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Encompassing the southeastern corner of Kansas, the Emporia Destination comprises the following cities: El Dorado, Emporia, Burlington, Parsons, Independence, Fredonia, Eureka, Iola, Garnett, and Coffeyville, among several others. These urban districts are scattered among natural woodland areas and open grasslands. The destination’s namesake, Emporia, is a city that is situated between Topeka and Wichita—two of Kansas’ prominent cities that are found outside the borders of the Emporia Destination. Emporia’s economy is supported significantly by the Emporia State University as well as the city and county governments, public schools, and the county hospital.[1] In addition to these contributors, tourism plays a role in the city’s economic development. The Emporia Downtown Historic District features buildings that date back to the 1860s, which tend to pique the interest of visitors who enjoy viewing historic architecture.[8] Multiple other attractions can be explored in Emporia, such as the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia, the Emporia Granada Theatre, and the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame. Moreover, the city neighbors Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge, which offers opportunities for fishing and hunting. The refuge covers about 18,463 acres of land.[3] It is recommended to tour Emporia from late May to late September for warm-weather activities, as temperatures are generally moderate during these months.[4]

What Emporia is known for

The Emporia Destination encompasses the southeastern corner of the state of Kansas. Comprising a mix of woodland areas and urban districts, the destination can be found among a few of Kansas’ prominent cities, namely Kansas City, Topeka, Manhattan, and Wichita, all of which are found outside of the destination’s boundaries. The namesake of the destination is a city located in the destination’s northwestern region in Lyon County. Emporia serves as the county seat and is home to an estimated population of 23,844 residents. The city is ranked the 18th largest city in the state, and a decline rate of -0.34% affects the population annually. Since the most recent census in 2020, which totaled 24,092 people, the population has decreased by -1.03%.[2]

Emporia is often regarded as “a college town” on account of Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College being established within the city. One of the most significant draws for tourism in Emporia is the festivals that the city hosts. Two particularly popular events are Unbound Gravel and Dynamic Discs Open. For those who take an interest in biking, Unbound Gravel gives bikers the opportunity to race along a gravel trail through the Flint Hills. The race begins and concludes in Emporia, and the event is held every first weekend after Memorial Day. As for Dynamic Discs Open, this event is “one of the largest disc golf tournaments.” Another notable festival is the Great American Market in downtown Emporia. This event is held on the second Saturday of every September, featuring a number of vendors that sell artwork, crafts, antiques, food, and collectible items.[1]

In addition to the events, Emporia contains multiple attractions that visitors can explore as well. For those who want to learn more about the city’s history, the Lyon County History Museum can provide information about the city’s historical significance. The Schmidt Museum of Natural History, the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame, and the Johnston Geology Museum are a few museums that can teach visitors about the history of other subjects. Furthermore, art and entertainment are additional elements of the city’s culture, as a handful of art galleries and theaters are based throughout Emporia. Some of the places that pertain to the arts include the Emporia Arts Center, Emporia Granada Theatre, Eppink and Gillson Art Galleries, Prairie Passage Stone Sculpture Garden, and Trox Gallery and Gifts, to name a few. Another notable attraction, which primarily caters to a younger demographic, is the David Traylor Zoo of Emporia. There, tourists can observe over 400 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. The zoo is home to a mixture of both endangered and native animal species. During the holidays, the zoo is adorned with lights.[3]

Outdoor enthusiasts can also be entertained in Emporia, as parks and trails are found in the city. Buck Fund Dog Park, C of E Park, All Veterans Memorial, and Jones Park provide the space for visitors to engage in outdoor activities. Those who bring a jeep can explore the jeep routes that wind through the Flint Hills. On these jeep trails, Teter Rock, Texaco Hill, Matfield Green Tower, Rocky Ford Bridge, and Lake Kahola can be observed, among other points of interest. These previously listed landforms and sites that can be found along the jeep trails are located along different routes.[3]


As a whole, the Emporia Destination is fairly wooded with numerous open grassland areas. The topography has a somewhat hilly formation in certain locations, especially to the southwest of the city where the Flint Hills lie. Multiple bodies of water are scattered throughout the destination as well, such as El Dorado Lake, John Redmond Reservoir, Melvern Lake, Pomona Lake, Elk City Lake, the Neosho River, and the Cottonwood River. The Neosho River courses along the northern border of Emporia’s city limits, serving as a tributary of the Arkansas River in the state’s eastern region. The river extends about 463 miles long, and it passes through the Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge into the John Redmond Reservoir to the southeast of Emporia.[5] Fishermen tend to be drawn to the Neosho River and John Redmond Reservoir, as the river is inhabited by channel catfish, crappie, spotted bass, white bass, and flathead catfish. Oftentimes, birdwatchers visit the riverside to view the bald eagles that may be spotted during the winter.[6] 

Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge also serves as a popular birdwatching site. During the spring and fall, the refuge is reportedly a resting stop for waterfowl due to the considerable amount of seed-producing plants and aquatic insects. Such waterfowl include mallards, northern pintail, American wigeon, blue-winged teal, and green-winged teal. The Neosho and Cottonwood Rivers—toward the northern upstream end of the John Redmond Reservoir—contribute to the majority of the refuge’s water supply. Some of the habitats that comprise the refuge are wetlands, grasslands, bottomland hardwood forests, agricultural land, and river riparian areas.[7]

Emporia experiences partly cloudy conditions year-round, and people who have visited the city during the summer have described this season as “hot, muggy, and wet.” In contrast, the winter season is characterized as “cold, snowy, and windy.” Temperatures vary between the general range of 22 and 91 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the year. The warm season lasts roughly from June to September, and temperatures tend to reach above 81 degrees Fahrenheit on average during these months. July is typically deemed the hottest month of the year, with an average daily high of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the cold season, from November to February, the daily temperature drops below 51 degrees Fahrenheit on average. January tends to receive the coldest temperatures, as the temperature varies from 23 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. For visitors who plan on undertaking warm-weather activities in Emporia, late May to late September supposedly experiences moderate temperatures.[4]


Founded in 1857, the city of Emporia is historically known as “a prosperous center of commerce.” The Union Pacific Railway became the first railroad to serve Emporia when it reached the town in 1869. Following the American Civil War, the city became a major railroad hub. Over a century later, the city became the site of the first Veterans Day observance in the U.S. in 1953. U.S. Edward Rees, a U.S. representative, was urged by Alvin J. King, a local shoe cobbler, to rename Armistice Day as Veterans Day. This bill was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.[1]

A total of 14 establishments in Emporia are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1] One particular historically significant place to visit is the Emporia Downtown Historic District, consisting of 169 buildings. The buildings span 18 city blocks in the central business district of Emporia. Some buildings that constitute the district are disconnected from the building strip and stand alone, such as post offices, schools, banks, churches, and county government facilities. Emporia Downtown Historic District dates back approximately 150 years. Many of these buildings are fairly original to their initial construction, though the majority have been altered or renovated to some degree. Visitors who frequent the downtown district tend to take an interest in the architecture of the establishments.[8]

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Cherryvale Bed and Breakfast is a lodging establishment located in Cherryvale, Kansas. The bed and breakfast is housed in a restored brick building that dates back to the early 1900s. The interior of the property features individually themed rooms and suites, each with its own bathroom and distinctive decor. Patrons can enjoy a range of amenities, including walk-in showers and mini kitchens in some suites. The bed and breakfast also serves breakfast each morning to guests, accommodating dietary needs and preferences whenever possible. The common areas, such as the lounge and dining room, provide spaces where guests can relax, socialize, and eat their meals. The bed and breakfast welcomes visitors of all ages, from young families to older individuals seeking a peaceful retreat. Nearby attractions include Big Hill Lake and a few horseback riding trails.

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