Feature photo of Manhattan’s Festival of Lights contributed by Sigle Photography
Of all the military installations to spend the Holidays, Fort Riley, Kansas is one of the very best. Well, it is for anyone who loves the chance of a White Christmas, anyway! It will be cold, but it will also be beautiful.
A large portion of Fort Riley features gorgeous historic homes and buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Taking a walk or drive around Historic Main Post after a snowfall when all the streets are quiet is truly remarkable. Plus, even the Grinch himself can get in the holiday spirit after seeing all the homes decorated for Christmas!
And in the surrounding cities like Manhattan, Junction City and as far as Wichita and Kansas City, there are tons of holiday events to check out. Here’s a list of some of the best options for you and your family!
Holiday Events on Fort Riley
Photo by: HASFR
The Historical & Archaeological Society of Fort Riley will host its Tour of Homes December 2. For this annual event, a handful of historic homes and buildings are decorated to festive perfection. Visitors are welcome to walk through the homes and learn about the architecture of each location. Typically the fanciest houses on post are featured, including the Commanding General’s sweet digs. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
On December 1, the post will host its annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in front of the Garrison Command building. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and will include caroling and a visit with Santa Claus and his elves. Hot beverages and cookies will also be served.
Also on December 2 is the annual Christkindl Market at Riley’s Conference Center, which will be filled with vendors selling items like handmade crafts, woodwork, jewelry and more. German food is available for purchase, and the event is free to attend.
Right and Up tip: If you don’t have a military ID, go to the Visitor’s Center at the Henry Gate to get your visitor pass. Passes or military IDs are required to get on Fort Riley. The day of the Tour of Homes will be especially hectic since it’s so popular, but you can avoid waiting in line by getting your pass a day early.
Manhattan and Junction City Events
Junction City will host a Christmas Market, Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting on November 24. The day’s festivities start at noon. The market will feature items like handmade gifts, food and drinks.
After Thanksgiving Day, check out the Festival of Lights in downtown Manhattan. The lighting ceremony will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 24. Santa Clause himself will even make an appearance for the kickoff. Throughout the holiday season, the festive area will be host to a number of events, including ice sculpting on December 2 and a Christmas Carnival on December 9.
On December 2, the community is invited to take home red cedar trees to decorate. Red cedars are invasive, so this is a great way to help the park (and score a tree for the holidays!). The event begins at 9 a.m. at Lee Mill Heights Park.
On December 3, Manhattan Town Center will host an event called Santa Cares. This RSVP event allows children with all spectrums of special needs to enjoy a sensory-friendly visit with Santa Claus. It starts at 10 a.m. before the mall opens to the public, allowing for a calming environment. Visit the website to learn more about tickets and the RSVP process.
The City of Manhattan businesses will be hosting a wide variety of holiday-themed events throughout November and December. Check out the Eventbrite page to see what’s happening soon.
Events Within an Hour Drive
Wamego: Home of the Wizard of Oz Museum, this town has a lot going on during the holiday season. The city will feature a light display, carriage rides, live music, complimentary photos with Santa and more. Check out their website for details!
Abilene: This cute town is about 30 minutes from Fort Riley. Its main strip features incredible historic homes, and its downtown looks like something out of a 1950s TV show. A number of holiday events will happen here, including an annual parade on December 2 during their Night of Christmas Magic. The Great Plains Theatre will also be showing Peter and the Starcatcher from 1-10 December.
Salina: The 26th annual Christmas Festival and Parade of Lights will be held downtown on November 18. The event will kickoff with a 5k starting at 9 a.m. and ends with a parade at 6 p.m. Here you’ll see Santa and Mrs. Claus, horse drawn carriages, trains and more.
Events More Than an Hour Away
Photo by: Brent Flanders
Topeka: The state capital has a variety of events happening around the holidays. There’s the 2-mile light show at Lake Shawnee, the lighting of the community tree on November 25 and more!
Kansas City: Considering it’s one of the biggest cities in the Midwest, it’s no surprise Kansas City is slammed with holiday events. Here you’ll find Christmas shows, choirs, orchestras, ballets, nativities, craft shows and so much more. KC Parent put together an incredibly thorough guide that’s perfect for families, couples and singles alike.
There are a number of lighting ceremonies, but perhaps the biggest is the Plaza Lighting Ceremony in the Country Club Plaza. This year’s event, which features fireworks and 287,000 lights, happens Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. Check out Kansas City’s Magazine’s event guide for more information.
Wichita: Wichita is also busy, as it features events like a Trolley Christmas Light Tour, Holiday Display Drive-Thru and more. Check out 360 Wichita’s event calendar for more information.
Plus, the world-famous Trans-Siberian Orchestra will be in town. The Ghosts of Christmas Eve Tour will visit Wichita on Dec. 8 and Kansas City on Dec. 9.
About the Author
Rachel is the editor of Right and Up. She is an Auburn grad (War Damn Eagle!) and holds a degree in journalism. While working as a sports writer covering the Tigers, she met a cute, tall officer stationed at Fort Benning. A few margaritas, some conversations about why a no-huddle offense is superior and 18 months later, they got married. They have PCS’d to Fort Huachuca, Fort Riley and are now in the National Capital Region.