As a child, the idea of sitting in a car for hours on end with my backpack full of snacks, reading material and my Discman playing Celine Dion on repeat was exciting to say the least. If you prompted me with the same notion now, I might not be as enthused. However, looking back on all of the many road trips my family took together whether it be the grueling 14 hour drive to North Dakota or the countless vacations to Colorado in the summers, I always created some terrific memories. There is something so special about hopping in a car and driving to a new city to discover what it has to offer. Sure, our family would always do the “touristy” thing and hit up all of the main attractions, but it was even more thrilling to uncover hidden gems like a hole in the wall burger joint, a cave tucked into the trees of a forest or an abandoned ghost town in the middle of nowhere.
Although it wasn’t a far away destination like Chicago or Minnesota (my family went there, too), traveling to my parents’ old stomping grounds of Manhattan, KS as a child was somehow just as exciting. My Mom and Dad met at Kansas State University in 1972 and the Little Apple has had a place in their hearts and mine, ever since. Growing up, I can recall countless occasions of my family of six loading into our mini van for road trips to the same place I now call home.
I grew up in a house full of Wildcats and ever since we were little all of us kids knew that we would end up at K-State for college, since going to KU was not even an option in our household. When we visited Manhattan I always envisioned myself as a “cool college student” walking around campus decked out in K-State gear and living in the dorms. Flash forward ten years later and I made that same dream a reality. I spent four years at K-State earning my degree and making fantastic friends and memories along the way. I am so thankful for such a great college career and often find myself yearning to go back–for the sheer fact that I sincerely enjoy learning and miss being around a sea of people my same age.
I now have a totally different perspective of this college town since graduating nearly two years ago. Instead of being in the hub of campus life and focusing on my academics (and fun) as a college student, I am now a “young professional” and have to be more creative about finding extra curricular activities. I used to question my parents’ desire to move to Manhattan after retirement, thinking there “wouldn’t be anything to do” for the older crowd aside from K-State sports. (Side note: my mom is obsessed with K-State football and basketball). However, now I realize that the city of Manhattan has so much to offer for families, retired couples and young people alike. The Little Apple is truly a wonderful place to live for all ages and offers many of its own “little hidden gems” for people to discover. Although I don’t see myself living here for that much longer, (let’s face it–I’m more of a city girl), I’ve enjoyed my time here the past six years and will always cherish the memories I have made while being a resident of Manhattan.
Love for the Little Apple
1. Unique Restaurants
When it comes to food I pretty much like anything and everything. However, three restaurants (in no particular order) are at the top of my list for places to hit up when eating out. The first is The Chef, which is a breakfast cafe in downtown Manhattan. It was around when my parents went to school here, but just recently reopened. The Chef has THE BEST biscuits and gravy I have ever had in my life and other delicious breakfast items like the McGyver–a menu item that lets you “build your own pancakes.” If you are looking for a great place to have brunch, I highly recommend the Chef–but be prepared to wait in line for awhile! Coco Bolos is a Mexican restaurant on the outside of Aggieville with “Spicy Music and Loud Food.” My favorite dishes are the Tijuana Trainwreck and the Baja Chicken and Shrimp Wrap. Added bonus: $5 carafes of sangria on Wednesdays! Coco Bolos is a fun place to go if you want Mexican food with a twist. Finally, my third favorite restaurant is So Long Saloon–home of the “Nancy” which is a beer mixed with pineapple juice. In my opinion, So Long Saloon has the best burgers and fries in Manhattan. I always take my friends from out of town to this joint whenever they come to visit for the first time. Another unique menu item they have is the “Black Bean Raspberry Chipotle Dip,” which is to die for. The best part of all three of these eateries is their unique and welcoming atmosphere which makes the dining experience that much more enjoyable.
Manhattan, Kansas might not be the first geographical region that comes to mind when you hear the word “castles,” but there are actually several of these majestic buildings right in our little town. Pictured above is Nichols Hall on K-State’s campus, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year. It was originally the home of K-State Athletics before Ahearn Fieldhouse was built, and had a gymnasium and two swimming pools in the basement. Subsequently, when collegiate athletics were moved to Ahearn, the music department moved into Nichols and stored their instruments and sheet music in the building. When a fire broke out in 1968, the entire building went up in flames destroying all of the instruments and sheet music inside. Coincidentally, the band director had the sheet music for “Wabash Cannonball” in his briefcase, making it the only song the band could perform. Now the Wabash Cannonball is perhaps one of the most recognized fight songs played at all K-State games. Nichols is near and dear to my heart because it houses the department of Communication Studies, which was my undergrad major. Sitting inside a castle for classes makes learning even more fun!
K-State’s main library on Campus, “Hale Library,” houses a magical room called the “Great Room” which is often referred to as the “Harry Potter Room” by students. Yes, it is indeed reminiscent of the dining hall in Hogwarts, which makes it a pleasant environment to study for finals.
Aside from buildings on K-State’s campus, Manhattan also has a residential home that was erected to look like a castle both on its exterior and interior. “Kimble Castle” was built in 1894 and is composed of thick limestone walls and even has several turrets. A rod iron fence encloses the yard around the castle and is tucked off the street of Poyntz Ave. On the inside of the house, the owners decorated it to look just like a real castle including a suit of armor with a sword, stained glass windows, and original oak floors and fire places. To see more photos and a virtual tour of this enchanting building, check out this website.
3. Other Attractions
Manhattan has one of the prettiest natural resources in the state of Kansas: The Konza Prairie, which is used for research for prairie ecosystems. Its vast rolling prairies, tall oak trees and views of limestone walls embedded into the walls of this hills makes this landmark truly breathtaking. It has several hiking trails and if you’re lucky, you might spot some cute wildlife creatures! It’s a great spot set off the beaten path to just go relax and take in the beautiful nature the Flint Hills have to offer.
St. Patrick’s Day has become quite the attraction in our little college town over the last decade. Because the actual holiday of St. Patrick’s day usually falls during the University’s Spring Break, the students have created their own holiday called “Fake Patty’s Day,” which takes place the weekend before the 17th. This event covers all of Aggieville and people participating in what is essentially an all day booze fest start as early as 7:00 in the morning. Area bars open their doors to a sea of people decked out in green and serve green beer throughout the entire day. It can get a little bit crazy, so steer clear of Aggieville if this isn’t your scene. If you would still enjoy celebrating this Irish holiday, the city of Manhattan puts on a family friendly event during the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day in Aggieville with a green eggs and ham breakfast, at 2 mile fun/run and 10k race and even a parade!!
Located in the nearby town of Wamego, KS the Oz Museum is a destination any Kansan or Wizard of Oz shouldn’t miss! I grew up as an avid Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland fan and the film is one of my all time favorites. It is perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved films to date and I am proud to be associated with it as a native Kansan : ) Unfortunately, this is where my tale gets a bit twisted… I shamefully admit that I have never actually been to the Oz Museum. I have been inside the main doors to hang up a flyer for a work event, but have not seen the artifacts and memorabilia inside the museum. I hear that the museum boasts an arsenal of original pieces from Frank L. Baum’s book turned movie, including a fabric swatch from Dorothy Gale’s dress worn by Judy Garland, an original set of lines and scenes and 1 of 4 remaining rubber flying monkeys used for filming. I would absolutely love to go to the Oz Museum and honestly do not have a reasonable excuse as to why I haven’t been before.
Although I didn’t capture nearly half of the unique attractions and traits about Manhattan such as the Wiener Dog Races, Johnny Kaw and the fact that K-State Alum and Modern Family star, loves his Alma Mater, the above reasons help solidify the fact that “Manhappiness” is a unique and wonderful place to live. If you ever find yourself in the Flint Hills region or are looking to take a little road trip, consider visiting Manhattan. Who knows, you could stumble upon your own hidden gem in the Little Apple!