The Midwest portion of the United States is filled with a wide range of destination types. We find that college towns usually offer some interesting things to see, since they have a consistent flow of visitors. Manhattan is home to Kansas State University, and less than a two hour drive from our home in Kansas City. On a sunny, warm winter day we headed there to see what we could uncover in one day. Before heading out, we had contacted Visit Manhattan to let them know we were going to be in the vicinity. We always suggest that you at least visit the local Visitors Bureau’s website to see what special events may be taking place during your stop.
We want to thank Visit Manhattan and the local businesses for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
Learning the Lay of the Land
Once we reached town, our first stop was at the Flint Hills Discovery Center. This state of the art facility has tons of interactive displays and exhibits to engage visitors. Here we learned about the landscape and why it is unique to the region. Visitors of all ages seemed to enjoy an opportunity to be an auctioneer or rodeo star. (Crystal has roping down to an art.) We learned about the early inhabitants, as well as why this grassland prairie is so different from other parts of the Great Plains. On the second floor we explored the temporary exhibit, where we were challenged to determine our path by answering questions about the rain forests. Be sure to sit through the introductory video downstairs. It is one of the best ones we have experienced in all of our travels. (You can read more about the Center here>)
With the idea of cramming as many sites into one day, we wanted to have a quick lunch break. A short drive to Aggieville offered plenty of choices. This area is the oldest shopping district in the state of Kansas, and is jam-packed with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. We popped in Bluestem Bistro, one of the over 30 dining spots in the area. This made-from-scratch eatery gave us the opportunity to eat a healthy lunch without a long wait. A couple of sandwiches with side salads, and we were ready to resume our exploring. Oh yeah, there might have also been a cake pop consumed during our visit.
Visiting a zoo during the winter is not a usual activity, especially in the heartland of Kansas. With unseasonably warm weather, and sunny conditions, we decided to take a chance. While not all of the animals were on exhibit, there were still plenty for us to get the overall vibe of this zoo. With a smaller footprint than many larger zoos, the Sunset Zoo makes for a pleasant visit. We saw plenty of activity, and could cover the grounds in less than two hours. It reminded us of some other smaller zoos that offer a short break from a busy day. Even a short period of viewing nature and creatures not associated with everyday life can brighten your day. (Read more about the zoo here>)
Our day had already been quite full, but we weren’t finished yet. A short drive from the zoo we found the Riley County Historical Museum. We enjoy visiting the local museums, which offer a chance to immerse ourselves in the history of the region. It allows us to better understand the hardships and struggles that the people who once roamed the area faced. After driving around town all day, we also began to recognize familiar street names as some of the early settler families. Be sure to ask staff any questions, as most are happy to share a wealth of stories they have learned over the years. (Read more about the Museum here>)
Plenty of Small Bites
With our sightseeing complete, it was time for a little strolling before dinner. The downtown retail district has lots of boutique style shops to explore, and that is what we did. In and out of shoe, clothing, and gift shops we journeyed. After about an hour, we realized our lunches had burned off and hunger was beginning to rear its ugly head. No problem, since our dinner destination was just a couple of blocks away. Bourbon & Baker is a small bites style eatery, which gave us a chance to sample a variety of their dishes without getting filled up on just one. The dishes were pleasing to the eye, as well as the palette. By the end of our meal, we decided that more dinner visits should contain this type of dining option. (Read more about this Restaurant here>)
With another successful day trip under our belt, it was time to head home. During our drive, we reflected on the places we visited and the people we met. One of the bonuses we get from our travel blog trips is the opportunity to make new friends wherever we roam. We find that most people we meet are more than happy to tell us tidbits about the places they call home, just as we love to show off Kansas City. This is a great way to find some of the hidden treasures that almost every city and town hold. It helps us “Visit Like A Local”. What are some of your tips for determining where to go when visiting a new city? We are always looking for advice.