Kansas : Safety by City
- Cottonwood Falls
- Council Grove
- Dodge City
- Fort Scott
- Garden City
- Great Bend
- Junction City
- La Crosse
- Overland Park
- Prairie Village
Wamego, Kansas, is one of the only places in the state where it makes sense to say “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
This city brings Wizard of Oz fans from around the country and world to see one of the largest Oz artifacts and tributes in the museum and throughout the city.
Wamego sits nearly halfway between Topeka and the popular college town of Manhattan.
The Kansas River hugs the southern side of the city, so you’ve got the one thing here that Oz didn’t have – water activities.
At least it keeps the Wicked Witch of the West away.
In a cultural shift, there’s a dynamic Dutch Mill on the horizon here.
It’s a piece of history so important to the people of Wamego, the windmill was actually moved from a location north of town to the center of the city.
The historical footsteps of Wamego are almost overwhelming.
The Donner Party, on their doomed trip across the country, passed just north of here.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame, crossed this region on a move to Missouri.
This is also near a popular stopping spot on the Oregon Trail.
While playing the game, you can die of cholera (and goodness knows I did many times).
In Wamego, that tragedy is a reality at the Cholera Cemetery.
It’s hard to imagine all this history and fanfare existing in a small town of fewer than 5,000 people.
Wamego is definitely a city worth visiting and staying for a few days to explore.
Warnings & Dangers in Wamego
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a very low risk here if you go by 2020 crime data, which is the latest available. Of course, that was a pandemic year and some cities had unusually low or high crime rates that year. Wamego was very low. I dug back into the data from previous years to see trends instead of a one-year glance. While the city still had a low risk from 2017 through 2019, there were exponentially more crimes than in the ultra-safe 2020.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
There isn't a public bus system aside from rides provided for people who need to go to the doctor or grocery store. Taxis and rideshares will be sparingly available, but having a car is ideal here. There's a low risk when driving in this area, but there's a medium risk it's going to be hard to get around without a car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk with no pickpockets reported since 2018 when there was one. It's easy in a tourist spot like this to lose your attention to safety. Don't let your guard down and bring as little as possible with you when visiting the tourist spots. Leave valuables at home.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Being this close to the Kansas River, there's a risk of flooding. Severe thunderstorms with intense lightning, hail and strong winds are possible, with springtime being the most active part of the storm season. Of course, Dorothy was swept to Oz by a tornado (she called it a cyclone, which means the same thing), and tornadoes are still a risk here. Winter also brings snow and ice storms with the occasional blizzard. This all adds up to medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Wamego hasn't had more than three robberies in a year since 2009. There's a low risk it will happen to you. All of the violent crimes reported here in 2020 were aggravated assaults that happened in homes or bars.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here as it's not a major population center or near a military base, which are two key indicators of a hard target for terrorists.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Even a major identified theft and fraud crime from 2019 was only targeted at local bank residents. All of the reported scams since then target locals, and not tourists. There's a low risk here, but just make sure when you buy tickets or merchandise that you're working with a reliable vendor. I lived in Las Vegas long before there were any costumed people walking up and down the Strip making money - and I was surprised when it started how the tourists fell for it. They would give money to people who were just random people in Halloween costumes trying to make a quick buck. It's easy to get immersed in an experience like Wamego, so just use common sense and you should be fine.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel as safe as Dorothy riding her bike. Well, that's a bad example. It is very safe here for women, with no sexual assaults reported back as far as 2009. There are plenty of safe spaces to visit and explore.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water in Wamego is low risk with all standards met according to the 2021 Water Quality Report. You can feel safe using it for drinking, bathing, or dousing a wicked witch.
Safest Places to Visit in Wamego
The Oz Museum is open throughout the year, with shorter hours in the winter.
The museum has more than 2,000 Oz mementos and artifacts.
In the museum, you’ll learn a lot more than movie facts.
This display showcases a century of Oz fandom and fascination.
If you happen to be visiting during October, you’ll be there for OZtoberFest, which is a celebration of all things Oz.
Book your hotel and rental car as early as possible because the town fills up quickly.
Throughout the city, you’ll find a Yellow Brick Road that is great for a social media photo op.
There are also painted Toto’s all over town.
Different businesses put their own decorative spin on the sculptures and it’s hard to pick a favorite since they are all so elaborate.
The Oz Winery is a great place for wine lovers to get into the Oz spirit with specially-themed bottles and samples available.
Here you can also shop for cheese, meat, cigars, and chocolates.
The Wamego Historical Society Museum is more than a building with displays.
There’s a village resembling the 1800s life, complete with the county jail and a log cabin.
Car lovers need to go inside the Transportation Building.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise, but there’s a car in there that will blow your mind if you appreciate vintage vehicles.
Head north of town to see the Oregon Trail Nature Park and the Cholera Cemetery.
Head to the top of the hill and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Kansas River Valley.
Spring brings fields of wildflowers (but no poppies, sorry about that).
Just wait until you see the painted silos in the park as well.
As a travel safety journalist, I’m generally going to tell you all the reasons to avoid bison in the wild.
However, just outside Wamego, you can visit the Lazy Heart D Ranch and get a supervised tour where you’ll actually feed and/or pet a bison.
This tour also includes a trip to see where the windmill was originally located before it moved to the city.
Places to Avoid in Wamego
You can feel safe traveling around Wamego.
There aren’t any dangerous parts of town or bad neighborhoods.
Of course, it’s respectful and smart to stay on main roads and keep tourist traffic off the neighborhood streets.
Don’t go looking around for Dorothy Gale’s house from the Wizard of Oz.
In what seems weird planning, the actual replica of her house was built in Liberal, Kanas, which is five and a half hours southwest of Wamego.
Which city is better for Wizard of Oz fans?
“If I only had the nerve” to answer that.
Honestly, they are both unique experiences, but Wamego seems to own the Oz vibe throughout the city more than Liberal.
You really can’t go wrong with either city.
You should also avoid telling people you are going to Dorothy’s hometown in The Wizard of Oz.
You see, the movie never quite said WHICH Kansas location Dorothy was from – it was just said she was from Kansas.
So, the good people of Wamego decided on “Why Not Wamego?” as a marketing stint to take the creative liberty of making it her home.
In fact, the Kansas scenes in the movie weren’t even shot in Kansas.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Wamego
- This is just more of a “heads up” for visitors to Wamego. The Police Chief was fired in mid-2022 for various reasons, including insubordination and conduct unbecoming a city employee. The police department’s website still shows Chief Baker as the head of the department, but the termination was appealed and denied.
- There’s a Crime Stoppers form you can fill out on the police department’s website if you have information about a crime. You don’t have to enter any personal information if you don’t want to be identified.
- Wamego is one of the few cities in Kansas that doesn’t have parking restrictions during a snowstorm. Most cities will make you avoid parking on the street or parking on a certain side of the street. This is good news to avoid getting a ticket or having your car towed. However, it could mean your car is trapped on the street by a wall of snow from the snow plow. If that happens, you are responsible for digging your car out.
- You can sign up for emergency notifications through the Riley County Emergency Management website. You must stay aware of the severe weather potential when visiting this area. Severe weather can quickly build and be dangerous, especially if you are in an outdoor area. Even as of June 2022, a storm came through that was either a tornado or strong straight-line winds. A campground was damaged, several buildings were nearly leveled, and power was out for days.
- You won’t be able to hunt or fish here without a license from the Kansas Department of Wildlife. There are different qualifications for each activity, so be sure to review the policies and any necessary training.
- When you are at the Oregon Trail Nature Park, don’t approach any wildlife you see and never feed the beautiful birds. You aren’t allowed to pick the wildflowers either. Tourists are told to “Leave No Trace”, so bring your trash out of the park with you and dispose of it properly.
- There are coyotes in this area and if you aren’t used to having coyotes around, it can sound scary. In general, coyotes want nothing to do with you and will avoid getting close. If you have a pet with you, it’s best to get out of the area and, if possible, pick up your pet. The smaller the pet, the more concerned you should be. I’ve had several friends lose their cats to wandering coyotes at night.
- Since some of the attractions here require driving into rural areas, you should check in with Kandrive.org before you go to see about traffic accidents, road construction, and weather issues impacting the roads. This website is updated in real-time 24/7. You can even see cameras on the snow plows when a winter storm hits.
- For those driving long distances across Kansas, sometimes snow storms will be so intense that I-70 or other main roads will be shut down. There’s a difference between a snowstorm and a blizzard. A blizzard is a much more intense storm with high winds, limited visibility, and extended length (more than three hours).
- “When in Oz…” Feel free to dress up in your favorite Wizard of Oz costumes or let the kids dress up. It’s not only accepted but encouraged. If you see things you want to purchase at the Oz gift shop, you can also order many of them online. This is a great way to avoid having to carry your items with you, especially if you get high-value memoirs.
So... How Safe Is Wamego Really?
The 2020 pandemic really shut down most crime in this area.
There were no homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, or vehicle thefts.
There were just five violent crimes – all among people who knew each other – and four thefts.
The 2021 data hasn’t been released and it might not be until the end of 2022.
It’s important to know that in the years prior to the pandemic, violent crime, robberies, and thefts were all at or near the national average.
It doesn’t mean the city isn’t safe for visitors now at all – it just means it’s not the crimeless place it appears to be from the most recent data.
How Does Wamego Compare?
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- Visas - You should plan ahead several months to go through all the steps of the U.S. Visa application process. It's going to cost you $160 for a tourist visa and more if you're here for work or school. You will only need to show your visa at the airport and then your passport will be used as your ID. You can travel freely between cities without having to show anything.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar for all purchases and it would be wise to get your currency exchanged at the airport since Wamego is so small. Most attractions will accept credit cards and some of them are even free, so you can get around here without carrying cash if you'd prefer.
- Weather - You should plan for winter extremes with cold weather gear and snow boots, but there isn't always going to be snow on the ground. There can be mild days in winter, so bring some short-sleeved shirts too. Spring and fall will have fluctuating temperatures, so dressing in layers is smart. Summer can be hot and humid. You'll need light, loose-fitting clothing and good walking shoes (leave the ruby slippers at home so you don't get blisters!). You'll need bug spray and sunscreen too.
- Airports - You can be at the Topeka airport in less than an hour and at the larger Kansas City airport in two hours.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a good idea for all mishaps that can delay flights or road traffic. You should also clarify what happens if a tornado hits your house and carries you to a strange land, just for kicks.
Wamego Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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