Fort Riley, Kansas: My First Impressions of the Community

Fort Riley Community First Impressions 

PCS to Fort Riley, check. We signed the lease. And now we are the newest residents of Manhattan, Kansas, a city in the Flint Hills of Kansas. My first impressions of Manhattan and the Fort Riley community aren’t as bad as I thought. But living in an empty house is no fun, so we’ve been out and about– a lot. Because I am on a mission to acclimate to life in the midwest. In other words– find my way around, find a job, and find a few interesting things to see and do. Because Dorothy, you are in Kansas now.

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Fort Riley Community First Impressions 

I am not a homebody, I like getting out and do things. I also admit I get bored– easily. But I’ll have to be open-minded to some new kinds of experiences. We will have to be a little more creative to find things to do. And yet I am optimistic– I know we can and will have fun. Here’s a host of totally related, but yet unrelated first impressions about the move so far.


PCS to Fort Riley

This post is huge. And depending on where you are, it takes about 15 minutes to just get off-post. The Exchange and Commissary are next to one another on Trooper Avenue. Both are decent sizes, and I love the fact that the Commissary is open 7 days a week.

The staff at ACS is very helpful. I borrowed quite a few items from the lending closet because transportation can’t deliver our household goods for almost three weeks. They get a fail. Not because its the busy season, but because they failed to staff properly for the said busy season.

Guess what? Kids can attend Barton Community College free of charge on-post. They provide everything including books. That’s a great benefit and a way to stretch your September 11th, GI Bill.

The Candlewood Inn on Fort Riley

The Candlewood Inn on the post is very nice. We spent a little over a week at this hotel while we looked for a new home in Manhattan. They have free WIFI, two flat-screen TVs, free breakfast that included non-pork meat options, a nice gym with new cardio equipment and weights, free laundry, a pool, and all the kitchen accessories to cook in your room including a microwave, full-size fridge, oven, and garbage disposal. Dual heating/ cooling in the bedroom and living room.

Additionally, they were able to accommodate when we had to extend for a couple of days. The staff is very helpful. The stay was just what we needed on this move. I highly recommend the hotel.

Ogden and Junction City

We’ve been here for almost two weeks and I’ve learned a lot about the area. The Fort Riley community is made up of the town of Ogden and Manhattan to the west and Junction City to the east.

Ogden is the closest town on the west side of Fort Riley. It’s also the smallest town known to be a huge speed trap. slow down, the speed limit off the highway is 30mph. There are a few homes, but they are older and less desirable than the surrounding communities.

Junction City is to the east of Fort Riley. Although we didn’t look at any homes there, some people choose it because of its proximity and services. Not as large as Manhattan, there is a restaurant, grocery stores, and serves. Junction City also has a daily paper and hotels.

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City of Manhattan

Just driving around, it didn’t take long. Manhattan was the nicest place to live in the Fort Riley Community. West Manhattan is closer to the post, that’s where we’ve rented a house for the next two years. East Manhattan is cheaper. You will get way more house and the taxes are cheaper.

My first impressions of Manhattan weren’t great, but I like my neighborhood. I have nice neighbors and access to walking trails. And it’s growing on me.

There are a lot of bike riders here. Manhattan has been a bronze-level bicycle-friendly community since 2012. The city is one of only four bike-friendly communities in the state of Kansas. I love driving by the city park and watching the kids play in the water features.

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The Elephant NOT in the Room

What I don’t see are a lot of black folks. That’s okay of course, just an observation. I have met the nicest people. However, diversity (black, brown, yellow, or green) is lacking in the heartland. I am also a little unnerved by all the “God’s Country” signs. On the face, it’s an innocent sentiment. But given the current political climate in America, it makes me wary.

One of my neighbors is black. They’ve lived here for 2 years. She confided that we, the Peters family, are the only other Black family in the neighborhood.

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Kansas Attractions

I’m looking forward to visiting all the kitchy Kansas attractions like the Little House on the Prairie house. We spent the afternoon in the Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego. People are very nice, but some are a little sensitive about the whole Wizard of Oz thing. Get over it. Kansas doesn’t have a long list of claims to fame.

Aggieville

Kansas State University is located in Manhattan. The area around the university has a lot of low-end rentals. Aggieville has a lot of bars and restaurants. And a couple of them like Tanners Bar & Grill, Wahoo Manhattan and Blue Stem Bistro is pretty good. My husband swears the Popeye’s in Aggieville has the best dirty rice outside of Louisiana.

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Things to do in the Fort Riley Community

We’ve been lucky so far in our duty stations. A simple Google search of Manhattan area attractions, near Fort Riley won’t yield a whole lot of diverse activities. I knew when we received orders that I would have to be creative. I knew the fun wasn’t going to just land in my lap.

Everyone keeps saying wait for football season and go to a game. And I will. I like football– but I prefer it on TV. Thankfully, I think I live too far from school to be affected by game-day traffic.

You know I couldn’t pass up some cowboy poetry. Lazy T Ranch is a family-owned ranch that also has hayrides, chuckwagon suppers, and scenic vistas of the Flint Hills.

Outdoor Activities

There is a lot of hiking in this area of Kansas which surprisingly is not flat. This area is called the Flint Hills. The landscape is dotted with rolling hills and tall prairie grasses– giving Kansas its nickname. There are even walking trails in my neighborhood with amazing views into the hills.

I live near the Sunset Zoo which has cheetahs, leopards, and anteaters, as well as a butterfly garden. They even had a baby Panda and Gibbon, born there last year. Tuttle Creek Lake is located 5 miles north of Manhattan as the reservoir is situated on the northern edge of the Flint Hills. The lake has 100 miles of wooded shoreline and has been a Godsend for me. You know I like to walk.

If you are a boating/ fishing person you’ll love Milford Lake. Also called Milford Reservoir, it is the largest man-made lake in Kansas. The Nature Center is a great place to take the whole family to learn about the local wildlife.

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Eat and Drink in the Fort Riley Community

We’ve actually found a few good things to eat so far. Unfortunately, not one of them is a good Chinese food restaurant. My favorites have been the Negril Caribbean Restaurant in Junction City and the Baan Thai Restaurant in Manhattan. One of our favorite neighborhood bars is the Little Apple Brewpub. Their beer is not as good as Tallgrass, but their food is way better. You’ve gotta try the baked feta– it’s delicious. Old Chicago is a chain restaurant but has good food and a rotating beer tap.

You know we’ve already visited a couple of local breweries (Little Apple Brewing Company, Tallgrass Brewing Company) and wineries (Liquid Art Winery and Estate, Prairie Fire Winery and Oz Wineries). I’ve bought fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets.

The Oz Winery down the street from the Wizard of Oz Museum is just ok. But you can sample any two wins for free and they have a military discount. Now the chocolate, on the other hand, is fabulous!

Fort Riley Community Shopping

I’ve been to the mall. But I gotta tell you, I ain’t impressed. There are a lot of empty stores. They closed the food court to make way for the movie theater, which I think is nice. The AMC Dine-in Manhattan 13 has full-service dine-in. You can order from the full kitchen and bar menu. Unfortunately, we went to see Mission Impossible there a couple of days ago. The food and drink menus are expensive, so we passed on it.

I am waiting for the Ross Dress for Less to open up– that’s my jam. Right now the closest one is in Topeka.

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Fort Riley Community Services

So far I’ve only shopped in the fresh food markets and on-post. But I did go into Hyvee to pick up some toilet paper. They have a restaurant with .25 wings on Wednesdays and drink specials. They make fresh pizza (buy one get one on Thursdays), a sushi bar, and a coffee shop with daily specials. I haven’t been in Dillons or the Asian Market– yet.

Look at my twists, they are beautiful, aren’t they? I am so happy I found Linde International Beauty supply and African Braiding. Linde, the owner, is not only an amazing braider, but she is an inspiration. Her shop is located at 114 S 4th St, Manhattan, KS 66502, (785) 320-5353. She is a little pricey, but she offers a 10% product military discount.

The Krispy Clean Laundromat is clean, well lighted, and has free password protected WIFI. There is also an attendant on-site for laundry services.

Utilities

I really appreciated the fact that my landlord (property manager) left the utilities on. The agency we used was Poyntz Avenue Properties. The agent’s name is Jerilyn and she can be reached at (785) 341-1256.

The gas company required a $90 deposit. However, the only trash company that offered to recycle was Howie. And for some reason they don’t offer curbside glass recycling. If I want to recycle my glass, I have to take it in myself. They too offer a military discount.

Your choices for cable: Cox or Direct TV. We opted for Cox, but it’s hella expensive. Water and sewage are provided by the city of Manhattan. And we went with Westar for electricity. But the remote has voice commands which are so cool.

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Comments

  1. Monica

    So what did you find out about the job market in the Fort Riley / Manhattan are? Do you think there is opportunity for a black hair care business– would I have enough clients?

  2. Kandice

    I recommend Glamazon in Junction City for your beauty needs, Barbara is great and all the staff. Barton is not only for kids, but all dependents if classes are not full.

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