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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Fredonia, Kansas Fall Homecoming Parade
Saturday - November 1, 2014: Linda and I had lunch at Town Topic in Mission, Kansas. Originally a Whopper Burger, this Kansas City classic is in an old Valentine Diner building and has been Town Topic in the late 1980s.

The chili was very good. The burgers were decent, but are quite thin and most people will want a double or triple. The fries are fairly standard shoestrings, but the onion rings are above average.

We followed up with a drive up the street three blocks to Werner's Fine Sausages, where there was a long line waiting for sausages cooked on the grill outside the store. We went on in to purchase Polish and Italian sausages to take home and prepare later.



Werner's Fine Sausages - Mission, Kansas Werner's Fine Sausages

Wednesday-Monday - November 5-10, 2014: Linda and I traveled to Florida to attend a family wedding in Marathon. We took advantage of the trip to visit other family, drive through the Everglades and the length of the Keys, taking photos for my Fine Art Photo Gallery, and visiting some attractions for the travel pages of our sister website: www.mightymac.org.

Aside from the beautiful wedding and seeing family, the highlights included touring the Ernest Hemingway home in Key West and touring the The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, which I highly recommend.

Low points in the trip were Crane Point Nature Center (where we were repeatedly strafed by a crop dusting plane spray bacteria to control mosquitoes) and a Key Largo Princess Glass Bottom Boat cruise to John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park (the combination of waves and looking through the bottom of the boat made nearly everyone seasick).

We enjoyed lots of good seafood, but my favorite dish of the trip was a lobster roll at Eaton Street Seafood Market in Key West. It was the best lobster roll which I have ever had. The bun, the slightly sweet sauce and the large pieces of perfectly cooked lobster came together just right. I am getting hungry as I type this!


Queen Butterfly, Florida Everglades

Key West Lighthouse - Key West, Florida

lobster roll at Eaton Street Seafood Market lobster roll

Sunday - November 16, 2014: Tonight, Linda and I tried out the couple year od Spin Pizza in Lenexa. Spin is a small chain, with locations in Dallas, Orange County, Omaha and metro Kansas City. They are popular with foodies, in part because they offer gluten free and other options. Overall it, was fine, but there are a wide variety of tastes for pizza and this one was not particularly mine. They are more Italian style than American and do not put toppings on as heavily as I like.

Today the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour was updated for the first time for the 2014 season. It currently has mostly info from 2013, but will be updated several times a week from now until the end of the year.


Wednesday - November 19, 2014: Paul Craig began the set up of Paulie's Penguin Playground in Olathe today and I stopped by to learn what they are doing for the 2014 Christmas season. This is one of the few displays which are as interesting in daytime as night and where visitors are invited to get out of their cars and walk through the display.

It has grown to nearly 150 lighted figures which fill most of his yard at Mur-Len Road & Indian Creek Parkway.

The Lawrence Christ Light Tour and the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade pages have been updated.


Paulie's Penguin Playground - Olathe, Kansas Paul Craig at work on Paulie's Penguin Playground
Thursday - November 20, 2014: Updated the page devoted to the Festival of Nativities at Centenary United Methodist Church in Lawrence.


Friday - November 21, 2014: I drove across I-70 to Salina this evening, where I stayed at the Best Western Plus Midwest Inn & Suites. This is the 3rd time that I have stayed there and I highly recommend it.

It was a foggy drive, and there was an accident in the east bound lanes near Maple Hill. The traffic in that direction was backed up for miles.

Supper was at the Brookville Hotel in Abilene, one of the most famous restaurants in Kansas. The restaurant was originally in an old hotel in Brookville, but the facade was reproduced next to I-70 in Abilene and some of the fixtures were moved into this location in 2000. 

The Brookville Hotel serves only one meal - family style fried chicken. The chicken is good and the sides dishes are wonderful Their creamed corn is the only creamed corn I like. Good mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, jam. Great coleslaw and bread & butter pickles. The meal ends with a dish of ice cream. Since they serve the same to everyone, the food comes with no delays.



Brookville Hotel - Abilene, Kansas Brookville Hotel

Saturday - November 22, 2014: Today was the annual meeting of the Great Planes Nature Photographers at the Opera House in McPherson, Kansas. It was my first visit to the Opera House and my first event with the GPNP.

The Opera House is quite attractive and much of the interior is updated and modern. The 160 photographers quickly filled the first floor and I found a seat in the first balcony.

The featured speaker for the day was Jennifer Wu, whose appearance was sponsored by Cannon. I particularly enjoyed the morning session, where I filled three pages with notes. The afternoon session had less to offer those who are not particularly interested in star photography.

There were no workshops and with the the theater style seating, the event does not lend itself to networking by those who do not know each other already. But it was a worthwhile event and well worth the $15 fee.

Lunch was at Woodies Smokehouse (called Woodies BBQ Shack on their web site). The prices are quite reasonable.

The meats have a lost of flavor from the rub used in preparation and are served dry (without sauce). There are a wide variety of BBQ sauce available to be added.

I thought that the ribs, hot links and spicy baked beans were all very good. The beef brisket was dry and flavorless. The corn on the con serving was a a large complete ear.

Supper was in Strong City at Ad Astra, a small, interesting restaurant which is open only on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. My starter of blue cheese chips (house made potato chips drizzled with ranch dressing, then topped with Maytag blue cheese crumbles and green onion) was very good, but I would have liked the chips to have been just a little more done.

Several of the burgers looked good to me, though I would have liked a build your own option, where I could have used the most appealing toppings from each one. They are served on a toasted pretzel bun and you have a choice of a 1/3 pound patty of beef, black bean or bison, or 1/2 pound of longhorn. I couldn't find what the regular beef was.

I selected the prairie burner (American & Swiss cheeses, roasted jalapeno, applewood smoked bacon, spicy mayo and lettuce) with bison. The juicy, flavorful meat was cooked perfectly medium as ordered. I particularly enjoyed the bacon. For a side, I picked the deep fried Brussels sprouts (tossed with garlic infused olive oil). The sprouts may have beef my favorite part of the meal, but a little of them goes a long way and I would have preferred a smaller helping and the option of a second side.


Opera House - McPherson, Kansas Opera House

Woodie's BBQ Shack - McPherson, Kansas Woodies Smokehouse

Ad Astra restaurant - Strong City, Kansas Prairie burner with deep fried Brussels sprouts

Sunday - November 23, 2014: We visited Vince and Associates in Overland Park this evening. Their holiday light and music program has been the largest and most impressive in the area for several years. In 2013 it was made larger & better - over the top! But it is smaller and has fewer elements for 2014.

Also new for 2014 - volunteers will be in the parking lot of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, across the street, where people watch the Vince & Associates show, collecting funds for Make A Wish or Children's Mercy hospital.


Vince and Associates holiday light show in Overland Park Vince and Associates holiday light show
Monday - November 24, 2014: The new Cafe on the Route in Baxter Springs opened on Friday. The photo at the right was taken in early September, when the building was receiving major remodeling by the new owners.

It will be a while before we can get there. If someone else dines there, please let us know what you think!


Cafe on the Route - Baxter Springs, Kansas Cafe on the Route
Wednesday - November 26, 2014: Nature Reach on the campus of Pittsburg State University has moved back into its regular quarters after extensive renovation was done to the building. This is from our 2011 tour of the facility: http://www.kansastravel.org/naturereach2.htm


Saturday - November 29, 2014: Our Christmas light tours on Johnson County, Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas are among the most popular pages on this web site. Although we have been adding info that became available to us in advance, tonight was the first night that we went out confirming that displays that were impressive in 2013 are still up and investigating new ones.

Tonight was devoted to Olathe Christmas displays and several new displays were added to the 2014 tour, including the one at the right on 160th Street. In total, there are 10 displays on the Olathe Xmas Light Tour in Johnson County.


Christmas Light Display - Olathe, Kansas Olathe Christmas display
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