Central Flint Hills Region
Discover what it feels like to travel on a train pulled by a steam engine, to dine on pan-fried succulent chicken and to enjoy live, professional theater right in the middle of Kansas when you visit Abilene, just 20 minutes west of Fort Riley. History, shopping, art, dining, sporting events and festivals thrive in this friendly town that raised a president.
Experience Abilene’s early days by watching gunfights and can-can dancers in Old Abilene Town before boarding the historic train. At the nearby Dickinson County Heritage Center, climb on a hand-carved wooden horse on a 1901 carousel, pretend you’re a telephone switchboard operator and pet the buffalo head. Ride a horse-drawn carriage, tour a historic mansion and stop at the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum to view early-day camera equipment. Tour the Seelye Mansion, which was built in 1905 for Dr. A.B. Seelye, who made his fortune in patent medicine with the A.B. Seelye Medical Co. The Patent Medicine Museum occupies a former Seelye laboratory at the rear of the mansion. Many of the mansion’s furnishings and glassware were purchased at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Next, play interactive games, rediscover the 1950s and learn about Ike at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home. The library, museum and boyhood home also feature a visitors center with a gift shop and introduction film and the Place of Meditation — the president’s final resting place. Active-duty personnel receive free admission. Visit www.eisenhower.archives.gov for more information.
Find the perfect handmade gift at quaint shops downtown, such as jewelry at Treasures by Tracine and Aksent Boutique, triple-scented candles at Cypress Bridge or a hand-crafted decorative item at Mayme’s Cottage. Or, get the essentials to make your own special gift by picking up hand-dyed cross-stitch fabric at Picture This Plus, specialty yarns at the Shivering Sheep or quilt fabric at Material Girls Quilt Shop. Love antiquing? Check out the local antique malls and shops.
Experience the arts by watching live, professional theater at the Great Plains Theatre or browsing the Burning Tree Art Gallery and Bow Studio and Gallery. The Arts Council also displays the work of local and regional artists and sponsors a film series, concerts, and photography exhibits and contests.
Taste fresh strawberry pie at Mr. K’s Farmhouse and read the signatures on the birthday paddles that date back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eat crispy fried chicken at the Brookville Hotel, gooey cinnamon rolls at the Hitching Post Restaurant and culinary offerings from Joe Snuffy’s Old Fashioned Grill, Three One One, Ike’s Place Bar & Grill and Amanda’s Bakery & Bistro. Then tour the Russell Stover Candies Factory Outlet where workers can be watched through windows as they prepare candy in the kitchen.
Pet the greyhounds at the free Greyhound Hall of Fame or watch the fastest dogs in the world race during the National Greyhound Association’s spring and fall meets. Cheer for the bull riders at the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo and see combines crash at the farmer’s version of the demolition derby during the Central Kansas Free Fair. Dive into the swimming pool and, if you’re brave, try the slide.
Come back time and time again for the Abilene Aviation Association Fly-In; Chisholm Trail, Old Fashioned Fourth of July and National Day of the Cowboy celebrations; the Children’s Art & Literacy Festival; and numerous other special events.
At day’s end, enjoy the peace and quiet on the front porch swing or in front of a cozy fireplace at a bed and breakfast. Or, make Abilene your home and enjoy the small-town atmosphere every day. Your children can safely play in the city parks, attend A-plus schools, and participate in scouting, 4-H and FFA. It’s a great place to live; after all, it’s the town that raised a president.
For more information about Abilene, visit www.abilenecityhall.com or call 785-263-2231.
Please consider this a personal invitation to visit Council Grove in the heart of the beautiful Kansas Flint Hills. It’s a short 37-mile drive through “the hills” to a community dearly loved by Gen. George Custer — who camped there with elements of the 7th Cavalry Regiment as they patrolled and secured the Santa Fe Trail in the mid-1860s. Gen. Custer enjoyed this beautiful area so much that he purchased 120 acres of pristine prairie land on which to build his retirement home. The events at the Little Big Horn a short time later, however, forever altered Custer’s plans — but the remains of a large elm tree and cozy park mark the area where Custer and the 7th CAV camped and the general planned to spend the remainder of his natural life.
In addition to Custer Elm, one can spend a leisurely day wandering among the 25 nationally recognized historic sites in this history-rich community. Eating is a “sport” enjoyed by many in Council Grove — the small community of less than 2,100 people boasts family restaurants and national chains. Anchored by the world-famous Hays House Restaurant and Tavern — the “oldest, continuously operated restaurant west of the Mississippi River” — and complemented by a variety of local eateries featuring fare from the 1800s to “cowboy,” contemporary and Mexican, one can find just about any kind of palate-tempting food in this early, well-preserved, pioneer community.
If water sports fit your fancy, you may enjoy your pick of water-borne activities at one of the two lakes in this community: the Council Grove Lake and the Council Grove City Lake, which are less than half a mile apart. If you’re thinking about retirement, consider selecting one of the beautiful waterfront homes that surround the city lake.
Check out the area’s festivals and events, including the iconic Washunga Days during the third full weekend of June that attracts members of the Kaw Indian Tribe, Council Grove’s original inhabitants, plus thousands more for a weekend of powwows and other fun activities.
If watching cattle graze on lush blue stem grass and enjoying birding, hiking, water activities and miles of uninterrupted vistas tempts you, consider Council Grove for your next day away from work. Just 17 miles south of Council Grove — along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway — sits the 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the only member of the National Park System devoted to the prairie ecosystem.
For more information, visit www.council.grove.com or call 620-767-5413.
Herington, Kansas: Where the rails meet the trails. Need some wide open spaces, friendly faces and away from the races? Then Herington is the place for you. Stop downtown for a soda or a cup of coffee at an original old-fashioned soda fountain. Experience the rich railroad history found throughout the town. It’s a play structure in the park, on a large painted mural downtown, there’s even a miniature train that people of all ages love.
The Railroad Museum is in a historic baggage car itself. The Union Pacific railroad is one of the largest employers, and it is a hub for switching trains and train crews. For years, folks sat at the main crossing watching trains go by, waiting for the tracks to clear; now there is an overpass that takes people swiftly up and over the train yard and connects the town.
If you love the tranquility of a country setting, there is a small park with a little lake, a walking path and recreation for the kids, including a skate park, swimming pool, basketball court and play structures. For those in need of a bigger space, there is picnicking, boating, fishing, swimming and camping at Lake Herington and the Herington Reservoir. The lake and reservoir are only a mile west of Herrington in a beautiful area.
Spend some time roaming around looking at hand-painted murals, including one inside the post office, historical monuments and the many historical churches. Grab a book at the Carnegie Public Library and wander down to Liggett Memorial Park, lounge in the gazebo and enjoy the gardens. When’s the last time you took in a 4-H fair? One of summertime’s highlights is fair time. The surrounding communities come to be a part of the parade, rodeo, demolition derby, merchant and 4-H booths, animal displays, food stands and carnival.
Baseball, softball and soccer are popular throughout the season and the recreation center brings the teams together. Sports enthusiasts enjoy a tennis court, private golf course, bowling, hunting, fishing and more.
The community is well-established with all the necessary medical facilities, including a hospital, emergency services, locally owned pharmacies, retirement homes and nursing home care. An elementary school, USD 487, and track facility were constructed in 2011. USD 487, home of the Railers, provides quality education for future leaders. A winner of the national Blue Ribbon award, the excellent educators create excitement for the students.
For more information, visit www.cityofherington.com.
Junction City in Geary County is proud to be known as Fort Riley’s hometown. The area strives to make service members’ stay at Fort Riley enjoyable and successful. From the beautiful buildings to the unique personalities, from its interstate central location to the expanse of the Flint Hills, from its vast diversity to the presence of the many heroes that have walked the streets, it is a community set apart.
Milford Lake, known as the fishing capital of Kansas, is adjacent to Fort Riley and Junction City. Besides offering outstanding fishing opportunities, the lake features plenty of camping sites, off-road recreational areas, trails, sandy swimming beaches, large group picnic areas, a “Jet Ski” beach and plenty of room to boat. Be sure to visit the Milford Nature Center, where kids can explore with hands-on activities. The center has a variety of live animals, displays and educational programming.
Geary County has the largest Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks public hunting grounds in the state of Kansas and has been listed as one of the top five hunting locations for whitetail deer in the United States. Junction City has also been named by Outdoor Life as one of the best places to live in the United States for anglers and hunters.
Great golf awaits you in Geary County as well. Rolling Meadows Golf Course is rated by Golf Digest as one of the top courses to play in Kansas. If you need to cool off during the hot summer months, check out the municipal swimming pool and spray park, which boasts an Olympic-size pool, water slides and cannons, jumping jets, crown geysers and a spraying palm tree. After a day at the pool, visit the historic Rathert Stadium, home to the Junction City Brigade, Junction City Blue Jays and Junction City American Legion Flames baseball teams. Or check out Spin City, a state-of-the-art roller skating rink with a party room, video arcade, miniature golf course, 3-on-3 basketball court and more. If skateboarding is more your style, hone your skills at Bramlage Park. Don’t miss the free concerts at Heritage Park. Celebrate the Fourth of July at Sundown Salute, the largest free multiday Independence Day celebration in the state of Kansas. The celebration features big-name entertainment, children’s shows, carnivals, a spectacular parade and fireworks. Finish your day by watching a beautiful Kansas sunset at Homer’s Pond. Whether you love the scenery of the Flint Hills or recreation at Milford Lake, you’ll have great fun when you discover the outdoors of Geary County.
Junction City also boasts historical points of interest. Visit the Geary County Historical Society & Museum and learn more about the area’s history, then take a walking tour in historic downtown Junction City. The native limestone buildings and facades are true workmanship from the turn of the century. Just west of Junction City is the Spring Valley Heritage Site, which features a restored 19th-century, one-room schoolhouse; a 1930s-era water pump, a pony barn; and Wetzel’s Log Cabin Church (built in 1857). Or take in a show at the C.L. Hoover Opera House. Originally built in 1898, the opera house is a modern performing arts center. The opera house’s stage has seen many local, regional and national performing artists. If you would rather be on the stage, consider joining the Junction City Little Theater in one of their many performances at the opera house. The opera house also houses the Junction City Arts Council and art displays.
Other points of interest include the Kansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Buffalo Soldier Monument, Dorothy Bramlage Library and River Walk Trail. For a complete listing of attractions and relocation information, call the Geary County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-528-2489 or visit www.junctioncity.org.
Known as the Little Apple, Manhattan is a growing community. Housing, job opportunities, health care and schools continue to expand to meet the needs of the area. Inspired by the beauty of the Flint Hills, it is a community enriched by the diversity of its people and heritage. The community is proud to be neighbors with Fort Riley and excited your family will be calling the region home. The influence of Fort Riley on Manhattan is evident in the many displays of support and patriotism you see in passing, with special events and activities sponsored for the military year-round. Make plans to attend Military Family Night at the Kaw Valley Rodeo in July, special military appreciation events at Kansas State University for the sports enthusiast, and annual events such as the Veterans Day Parade highlighting the service of local veterans and a partnership with Fort Riley.
If you’re interested in the arts, check out AHA! Manhattan at www.ahamanhattan.com. The city’s art coalition provides information on everything to do with the arts. Next, visit the Manhattan Arts Center (www.manhattanarts.org). The center showcases live theater, music, galleries, children’s activities and classes for all ages. In the summertime, performance art in Manhattan moves to the Larry Norwell Band Shell in City Park for the free Arts in the Park concert series. If you’re a country music fan, you’ll want to attend County Stampede, a three-day camping and country music festival at Tuttle Creek State Park. Other musical performances and special events can be enjoyed at Kansas State University’s McCain Auditorium (www.k-state.edu/mccain)
Outdoor recreation opportunities are vast in Manhattan. The Flint Hills are one of America’s most unique landscapes and are home to the largest remaining stand of the American Tallgrass Prairie (www.travelks.com/flint-hills). The Konza Prairie Biological Station (www.kpbs.konza.k-state.edu) is owned by the Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. The prairie includes several miles of the best hiking trails in Kansas, which are open to the public. A scenic overlook 2 miles south on State Highway K177 offer visitors a majestic view of the prairie. The 1,200-acre Tuttle Creek State Park offers an 18-hole disc golf course, camping, fishing, horse shoe pits, nature trails, picnic areas, shooting and archery ranges, a swimming beach, volleyball courts and more. Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area invites visitors to hike trails and ford the natural flat rock crossing used by the pioneers. More wildlife can be found at the Sunset Zoo (www.sunsetzoo.com). The 26-acre zoo is home to more than 200 animals and offers an up-close view of tigers, snow leopards, peacocks, primates and more.
If you’re looking for adventure, check out Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park at www.wildwoodoutdooradventurepark.com. The outdoor zip line facility is a great way to see the Flint Hills from above. If you want to learn more about the Flint Hills while indoors, visit Flint Hills Discovery Center (www.flinthillsdiscovery.org ). The center has exhibits, a theater, educational programs and more to showcase the Flint Hills and all they have to offer. Other recreational opportunities can be found by visiting the Manhattan Department of Parks and Recreation at www.mhkprd.com.
If golf is your game, Manhattan has four courses. Colbert Hills Golf Course (www.colberthills.com) was rated the No. 1 public course in the state of Kansas by Golf Digest and is home to the Kansas State University men’s and women’s golf teams. Wildcat Creek Golf & Fitness (www.wildcatcreekfun.com) features a fitness center, batting cages, foot golf, mini-golf, a driving range and a nine-hole golf course. Other courses can be found at Stagg Hill Golf Club (www.stagghillgolfclub.com) and the Manhattan Country Club (www.themanhattancountryclub.com).
If you’d like to know more about the area’s history, visit the Riley County Historical Museum. The museum offers historic exhibits from pioneer days to the present. Visit www.rileycountyks.gov/328/Historical-Museum for more information on the museum and local historical sites.
There is much to discover in and around Manhattan. For more information, stop by and visit 501 Poyntz Ave. in downtown Manhattan, call 785-776-8829 or visit www.manhattancvb.org.
“Small Town, Big Experience” — friends in Wamego believe you will agree when you visit. Wamego is steeped in rich history, featuring numerous attractions for you to enjoy. Historical points of interest include the Schonoff Dutch Mill in City Park; Wamego History Museum and Prairie Town Village; the historic Columbian Theatre, Museum & Art Center; Walter P. Chrysler’s birthplace; Oregon Trail wagon ruts; and Mount Mitchell and Beecher Bible and Rifle Church, which are linked to the Bleeding Kansas history.
Downtown Wamego is an enjoyable stroll for all, offering unique dining and specialty retail shops along Lincoln Avenue. Wamego has many opportunities to enjoy activities for all ages, both indoors and outdoors, throughout the year. Wamego’s City Park spans 12 acres with a large playground area, a miniature train for children, a fishing pond, a pool, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and many picnic tables and shade trees to choose from with a brown bag meal or takeout from a downtown restaurant. Other activities in Wamego include bowling, disc golf, theater productions, biking and hiking, art galleries, tennis, baseball and soccer fields, scenic and wildlife photography, horseback riding, canoeing, the bison experience or golf at one of the top rated 18-hole golf courses in the state.
Wamego is home to one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas Customs, the OZ Museum. Celebrating “The Wizard of Oz,” the museum is home to one of the largest privately owned collections of Oz memorabilia. The OZ Museum celebrates the movie and the history of the story that has touched millions of lives through the simple message: “There’s no place like home.” For more information, visit www.ozmuseum.com or call 866-458-8686.
“Wine Country Kansas” is centered in and around Wamego. Visit Oz Winery and sample award-winning wines or see how wine is made at Wamego’s Highland Community College. The college has 1.5 acres of vines in two plots: one on their campus and one north of town on Oregon Trail Road.
Home to one of the largest and longest running Fourth of July celebrations, Wamego is a community that likes to have fun. Independence Day is a weeklong celebration in Wamego with a parade, carnival, and antique tractor and car shows. The celebration literally explodes on the night of July 4 with one of the state’s largest fireworks displays. During the third weekend in April, Wamego hosts more than 150 art and craft vendors in the City Park for the annual Tulip Festival celebrations. Thousands of tulips bloom in the most vibrant colors in flowerbeds, gardens and downtown planters in Wamego. Lincoln Avenue (Main Street) closes the first weekend in October for OZtoberFest, an annual event featuring all things Oz, including a costume contest, classic car show, Munchkinland, Tin Man’s Garage, Uncle Henry’s Farmers Market, a beer and wine garden, entertainment, food, children’s activities and more. Wamego celebrates Christmas with a grand array of lights and festivities. Activities include a lighted Christmas parade, visits with Santa and a light ceremony at the City Park, which features thousands of beautiful lights and decorations.
For more information on Wamego, visit www.visitwamego.com or call 785-456-7849.
Other Central Flint Hills Regional Communitites
Alma Creamery: The dairy store at 509 E. Third St. sells Alma cheeses, milk and other Kansas specialty food products.
Kansas Auto Racing Museum: The 21-acre museum complex is at the beginning of the Joe Engle Chapman Historic Trail Walk. The 3.6-mile trail walk combines nature and scenic sites and includes stops at two historic sites on the National Registry. Visit www.kansasautoracingmuseum.org.
Utility Park and Zoo: The small zoo in Utility Park features a black leopard, a monkey, a black bear, emus and more. The free zoo is undergoing renovations that aim to triple its size and improve animal habitats. The park also has a fishing pond, playground, fountain, picnic area and walking trails. Visit www.claycenter.info/cczoo.html.
Historical Society Museum: The Onaga museum complex exhibits local historical items in its two main museum buildings and on its grounds you will see a Union Pacific caboose, furnished log cabin and one-room schoolhouse. Visit www.cityofonaga.com/onaga-historical-museum.
Historical Walking Tour: Follow the walking tour graphic panels through Seneca’s Main Street district and learn about 13 historical sites with stories of the Pony Express Riders, the beginnings of the newspaper and telephone company, the award-winning library, the original Nemaha County Jail and more. Grab a guide from the kiosk at Fourth and Main streets or download the walking tour’s podcast. Visit www.seneca-kansas.com/community/points-of-interest.
Indian Pay Station and Museum: The Indian Pay Station, the oldest building in Pottawatomie County, was built in 1857 by the all business between the Pottawatomie and the government took place. Visit www.smks.info/museum.html.
Kansas Landscape Arboretum: Near Wakefield, the arboretum has more than 1,000 species of native and exotic woody plants adapted to the Kansas environment. Much of the area is left in native vegetation, and foot trails provide easy access to both prairie and woodland habitats. Tours can be scheduled. Call 785-461-5760 for more information.
Wakefield Museum: The museum features more than 6,000 feet of displays showcasing local artifacts, newspapers, obituaries and family histories. Visit www.wakefieldmuseum.com.
Historic Hand-dug Well: The well was constructed in 1914 by men using only picks and shovels. The old city water well is reported to be the second-largest hand-dug well in the world. Visit www.westmorelandkshistory.org.
Lazy Heart D Ranch: The ranch offers hands-on bison artifacts such as bones, skulls, wool and robes. A wagon tour is available to see and feed the bison. Visit www.lazyheartdranch.weebly.com.
The Rock Creek Valley Historical Society Museum: The free museum houses many historical items from the early settlement of this area along with period furnishing in the main building, old stone church, log cabin, annex and Wiziarde Barn that make up the museum complex. The old stone church was built by the German Evangelical Association in 1871 and features church items from the early days, antiques, memorabilia from local sites and a replica of an early 1900s-era kitchen. Visit www.westmorelandkshistory.org.
In 2008, the 1st Infantry Division and Kansas State University established a formal institutional partnership. The military-to-university community partnership advances the goals of both Fort Riley and the university, enhancing the lives of those in the military and campus communities. The university is home to the state’s largest military population in higher education and is continually recognized for its military inclusiveness. The university’s Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families addresses the health and resiliency of military personnel, veterans and their families after deployment. As such, many faculty members have research that’s intimately connected with the military lifestyle. Institute programs range from research on the effects of trauma and deployment on military members and their families to speech and language services for traumatic brain injury and other disorders. For more information, visit www.militaryfamilies.k-state.edu.
Other community ties include the Military Affairs Committee (www.manhattan.org/125/Military-Relations), Flint Hills Regional Council (www.flinthillsregion.org) and Flint Hills Veterans Coalition (www.flinthillsveterans.org).
Additionally, the Junction City - Geary County Military Affairs Council provides services and resources. Learn more at www.junctioncitychamber.org/about-mac.