Summer of Day Trips: Clay Center

We’ve lived in Manhattan 10 months now. And although we feel very settled, we also still very new. Here’s what we’ve learned about central/west Kansas so far: Manhattan (population 56,000) is the “big city.” We’ve also learned that these smaller towns are gems!! One of the things on our Summer Bucket List is to check out these neighboring towns. The ones within about 2 hours constitute a day trip, and that’s perfect for our family!

Our first trip was out to a town called Clay Center (I thought it was a concert venue when I first heard it mentioned. Nope. A town.). Nicola told us the three things we needed to do there. 1. Nut rolls from the local bakery 2. The city park 3. The zoo

On a wet Saturday we decided to just drive there and check it out. Honestly, we didn’t have super high expectations. I’m not even sure why.

Our expectations were COMPLETELY wrong! This little town is a gold mine of fun! (Since it was rainy, we didn’t get to play as long as we would have liked, but plan to go back and spend the day!!)

On our way there (it’s about a 45 min drive) we found tanks!

And patriotic barns!

We went off of Nicola’s list, but made a stop at an adorable antique shop downtown. They had a lot of thrifty stores that I could have spent all day in! Brian made some rooster friends.

At this store Brian asked where the famous bakery was. They told him down the road. So we got in the car…and drove 3 stores down (also known as about 5 parking spots!). So we learned that “down the road” is a relative term!


They were out of nut rolls 🙁 (But no worries, we got normal donuts!) Also, what is Beckham doing?

Home of the Nut Rolls, but sold out so we'll be back. @niiiiiiicola they know your family. #claycenter

Next stop: Park!

No exaggeration, hands down the coolest park/playground we’ve EVER been to!

(this is where we got the idea to use Brian’s leftover plexiglass to do this to the girls’ playhouse…but that’s a later post!)

Things I loved about this park: It was broken up with fences into age ranges. So if you had smaller kid, there’s a super cool section for them. Also, it wasn’t the typical playground stuff. You can tell this was custom made and well thought out!

They had what I assume was donor names on the fence. This was our favorite!


We could have stayed for hours. Alas, we moved on to stop #3, the zoo.

Don’t bother bringing your horse by the way

So, “zoo” is a loose term for this, but well worth a trip!

This friends, is the a giant hamster wheel. For squirrels. Nicola told us about this too, but really, you have to see it in person to fully appreciate this!

Scrappy foxes!

Brian and I laughed cause every time we glanced at these signs all we saw was “KILL animals”

They had some super cute monkeys!

Talked to the parrot:

We learned from the zoo keeper that ravens are actually super smart and they talk!

There was a runaway duck (if you can call a wild duck a runaway?) that the kids insisted needed to come back in the gates.

Brian ended up catching him!

Our very favorite face Sadie makes! 🙂

Photobomb, SP style!

So now we’ve hit everything we set out to, and as we are driving away, I scream, “(gasp!) STOP! GO BACK!” You can imagine Brian, as the driver, didn’t love this. (I actually do this a lot. I need to control my emotions better)

But once he saw what I had seen, all was forgiven!

Who needs Disney World when you have Clay Center, KS?! We found Mater!!

Every detail on this truck was spot on!


On our way home we found a Harriet road!!

So yeah, this place is a gem!!

16 Replies to “Summer of Day Trips: Clay Center”

  1. I’m living in manhattan as well and had no idea about this town – thank you sooo much 🙂

  2. The name if the park is Dexter Park. It’s located at 6th & Grant. Tow Mater is located south of 6th & Grant about 5 or 6 blocks. I don’t remember the cross street, but know that it is just off of 6th. I have no clue where the barn is.

  3. The park broken into age appropriate sections us on Hwy 15 and Grant Street as you go through town. The zoo, also known as Utility Park, is near the intersection of 4th and Pomeroy streets. When he is available, TowMater sits on the corner of Hwy 15 and Bridge Street. And the nut rolls (and other pastries) from Tasty Pastry can also be found at either Short Stop in Clay Center, as well as other location throughout the region, including Manhattan. But they go quickly!

  4. It’s a long day trip from Manhattan but Scott City has a lot to do as well! Up close and personal buffalo tours, multiple awesome parks, a spring fed lake that is a true oasis, canyon views that rival the konza for scenery, Indian ruins, a museum for adults and kids alike, pilots that would love to give air tours, and countless miles of beautiful driving if you stay off of interstate!

  5. The park with the playground is called “Dexter Park”, and it is located on Hwy. 15, also called 6th Street., and the park with the zoo is called “Utility Park”. It is a couple of blocks off of Hwy 15 to the west of Dexter Park. Please come back this summer, as Clay Center just opened a brand new Aquatic Park that is fabulous! It is located on the West side of Clay Center, in Huntress Park. Also, Tasty Pastry Nut Rolls are delivered to several locations around Manhattan (convenience stores)….you really need to try the Nut Rolls…they are the best!

  6. so many people here take it for granted and I am so overwhelmingly happy to see that there are people from elsewhere that can appreciate this town. The zoo is getting ready to go through a renovation we’ve already raised almost $400,000 just in the last 6 months to make it better for the animals and to meet regulations so they can continue to keep the animals available for the kids. as a child I grew up in Junction City but my grandparents lived outside of Clay Center so my entire life was spent coming here and going to the zoo and I’m so glad to know that they can make the changes they need to to keep it available so that my children and grandchildren can go to the same.

  7. Thanks for visiting us and your kind words. Even though it’s a small town, there is everything here you might need. We have stores, schools and a wonderful hospital. And you can be anywhere in town from anywhere else in town in five minutes or so. Most people think Clay Center is in north-central Kansas. Probably you are not “west” until at least US 81.

  8. Clay center it’s my home town. Try hitting the town’s just past clay. Well worth it!! Your post made me miss Kansas that much more!

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