The City of Olathe, Kansas is located about 20 miles southwest of downtown Kansas City and its often mispronounced name ("oh-LAY-tha") is the Shawnee Indian word for "beautiful." It gained prominence in the 19th Century as a stop on the Oregon-California and Santa Fe trails when pioneers began to settle the western half of the United States. The construction of transcontinental railroads toward the end of the century changed the dynamics of population flow and the dominance of the wagon routes, and Olathe's importance diminished as a result.
In recent decades, however, the community has seen a tremendous boom in both commercial and residential growth as part of the Kansas City Metro region. Today Olathe boasts a population of more than 142,000 residents and is one of the largest cities in the state. It serves as the county seat of Johnson County, the most populous county in Kansas and is is routinely included on "best places to live" lists, with a reputation of having excellent schools, a diverse economy, affordable housing, a low crime rate, and beautiful parks. Olathe is in the midst of an exciting downtown revitalization plan, intended to celebrate the city's history, spur growth, and give Olathe a progressive vision for the future. Beyond its own amenities, the city's convenient location offers residents easy access to all of the resources of a large urban area.
Travel between Olathe and Kansas City is easy via I-35, while other major arterial roads and highways provide access to much of the rest of the KC Metro region and points beyond. Olathe is about 45 minutes by car from Kansas City International Airport. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority provides public transit throughout the Kansas City Metro region, with weekday service throughout Johnson County and to downtown Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
Attractions and Entertainment
With more than 2 million people in the Kansas City Metro region, there is never a lack of entertainment options. Olathe, one of the largest suburbs, has many of its own special attractions:
Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site — This historic site was a stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail and is the only such stop still open to the public. Visitors can tour the 1860s farmhouse and grounds, enjoy stagecoach rides and special exhibits, and try their hand at some of the daily activities involved in running a farm.
Museum of Deaf History, Arts and Culture — The Kansas City region has long been a friend to the Deaf community. MDHAC is dedicated to preserving and promoting knowledge about Deaf people through exhibits and performances that explain their experiences, challenges, cultures, and languages.
Ensor Park and Museum — This National Historic Site showcases the Ensor family's interests and work in early 20th Century fam life and amateur radio operations.
Kansas City Automotive Museum — Opened in 2014, KCAM celebrates Kansas City's rich automotive history with exhibits, special events, and (of course!) some great cars.
Commemorative Air Force Base — Located at the former Olathe Naval Air Station, the mission of CAF is to educate the public about the history of WWII veterans and their legacy of flight.
Olathe Civic Theatre Association — This non-profit organization puts on five shows a year in the Buddy Rogers Family Playhouse, with performances ranging from comedies to dr
amas to musical productions. It also offers student scholarships and an annual playwriting competition.
Chestnut Fine Arts Center — The Chestnut also showcases local talent by producing several plays and musicals each year. In addition, it promotes the performing arts through recitals, talent shows, children's workshops, and other creative events.
Sculpture Exhibits — Olathe treasures its public art displays, including the many sculptures on display in permanent or rotating exhibits.
Annual Events — Live entertainment, food, and fun are the main ingredients for many of the festivals and events enjoyed by Olathe residents, including Fourth Fridays, Olathe Live!, Old Settlers, and Wild West Days.
Other nearby attractions include:
Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center — JCAHC, located in neighboring Overland Park, is many things: a history museum, a fine and performing arts venue, and an educational resource that offers instruction and camps geared toward the arts. Its resident theatre company performs at the Black Box Theater at JCAHC or at the amphitheater inside Shawnee Mission Park.
Museum at Prairiefire — This museum, also in Overland Park, is filled with interactive exhibits and experiences that interweave topics in natural history, science, and the arts.
Summers are warm, winters are generally mild to chilly, but whatever the weather, Kansans are ready to embrace the seasons with some good, outdoor fun:
Ernie Miller Nature Center — This 116-acre preserve offers visitors a peaceful place to enjoy hiking trails, a large aquarium, and special exhibits. The nature center is located at Ernie Miller Nature Park, one of the many parks and facilities operated by the Johnson County Park & Recreation District.
The Olathe Prairie Center — Another nature site that is balm for the soul, the Prairie Center has trails that wind through 300 acres of ponds, prairies, and woodlands.
Olathe Parks & Recreation— This busy park district is home to numerous parks, pools, and a community center. It also hosts a full range of programs and classes, plus several popular special events throughout the year.
Indian Creek Bike/Hike Trail — This 26 mile trail stretches from Olathe to Kansas City, MO, providing visitors with various access points and views along the way.
Children who reside in Olathe may attend one of these public school districts:
Olathe Public Schools
Blue Valley Schools
Shawnee Mission School District
De Soto School District
Spring Hill School District
The Kansas State School of the Deaf is also a public school and is located in Olathe.
Options for colleges and universities include:
Kansas City Kansas Community College
Johnson County Community College
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas State University at Olathe
MidAmerica Nazarene University
University of Kansas (Edwards)
and many more in the greater Kansas City Metro region.
For other information on Olathe and nearby communities, please visit these links:
Olathe Convention and Visitors Bureau
Kansas City Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau
Visit KC (Kansas City Missouri Tourism)
Kansas Office of Tourism and Travel
Most Livable Mid-Sized Cities in America (2018)