Top Things to Do in Manhattan and the Flint Hills | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Manhattan and the Flint Hills

The purple passion of K-Staters (Kansas State University) infuses the college town of Manhattan, but visitors also come to the area to explore the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills. Check out our guide of what to do, where to eat and where to stay in Manhattan and the Flint Hills.


Aggieville In the heart of Manhattan, a vibrant student-packed neighborhood draws visitors with its bookstores, gift shops, restaurants and bars.

Chase County Courthouse Take a self-guided tour of the striking 1873 French Renaissance-style Cottonwood Falls building (the oldest Kansas courthouse still in use).

Chase County Courthouse

Flint Hills Discovery Center The Manhattan center provides a thorough orientation to the region. Winds gust, snow falls and smoke billows during the immersive film Tallgrass Prairie: Tides of Time. You’ll leave understanding the importance of preserving the grasses—root system to seedheads.

Flint Hills Discovery Center

Flint Hills Discovery Center. Photo: Blaine Moats.

Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge Trails meander through woods and past Neosho River. A boardwalk accesses the marsh in this Hartford preserve.

Flint Hills National Scenic Byway The 47-mile route traverses the plains between Council Grove (on the Santa Fe Trail) and Cassoday. Stop for views of rippling grasses and at historical sites.

Fort Riley Soldiers from General George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry rode out from this still-active military base outside Manhattan. Three museums depicts the life of those elite soldiers and display some of Frederick Remington’s works.

Grandma Hoerner’s Foods Pull off of I-70 in Alma to learn about canning at this sprawling organic foods plant that sells pie fillings, fruit spreads and local gifts.

Kaw Mission State Historic Site And Museum Members of the Kaw nation host powwows near the museum, which was a boarding school for Native American boys (mostly orphans) from 1851 to 1854. Artifacts of the Kansa (Kaw) tribe, Santa Fe Trail and town fill the two-story limestone building in Council Grove.

Konza Prairie Biological Station Nature trails with panoramic views crisscross the 8,600 acres of untouched prairie south of Manhattan.

Konza Prairie Biological Station

Konza Prairie Biological Station. Photo: Blaine Moats.

Liquid Art Winery and Estate Take in Flint Hills views with a flight of wine or craft cider at the Manhattan tasting room, event center and winery.

Madonna of the Trail In Council Grove, the statue is one of 25 landmarks on a self-guided tour examining the history of the Kaw tribe and Santa Fe Trail pioneers. Pick up a guide at the Council Grove/Morris County Chamber.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve The 2-mile-long Southwind Nature Trail leads from streambed to overlook for views of the 11,000 acres of preserved prairie, as well as an 1884 one-room schoolhouse. Ranger programs and tours leave from the visitors center
3 miles north of Strong City.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Photo: Blaine Moats.


Ad Astra Food and Drink The Strong City eatery stays true to local roots by using area meats and produce for fare like gourmet burgers, salads, pizza and steaks.

Bluestem Bistro Red-and-white checkerboard flooring sets a cheery tone at this Manhattan coffeehouse serving fresh scones, muffins and quiches.

Bourbon and Baker In Manhattan, a small-plate menu encourages sampling of Southern-inspired dishes like shrimp étouffée or sausage biscuit sliders. Wash it all down with one of more than 70 bourbon varieties.

The Chef Cafe When Manhattanites want to eat breakfast out, they head here for egg-stuffed burritos and caramel cream-cheese French toast.

Coco Bolos Wood Fired Grill and Cantina Although the interior of this Manhattan eatery is pure south of the border, food is from around the globe, including the Cuban grilled pork sandwich and Thai BBQ pork.

Harry’s On the ground floor of six-story Wareham Hotel—Manhattan’s first skyscraper—the restaurant serves hand-cut Angus beef steaks and fresh seafood.

Hays House Restaurant The 162-year-old Council Grove eatery dishes affordable comfort food. Don’t miss the skillet-fried chicken.

Little Apple Brewing Company This steer-and-beer spot in Manhattan serves hand-crafted brews and certified Angus beef.

Radina’s Coffeehouse and Bakehouse It takes a row of blackboards to list all the coffee drinks (made with fresh-roasted beans), teas and smoothies. Pastries fill a glass case, and the laid-back spot in Manhattan serves light lunches.

Radius Brewing Company As good as the brews are at this Emporia gem, they play second fiddle to the creative pizzas, like the Green Goat with kale, goat cheese and caramelized onions.

So Long Saloon Brews and burgers are a pretty typical combo; not so here. The Manhattan eatery gets creative with the burgers: Resist Temptation piles on fried egg, bacon and cheese.

Vista Drive-In Little has changed since it opened in 1964. The family-owned Manhattan joint still grills quarter-pound burgers to order, still serves the family’s secret-recipe chili and still squeezes the limes for the limeade.

Varsity Donuts Visit Manhattan’s sweetest spot during the day for maple bars and bike rentals, or stop by the late-night food truck for bacon bomb fritters.

Varsity Donuts

Varsity Donuts. Photo: Blaine Moats.


Bluemont Hotel The Manhattan hotel gives nods to adjacent Kansas State University with its royal purple color scheme and KSU memorabilia.

Bluemont Hotel

Bluemont Hotel. Photo: Doug Stremel.

Flying W Ranch Work like a cowboy on this 7,000-acre cattle ranch or chill like a guest on the porch. Horseback rides, wagon rides, wildflower walks and stargazing trips get visitors into the prairie around Cedar Point (73 miles southwest of Manhattan).

Historic Elgin Hotel The three-story limestone hotel in Marion features 12 suites, some with multiple bedrooms, and a three-course breakfast.

Grand Central Hotel and Grill The Cottonwood Falls restaurant is known for its hearty steak-and-potato dinners (the cheeseburger is listed as “lighter fare”). The hotel prides itself on ranch-theme rooms and preservation of 1884 style.

Prairiewood Retreat and Preserve Perfect for special events and overnights, the resort’s luxury guest houses sit on 400 acres of prairie near Manhattan.

For information: Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau

Day trip

Lindsborg Among the Western-flavored towns of this region, Swedish-settled Lindsborg (90 miles southwest of Manhattan) stands out as an anomaly. Visitors from Scandinavia say Lindsborg looks more Swedish than Sweden. You’ll find Old World-inspired shops, galleries, inns, bakeries and restaurants. Many shops carry Swedish imports; be sure to buy a colorful Dala horse as a souvenir.

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