supply (627 N. Main St.) are filled with children’s games and collegiate sports memorabilia. But don’t let that fool you. In business since 1892, the store also sells a wide range of office supplies, greeting cards, calendars, and gifts. Once a JCPenney store (look for the “Golden Rule” tiled entrance), the creaky wood floors and towering shelves of retail take you back to an earlier time.
Phil Anderson III was busily rearranging items in the front window when I arrived. The fourth of five generations of Andersons to run the store, Phil has worked hard to keep the store humming for 64 years. The store’s history is rich in story. The founder’s mother once served pies and cakes to hungry railroaders as they passed through Newton. Today, shoppers are greeted with the same warm smile and “How can I help you?” Just as the store’s entrance reads, you can expect to be treated just as they would want to be treated with kindness.
Anderson’s is the place to go if you need a fresh stack of legal pads, to have your typewriter repaired, or if you need basic mailing supplies. In search of Scotch™ tape or a printer cartridge? Tell Phil what you need and he’ll happily direct you to it. I never leave Anderson’s without a new ink pen or stationary, and I always leave Anderson’s having made a new memory.
Phil is the kind of guy who is eager to talk about Wichita State or University of Kansas sports, colleges we both attended. We bond over a shared love of basketball, and we chat about the history of the story and the importance of shopping local. It’s always a pleasure to spend time in Anderson’s whether I’m in search of new office supplies or just talking with Phil. Even if you don’t need office supplies or a gift for someone, open the door to Anderson’s and step inside. You’ll be better for it.
MAIN STREET CO. & KITCHEN CORNER
Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner (611 N. Main St.) is the must-visit boutique for shoppers in search of the latest fashions, home decor, and kitchen essentials. Once neighboring stores, Main Street Co. and Kitchen Corner combined forces to provide a new and improved retail store. Now, the 6,000 square foot store is stocked full with anything and everything shoppers could want.
It is my go-to boutique when I’m hunting down a new seasonal candle or wax melt. But I never leave with just a few items. The shelves of jams and jellies, coasters and collectibles, and shoes and accessories call to me. My shopping bag is always full of irresistible goodies, which is often filled with gifts for others. The temptation to shop there has only grown stronger. They now carry a large selection of women’s apparel including an entire jean wall.
Without a doubt, you will find something that you can’t live without at Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner. Homemade fudge? Yes, please! Free sample of gourmet food? Check the back counter! I’m still kicking myself for not buying the popcorn bowls pictured below. They are perfect for movie nights at home or game day parties, don’t you think?
Since bringing both stores under one roof, business is booming. They have a loyal following of shoppers who purchase items both in person and online. If you can’t make it to the shop, Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner makes it easy to score sales online via their Facebook live events and mobile app. To find out about upcoming shopping events, visit this page.
I hit the jackpot when I walked into Book ReViews (707 N. Main St.) in downtown Newton and so will you. The store carries an extensive collection of used and vintage books all of which are donated to the non-profit business. All of the Book ReView’s proceeds support local charities – now that’s shopping you can feel good about.
The store is organized and managed by a small group of volunteers who are eager to help you find your next read. Open six days a week, book lovers can peruse well-stocked shelves for every genre from non-fiction to true romance. They make searching out a new book easy, too. The volunteer workers have painstakingly categorized the books and created thoughtful displays.
During my visit, I noticed the front table was devoted to children’s books about Halloween, a display I imagine is updated based on the season. Nearby, I found tightly stocked bookcases of the classics adjacent from a good size selection of poetry books. What genre of books do you tend to purchase? Book ReViews most likely carries it, plus the book you didn’t know you needed.
Bonus tip! Look for a small section of “free books” across from the register. Consider yourself warned. If you bring a tower of books to the register, you need to pay with cash or check. Credit cards are not accepted. Review the store’s hours and plan your visit here.
PRAIRY MARKET & DELI
The moment you walk inside Prairy Market & Deli (601 N. Main St.) you realize that you’ve come to the right place. Having shopped there many times, I can tell you first-hand that it is by far one of the largest natural foods stores that I’ve seen in Kansas and it’s one of the best.
The store’s shelves are neatly stocked with rows of specialty foods. The refrigerator cases keep locally sourced meats, cheeses, and produce chilled. The smoothie bar is ready to serve customers.
You’ll discover a wide variety of locally-made goods at Prairy. They pride themselves on supporting local farmers, makers, and creators. Although a majority of their goods come from the surrounding area or are made on-site, they’ll travel as far as Olathe to pick up inventory. It’s a concept that I appreciate.
They offer options for buying in bulk in multiple stations around the store. I recommend you bring your own container to purchase grains and spices. Top off a growler with fresh Tea-biotics kombucha. Fill a plastic jug with liquid soap. In search of whole bean coffee? You’re in luck! They roast their own beans.
Actually, they make many of the specialty food products on their shelves in-house. Prairy hand fills bags of bite-size snacks (ask about the pfeffernüsse tiny spice cookies a tradition in German Mennonite households) as well as granola and trail mix. They make it all. Check the aisles for hand-poured candles in fragrances like Rawhide, Sunflower, and Rolling Hills reminiscent of the scents Kansans would recognize.
What did I take home? The most delicious ice cream that I’ve tasted in a long time. Made in Newton, Salted Creamery Ice Cream comes in a variety of flavors sold by the pint. I took home Caramel Butter Pecan and Key Lime Pie – both selections came highly recommended by the store’s staff. You’ll find them inside the reach-in freezer located near the dining area of the store.
FAITH & LIFE BOOKSTORE
A local told me about a bookstore that I hadn’t shopped at yet, Faith & Life (606 N. Main St.). It was there that I met some of Newton’s nicest residents. After a warm greeting, I moseyed around the store admiring their large selection of books, Bibles, greeting cards, accessories, and gift items. A well-stocked store, it is one of the last remaining faith-based bookstores like it in Kansas.
Open since 2015, the store is operated as a non-profit with the hope of connecting people with the resources they need. Within moments of my visit, I spotted books and supplies for every age. Parents with children in tow will appreciate the kids’ section devoted to their reading needs. Seeking a journal for devotionals or an inspirational book of quotes? Faith & Life carries a large inventory of gifts, which are also available to purchase via their website for online shopping here. Do you follow a particular author’s work? Plan your visit around the store’s book signing events.
BACK ALLEY PIZZA
Who’s hungry for lunch? Back Alley Pizza (125 W. 6th St.) has everything I look for in a pizzeria. Delicious food. Fun atmosphere. Friendly employees. Located one block off of Main Street, the restaurant is a must-stop when in Newton. Not only does it have a spacious patio for alfresco dining, but the interior setting is uber cool. It was as if I had stepped inside a retro garage complete with road signs, concrete floors, and exposed brick walls.
Known for their delicious wood-fired pizza, I asked an employee and a local waiting in line which one of the signature pies I should order. It was a tough choice since so many of them sounded good, but I chose the Graffiti, a 1o” pizza topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onion, peppers, and black olives. The crust was thin with a crunchy, thick rim. Each slice gave way to a stringy mozzarella cheese for the ultimate cheese pull.
Having arrived just after the restaurant opened for lunch, I sat back and watched as the place filled up to almost capacity with locals. The menu brings them back. Back Alley Pizza sells pizzas (no individuals slices!), heaping salads, toasted subs, and cannolis for dessert. They keep the menu choices simple allowing diners to choose from 11 signature pizzas or to customize their own. The portions are large considering the price – a great value lunch or dinner option. Thirsty? Back Alley Pizza has a self-serve beverage station complete with soda products, but the popular choice is fresh-brewed ice tea served sweetened or unsweetened.
The atmosphere is relaxed. Diners casually chat about the day’s happenings as the staff pulls one pizza after another from the wood-fired oven. A large TV can be seen from anywhere in the dining room making it a great place to catch game highlights while enjoying a meal with friends. But it’s also an ideal place to dine with family. I saw a number of parents and kids excitedly sharing a pizza. It’s the place in town where everyone loves to dine. When will you visit? View the restaurant’s hours and menu here.
MURAL HUNTING & PUBLIC ART
Speaking of back alleys, they are some of the best places to find street art. Newton is home to several public art displays created by talented artists. Newton Murals and Arts Project is adding to the collection and restoring one of the town’s biggest murals, “The Imagineers” at 304 N. Main. Through community support, they’ve been able to make significant progress. Only steps from my lunch spot, I noticed a brightly colored mural resembling a patchwork quilt on the back side of a building at 605 N. Main.
Within walking distance of the downtown district, my eyes spotted a weathered mural. Located at 119 W. 5th St., it was painted on a metal surface over 20 years ago. Simple yet patriotic, it’s worthy of a visit.
One of the newest murals in town is at 817 N. Main in honor of the town’s police, fire, and EMS workers. Other symbolic images are represented in the display including a train, sunflowers, wheat, and the American flag.
Of course, a trip to Newton wouldn’t be complete without taking a photo in front of the massive flower mural. What began as an oversized stretch of botanicals and clouds evolved into the brightly colored image seen below. To find the 526 Mural, visit the 100 block of E 6th Street. You can’t miss it.
Lastly, you must see Blue Sky Sculpture in person. It’s one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art, a project completed by multiple artists for Centennial Park. The pubic artwork mimics the Kansas sky. I recommend taking a few minutes to watch the clouds travel past the sculpture. It’s breathtaking.
HISTORIC WALKING & DRIVING TOUR
The well-kept business district is home to beautifully restored buildings from an earlier time. The town’s buildings date back to 1884, and after Newton’s financial boom from 1886-1887, multiple businesses sprung up in the area.
I used the Historic Newton Downtown Walking Tour guide to help me locate significant buildings. Soon, I located the town’s first well, which was dug to provide drinking water to residents in 1871. It was considered the “best water for several years thereafter.” Today, a flowing fountain marks the general location of the well that sits just beyond the doors of the train station at Depot Park.
Military Park (Broadway St. between Oak and Pine Streets) is the oldest park in town. Established in 1871, it is the site of Soldier’s Monument, a 10-inch cannon, and an 1880s steam locomotive. It’s not far from the center of downtown.
While multiple train depots have existed in Newton since the town’s inception, today’s operational depot (400 N. Main) is a distinct destination worthy of a visit. The active station serves BNSF’s tracks and Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Train. Railroad heritage is well-known in Newton and its symbol appears on the town’s flag because as they say, they’ve been “waiting on trains since 1872.”
The Warkentin House is a historic mansion (211 E. 1st St.) built in 1887 by the town’s wealthiest businessman, Bernhard Warkentin. He came to the United States from Ukraine and eventually settled in Newton. He purchased the town’s mill and renamed it Newton Milling and Elevator Company. His influence on the town is massive.
He was instrumental in the Mennonite migration to the area and he single-handedly brought Turkey Red hard winter wheat to the area and made it a staple crop. Have you heard Kansas referred to as the “Breadbasket of the World?” We can thank Warkentin for helping to make that happen.
Warkentin and his wife, Wilhelmina, and their two children moved into the Queen Ann-Style mansion in 1888. Now, it is a museum that offers tours by appointment January-March and on weekends depending on the time of year.
The architecture and its furnishings (80% are original to the home) are exquisite. The family lived in a home surrounding by the best money could buy including Italian tiled fireplaces, fine woodwork, stained glass and etched windows, and crystal chandeliers.
The Warkentin’s spared no expense when designing their home down to the smallest details. I was enamored by the door’s metal finishes, the changing wood floors from room to room, the expansive size of the bedrooms, and the imported furnishings. The kitchen tells the story of what it must have been like to work as a servant for the family in close quarters to a formal dining room – and wait until you see the butler’s pantry! Wilhelmina wanted the best china and linens. Her taste for luxury is reflected throughout the home.
Visiting the home allows everyday people to get a glimpse of what luxury living looked like during a time when rural Kansas was just beginning to prosper. I recommend taking a moment to enjoy the view from the home’s wrap-around porch. To view the museums hours and plan a visit, visit their Facebook page here.
A museum with award-winning exhibitions awaits your visit in North Newton. Kauffman Museum (2801 N. Main St.) sits just off of Interstate 135 across from Bethel College’s campus. Open to the public, its permanent exhibit “Of Land and People” helps visitors understand the undercurrent of faith, nature, and immigration that established the town.
You’ll appreciate the extensive collection of artifacts that tell the story of the Mennonite experience of the Central Plains. From living in a handcrafted sod house to building well-made furniture, it’s a long history of hard work and perseverance.
“Immigrant People” is an exhibit that documents how Mennonites packed their belongings and traveled by rail or wagon and eventually by steam-powered ships to America. Later as homesteaders, they took root in the open prairie in what is now Newton. While some had money, most were poor yet hopeful for the future. The museum also includes a large collection of Native American clothing and belongings.
I appreciated the Historic Farmstead and Gardens, which are open to tour with a museum employee. The outdoor buildings were built in 1875 and 1886 and were moved to their current site. I suggest trying the hands-on experiences in the barn. Take a moment to shuck corn using old-fashioned machinery or compare your height to the silhouette of a draft horse. Are you interested in agriculture? The museum’s garden is tended by volunteers. The produce is for sale when in season at the gift shop.
Fantastic traveling exhibitions rotate in the museum’s gallery every three to six months. During my visit, there was a special exhibit about advertising and the tobacco industry on display, “Vapes: Marketing and Addiction.”
Out-of-town visitors and residents who want to learn more about the town’s history and the Kansas Mennonite community will appreciate the 45,000 artifacts and wall displays. A section devoted to the museum’s namesake, Charles J. Kauffman, showcases his love of nature and taxidermy. The collection includes birds, wild animals, and Kansas native species.
To plan a trip to Kaufmann Museum and learn more about their current and upcoming exhibits, visit their website. It’s a museum worth adding to your day trip itinerary.
Another bonus of visiting Newton is taking advantage of their nature trails system. Eight sites along North Newton’s trails make it possible for visitors to learn about prairie life and the people who resided in the area. If you’re already visiting the Kauffman Museum, take a walk outside the building through the wooded tree line to find one of the markers “The Story of Land and People.”
The popular Sand Creek Trail (600 block of W. 5th St.) is a wood chip path appropriate for all ages. Nearly six miles in length, it leads hikers and bikers from its trailhead in North Newton to First Street at Athletic Park. It is sometimes referred to as the “Trail Between Two Cities.” To view all of the trails in the area, visit this All Trails link.
What a town! I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my love of Newton with you. It’s a charming town within a short drive from Wichita that offers visitors plenty to do and see. Newton’s walkable downtown district, local restaurants, and nearby attractions make it a fantastic option for day-trippers in search of adventure.
Have you traveled to the area already? I’d love to hear about the sites you added to your trip in the comments below.
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