Disclosure: Kansas I-70 Association sponsored this post. However, all opinions and photographs are my own.
The more time I spend in Manhattan, the more I love it. The college town, home to Kansas State University, has what seems to be an endless list of things to do ranging from outdoor recreation to indoor dining.
There is a reason they refer to the town as “Manhappening,” a sensibility you come to understand quickly. I was thankful to be asked to return to town to explore places on my travel bucket list. But first, I needed to check into the newest hotel in the central business district, Aggieville.
Courtyard by Marriott (715 N. 12th St.) opened during the summer of 2021 directly across from KSU’s campus. Nestled in the heart of Aggieville, it is the ideal place to stay if you’re hoping to walk to nearby shopping or dining. If you’re a Wildcat sports fan, it’s top-notch for accommodations when celebrating game day.
One of the perks of staying at the hotel is valet parking, which is the only way to park your car when at the hotel. It’s convenient, the valet staff works around the clock, and always greets you with a smile. They’ll even advise you where to dine out in Aggieville if you ask. Don’t forget to tip the staff.
The rooms are well designed with plenty of room to enjoy one’s stay. My room included a couch (in KSU’s purple, of course!), a plush king bed, and in-room amenities, including a refrigerator. With a view of campus, I could envision KSU families staying here when attending events on campus.
Other amenities you can expect while at Courtyard by Marriott include a fitness center open 24/7, a Starbucks coffee bar featuring small plate breakfast items, and an exquisite lounge with a gas fireplace. Order a cocktail or locally made craft beer at the bar and head to the outdoor patio for a pre-dinner drink.
Restaurants within a short walking distance of the hotel in “The Ville” that I’ve tried and wholeheartedly recommend include So Long Saloon, Taco Lucha, and Rock-a-Billy Bar & Deli.
FLIGHT CREW COFFEE
Wheels up! Flight Crew Coffee (423 Poyntz Ave.), in historic Manhattan, is ready to serve you. Opened this fall, the cafe is bustling with business. And for a good reason. The owner, Heather, has thought of every detail to ensure your “in-flight service” is seamless.
A bit of nostalgia and a bit of class. the cafe’s interior transports you to aviation heaven. Navy blue walls, black and white prints of airplanes, and a cozy fireplace invite you to nestle up with a coffee in hand. Jazz music plays in the background.
I enjoyed a steaming chai tea with a Quiche Lorraine for breakfast. As they say, “Our Coffee Gives You Wings,” and after my first visit to Flight Crew Coffee, my mood is flying high. Add it to your morning itinerary before stepping out to do boutique shopping. View the cafe’s hours here.
Fueled by caffeine, I was ready to shop until my heart’s content in historic downtown Manhattan. Native limestone buildings and ornate brick buildings made a stroll along Poyntz Avenue a delight. You will discover shops carrying home furnishings, clothing, fine art, and more.
ROOTED FAIR TRADE
Wouldn’t you rather shop locally and buy handcrafted gifts from hardworking people? Rooted Fair Trade (327 Poyntz Ave.) sells products made by creative individuals from all over the world. Fiber art, jewelry, apparel, and artwork fill the space. Each item comes with the story of the person who made it. Fair-trade products focus on sustainability, fairness, and support workers.
I couldn’t leave without buying a gorgeous bracelet made with recycled magazine paper by women in Haiti. The company’s owner created the company after visiting the country and seeing poverty firsthand. Each purchase of Papillon jewelry supports at-risk mothers and fathers with full-time jobs in Haiti. How could I not buy it? View the store’s hours here.
I walked two doors down to discover a must-visit boutique. With clothes for every season and every woman, Bling Glamour (31 Poyntz Ave.) is your one-stop shop for on-trend apparel. When I learned that it was a women-owned business, I was ready to pull out my credit card.
I was shocked at the reasonable prices. The racks, table, and shoe wall were stocked full of items I wanted to take home. You’ll appreciate the way the store is set up making selecting new apparel favorites easy. Start at the front of the store to peruse racks of new arrivals. But there’s more!
Make your way to the back to find everyday essentials and sale clothing. I can easily see why this store is popular with locals. It carries the latest looks perfect for women of every size and style. If you can’t make it to the store, you can shop online and ship it to you here. The staff is friendly and happy to help.
Another new store on the downtown scene is Furnish (314 Poyntz Ave.), a home furnishings store that also offers in-store furniture consultation. One tour of the store and I was ready to hire their stylist to come to my home to redesign its interior.
Shoppers on the hunt for home decor reminiscent of Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn will feel right at home at Furnish. The showroom is filled with neutral hues with black accents. Homeowners in search of lighting, chairs, and kitchenware are in luck.
The burning candle’s scent drew me to the shelf you see below. I was happy to see a candle that I’ve purchased many times in Wichita from Nectar Republic. Nearby, accessories ranging from picture frames to books completed the vignette.
You’ll find it difficult to walk out of Furnish without a few gifts for yourself and new design ideas for your home. Plan your visit by viewing the store’s hours here.
SNW GALLERY & CUSTOM FRAMES
Without a doubt, one of the coolest stores in downtown Manhattan, SNW Gallery & Custom Frames (328 Pontyz Ave) is worth checking out. The gallery is filled with breathtaking artwork by Kansas and regional artists, often including new artists’ work.
The creaky floors and the perfectly illuminated framed artwork draw you in. Every wall of every room is adorned with artwork for sale, including pottery. While some pieces deservedly command a higher price, I found many affordable prices for the casual shopper discovering new artwork.
As a native Kansan who spends countless hours driving across the state, I appreciate the works that featured the Kansas prairie. Landscapes by Kim Casebeer and Cristine Sundquist on display showed cloud-filled skies and the sun’s rays upon the flint hills. You’ll be impressed by the breadth and quality of the collections.
Since 1981, SNW Gallery has curated and displayed paintings, prints, drawings, mixed media, and more. Intricately designed jewelry is nestled near the register. Whether shopping for yourself or someone else, you’re bound to walk away from SNW Gallery with a special piece.
If you can’t make it to the shop, you can preview the artwork and purchase it online here. Peruse their Facebook events page to learn about upcoming events, including artists’ talks.
FOOD & DRINK
TALLGRASS TAP HOUSE
On the same side of the street as the gallery, I spotted Tallgrass Tap House (320 Poyntz Ave.). I missed my chance to taste their craft beers during my last visit to Manhattan, so I ducked inside and sat at the bar. The brewpub is massive in size and draws a lunchtime crowd.
I like to taste a flight of beers during a first-time visit to a brewery. Tallgrass Tap House rotates the lineup of beers to accompany their flagship favorites. My flight came with four 5oz pours. I’d recommend trying a variety of styles but make sure to ask about their seasonals.
I appreciated Skeleton Crew, and loved the sample of Tropical Golden Ale. Visit during Happy Hour Monday-Friday from 3pm-6pm for discounts and enjoy $3 Tap House exclusives all day on Sundays. Sit on the rooftop deck during warm weather days for drinks with friends.
MANHATTAN BREWERY CO.
Stopping into Manhattan Brewery Co. (406 Poyntz Ave.) always promises a good time and a lot of beer drinking. There is just something about the friendly staff and the beers, which go down far too easily, that keeps me coming back.
Before my first beer was even finished, I was asked by Jake, the brewery’s sales and marketing guru, if I wanted to take a tour of the facility. My beer education began in the brewing area and ended in the basement cooler. I tasted the grain. I perused the rows of kegs. I peered into the tanks. What did I learn? As much as the owners joke around, they take brewing and selling craft beer seriously—the quality shows.
Keep your eyes peeled during a visit to the brewery for tiny plastic dinosaurs. The mural on the back wall makes for a nice selfie backdrop. (Female Readers: During your self-guided tour of the brewing, check out the bathroom. I’m going to leave it at that.)
As I sat at the bar and finished a Bodacious Blackberry Milkshake IPA, I learned that one of the top-selling drinks behind the bar wasn’t even a beer. It’s their house-made sangria.
For the owners of Manhattan Brewing Co., running a business is more than about slinging suds. Customer service is a priority.
Soon, Jake and I were joined at the bar. Brewers Garrett and Adam ponied grabbed a seat. Before I knew it, the four of us were walking a few doors down to Bourbon & Baker (313 Poyntz Ave), a restaurant and bar revered for its bourbon selection and gourmet small plates menu. It was an unforgettable experience.
I wholeheartedly recommend checking out both places when you visit Manhattan. View the brewery’s hours and the beers on tap here.
I was overdue for lunch and knew just where I wanted to check out. Authentic tacos at El Patron (429 Poyntz Ave.) called me. It is known for serving street tacos using fresh ingredients and was ready to order.
With festive Mexican music playing in the background, I dove into soft shell tacos filled with beef and BACON. My taste buds went into overdrive. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but hold on. You haven’t lived if you haven’t tasted bacon in a street taco.
The lunch crowd clearly loved El Patron as much as I did. They drew a good size crowd made up of downtown workers and tourists. Looking around the restaurant at the plates on the tables, people were devouring fajitas, burritos, and seafood entrees. El Patron is a solid choice for lunch or dinner. View their hours to plan your visit.
TOP OF THE WORLD
An employee at the art gallery insisted that I needed to drive to the Top of the World. With a name like that, how could I not? I drove to the town’s overlook. Manhattan is considered the Gateway to the Flint Hills.
Under cloud-filled skies, I walked to the top of the gravel trail to peek out over the town. If you have time, make the easy drive only minutes west of Manhattan off of Kansas Highway 113. (Ask Siri or Google Maps to navigate it.) You get a 360-degree view of the college town. Dog walkers love it. Bike trails welcome cyclists. It’s a beautiful setting.
A visit to Manhattan isn’t complete without driving to the Johnny Kaw statue for a photo opp. Located at City Park, the fictional character towers over visitors. He’s a legendary Kansas settler. A man who planted wheat invented sunflowers, and grew potatoes. Johnny controlled the weather and never feared tornados or clouds. Sure, he did. To read the complete story of the “Spirit of Progress,” Johnny Kaw, click here.
Visit the statue to stand in awe and read about the KSU professor, Dr. George Filinger, who invented the fictional character to honor the town’s 100th anniversary of its founding. The park includes a swimming pool, splash pad, and playground equipment perfect for a family visit.
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS
The gorgeous colors of the trees during fall dotted the Kansas State University campus, and I could hear the marching band rehearsing. I mazed my way through the campus’ limestone historic buildings, around sculptures, and statues, and I found the source of the sound.
The football field was covered with marching band members moving in formation and playing an energizing song. The band’s director shouted from a megaphone, “Remember guys, we could make it to the bowl game. Again!”
No matter what alma mater you hail from, you need to tour the beautiful KSU campus.
DINNER + DESSERT
KITE’S AGGIEVILLE DRAFT HOUSE
Most KSU college students and out-of-town visitors know the bar Kite’s in Aggieville. However, the venue recently upgraded a neighboring space as Kite’s Aggieville Draft House (617 N. 12th St.). Essentially an upscale sports bar, the restaurant offers refined menu fare like Gulf Coast Smoked Redfish Dip, Low Country Shrimp & Grits, and Southern Fried Hot Chicken Sandwich.
With the game on TV, I wanted chicken wings. They arrived piping hot. The sauce had medium heat, and the blue cheese dressing cooled it off. While it wasn’t an entree, it hit the spot. Kite’s Aggieville is a good place to visit for what I thought was the coldest beer in town. You’ll appreciate the cloth napkins and the elevated menu. View the location and hours here.
I don’t think I’ll ever make it out of Manhattan without ducking into Varsity Donuts (704 N. Manhattan). Their motto, “Donuts Make People Happy,” is true whether it’s after the sun rises over The Ville or during a late-night dash to the bakery.
But this visit was extra special. Surprisingly, most of the donuts were discounted because it was only minutes before closing – score! I walked back to my hotel with two donuts, well, one because I began to devour an iced cake donut before making it to my room. Learn about their late-night back alley food truck here.
OTHER PLACES WORTHY OF A VISIT
THE DUSTY BOOKSHELF
Grab a used book and a barista-brewed coffee and sit to enjoy a new read at The Dusty Bookshelf (700 N. Manhattan). The place has a nearly perfect score out of over 200 Google reviews for a reason. As they say, “books may well be the only true magic.”
MIDWEST DREAM CAR COLLECTION
Imagine dozens of spotless classic cars and hot rods under one roof. Read about what to expect during a self-guided Midwest Dream Car Collection tour in a previous post I wrote here.
Oh, MANhattan! You’ve done it again. With more than enough to do in an overnight stay, I recommend planning for a well-spent trip to the college town. You’ll walk away with fond memories and plans to return. I hope to stop by Pool House, Sunset Zoo, and Goolsby’s the next time I’m in town.