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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Train Garden at the Overland Park Arboretum
Tuesday - November 3, 2020: Business took me to Gardner, Kansas at lunch time and I decided to revisit Celebrity's Cheese Steaks, Burgers & More, but when I went in to order, it turned out that not a single employee was wearing a face mask.

So I drove north to Go Chicken Go in Olathe, which is part of a very popular Kansas City area fast food chick chain. After picking up a half order of fried chicken gizzards and drove to the municipal park at Cedar Lake to enjoy my meal outside. I really love those gizzards with the hot "G sauce" and learned years ago that the roll can be exchanged for a second service of the sauce.

After lunch, I hiked to a spot below Cedar Lake Falls for a few photos and video.



Cedar Lake Falls - Olathe, Kansas Cedar Lake Falls

Thursday - November 5, 2020: It had been a year since I last visited Smokey's on the Blvd BBQ in Overland Park and for lunch I picked up a order of their BBQ egg rolls. All of Smokey's food is good, the egg rolls are a product I can get nowhere else. The egg rolls are filled with peppery beef brisket burnt ends and vegetables, which are perfectly finished with a mayo based sauce.

After lunch I revisited the Overland Park Arboretum. I hadn't been to this neat collection of gardens and there were several new attractions. I was fascinated by the Train Garden, with its model of downtown Overland Park.



Train Garden at the Overland Park Arboretum Train Garden

Saturday - November 7, 2020: we had decided to try out the newly opened Harley's Hideaway Bar & Grill in Shawnee, Kansas, but when I called to place and order on the way there, there was no answer. I double checked the hours on their web site and confirmed there was no post about a change of hours on their Facebook page, so we continued on. When we arrived at Harley's Hideaway, it was locked up and a note that they would open late.

So we tried another Shawnee restaurant, McLain's Market, which opened about 5 months ago. It is the 5th location for McLain's Bakery, which has been in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri since 1945. Their newer locations are all in Lawrence and Johnson County, Kansas.

Tables were well spaced out and everyone was wearing masks, so we felt comfortable dining in. Food is ordered and paid for at the counter and we had the smoked turkey sandwich, chicken salad sandwich and loaded fries. Both sandwiches were good, with the roasted red pepper spread on the turkey sandwich a nice touch. The fries were particularly good with their cheese, chives and bacon. Kind of a deep fried version of twice baked potato.

We drove up to Kansas City, Kansas to visit the drive through Day of the Dead Art Exhibit sponsored by the Central Avenue Betterment Association. It was nice, ut we were surprised at how little there was. We anticipated something that was a block or more long, but it was about 40'.



McLain's Market - Shawnee, Kansas McLain's Market

Day of the Dead Art Exhibit - Kansas City, Kansas Día de los Muertos

Sunday - November 8, 2020: We revisited J. Gilberts, which is on our Overland Park Restaurant Guide. It had been at least 3 years since we had last dined there. I had confirmed the COVID precautions in advance and was pleased by the careful spacing of the dinning area. Linda had the 4 ounce fillet with shrimp, while I had the bone in cowboy cut rib eye. Both were good, but not outstanding. They are a bit expensive.

My favorite part of J. Gilberts was the atmosphere, though it was so dark that I got no good photos.


Wednesday - November 18, 2020: Our Kansas City Christmas Display Tour, Lawrence Christmas Display Tour and Topeka Christmas Display Tour are already getting many visits and I made the first pass od updating them based on information provided by some of the people whose homes have been featured on the tours in previous years. 


Friday - November 20, 2020: I'm off to southeast and south central Kansas, with the first stop in Neodesha, where I photographed the exterior of the Norman #1 Museum and the overflow dam on the Fall River.

I had lunch at Beef Burger Bob's. Beef burgers are loose meat sandwiches, which originated at this restaurant when it was in nearby Fredonia and was called The Iceberg. 

I got a small beef burger, made onion strings and cherry pie to go and ate in the car. The onion rings, which appear to be just dredged in flour and black pepper, which were greasy but yummy. This was the first time I was there early enough in the day that they still had pie. It was fairly average, but a treat to find in a restaurant like this.

This Friday & Saturday is the annual open house and Outhouse Tour in Elk Falls, Kansas and I try to get back to it every few years. There were 21 decorated outhouses in the festival this year. There are other activities such as arts & crafts and a free ham & bean feed.

My next stop was Hubble's Rubble in Howard, Kansas. The sculptures were created by Jerry Hubbell, a realtor and rancher. Jerry has had no formal are training, but took welding lessons when he began farming. Some of these folk art metal sculptures are more than 30 years old.

After a brief pass through Howard and a few photos downtown, I visited the lonely grave of Benjamin F. Hobbs, which is in a field along k-99, north of town. He was the first teacher of Elk County and passed away at the age of 23, in 1871. In 1933 teachers students in Elk County raised money to erect a marker and a fence separating the grave from the land around it.

I was back on the road, with the next stop in Beaumont, Kansas for some fresh photos of the exterior of the 1879 Beaumont Hotel. The hotel has its own airfield and airplanes taxi up the street to the hotel. Across from the hotel is an 1885 Frisco water tower which is believed to be the only wooden water tower still in use in the United States. A new depot has been erected across the railroad tracks from the water tower.

I drove on to Wichita where I got supper at the drive through window at Broadway Burgers & BBQ. The grilled cheeseburger and fries were good, but not a candidate for our Kansas Best Burgers List.

After a brief stop at the Keeper of the Plains for photos, I went on to Botanica, where Illuminations is taking place each night except Christmas, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Eve. Executive Director Marty Miller met me and showed me all the details of the walk through and drive through Christmas Lights. 

Almost 10 acres of theme gardens have nearly 3,000,000 of the lights along a one way route which allows visitors to be socially distanced while walking about a mile indoors and outdoors. The drive through version of Botanica Illuminations is a mile long route with nearly 1,000,000 lights. I also had a chance to photograph the carousel from Wichita's Joyland amusement park, which was restored and opened in 2019 with a new pneumatic organ, the "Mini Monster."


Beef Burger Bob's - Neodesha, Kansas Beef Burger Bob's

Outhouse Tour - Elk Falls, Kansas "Let it Go" outhouse

Hubble's Rubble - Howard, Kansas Hubble's Rubble

railroad depot - Beaumont, Kansas new depot

Botanica Illuminations - Wichita, Kansas Illuminations

Saturday - November 21, 2020: It is a rainy morning and I had a leisurely start to the morning, arriving at the Spice Merchant a little after it opened. The Spice Merchant is in the old headquarters of the  Mentholatum Corporation and has a huge selection of spices, canned foods made exclusively for them and custom coffee roasting. I purchased bulk spices and some rare hot sauces.

I drove on to the Nifty Nut House. The 83 year old Nut House is known for making their own fudge, roasting their own nuts, and selling several hundred products in bulk by the quarter pound or more, as well as having the walls lined with favorites like Moon Pies and candy cigarettes. I made more purchases here.

I intended to try Bill's Charcoal Grill and was waiting when the restaurant opened, but decided to try somewhere else after seeing that the staff was not wearing masks.

After a short search on my phone, I decided to try Tad's Carryout and was very glad I did. Tad's is a year and a half old carry out only restaurant at the location of the former House of Majestic Eating. The old "House of Majestic Eating" sign is still up, as well as graffiti style signs for Ted's on the front and side.

There is a small area inside the front door for placing orders through a window. The menu is short, but varied and I went with 6 fried chicken wings & seasoned French fries for $9 and a $3 piece of fried catfish. The wings were quite spicy and were complete wings, not thirds. The piece of catfish was actually 2 fairly large pieces. Their coating was less spicy, but went well with either hot sauce or the house special sauce.

The rain had settled in to stay, so I cut my exploring short and headed home.



Nifty Nut House mural - Wichita, Kansas Nifty Nut House mural

Tad's Carryout - Wichita, Kansas Tad's Carryout

Chicken wings at Tad's Carryout Chicken wings

Sunday - November 22, 2020: We added a new page devoted to the Botanica Illuminations walk through and drive through Christmas light displays in Wichita.


Wednesday - November 25, 2020: I made my first drive, checking on Christmas light displays in Lenexa and Shawnee, Kansas which have been on the Kansas City Christmas Light Tour in previous years. I can't check new displays in the daytime, because I can't get the pictures I would like, but can see if the former displays are up or going up, and if they appear to have changed.

The one at the right is the Haskins Street Christmas Display, which is impressive day or night and continues to grow each year.


Haskins Street Christmas Display - Lenexa, Kansas Haskins Street Christmas Display
Friday - November 27, 2020: Linda and I drove to Lawrence and Eudora to check on all the displays which were on the 2019 Lawrence Christmas Light Tour. There were a few new ones, but one was gone after many years. I was pleased to discover that the Ranchero Drive Christmas Display was back this year. We first discovered in in 2008, but it hasn't been up every year when we checked, including last year. Ranchero Drive Christmas Display - Lawrence, Kansas Ranchero Drive
Saturday - November 28, 2020: Linda and I drove to Topeka to check on Topeka Christmas Light Displays which I could not verify in advance. Not all were up completely, but we could check to see if the large displays were at least started for 2020.

After checking on several on the east side of Topeka, we picked up carry out from Herman's Meats, which we first tried a couple of months ago. The popular "chopped meat" sandwich, which combines 4 different meats, was not a hit for me, but the chicken wings were good.

After dark, we started checking more displays and found a couple of new ones in the far northwest part of town. We also stopped at the Topeka Zoo which has a new walk through "Zoo Lights" this year. There was enough visible from outside that it is even worth checking out drive by.



Zoo Lights - Topeka Zoo Zoo Lights

Sunday - November 29, 2020: Mary and Nicholas joined us to try out Wandering Vine, which opened in the  113 year old Castle Caenen in Shawnee. Kansas. The building has been remodeled with tall Plexiglas shields between tables.

The Sunday brunch menu has only 7 entrees and we tried chicken Caesar salad, biscuits & chorizo gravy and steak & eggs.

The biscuits and gravy was my favorite. The chorizo made a great gravy and the castle made biscuits had good flavor and a lovely crispy outside.

The Brown Butter Pear Cake was a big hit with all of us!

Despite being open only 3 days, there were no opening jitters and excellent service.


Wandering Vine - Shawnee, Kansas Wandering Vine

Steak and Eggs at Wandering Vine Steak and Eggs

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