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Mar 22

Set your sights on fascinating family fun in Manhattan

Posted on March 22, 2018 at 11:03 AM by Michael Goens

Dig in for the third day of spring, and dig up all the wonders of Manhappiness awaiting your next visit. Family fun surfaces all around. Oh, the fun you’ll have in MHK! For starters, Flint Hills Discovery Center has loads of children’s entertainment with each exhibit. Right now, it’s a tropical panorama of sights, sounds, colors and cacophony of rainforest plants and animals with Rainforest Adventure. Regular exhibits portray thousands of years of Flint Hills geologic transformation and are also phenomenally educational for children.

The introductory film is spellbinding with wind gusts, snow (yes, snow!) and howling coyotes! Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan is a must to mark off your list, and make plans to return later in summer when Be The Dinosaur R-O-O-O-A-A-R-S to life during a 115-day run, May through September. Careful to peak around that corner! Also check out Flint Hills Festival on May 19 with lots of activities in the Discovery Center and outdoors at Blue Earth Plaza.

High-flying adventure at Wildwood
As much of a must as Flint Hills Discovery Center presents, it’s springtime! and your kids want to be outside to play! Keep them temporarily entertained with knowledge of the world’s environs, then go nuts at Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park. High-flying thrills scream with every heart-racing zip through the trees.

With seven zipline runs that include two long tandem gaps stretching above far-ranging terrain, Wildwood makes a fantastic family adventure. Strapped into safety equipment with a course guide, you’ll fly through limestone canyons, through and over trees and above one-time creek beds. The zips give adventurers – novice and pros -- an adrenaline rush, and the 30-foot freefall finish leaves you gasping for breath from sheer excitement.

Catch your breath, ’cause there’s a whole lot more fun around here.

Widgets arcade gameWild-and-wooly Widgets
Slow the pace slightly after the exuberance of ziplining, and visit Widgets Family Fun Center, one mile across the Big Blue River bridge on KS-Highway 24. Everyone’s favorite – Laser Tag – awaits in a massive, two-story, wall-enclaved arena just awaiting the next majestic laser conquest. Widgets holds a special tournament March 28 on International Laser Tag Day (hurry, there’s an eight-team limit!).

Arcade games are abundant at Widgets as the prize-snatching Ticket Time machine is most popular, followed by SpongeBob Pineapple Arcade with adventures directly from Bikini Bottom. Widgets scores with multiple racing-related machines, combat and even the arcade classics for mom and dad to enjoy. Excitement pervades at Widgets Family Fun, with great prizes for video game champs.

New life, new fun
The South American Trail at the state’s top-rated zoo in Manhattan is home to newborn maned wolf pups who are brimming with excitement to explore their world. Last summer’s red panda cub birth and a new Wallaby are more additions to the zoo family, as Sunset Zoo makes a terrific place for exploration and a fun learning environment. Sunset Zoo has switched to longer, summer hours with 9:30 a.m. open. If you’re around Manhattan in 30 days, Earth Day is celebrated April 21 with Party for the Planet activities part of standard admission fees ($5; $3 kids). A zoo-wide, prize-enhanced scavenger hunt highlights the day’s events, with live music from Chappie on the Chautauqua stage. Plus, free admission to children of military families throughout April.

Get creeped out (in a good way) at KSU Insect Zoo
When it comes to zoos, you’ll be hard pressed to find one as unique as the Insect Zoo at Kansas State University. Housed in an old Dairy Barn on campus, guided tours can be arranged by appointment (one week’s notice, 785-532-5891). Walk-ins are welcome, too, where your family can check out centipedes, spiders and lots of crawly critters. Scorpions and tarantulas are two species you’ll find at zoo exhibits that include tropical rainforest and tropical cave-inspired habitats. Mom will appreciate The Gardens at KSU with a cottage garden and butterfly garden. Lots to see for the whole family!

Ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ho and a couple of tra-la-las
Follow the Yellow Brick Road and of course it leads to the Land of Oz. The Oz Museum in nearby Wamego is the world’s preeminent location for all things Oz … Dorothy and Toto, Scarecrow and that nasty ol’ Wicked Witch. The stories. The scenery. The memorabilia. Oh my! Find it all housed in the Oz Museum, 511 Lincoln Ave., which houses an amazing gift shop. You’ll laugh the day away in the merry old Land of Oz. Complete the trip with a stop at Toto’s Tacoz next door.

Manhattan071 Michael Snell2
Photo by Michael Snell

Speaking of food, back in Manhattan you’ll find excellent burgers at Vista Drive-In, and Varsity Donuts is a great place to check out with the kids. The state’s top breakfast spot is The Chef on 4th Street, not far from AJ’s NY Pizzeria. The kiddoes will love the cab parked right in the restaurant!


This list is only a sampling. Try Locked Manhattan for escape room fun, the K-State Challenge Course for high-level activity and teamwork, and Wonder Workshop for weekend events like Fun With Science, Color Me Crazy and Explore India (April 21). We’re already 80 days into 2018. Break out of the ordinary routine and experience what Manhappiness is all about!

Flint Hills Discovery Center   Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Center 
Widgets Family Fun  Sunset Zoo   K-State Insect Zoo   Oz Museum

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