Leavenworth, KS, United States of America Report of what it's like to live there - 04/07/20
Personal Experiences from Leavenworth, KS, United States of America
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No; I've previously served at three embassies in Asia and one in Europe.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC. The closest airport to Leavenworth is Kansas City (MCI), about 25 minutes from Leavenworth. Non-stop flights are available to a variety of domestic destinations. Flight time to DC is about 3 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Leavenworth is home to two military schools: SAMS and CGSC, both of which host USAID and State Foreign Service Officers, civil service personnel, and a variety of international military exchange participants.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is available on post for those affiliated with SAMS and CGSC. Affordable apartments and houses are available near post. A consideration when selecting housing is the train line that runs through Leavenworth; the train blares its horn multiple times per night and throughout the day, so ensuring that housing is well away from the tracks is imperative for decent sleep. Some people choose to commute from nearby communities, though icy winter weather is a consideration when choosing housing that is further from post.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are inexpensive by U. S. standards. Leavenworth also has a farmers market on the community square in the summer and fall, and nearby farms have fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and more.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
None; most items are available in Leavenworth, or Kansas City is a 45-minute drive away.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Leavenworth has plentiful restaurants for a community of its size. Some favorites are Wizard of Pho (Vietnamese), Meriwether's (coffee and pastries), Excellent Choice (Southern), and Hyundai (Korean). There are quite a few family-owned small restaurants in the very walkable and quaint downtown.
Kansas City has fabulous BBQ; it's well worth sampling the many options.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
There is a US Post Office in downtown Leavenworth, as well as a branch on post (which has very limited hours).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I did not hire help here.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Post has three gyms available to those affiliated with SAMS or CGSC. These gyms have classes (for a fee for non-military), but, oddly, no exercise classes are available on weekends. There are also a few local gyms in the area, including CrossFit, and a yoga studio in downtown Leavenworth.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
There are ATMs on post and around town; some local establishments don't take credit cards, so it's a good idea to carry some cash, though the high crime rate in Leavenworth makes it advisable to not carry a large amount of cash nor to walk at night.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A variety of options are available both on post and in the community.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Leavenworth has no public transportation, but Uber and Lyft are available (including to and from the Kansas City airport). Kansas City has a free light rail and bus system, so it's convenient to park in Kansas City and explore by public transport. Kansas City is also served by Amtrak (and the station is linked to the free light rail system).
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
A car is a necessity. Post is very large and impossible to navigate without a car (particularly as some roads have no sidewalks). It's possible to rent a car at the airport to use while awaiting your POV.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes; it's about US$60 per month for a basic package, and installment is quick.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
For limited stays, pay as you go is a good option; otherwise, all the standard plans are available. Coverage is decent, though in the rural areas adjacent to Leavenworth the connection isn't always very reliable.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I don't have a pet, so I don't have personal experience with this, but several vets are available in Leavenworth.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Some spouses work full-time on post or in Leavenworth, but most spouses are stay-at-home parents. There are ample social groups and meet-ups for spouses, and most of them seem quite happy living in Leavenworth.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are many opportunities: a dog shelter, social services, community activities, a historical society, and local museums. It's feasible to be very involved in the local community, and local residents are very friendly.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual for non-military. There are balls throughout the year, so bringing at least one set of formal attire makes sense. It's also easy to buy formal wear in Kansas City, and Leavenworth has several thrift shops for bargain formal finds (particularly at the end of the summer when military families are departing post).
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Leavenworth has a high crime rate, both in relation to petty crime and violent crime. Staying aware of one's surroundings and not walking at night are prudent choices.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No. Medical care (including a new urgent care offering adjacent to post, NextCare) is readily available, including a hospital in Leavenworth. I haven't used it so am unable to comment on the quality. Plentiful options are also available in Kansas City.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is very good. Seasonal allergies in the spring affect some people, but pollution is virtually nonexistent.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Local restaurants are usually able to cater to individual needs.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Extremely hot and humid in summer, and very cold in winter (the first serious snow was in October this year). Bring (or buy) clothing for all climates. Utility bills tend to be high due to the constant temperature fluctuations and extremes in heat and cold.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No international schools are available. The DOD schools on post (available to on-post residents affiliated with CGSC and SAMS) are excellent. Unfortunately, Leavenworth Public Schools tend to be of relatively low quality. Some families that do not live on post choose adjacent communities (such as Lansing, KS, or Weston, MO, in order to live in a better school district).
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Many sports and activities on post, some off post; most are affiliated with the schools. There are also kids' yoga classes at local gyms, and some local sights cater to kids (including the Carousel Museum in downtown Leavenworth). Leavenworth has a varety of kid-friendly festivals throughout the year. This is a very family-friendly place.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Approximately ten FSOs, and several hundred international military exchange officers.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
This is a very military-centric town. Military spouses have a variety of get-togethers and are welcoming to non-military spouses that make an effort to get to know them. Most CGSC and SAMS students spend most of their time studying outside of class, so social life is relatively limited.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Mediocre for single people as studying is the main way people spend their off time; there is almost no nightlife and it's a family-centric atmosphere. Kansas City offers more social life and things to do for both singles and couples, but the commute to Leavenworth is a bit lengthy for living that far afield, though visiting on weekends is great. Families tend to be very happy in Leavenworth, and most people have several young children.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
There isn't a lot of social life in Leavenworth, but is generally okay, though the area is relatively conservative.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Locals are very friendly and welcoming. Most people affiliated with CGSC and SAMS tend to stay within those circles, however.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really. Leavenworth is a diverse place due to the 20,000+ person military post in town.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring Kansas City and small historic towns has been the best part of living here. Weston and Atchison are easy half-day or day trips, and the area is quite scenic.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Picking apples or berries at local farms, the historic society house tours of Weston and Leavenworth, sampling BBQ in and around Kansas City, weekends away at nearby B&Bs.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Leavenworth is well known for antique shops, and the prices are low. Thrift shopping is widespread; many of the thrift shops support local non-profit organizations. Kansas City has all of the big box stores, and the Legends and Zona Rosa outdoor malls have chain stores, movie theaters, and restaurants (both of these malls are about 30 minutes from Leavenworth).
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Low cost of living, friendly people, slower pace of life (though the workload at CGSC and SAMS is significant, so most attendees find that they have very little free time).
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The weather can be pretty extreme, but the quaint nature of the lifestyle makes up for it. There are a lot of outdoor pursuits available (hiking in nearby state parks, bike path, and even skiing 20 minutes away).
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. I have enjoyed living in Leavenworth, and it has exceeded my expectations of quality of life in the rural Midwest.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations that the rural Midwest is boring.
4. But don't forget your:
Car, bike, hiking boots, clothing for all seasons.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Guidebooks for Kansas City. There are a lot of things to do in the area!
6. Do you have any other comments?
Leavenworth is a nice place to live!