Laughter erupts from the flowery six-person attic room at the Tuck U Inn at Glick Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Atchison, Kansas. But it’s not a group of teenagers giggling over their crushes. The Tudor-style mansion, owned by Gov. George Glick in the late 1800s, has become a haven for women needing a little wine and plush accommodations to go with weekends spent in Atchison and nearby Leavenworth, both less than an hour northwest of Kansas City.
The two cities offer cheerful spots to shop, dine, and learn a history lesson or two. The presence of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, still ripples throughout her hometown of Atchison (population: 10,943). Restaurants name menu items in her honor, and Tuck U Inn’s Amelia’s Room displays photos and memorabilia, including pieces of vintage Amelia Earhart-brand luggage. A 45-minute narrated trolley tour winds past Victorian mansions once owned by lumber barons. The opulent homes—many supposedly haunted—stand perfectly positioned along brick roads. When the driver pulls up to a white Gothic Revival cottage along the river, the focus turns to the hometown hero. Her childhood residence is now the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, where rooms packed with artifacts, portraits and newspaper clippings transport visitors to the 1930s. Sleek costumes and posters from the 2009 movie Amelia (starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere) add Hollywood glamour.
But the town’s biggest attraction was created by another woman: designer Mary Carol Garrity. Thousands flock each year to Nell Hill’s, her affordable, idea-packed home-furnishings store. In the 7,000-square-foot space, shoppers lose themselves among elegantly styled rooms. Mercury glass sculptures and curvy white vases top tables. Slipper chairs flank fireplaces surrounded by mountains of art. Come holiday time, the shop overflows with festive seasonal decor.
The shopping is decidedly different in Leavenworth (population: 35,000), where ornate early-19th- and 20th-century brick buildings house an eclectic mix of fashion, home decor, gourmet kitchenware and antiques stores not far from Army post Fort Leavenworth. Many are owned by current and former military wives, including Lu Knueven, owner of Artistic Works by Lu, a boutique displaying clothing and jewelry on architectural salvage pieces like they’re sculptures.
Ethnic restaurants, popular because of the diverse military community, cook satisfying authentic dishes. Military wife Aree Proctor, who hails from Thailand, serves fresh green coconut curry, chicken satay and noodle soup at her Baan Thai Restaurant. If you’re lucky, you can catch a show at the Art Deco-style Performing Arts Center, renovated with the help of rocker and Leavenworth native Melissa Etheridge. If not, just listen to her bluesy 2012 release “4th Street Feeling,” dedicated to the city she and other women have called home.
Informative trolley tours (Fridays through Sundays) leave from the restored Santa Fe Depot, Atchison’s visitors center (atchisonkansas.net), and pass by the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. (913/367-4217) ameliaearhartmuseum.org Go in fall for a haunted version of the tour, then double back to the museum for more Amelia lore.
The best lunch spot in town is Marigold Bakery and Cafe. (913) 367-3858; marigoldbakery.com Refuel on a salad and sandwich combo, and try the Kansas coffee cake—an iced oatmeal concoction that tastes healthy and splurgy at the same time.
You can spend several hours at Nell Hill’s (nellhills.com), and then unwind at the Tuck U Inn at Glick Mansion Bed and Breakfast, where four-posters and private baths await guests. From $110. (913) 367-9110; glickmansion.com If B&Bs aren’t your thing, end your busy day at the immaculate two-bedroom Union Park Guest House, a renovated 1900 bungalow on a quiet street in Leavenworth. The owners serve breakfast and coffee at your requested time. From $140. (913) 651-3991; unionparkgh.com
A 25-mile stretch separates the towns on the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway (K-7). Get a glimpse of the military lifestyle at Fort Leavenworth. (Be prepared to show photo ID at Grant Gate and let guards inspect your car.) View 19th-century artifacts at the Frontier Army Museum, stop at the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, and marvel at the Buffalo Soldier Monument. (913) 684-3600; garrison.leavenworth.army.mil
For lunch, try fresh salads and sandwiches at June’s Cottage and Cafe; it’s part home decor shop, part restaurant. (913) 651-7000; junescottage.com
Drive downtown to explore the shopping district along Delaware Street and several connecting side streets. Note: Some of the best shops are spread out, so on a steamy day, plan to drive.
Candle Queen Candles (candlequeencandles.com), a block off Delaware on Shawnee Street, stocks colorful hand-poured candles, flirty fashions and blingy handbags. Head to Delaware for traditional home accents at CJ Gift Company. (913) 364-5378 The Corner Pharmacy has great chocolate malts. (913) 682-1602 Queen’s Pantry brims with British teas and snacks, including more than 170 loose-leaf teas. (913) 680-1899; qptea.com
For gourmet kitchenwares and cool gadgets, visit The Pot Rack. (913) 364-5038; thepotracklv.com Browse affordable feminine fashions and jewelry at Artistic Works by Lu. (913) 758-0754; artisticworksbylu.com Next door is EuroPottery, which specializes in Polish pottery. (913) 680-0806; europottery.com
Channel your inner child with a ride on a 1913 carousel at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum (firstcitymuseums.org) by the Leavenworth Landing Park on the Missouri River.
Baan Thai Restaurant serves authentic cuisine; finish with sweet rice and mangoes. (913) 682-6999; baanthaikansas.com
For more information or to plan your trip: