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Posted on May 3, 2018 at 4:05 PM by Michael Goens
Mark Hamill has been discharged from the role of his lifetime as Luke Skywalker, long after Skywalker himself escaped his home planet of Tatooine -- which sounds like a miserable place with zero tourist prospects – in the original “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Given all of the performer’s travels, he recently mentioned an eagerness to visit Kansas above all other places.
Here in Manhattan, we actually have fantastic tourist prospects, and we’re all too eager to oblige the native Californian’s wishes and propose a Visit Manhattan journey. Of course, Hamill’s Star Wars role introduces a litany of connections to characters, places, scenes and movie lines. There is the whole May the Fourth Be With You connotation with Star Wars this first week of May. We’re right in the heart of the best visit times, Mr. Hamill, those being spring, summer and also the fall during football season.
How ’bout we lay out a few fun possibilities for a visit here in our weekly Visit Manhattan blog?
“Don’t get cocky, kid”
Here in Manhattan, we’re pretty humble folks. But it’s impossible to not be braggadocios about our food offerings and visitor attractions. Mark, you won’t find any Mos Eisley Cantina-type establishments around here, but venues, owners and patrons are characters all their own. Taco Lucha is one such place, maybe as close as you’ll find to Chalmun’s tavern in the original “Star Wars.” The inveterate Lucha Libre-saluting joint hums with activity and great grub.
You’ll find all kinds of creatures around Aggieville, too, Mark. Some may have appeared to stumble off “The Walking Dead” set but mostly you see energetic students eager for a break from studies. Many of them pick out Coco Bolos, Rock-A-Belly Deli and So Long Saloon as favorite stops in the ‘Ville, and those’ll give you a real taste of local fare in MHK. We have a long list of venue-specialized dining favorites; hint: try out Little Apple Brewing Co., out west. Storm Troopers strictly prohibited.
You’re Not On Tatooine, Any More
Some around Hollywood may act like Kansas is a galaxy far, far away. We’re just normal folks who love to welcome visitors and show off our down-home friendliness. People call our city Manhappiness for the friendly vibe that people wield as readily as a light saber.
You’ll want to check out Flint Hills Discovery Center for a Jedi-level lesson on our surrounding prairie grasslands, the last remaining 4 percent of what’s known as tallgrass across the entire North American landscape. The center’s movie intro is really something with great theatrics. Speaking of great theatrics, Oz Museum in nearby Wamego displays a magical representation of L. Frank Baum’s classic novel and the powerful motion picture. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to see amazing props direct from the movie set!
“The Force Will Be With You, Always”
Kansas outdoors’ scenes are a true force of nature. Around Manhattan, the Flint Hills are robust and green in May. And ya know, the only thing Tatooine has on Kansas sunsets is we don’t have the whole two-sun thing going. Other than that, Manhattan skyscapes are amazing at dusk. For one great sunset viewing option, head out to Tuttle Creek and get on the water or shoreline viewpoints work almost as well. Bonus points for skimming Skywalker’s Landspeeder across the dam.
Other great vistas include trails at Konza Prairie with amazing sights of Kansas grasslands and nearby Kansas River. These short hikes with rapid elevation changes offer the opposite effect of traveling light speed with Luke’s pal Han Solo. Majestically passive in a transcendent way. Nearby, Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park’s ziplines show off our amazing terrestrial landscapes with seven stunning zip runs.
“The Force Is Strong In My Family”
Your athletic exploits in the Star Wars films were evident, Mark, even if some were computer and electronically enhanced. No enhancements needed for the K-State Wildcats, and September through November means Wildcat Football around here. You see, we have our very own Obi Wan Kenobi at the controls of the Greatest Turnaround in College Football History. He’s part Yoda, part Obi Wan.
Mostly people just talk about Bill Snyder as The Wizard, he of 210 collegiate wins and College Football Hall of Fame membership. Anyway, gamedays in Manhattan are exciting on a similar level to Skywalker’s thrills piloting his pod through Beggar’s Canyon back home on Tatooine. Epic stuff. Opening day: Sept. 1.
“It’s Not Wise to Upset a Wookie”
Our own Wookie-sized character goes by the name of Johnny Kaw, and Johnny's been known to twist funnels off tornadoes and wring out the clouds for rainwater. Yep, our own twister terminator. Anyway, though imposing like Chewbacca, Johnny’s a pretty good friend to people around here.
You’ll want to see if you can make it to his birthday party on May 10 in City Park, right in the center of Manhattan. All kinds of fun and games, a fun run, birthday cake … heck, come dressed as a Star Wars character or as Johnny himself. Music group Plastique will provide entertainment. Pick up a Johnny Kaw bobblehead ($15) and become part of the Legendary Kansas Wheat Farmer’s growing fan club, too.
These are just a few things to check out when you book a trip to Manhattan, Mark. Locked Manhattan, Sunset Zoo and Widgets offer more adventures. Much better’n a Dagobah weekend spent with Yoda polishing those Jedi mind tricks. Nothing refreshes the mind like a trip to the Gateway to the Flint Hills!
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