April 1, 2019

My Kansas Bucket List

A while back, my family visited Wichita and had a great weekend. It surpassed expectations. Along the way, we stopped in Lindsborg for lunch and to see, well, a castle. And again, that quick stop exceeded expectations (so much so, that we’re planning to return to Lindsborg this summer). So, given this trend, I figure, there’s quite a bit in Kansas that’s waiting to be discovered. I’ve began a Kansas Bucket List in order to collect my thoughts and start making plans to get to know the state better. If this list inspires you to travel, let me know!

Kansas Bucket List - Unique places to visit, amazing hikes, and great food to eat in #Kansas #bucketlist

Hike in the Flint Hills

The Flint Hills in eastern Kansas is an expansive, hilly region with rocky soil. It’s a unique region because it contains the most dense coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. You won’t find a lot of farms due to the soil. There are several places to hike in the Flint Hills, including Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge and Konza Prairie Biological Station.

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas -Hike the Flint Hills at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve trail in Kansas
A trail at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Make it to Svensk Hyllningsfest

The biennial festival Svensk Hyllningsfest in Lindsborg celebrates the town’s Swedish heritage. The next festival is Oct. 18 and 19, 2019. My dad’s side of the family is proud of their Swedish ancestry so that’s right up my alley. There’s folk dancing, ethnic music, smorgasbord and entertainment. I took the kids to a Tulip Festival in Iowa one spring, and they enjoyed it, so I could see this festival also being good for them.

Add To Your Bucket List: While you’re in Lindsborg, there’s a nearby “castle” that should be on your bucket list! We stopped at the Coronado Heights Park, and my young kids were amazed at the picnic structure there that looks like a small, medieval castle. It was so memorable, it’s on the 10 Beautiful Midwest Places To Inspire Wonder list!

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - Celebrate Swedish heritage in Lindsborg
Dancers in Lindborg, a Kansas town that celebrates its Swedish heritage with a
biennial festival called Svensk Hyllningsfest. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Pretend to be an astronaut

Hutchinson is home to Cosmosphere, a museum with displays and interactive exhibits like the Liberty Bell 7, the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, and a version of Mission Control desk kids (and I) can sit at. So maybe I’m less astronaut than Mission Control, but who’s counting?

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - Pretend to be an astronaut at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson
Cosmosphere is a museum in Hutchinson that includes an exhibit with a version of the Mission Control desk. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Hang with cowpokes

Old Cowtown Museum has been on my wish list to visit every since I was planning my Wichita vacation. I still haven’t made it, so my dream of having a chuck wagon dinner or watching the 1880s reenacted remains. I’ll find some similar action at Boot Hill Museum and Front Street in Dodge City.

Experience a cattle drive

There are places in Kansas where you don’t just watch actors re-enact the cowboy experience – you can live it. Some ranches like the Flying W Ranch in Cedar Point let guests experience the cowboy lifestyle with horseback rides, cattle drives, wagon rides and more.

Add To Your Bucket List: Love all kinds of close encounters with animals. Tanganyika Wildlife Park isn’t on my list because I’ve been there, but it’s definitely a worthy bucket list addition for you! Why? Wildlife encounters there include feeding an okapi, lemur or giraffe!

See the out-of-this-world rocks

Mushroom Rock State Park has some of the oddest rock formations I’ve seen in pictures. Guess what it looks like. I just want to see it in person now. Two others I want to see, located in Gove County in Western Kansas, are the Monument Rocks and Castle Rock.

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - See the unique rock formations at Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park in Brookville, Kan., is home to some pretty unique rock formations. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Selfie in front of the book mural

Book lovers, heads up. There’s a beautiful, huge mural on the side of a doctor’s office in Tonganoxie.

Explore Kansas’ Badlands

Yep, Kansas has a Badlands region. In the state’s northwestern corner, a scenic drive, called the Arikaree Breaks Wildlife Drive, takes you through landscape flecked with yuca and prickly pear cactus among the shortgrass prairie. And a new state park, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, has even more picturesque views. Little Jerusalem is slated to open sometime in the summer of 2019. Neither place is what I imagine to be Kansas.

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - see the new state park, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park
Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park is the newest state park to be added to the Kansas State Park System. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Try unique eats in Kansas

Kansas has plenty of unique food and unique places to eat, I’ve discovered. On my list includes the hidden gem in Beaver, called Mo’s. Pretty much, it’s a microbrewery with a lot of loyal fans (it has a hard-to-come-by 4.9 Google review rating). One newspaper headline called it a piece of “Cheers” on the prairie. Then there’s Wheatfields in Lawrence, a bakery that gets a lot of attention. It’s made a USA Today list for 10 great US bakeries, and it has been featured on the Food Network and History Channel. The Stearman Field Bar and Grill at the little Benton Airport made my Wichita Bucket List, but since I didn’t get to visit it when I was in the area last time, I’m including it on this list too so I don’t forget. Why? Where else can you dine that close to planes taking off and landing?

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - Eat at one of the nation's best bakeries, Wheatfields, in Lawrence
Wheatfields is a Lawrence, Kan., bakery that’s been named among the Top 10 in the U.S. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

Go to the beer playground

In Overland Park, there’s this place called the Brew Lab, and it’s been nicknamed KC’s playground for craft beer lovers. Since this is a bucket list where time and money don’t matter, I’d go here to learn how to brew beer and then brew myself a big ‘ol batch of it. If I’m short on time, I’ll just go and have a pint of someone else’s fabulous concoction and a bite to eat while I’m at it.

See pueblo ruins

The northernmost Indian pueblo in the U.S. is found in Kansas. El Cuartelejo Pueblo near Scott City dates back to 1650 to 1750 A.D., and the ruins of the site can still be seen today. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Bucket list of things to do in Kansas - Visit the National Historic Landmark, El Cuartelejo Pueblo
El Cuartelejo Pueblo is the northernmost Indian pueblo in the U.S. It’s near Scott City, Kan. Photo courtesy Kansas Tourism

See a sunflower field

It’s not the Sunflower State for nothing. Word is that peak viewing of sunflowers is in late summer, and a great place to find them is at Grinter’s Sunflower Farm near Lawrence.

My Kansas Bucket List - A wish list of things to do and awesome places to see in Kansas | Kansas landmarks and attractions | Best Kansas restaurants | Trails and museums in Kansas #USA

Get Travel Inspiration Directly In Your Inbox

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

December 30, 2017

10 Beautiful Midwest Destinations For Families

I’d like this year to be a year of beauty and wonder for my kids. How about you? The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to encounter some truly beautiful or unique places. There are so many beautiful Midwest destinations! Here are a few of my family’s favorites so you, too, can have a year of beauty and wonder with your family.

10 beautiful destination in the Midwest | Family-friendly places to visit in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota #Midwest #familytravel #outdoors

I’m stilling brainstorming where we may go in 2018, so I’d love your suggestions! Where in the Midwest should I go with my family for beautiful sights and wonder-inducing experiences?

Botanica, The Wichita Gardens

Monster Tree at Botanica Wichita in Kansas
The Monster Trees might have been my favorite part of all Botanica Wichita.

Where: Wichita, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Obviously, being a botanical garden, things are going to be beautiful. Must-see pretty spots at Botanica include the koi pond and Chinese Friendship Garden.

Why kids will like it: You must take the kids to the whimsical Downing Children’s Garden to see the Monster Woods, musical maze, the familiar storybook character statues. and, being Kansas, the yellow brick road.

Read more about this kid-favorite destination!

Clear Lake

View of Clear Lake, Iowa at sunset
The view from the top of the carousel at Clear Lake’s Fourth of July celebration.

Where: Clear Lake, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: Like most Midwestern lakes, there’s a beautiful of the sky reflecting on the water and the serene appeal of quiet, lapping waves on a shore. But, the bonus with Clear Lake is that it’s a getaway without being far from modern conveniences. The town of Clear Lake is literally right at the water’s edge.

Why kids will like it: There are a couple beaches to choose from where kids where it’s shallow enough for littles to enter the water safely. My kids particularly remember Clear Lake for its Fourth of July festival…and the chance to stay overnight in a yurt.

Want to stay in a yurt? Here’s a post about the only yurts in Iowa you can stay in. 

Coronado Heights Park

Castle structure at Coronado Heights Park in Lindsborg, Kansas
Coronado Heights Park has a structure that looks strikingly like a castle to young children (and grown ups with big imaginations).

Where: Lindsborg, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Coronado Heights sits on a sandstone bluff looking over flat pastures. The beauty is the view, yes, but also the stark contrast of an ancient-looking castle set on the plains.

Why kids will like it: The castle, obviously. It’s not really a castle, but go ahead and let them believe there was once a small, medieval castle just northwest of Lindsborg.

Bonus: Don’t just visit the park and miss out on the charming town of Lindsborg. The town wears its Swedish heritage with pride, and it’s utterly charming to visit.

We tacked on a visit to Coronado Heights during our weekend trip to Wichita. Read about that stop here!

Ledges State Park

Creek at Ledges State Park in central Iowa
We looked for rocks in the shallow river that flowed through Ledges State Park.

Where: Madrid, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: This park is an unexpected treasure in the middle of Iowa. The walk along the sandstone gorge carved out by a tributary of the Des Moines River is unforgettable.

Why kids will like it: Playing in the water is a big draw, but part of the fun, too, is Canyon Drive, a route that passes through the sandstone gorge and is often partly submerged under water. The bigger the splash, the better.

Loess Hills

Hiking in part of the Loess Hills at Preparation Canyon State Park in Iowa
They don’t call them the Loess Hills for nothing. Don’t expect a flat hike at Preparation Canyon State Park.

Where: Western Iowa and Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: We’ve hiked a few trails in western Iowa’s Loess Hills, and each have had their own unique beauty about them. Trails along these unique formations can sometimes lead to rolling hills or steep bluffs, and have views of prairies or forests. You’ll find them along the eastern edge of the Missouri River flood plain.

Why kids will like it: This is Midwest nature at its purest.

Here are three hikes in the Loess Hills to consider!

Missouri Botanical Garden

Bridge in the Japanese Garden in Missouri Botanical Garden in Saint Louis
The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden is 14 acres with bridges, waterfalls and peaceful nooks.

Where: St. Louis, Mo.

Why it’s beautiful: This huge botanical garden has a space that appeals to everyone, but the most beautiful, to me at least, is the 14-acre Japanese Garden. It’s peaceful with its path around the lake, and everywhere you look, you see pure beauty.

Why kids will like it: The kids enjoyed feeding the Koi fish at the Japanese Garden and looking for turtles around lake. However, you’d be making a huge mistake if you skip the seasonal Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. It’s a lot of fun (pack their swimsuits).

They don’t call this place one of the most beautiful gardens in the U.S. for nothing! Read why here.

Smith Falls

Nebraska's tallest waterfall, Smith Falls
A view of Smith Falls on a sunny day.

Where: Cherry County, Nebraska (nearest city is Valentine, Neb.)

Why it’s beautiful: Located in Smith Falls State Park, this 63-foot waterfall is the tallest in Nebraska. You don’t forget the first time you ever see this waterfall.

Why kids will like it: You hear the waterfall before you actually see it, which thrills children to no end. The fun part is that you can stand under the water, if you dare (it’s very cold no matter the season, and the water hits you pretty hard).

Bonus: Getting to Smith Falls from Omaha is half the fun – you drive through the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska. Plus, most people opt to canoe the Niobrara River to Smith Falls State Park, which in my opinion, is another beautiful thing to experience.

Get Western Nebraska road trip inspiration to visit Smith Falls here!

Sylvan Lake

Walking stones in Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park in South Dakota
Hiking around Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park.

Where: Black Hills, South Dakota

Why it’s beautiful: Sylvan Lake is found within Custer State Park in South Dakota, which is itself, a truly unique and wonderful destination. Visit Custer, and make sure Sylvan Lake is on your list of stops. This gorgeous lake is a worthy destination for any family, either for an easy hike, water sports, or a waterside picnic.

Why kids will like it: The trail around lake is mostly easy, but there are some more challenging points that kids love. This is a spectacular spot to immerse yourself in nature.

Get inspired for a Black Hills road trip starting with this post!

Table Rock Lake

Jumping off a small cliff into Table Rock Lake in Missouri
Jumping into Table Rock Lake to cool off in the summer.

Where: Stone County, Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: Table Rock Lake is a reservoir in the expansive Ozarks region of southern Missouri (and expands well into Arkansas). I particularly enjoyed Table Rock because it offered an peaceful escape from the frenzy of nearby Branson, Mo.

Why kids will like it: Water sports and small cliff jumping is a big appeal here. If you plan ahead, you can rent a houseboat to extend your stay on the water.

Toadstool Geologic Park

The trail into Toadstool Geological Park in western Nebraska
Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Where: Harrison, Neb.

Why it’s beautiful: This is Nebraska’s own Badlands. It’s off the beaten path, and much smaller than South Dakota’s Badlands, but park is just stunning to hike.

Why kids will like it: I suspect they like it because they’re imagining they’re on the moon. At least, that’s why I liked the park. Please note: The trail can be challenging for young children, and seriously panic-inducing for parents who bring their young children. Hike with care.

Read some Western Nebraska road trip inspiration in this post!

* * * * *

Get Travel Inspiration In Your Inbox!

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

June 7, 2017

Exploring Tanganyika Wildlife Park

The most memorable afternoon in Wichita for us was spent at Tanganyika Wildlife Park (which is technically not in Wichita, but close enough). Tanganyika is more than a zoo; it specializes encounters that create lasting connections for people to the animals they see.

Disclosure: Our fun adventure at Tanganyika was part of our Great Wichita Weekend. Our trip was hosted by Visit Wichita. I received complimentary admission to Tanganyika Wildlife Park so that I could tell you about it. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.

Feeding a giraffe at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
An animal keeper told us about the giraffe herd of 12 giraffes at Tanganyika Wildlife Park as we fed lettuce to one.

There are traditional zoo-like exhibits of animals like otter and penguins, as well as 10 encounters on the map to seek out. Encounters meant interaction of some sort with an animal. On the day we visited, there were also pop-up opportunities to meet and learn about animals as varied as a Burmese python, ferret, and rat.

Burmese python on the grass at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
The kids loved touching the Burmese python.

Tanganyika Wildlife Park is not a zoo; it’s a privately-run business. It helps knowing this so you’re not expecting an experience like a zoo (especially if you’re used to the Omaha zoo). No doubt the owners love animals and care deeply about educating people about them. The idea is that if people connect with these rare animals, they will make the effort to help ensure their survival.

What to expect at Tanganyika Wildlife Park - Check out all the close encounters with animals in this Kansas wildlife park! #familytravel #Wichita

Fun fact: Tanganyika was once an African country. The nation of Tanganyika joined with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in 1964.

Animal encounters at Tanganyika

When you purchase your admission pass, you can opt for one of three levels of animal encounters. The general admission pass gets you one animal encounter of your choice. The next level allows five encounters. Then there’s the all-access pass, which means 10 animal encounters.

Camel ride at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
One animal encounter can be a camel ride.

There’s also the option of purchasing coins to use for more encounters.

I tell you this so you can plan ahead to see if you want do all or some of the encounters. Honestly, getting the band with five encounters would have worked for my family, but that’s because we lingered with bunnies for ages. The single encounter would not have cut it, though. The all-access would be great if you had kids that aren’t nervous about huge creatures.

Feeding rabbits at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
My 5-year-old kept going back to feed the bunnies and guinea pigs. Never mind the chance to be close to exotic animals. This was more of her speed.

When we arrived, all my daughter wanted to do was ride a camel. It may have been what she was looking forward to, but it didn’t turn out to be her favorite experience. It wasn’t a bad one, but it just couldn’t compete with some other unique opportunities.

By far, the most memorable encounter for me was the behind-the-scenes tour of the okapi area. The wildlife park just started these tours, and we were among the first. It was so so cool. The okapi keeper, Alexi, told us about the species plight in the wild and how they are quite rare to find in captivity in the United States due to some of their habitat requirements.

The okapi encounter at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
I learned a lot about okapi while on a behind-the-scenes tour at Tanganyika Wildlife Park.

During our tour, we got to greet the friendly resident okapi, who didn’t mind nibbling on lettuce we fed him. He wasn’t so enthusiastic about us petting him, but he tolerated it for his reward of crispy lettuce. We got to ask questions, and learned a ton.

I enjoyed feeding other exotic wildlife, including a giraffe and some greedy little lemurs.

My kids felt the most comfortable feeding the less exotic rabbits and guinea pigs. There, they could crouch among the fuzzy creatures for as long as they wanted, petting them for as long as the animal tolerated.

The kangaroo encounter at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
My son gently petting a resting kangaroo at Tanganyika Wildlife Park near Wichita.

The chance to pet animals ended up being what my kids enjoyed most. They were able to pet resting kangaroos, for instance. Unexpected was the opportunity to help one kangaroo paint. I wasn’t really interested in paying extra for the artwork but I think the kids will get a lot of mileage sharing that story with their friends back home.

Feeding hungry tortoises at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
My kids did not move fast enough to get out of the way of a stampede of tortoises…or maybe my daughter is purposely trying to lead the animals to walk over her brother.

The least successful encounter, for us, was feeding the tortoises, who are faster and pushier than you’d expect. The lorikeet feeding ended in tears for one of my kids, who got nipped by one of the birds.

Photo opportunities at the park

You’ll want to bring your camera on your visit. There’s a lot to see and so many cute photo opportunities.

Feeding a giraffe at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
My son feeding a giraffe is one of an animal encounters at Tanganyika Wildlife Park near Wichita.

There were two times that you couldn’t take your own pictures: The okapi encounter and the ring-tailed lemur feeding. The staff member at the encounter took those pictures.

The lemur encounter at Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas
Mr. Wonderful and the kids feeding craisins to lemurs. The rule was you couldn’t touch the lemurs but they may reach out to touch you.

If you had an all-access pass, one photo was included, so that was good. I definitely wanted photos to remember the experience. My quibbles about photo service though: I think the wildlife park could benefit from professional photographers on hand snapping the pictures and a better process in place when you go to pick up your pictures.

If you go

Tanganyika Wildlife Park

Where: 1000 S. Hawkins Lane, Goddard, Kan.

When: Park hours vary, but it’s open generally Mid-March to Mid-November. Check hours here.

Cost: For children (ages 3-11), expect to pay $14.99 for 1 encounter on up to the all-access pass (10 encounters) for $34.99. Children younger than 2 are admitted FREE. Adults pay between $19.99 and $39.99. This is also a senior discount.

Website

Tanganyika Wildlife Park - What to expect at this wildlife park in Kansas, including close encounters with lemurs and kangaroos #familytravel #Wichita #Kansas

* * * * *

Want to start planning a Great Wichita Weekend?

Start with My Wichita Bucket List to get some inspiration, then dive into these for more fun ideas:

The Great Wichita Weekend recap

A Kid-Favorite Destination: Bonanica Wichita

Wichita’s Good Eats

Hampton Inn & Suites – A Wichita Hotel For Families

Visiting Exploration Place With Kids

For even more ideas for family fun in Wichita, check out my Pinterest Board.

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/wichita-with-kids/

Liked this post?

We travel a lot & explore our  own backyard. Stay in the know – subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to popular posts like this one! Subscribe here.

June 1, 2017

Visiting Exploration Place In Wichita

Exploration Place is a fun science center on the river in Wichita, Kan. We had a whirlwind visit to Wichita this spring, and since we were traveling with two kids, it made sense to plan a stop there.

How could we skip a three-story castle, an aviation room and the only place I’ve ever visited that had a dedicated game for poop (more on that in a second)?

Disclosure: My family received complimentary passes to the science center so I can tell you about it. Our whole weekend was hosted by Visit Wichita. Visit the Visit Wichita website to get some great ideas for a trip (or keep reading to find out more about the cool things we did there!).

Headed to Wichita with your family? Don't skip Exploration Place! Here's an inside look at this science center. #familytravel #Wichita #Kansas

What’s at Exploration Place

Marble exhibit in the lobby of Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
We couldn’t even get passed the lobby at Exploration Place without my kids getting drawn into something that intrigued them.

This science center is going to appeal more to grade schoolers and older kids (and adults), than really little ones, though there was plenty to do for my 5-year-old. There’s even a dedicated space for preschoolers.

There is a mix of permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits. We were there when the temporary exhibits involved dinosaurs in one space and Vietnam in another. One of the current traveling exhibits is called Hall of Heroes and a new one coming up in 2018 is called The Science of Saving.

The whole museum/science center is geared toward youth, but adults are not discouraged from trying things out too.

Model train and miniature town at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
The Kansas in Miniature exhibit at Exploration Place in Wichita.

There are 13 permanent exhibits at Exploration Place! Some of the ones we found particularly memorable include Creator Space and Exploring Flight & Design. I particularly liked playing with a plane propeller, making a shimmering design in on a wall of shiny discs in the flight exhibit. My son liked the flight Wright Brothers’ flight simulator. I didn’t get a good shot of it (it’s not what’s pictured below).

Wright Brothers model plane exhibit at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
There are a lot of interactive areas in each permanent exhibit at Exploration Place, making it a must-visit attraction in Wichita for families visiting with children.

The Explore Kansas room is newly renovated and such a neat space to visit. We liked playing with the fossil scanner.

Fossil exhibit at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
This fossil scanner was a neat machine to play with in the Kansas exhibit.

Nearby, you’ll find that poop game I mentioned. You have to guess which animal pooped what. It’s gross.

Kids love it.

I can’t think of a room kids won’t like there. My daughter spent more than half our time playing in the castle space called Where Kids Rule. It’s an impressive and immersive space, and I don’t blame her for wanting to stay there. It’s a permanent exhibit, so you will get to check it out if you plan on visiting!

My son enjoyed building in the KEVA wooden plank space and stepping into a tornado in the new Explore Kansas exhibit.

I also recommend checking out the miniature train room – it’s crazy huge.

Timing your visit

Kids playing at a water table at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas
There are so many places to explore at Exploration Place, you need to allow a couple hours to see it all.  

– Check out the schedule of traveling exhibits to see what will be open when you visit.

– You can easily spend a couple hours here. I’d expect to spend about two hours here if you didn’t allow your child to linger in a spot for too long (good luck with that).

We were a little rushed trying to see it all before my kids got tired for a nap. We had to skip the mini golf area, which is included with admission.

If you go

Exploration Place

Where: 300 N. McLean Blvd., Wichita, Kan.

Cost: $9;50, adults; $8, seniors; $6, youth (3-11), and FREE for children younger than 2. You can pay a little bit more to “Do It All.”

Hours: Until Labor Day 2017: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Mondays in the winter), and  Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Check the times if you plan on visiting after Labor Day. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Website

* * * * *

Want to start planning a Great Wichita Weekend?

Start with My Wichita Bucket List to get some inspiration, then dive into these for more fun ideas:

The Great Wichita Weekend recap

A Kid-Favorite Destination: Bonanica Wichita

Wichita’s Good Eats

Hampton Inn & Suites – A Wichita Hotel For Families

Exploring Tangyika Wildlife Park

For even more ideas for family fun in Wichita, check out my Pinterest Board.

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/wichita-with-kids/

Liked this post?

We travel a lot & explore our  own backyard. Stay in the know – subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to popular posts like this one! Subscribe here.

May 22, 2017

Hampton Inn & Suites – A Wichita Hotel For Families

I’ve been sharing a lot of great stories about my family’s fun adventure in Wichita lately, including some kid-approved restaurants in Wichita and the coolest children’s garden ever. What needs to be shared is where to stay in Wichita when you want to do all this stuff. Which Wichita hotel worked for our needs?

We needed a place to stay that was between the Wichita attractions I had wanted to visit, especially Tanganyika Wildlife Park (which is actually outside of Wichita pretty much near nothing else) and all the great stuff in downtown Wichita. So, with the smart thinking of the folks at Visit Wichita (who hosted this trip), we were set up at one of the newest hotels in the city, Hampton Inn & Suites Wichita Airport.

Headed to Wichita with kids? Here's one place to stay that puts you between Tanganyika Wildlife Park and downtown Wichita. #FamilyTravel #HotelTips #Kansas

Where To Stay In Wichita

This Wichita Hampton Inn checks most things off my family travel checklist for hotels: Pool, free hot breakfast, comfy beds (plus, the obvious, unspoken requirements like safe, clean, up-to-date). All there.

Lobby decor at the Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
The seating area near the front desk at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Wichita airport.

Let’s talk about the rooms.

The beds in this Hampton Inn are incredibly comfortable. Hampton Inns are under the Hilton brand, and I’ve never stayed at a Hilton brand hotel that had terrible beds. Their beds are like pillowy clouds. After full days of activities, these beds were a welcomed sight.

Room with two queen beds at  Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
Comfy queen beds at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Wichita Airport.

The rest of the room is pretty hotel typical with a cool, modern look: Small fridge (very helpful for families), desk, large TV, and a nice bathroom with hotel toiletries included.

The view isn’t much, but I wasn’t expecting one being near an airport.

The hotel pool is a rectangle pool that isn’t too deep. While the kids played, I was able to watch comfortably from a pool chair. The seating in the pool area was surprisingly comfy.

The pool at Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
Not much makes the pool at the Hampton Inn & Suites standout, but kids don’t seem to care about the details.

The lobby is modern and stylish, and off to the side there is a small snack shop with drinks available for purchase. If you ask nicely, the front desk staff will give you a free bottle of water, so try that before purchasing one in the snack shop.

Local treats for purchase in the lobby of Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
The little shop in the lobby of the Hampton Inn & Suites has locally-made treats like chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, as well as inexpensive gifts made in Kansas like Chicken Poop chapstick (not made with real chicken poop).

In the dining area, you can find free hot water for tea and coffee. If you plan on running around as much as I did, that free caffeine boost is handy in the afternoon.

Free cookie at Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
Snacking on a free cookie from the front desk at the Hampton Inn.

The breakfast at the Hampton Inn is better than average when it comes to complimentary breakfasts. There are hot food options, fresh fruit, a waffle maker, and various pastries and breads to choose from.

The breakfast area at Hampton Inn & Suites Airport in Wichita, Kansas
The room where everyone eats breakfast looks great, doesn’t it?

Things To Do Near Hampton Inn 

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of must-see things super near this hotel. There is a complimentary shuttle that will drive you anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel, which includes places like:

Urban Air Trampoline Park (1 mile)

Sedgwick County Zoo (4.6 miles)

Dart Warz in Wichita is the love child of Nerf guns and paintball. Younger kids may not like the intensity of the games there, nor perhaps, older, slower grown-ups like myself. We’re just easy targets, guys.

The downtown area is about 6 miles away, and that’s where most of Wichita’s best things to see with kids are located. I’ve been told most everything in Wichita is within a 10-mile drive, and I’ve found that to be true. Some of the places in downtown Wichita that may interest families include: Botanica Wichita, Exploration Place, Old Cowtown Museum, The Keeper of the Plains, Museum of World Treasures, and INTRUST Bank Arena.

Further afield, you can drive to Tanganyika Wildlife Park (9 miles) or the Kansas Aviation Museum (11 miles).

Could you find a Wichita hotel closer to these attractions? Of course, especially downtown.

Restaurants Near This Wichita Hotel

Dining area in the lobby of the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Wichita airport.
My daughter checking out the dining area at the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Wichita airport.

To be honest, the kind of restaurants I was looking for — locally-owned restaurants — were not by our hotel. That meant, a lot of our dining was in downtown Wichita. I recommend making that 10-mile drive for tasty eats. The closest restaurant we dined at to this hotel was Delano Barbeque Co., which is about 5 miles away.

See all the Wichita restaurants we visited here.

But, if you’re looking for nearby good eats, there are plenty of chains to choose from. Within about a mile of the hotel, you’ll find an Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, and an abundance of fast food options.

* * * * *

Want to start planning your own Great Wichita Weekend?

Start with My Wichita Bucket List to get some inspiration, then dive into these for more fun ideas:

The Great Wichita Weekend recap

A Kid-Favorite Destination: Bonanica Wichita

Wichita’s Good Eats

Visiting Exploration Place With Kids

Exploring Tangyika Wildlife Park

For even more ideas for family fun in Wichita, check out my Pinterest Board. 

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/wichita-with-kids/

Liked this post?

We travel a lot & explore our  own backyard. Stay in the know – subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to popular posts like this one! Subscribe here.

May 15, 2017

Kid-Friendly Wichita Restaurants To Visit

My family recently took an incredible weekend trip to Wichita, Kan. It was a lot of fun, and in between all our stops, we visited fantastic, kid-friendly Wichita restaurants. If you’re looking for a list of some of the best restaurants in Wichita, this is the list (it’s just a bonus that they’re good restaurants for families, too)!

Update: This post was first written in 2017 and was updated in October 2019.

Looking for restaurants in Wichita, Kansas? There are a lot of choices! Here are some of the best locally-owned Wichita restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner and ice cream. They're kid-friendly, too! #restaurant #guide #Wichita #Midwest #USA

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Visit Wichita, and they helped us select some great spots to try. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Where is Wichita, Kansas?

Wichita is located in south central Kansas and sits on the Arksansas River. Population-wise, it’s comparable to Omaha, with 389,255 people (in 2018).

Two well-known, fast-food chains started in Wichita: Pizza Hut and White Castle. Now, the city has more than 1,200 restaurants. How to choose which ones to visit?!

My plan for this trip was to visit Wichita restaurants that were locally-owned. The key was that they had to be kid-friendly, not kiddie… I wanted good food.

Best breakfast in Wichita

For breakfast to give your day a turbo charge of sugar, go to The Donut Whole. We were among several families there the morning we went.

You can go as vanilla or as rainbow as you want when choosing a donut here. The popular flavor is maple bacon, which you gotta try. All donuts are made from scratch daily.

Donut Whole is one of the kid-friendly Wichita restaurants.

There’s a wide assortment to choose from, and it is a tough choice. Cookie, candy, cereal…they’re all toppings here.

They once had a Breaking Bad donut with blue rock candy on top.

Sign at The Donut Whole in Wichita, Kansas

The coffee’s pretty good here, plus free refills. If you want a more substantial breakfast, you can get a breakfast sandwich (made with donuts).

Tip: If, for whatever reason, you’re up late, the drive-thru window is open 24 hours a day.

Doo Dah Diner is a dining hot spot in Wichita, and it has mastered the laid-back vibe. Everyone nods in approval if you tell them you plan to eat there. It’s good stuff.

We went on a Sunday, which turns out is buffet-only, which may or may not be great for your family. If you go Wednesday through Saturday for breakfast, expect a wait. But at least you get to have free monkey bread in line (while it lasts…which is about ’til noon).

The counter at Doo Dah Diner in Wichita, Kansas. It is a popular place to go for breakfast in Wichita.

I tried one of the buffet staples: Pork Belly and Grits, which got the thumbs up. You’ll also always find hashbrown casserole and smoked salmon on the buffet table every Sunday.

You can also get some food made-to-order, including some benedicts and omelets.

Going during the week? Timirie, co-owner of Doo Dah Diner, said the most popular things to order are Crab Cake Benedict, Chicken Fried Steak, Smothered Breakfast Burrito, Banana Bread French Toast (gluten free) and Corned Beef Hash.

Hungry, yet?

The Sunday buffet at Doo Dah Diner in Wichita, Kansas

The exterior of the diner doesn’t really hint to the fun decor inside. Think lots of colors and a mishmash of art on the walls.

Wichita restaurants for lunch or dinner

For lunch, try The Kitchen. When we visited, the restaurant was still pretty new to the Wichita scene. The focus is on seasonal and clean food (so no nitrates in lunch meat and the burger is 100% beef).

That’s not to say it’s health food. We dug into straight up comfort food here. Try the disco fries, a New Jersey take on poutine.

The owner, Natasha, described it as New American, adding “We like to say you can be as good or naughty as you like.”

Disco Fries is like a poutine served at The Kitchen in Wichita

The menu is seasonally inspired, so I can’t quite guarantee what you’ll be able to order. I can tell you that Natasha’s crew serves up a mean panini.

For drinks, they keep some Kansas craft brews on tap. I opted for a raspberry ice tea, which was made just right (not too sweet, thankyouverymuch). It’s a great summer drink.

Moms and dads who like local beer with good food, go earlier in the day to The Anchor. They’re known for a good lineup of 50+ craft beers on tap and this amazing thing called The Haystack.

Interior of The Anchor, a bar in Wichita, Kansas

It’s a pub, no getting around it. But, they have a kid’s menu, so they won’t snub families. And not just any thrown-together kiddie menu, but a solid burger served with fries, a fruit cup, and a Rice Krispie Treat.

If you’re really hungry go to the historic Delano District for some barbecue at Delano Barbeque Co. It’s huge servings, even on the kid’s menu. And messy, because, well, barbecue.

It’s on the quirky side for its Christmas lights.

Tip: Delano Barbecue is closed on Sundays.

Sign for Delano Barbeque Co. in Wichita, Kansas

Where to get a snack or dessert in Wichita

Old Mill Tasty Shop is a kid-friendly restaurant in downtown Wichita. It's a good place to go in Wichita for ice cream.

For lunch spot or a great place for a treat, is Old Mill Tasty Shop in downtown Wichita. This is a Wichita institution, which opened in the 1930s (the current owners bought it in the 1980s).

Everyone – and I mean everyone – you ask will tell you to get the chicken salad, and I sampled it and it lives up to the hype. If you like chili, try the green chili there.

The soda fountain counter inside Old Mill Tasty Shop in Wichita, Kansas. It's a good restaurant for ice cream.

I went there and got a chocolate shake, made the old-fashioned way behind their old-fashioned soda fountain counter, and loved every drop…that my daughter hadn’t swiped from me while I wasn’t looking.

The hot fudge malt at Old Mill Tasty Shop in Wichita, Kansas

By the way, it’s right by Intrust Bank Arena, so if you have tickets to a show, it’s a great spot for before-show food. Old Mill is open for lunches during the week, and until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Tip: Old Mill Tasty Shop is closed on Sundays.

A bulk foods counter inside Nifty Nut House in Wichita, Kansas

Nifty Nut House is the snack place to end all snack places. It got its start in 1937, and over time, it’s evolved into a wholesaler of nuts, dried fruit, snack mixes, gourmet chocolate, sugar-free items, and homemade fudge.

But wait, there’s more.

You can find just about any candy brand you can dream of there, too.

Chocolate-covered nuts counter at Nifty Nut House in Wichita Kansas

It’s a huge store, and one my food hero, Alton Brown, called “a national treasure.”

Tip: Nifty Nut House is also closed on Sundays.

Planning a trip to Wichita, Kansas? Here are some recommended restaurants to try - they're locally-owned and great for families! From quirky donuts to seasonally-sourced "clean" food, as well as an old-fashioned soda fountain, Wichita has a variety of restaurant options. #Wichita #Kansas #Restaurants #FamilyTravel

* * * * *

Want to start planning your own Great Wichita Weekend?

Start with My Wichita Bucket List to get some inspiration, then dive into these for more fun ideas:

The Great Wichita Weekend recap

A Kid-Favorite Destination: Bonanica Wichita

Wichita Home Base: Hampton Inn & Suites

Visiting Exploration Place With Kids

Exploring Tangyika Wildlife Park

For even more ideas for family fun in Wichita, check out my Pinterest Board.

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/wichita-with-kids

Liked this post?

We travel a lot & explore our  own backyard. Stay in the know – subscribe to the FREE bi-weekly e-newsletter sharing giveaways, new posts and updates to popular posts like this one! Subscribe here.