The town of Hutchinson is a hidden gem located about an hour from Wichita, Kansas. Known for its history of salt mining, it is actually a pretty sweet town to visit. Just as you would expect from a quaint Midwestern town, its downtown district is lined with antique shops, eateries, and gorgeous public art.
If you’re only in town for the day, the best way to maximize your time is to start at Scuttlebutt’s at The Clayworks for a cup of coffee and a warm pastry. There are a number of coffee shops in town, but this is one is highly rated for its selection of coffee and fun atmosphere. The employees treat patrons as if they are close friends. Be sure to walk around the facility and check out the beautiful, handcrafted pottery and artisan gifts at The Clayworks. The studios and gallery are a “creative hub” for artists with disabilities. Their work is simply incredible and is available for sale in the retail store.
Afterward, make your way to the downtown district to make the most of your morning. Keep your camera handy as you will spot numerous public art sculptures and building murals during your walk. I thoroughly loved catching a glimpse of new murals at every turn. Hutchinson is unapologetically authentic, so it’s no surprise that the town celebrates local artists’ talent with pride.
During a downtown stroll, you’ll stumble upon one antique shop after another. I particularly enjoyed The Toy Depot, one of 15 toy stores in the nation that only stocks vintage toys. Before I knew it, I was exclaiming with delight like a child admiring toys that I had enjoyed in my younger years. Love locomotive history or collect toy trains? Make your way to the back of the store for an immersive experience. The owner, Mark Buckley, has his personal collection of model train cars on display. Be sure to interact with the working train set by pushing its buttons.
You’ll easily work up an appetite ducking in and out of stores along Main Street. I know just the place to curb your cravings! A well-known staple for dining in Hutchinson is The Anchor Inn, a Mexican restaurant with a festive interior and a delicious menu. While I was shopping downtown, a Hutchinson resident recommended that I try the restaurant’s grapefruit margarita, a refreshing cocktail that paired well with a chimichanga dinner.
With half of the day ahead of you, there is still plenty of time to check out more of the town. I recommend driving to the Dillon Nature Center to do a little bird-watching and exploring. It’s an ideal place to take the family and children will especially love the indoor education center for its exhibits. There is no cost if you want to simply walk through the education center and adjacent gardens. The grounds have three miles of developed trails.
Afterward our walk at the nature center, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting among locals at two of Hutchinson’s breweries. If you’re a craft beer fan, definitely make a point of sipping suds at Sandhills Brewing and Salt City Brewing, which are located a short drive from one another. Each brewery serves a long list of craft beers that appeal to every kind of beer enthusiast. I enjoyed a small batch, seasonal beer along with free popcorn while watching sports on TV at Salt City Brewing.
Speaking of bird-watching, Sandhills Brewing’s taproom is decorated with photos, murals, and references to Kansas birds — the beers are named after them! You can place your order online and pick it up or order at the counter. The small microbrewery and tasting room is a family-friendly space with some overflow seating in the adjacent private event room. Don’t forget to take a photo in front of the building’s magnificent mural.
No visit to Hutchinson is complete without making a stop at Smith’s Market. A downtown landmark since 1933, the store specializes in “old fashioned grocery goodness” selling fresh produce, retro candy and sodas, whimsical gifts, and a large selection of teas and coffee. This is a great place to shop for Kansas-made gourmet foods. It’s impossible to not leave with bags of fresh taffy or pastries. Make sure to dedicate time at the end of your day to cruise the aisles of Smith’s Market.
If you find yourself in Hutchinson for more than a day, I recommend you experience the town’s most well-known attraction, the Cosmosphere: International Science Center & Space Museum. This ever-popular site is ideal for families looking for a hands-on experience while learning about space. Ask about the All-Access Mission Pass that “puts the universe in your hands.”
Visitors also appreciate touring Strataca: Kansas Underground Salt Museum where you can take an elevator 650 feet down to view where salt was mined. I suggest purchasing tickets to go on the Salt Safari Shuttle, a ride through miles of tunnels to learn more about the geological space.
No matter what you decide to do while in Hutchinson, there is something for every kind of visitor! Do you have questions about the places listed above? Ask me in the comment section below. I’d love to help you plan your visit to one of the best towns in Kansas.