Kansas Travel Blog

Chronicling changes to KansasTravel.org and Keith's exploration & photographing Kansas restaurants, attractions, museums, festivals and art. Contact him.
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Bison at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
Friday - May 2, 2014: This evening we drove to Wichita, where friends met us for supper at Mediterranean Grill, across from Towne East Mall. The food was OK and the servings were quite generous, but although it had received some rave comments online, we found it to be nothing special. The service was erratic, with some long waits earlier in the meal, but although the restaurant wasn't that busy, our server stood and waited for our credit card at the end of the meal, rather than leaving the bill until we were ready.

We followed up with gelato at Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolate, a couple of miles away. It was a much more comfortable place to continue to catch up with our friends and with four people, we were able to sample a nice selection. The triple dark chocolate gelato was very good. The candies were beautiful, but tasted less impressive. 

This is Cocoa Dolce's flagship store. A second location is opening in Overland Park, Kansas, later this month.

 

Mediterranean Grill - Wichita, Kansas Mediterranean Grill

Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolate - Wichita, Kansas Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolate

 
Saturday - May 3, 2014: This was mostly a day of revisiting attractions which I had last visited 6-8 years ago. Linda really enjoyed taking pictures at Tanganyika Wildlife Park. While not a large zoo, it has a nice layout and many opportunities for visitors to interact, such as petting kangaroos and feeding giraffes, lorikeets or Ring-tailed lemurs. We spent a lot of time watching a pair of siamangs (gibbons) which were extremely active and loud.

Wichita has lot of great places for burgers and we had lunch at my favorite, a tiny dive named Bomber Burger. It is a 63 year old bar with about 7 stools and 3 tiny tables. The owner is usually the only employee, working the bar while cooking and keeping it open only from 10AM-5PM. The 3/4 pound burgers are sprinkled with a little garlic powder and the toppings & buns are high quality. I had warned Linda that the owner has an attitude, but she pointed out that he was still polite.

We toured Botanica (the Wichita Gardens) and the Great Plains Nature Center, which Linda had never been to before. There were several new features, such as the Downing Children's Garden which includes a farm with raised beds & a working water pump, a giant tree & tree house, and a musical maze.

The new model railway garden appears to be a big hit.

We visited a second chocolate shop, Cero's Candies, which was started by Pete Cero in 1885, and was still
operated by the Cero family until 1999. It has since changed hands twice and recently moved to a new location which I hadn't been to before. While this shop isn't as sophisticated as the one we visited the night before and the selection of candies was much smaller, we both enjoyed them more.

It was a good thing we had a cooler along. We stumbled across a satellite location of Yoder Meats, where we bought some of their house made sausage and buffalo jerky. A large trailer mounted smoker was operating in front of the store and we were told that they bring it to this location once a month.

The Seafood Shop, right next door,  us a fresh fish market where we picked up some house made smoked fish spreads.

I had just recently learned of the Wichita Center For the Arts, which is about both performing and visual arts. We
were there to tour the galleries. They are large, but mostly open space and the largest area is used for temporary exhibits such as the current one on pastels. We were more interested in the more intimate galleries which displayed a small sampling of the permanent collection.

A trolley with a wedding party pulled up to take pictures on the bridge leading to the Center, as we were leaving.

The Great Plains Nature Center was mostly unchanged since my first visit in 2006. Our favorite part was the Bob Gress Wildlife Observatory which looks out onto the wetlands of Chisholm Creek Park.  The area immediately outside the windows is landscaped with a recirculating stream, bird feeders and plants attractive to butterflies and birds. A mallard duck family was exploring the stream.

Having a "Koch" Habitat Hall seems like a but of a role reversal.

Driving north from Wichita, we stopped for supper in Newton and I had a long overdue return to the Mennonite Bakery, The Breadbasket, which has a German buffet on Friday and Saturday evenings. I really need to get back here more often!

I have never liked borscht, but their borscht was made with cabbage and no beets. It was one of the best soups which I have ever had.

The sausage was great, both on its own or with a little horseradish and sweet mustard. I was being bad and had two desserts. I first had cherry moos (creamy cherry soup) at the Mennonite Relief sale last year, and enjoyed it again. My favorite was bohne berroggi. I wouldn't have tried it from the description, but it looked so good. It was a warm pastry with sweet pinto bean paste inside and topped with a wonderful sweet, creamy sauce.

As we continued north to spend the the night in Junction City, we saw a sign about an arboretum as were passing Hesston and pulled off to discover the 13 acre Dyck Arboretum which was started in 1981. The visitor's center has very limited hours, but the grounds are available all the time.

The arboretum is part of Hesston College.

 

Tanganyika Wildlife Park - Goddard, Kansas Siamangs

Bomber Burger - Wichita, Kansas Bomber Burger 

Botanica - Wichita, Kansas Botanica

Cero's Candies - Wichita, Kansas Cero's Candies 

Yoder Meats - Wichita, Kansas Yoder Meats

Wichita Center For the Arts - Wichita, Kansas Wichita Center For the Arts 

Great Plains Nature Center - Wichita, Kansas Great Plains Nature Center

The Breadbasket - Newton, Kansas The Breadbasket
 
 
 

Dyck Arboretum - Hesston, Kansas Dyck Arboretum

Sunday - May 4, 2014: We drove on to Wamego first thing in the morning. It was the Kansas Sampler Festival weekend - a fair which showcases Kansas rural culture and attractions across the State. The Kansas Explorers Club has its annual meeting before the Festival opens for the day on Sunday. It was great seeing old friends Larry Hornbaker, Marci Penner, Wendee LaPlant and Melba Rigg.

The following 5 hours were spent visiting booths, shopping, eating and touring the museum the Festival surrounded. We caught up on changes at places we have already visited and picked up leads on new places. Some places have changed a lot and we learned that it is time to return to Galena and see the changes at Four Women on the Route, which is now called Cars on the Route.

We were hot and feeling a little worn out by then, and headed home, with just brief stops to photograph the newly restored State Capitol dome in Topeka and a couple of art environments. The first of those was a little known "fire hydrant garden" in Topeka, where a large yard is lined with fire hydrants of all colors, shapes and sizes. Perhaps 50 or 60 of them. 

The final stop was at Nick Schmiedler's folk art environment in his family's yard in Lawrence which has made some changes since I photographed it before. Actually, I'm not sure that changes would be that obvious to the casual visitor, but I was still happy to update the info.

 

Kansas Explorers Meeting - Kansas Sampler Festival Kansas Explorers Meeting

Fire hydrant garden - Topeka, Kamsas Fire hydrant garden

Schmiedler's folk art environment - Lawrence, Kansas Schmiedler's folk art

Sunday - May 11, 2014: We visited Shawnee Mission Park to exercise my step daughter's dogs in the 53 acre dog park. The off leash area is very popular, despite the ticks. Shawnee Mission Park - off leash dog park
Thursday - May 15, 2014: For lunch I revisited Master Wok in Olathe for the first time in about a year. The attractive Asian Restaurant continues to offer some outstanding lunch specials. They have gone up slightly in price, but are still a bargain with many combination complete meals for $5.95-6.95 including an appetizer and soup. 

Their own web site still lists the old pricing, which was about 50 cents cheaper.

 

Master Wok - Olathe, Kansas Pork with garlic sauce
Saturday - May 17, 2014: We stayed at the Best Western Holiday Manor in McPherson the previous night. I stay at 15-20 motels, hotels and B&Bs a year and this one one of the poorest rooms I have had. And for $100/night at that. I will not stay there again.

We were a little slow getting away in the morning and were among the last to arrive at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge at 7:30 for the Babies and Wildflowers Photographers Tour. There are nearly 300 wild American Bison in the refuge and the fund raising event spread about 30 photographers across three trams and took into into the center of a herd of over 100 of them. The herd included about 30 calves which had been born in the past few weeks. Many of them were within a few feet.

I was hoping for elk photography opportunities, but they will not drop their young for a few more weeks and we saw only one elk at a distance.

Returning to McPherson, we photographed the new facility housing the McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation. They have built a nice brand new facility, but still need another $100,000 for new exhibits. There wasn't much to see at this point and I need to consider how to update their review to say nice things, while encouraging visitors to put off their visits until there is more to see.

We had lunch at the Trail Days Cafe and Museum in Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail. It had been nearly 3 years since we visited this cool combination of museum complex and mom & pop restaurant. Actually, it is currently just a pop restaurant. Mom is recovering from lung cancer. The menu includes American Indian, Old World, Early American, and 20th Century foods that are made from scratch. Linda had roast elk and I had Toad in the Hole (a traditional British dish of sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter).

We went on to Topeka, to buy specialty foods at Rees Fruit Farm for an upcoming promotion.

We also had a snack so I could update the review of Bobo's Drive-In. It is a 66 year old restaurant which has been on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. In addition to finally trying the Spanish burger and retrying the apple pie, we learned that the prices have gone up since my last visit a few months ago.

In a change of pace we went to Sk8away, to watch Roller Derby. The Capital City Crushers soundly defeated the Salina Sirens. An old family friend was one was one of the referees.

We had a late supper at Royal Buffet, a Chinese buffet, before heading home. In January it opened in the space which had housed another large buffet. It is the fourth location for this small chain, which has another location in Wichita and two in Nebraska. I felt it was slightly improved over the previous restaurant, but not really a place I would single out for visitors to try.

 


 
 

American Bison - Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Kansas American Bison
 
 

McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation - McPherson, Kansas McPherson Museum

Trail Days Cafe and Museum - Council Grove, Kansas Trail Days Cafe

Bobo's Drive-In - Topeka, Kansas Bobo's Drive-In menu

Roller Derby - Topeka, Kansas Roller Derby

Saturday - May 24, 2014: This weekend we are taking photos at ConQuesT 45, a science fiction convention in Kansas City, Missouri, for our sister site, the MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive. A small group from the convention asked me to select a good nearby BBQ place where they could get in without a long wait on a Saturday night.

We took them to Rosedale Barbeque in Kansas City, Kansas, which was founded in 1934. I enjoyed the ribs and was able to update the menu for the Rosedale listing on this site.

 

 
Saturday - May 31, 2014: We investigated the new Prairie Fire Museum at the new retail development of the same name in Overland Park. The most popular exhibit appears to be the Alive Experience, where you can design and name a dinosaur then step out into the Great Hall and look up at the screen showing you and your dinosaur in real time.

Visiting the Great Hall is free, but there isn't very much there so far. There is a fee to view rotating temporary exhibits. They need to do a better job of selling those exhibits.

After a lunch at Hillsdale Bank BBQ, where we sampled a couple of dishes we hadn't had before, we stopped at KC Watersports, where several people were water skiing on Cable Lake. An automated ski tow pulls skiers around the small lake with no need for a boat.

 

Prairie Fire Museum - Overland Park, Kansas Alive Experience
 

KC Watersports - Hillsdale, Kansas Ski jumping

 
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