2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Here’s our annual gift guide for the trail lovers in your life. Of course, there’s always our favorite gift of the Kansas Trail Guidebook, but here are 10 more awesome gift ideas.

1.  The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers

The perfect companion to the Kansas Trail Guide, this completely updated volume includes the best insider information about local favorite places to eat, visit, and stay throughout Kansas. Buy it from the Kansas Sampler foundation.  $29.95

 

2. Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket

Kansas weather can throw everything at you (in one trip!). Be prepared to weather the storm and enjoy the trail in this outstanding softshell from Rab. $225

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3. Capitol Copper

Own your own piece of Kansas history with copper from the Capitol dome from the Kansas State Historical Society. Replaced in 2013, the copper was made available to the Kansas Historical Society and Kansas Historical Foundation for use in products to be sold in the Capitol Store. Items you can get range from jewelry to oil bottles to a single sheet of the copper to put on display. You can buy it in person at the gift store of the Capitol, or online. 

 

4. Ad Astera Per Aspera Hat

Every hiker in the Sunflower State should be sporting a stylish hat while on the trail.  Get yours from a Kansas company served up with some retro style and a side of state pride. Currently on sale for $27.99

5. Ultra-Sil Day Pack

Tired of flimsy drawstring packs? Still hiking with a backpack that you used in middle school? Lugging around a full-size pack for a day-hike?  Too cheap to buy a pack for the kids to hike with?  Problem solved. $32.95

Sea to Summit Pack

 

6. Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) in Kansas class enrollment

Mark your calendar for May 4-6, 2018 at Rock Springs 4-H center for a woman’s weekend of wilderness skills and outdoor fun.  Excellent course and a gentle introduction to high adventure and outdoor skills.

For the already intrepid outdoors-woman, get inspired with a subscription to Misadventures magazine.

7. Prairie Earth Tours

Experience the best of the Flint Hills like you never have before!  If you are looking for a guided adventure that takes the guess-work out of planning an awesome trip, here’s the place to sign up!  Choose from a guided photography, craft-brewery, moonlight tours of the Flint Hills, or customize a private tour.

8. Pat’s Beef Jerky – Liebenthal, Kansas

In my book, nothing is better on the trail than beef jerky!  And no beef jerky is better than Pat’s (#boldstatement).  If the wonderful town of Liebenthal is not on your daily commute, just have it shipped to your door in time for Christmas or a First Day Hike.

9. National Parks Trivial Pursuit Game

After a day of hiking and around the campfire, bring out this fun and challenging game. Easy to pack and carry with a small carabiner attached, it’s got over 600 questions about the national parks with categories including Natural Wonders, Battlefields & Historic Sites, Cultural Heritage, Science & Nature, Wildlife, and Wild Card. $19.18 on Amazon

10. NSR Riding Bicycle Tour Camping Tent

This tent fits both you and your bike, with room for the bike to securely stand upright, cutting down on concerns about theft and weather. It packs down to fit into a pannier, and weighs only 4.1 pounds. You could be the envy of everyone on the Bike Across Kansas! $299.99

New at the 2017 Kansas State Fair

The state fair is in full swing, and this over 100-year-old celebration has some new things. Here are our recommendations.

Pronto Pup t-shirts

Don’t you dare call it a corn dog! The pronto pup is a fair classic and there are at least three spots around the fairgrounds to get one, but only next to the Lair White House and the arena can you get a shirt proclaiming your love of this fair food. $21 a shirt with kids and adult sizes and a few different colors.

Flippin‘ – Acrobat and aerialist show

Where last year ther was a dog show, this year there is an acrobat show. With family members starring, there is a combination of trapeze style work and impressive balance acts with a steampunk theme.

There are no nets or padded mats below the performers and it’s a great great show! Show up 20 minutes or so ahead of time to get a seat.

Free. Shows at Gottschalk Park at 11am, 1:30pm, 6:30pm

Food

There are a handful of new dishes serve up around the fairgrounds. We tried the ‘roni dog’ – a hot dog topped with macaroni and cheese and bacon bits from Carousel Cafe.

One of the best things about the dish is that it’s the right size for one person. If you have a hankering for turkey leg, for example, you had better have some people to share it with since they’re so big. But the roni dog is just right.

Lair White House

Each year there is a different display at the little fair museum, and this year it’s on the special food contests from Pillsbury Pie competitions to the (in)famous SPAM contest.

To toot our own horn a bit, a lot of the SPAM items on display come from the Kansas Trail Guide family.

Free.

Escape Room

For $25, you and up to 7 friends, you get half an hour to get out of a specially designed ‘escape room.’ With hidden clues and the promise of ice cream if you figure it out in the time limit, it’s a fun challenge.

Kids 10 and under free. In front of the Encampment Building. Open 9am to 9pm.

Run the first ever Fleet Feet XC 5k on 7/29

The Applejack Pumpkin Patch in Butler County will be the site of the first ever Fleet Feet Sports XC Classic.

There are three different race options along a fun course and family-friendly activities and music after the races.

Where: Applejack Pumpkin Patch, 10007 SW Indianola Rd, Augusta, KS 67010

Race options: 1.5mile Elementary and Middle School Race (7:30am). 5K High School Race (8am). 5K Open Race (9am).

Cost: $20 registration. Register here.

 

Trail Town of the Year: Iola! Presentation 7/20 at 2pm at Thrive Allen County

Iola wins trail town of the year! A clear winner from our poll, we’ll be awarding our 2017 Kansas Trail Guide Town of the Year to Iola. The presentation will be on Thursday, July 20 at 2pm at the Thrive Allen County conference room, 9 South Jefferson Ave, Iola.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 9.29.19 AMAlong with the award and an honorary copy of the Kansas Trail Guide book given to Thrive Allen County, we’ll be presenting information on the trails of Kansas and just what you can see when you get off the highway and explore. From wagon trail ruts and Civil War history to impressive geologic formations and beautiful wildflowers, there’s some amazing things to see.

You’ll also be able to buy your own copy of the Kansas Trail Guide book, get a copy signed, and ask any questions about the trails of Kansas that you might have.

Looking forward to honoring Iola and to seeing you there!

 

Eat, Play, Stay: Topeka

Topeka, along the Kansas River, has a number of great trails (including near Cedar Crest, the Governor’s Mansion), interesting history, and an active arts scene. Check out our recommendations of where to eat, what to see, and where to stay while you’re in the capital city.

Eat

Hanover Pancake House (1034 S. Kansas Ave. Open 6:30am to 3pm Sundays, 6:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday).

In business since 1969, this mainstay diner style restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and it was voted Topeka’s Best Place for Breakfast in 2016.

Order up! The Burger Stand

Burger Stand (1601 SW Lane Street, College Hill. Open 11am to 10pm Sunday and 11am to 2am Monday through Saturday).

It’s impossible to pick one best burger here, but I’m a fan of the Smoke (Applewood smoked bacon, gouda cheese & chipotle-cocoa ketchup) and Black & Blue (Blue cheese & granny smith apple chutney).

The restaurant has a couple of dining areas, and they’ve got a pool table, foosball table, and pinball machines. The service was quick, and the food delicious.

Hazel Hill Chocolate (724 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 7pm. Closed Mondays).

Handmade in small batches on-site, the chocolate treats here are incredible. You can get just one, with truffles costing $2.25, or you can stock up and get them by the box.

Moburt’s (820 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 6pm. Closed Sundays).

For your own cooking, you can add the gourmet touch with an impressively large range of salts, sugars, and spices — espresso sugar, wild blueberry sugar, Hawaiian black sea salt, gingered Thai sea salt, ground Vietnamese cinnamon, pretty much anything you can think of and many you wouldn’t have thought of before. The staff are great at advising for the best pairings.

Play

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (1515 SE Monroe Street. Open 9am to 5pm daily).

It’s a trailhead for the Landon Nature Trail, and it’s also the place to learn about the historic desegregation decision made in 1954 that helped change schools in America for the better with indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (4400 SW 10th Ave. Closed Monday, open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, open 1pm to 5pm Sunday. Kids and adults $7.75, seniors $6.75, and under 12 months, free).

In the southwest corner of Gage Park, also home to the Topeka Zoo, is the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center filled with interactive exhibits. The outdoor classroom area has a zipline, music garden, treehouse and more. Inside, there is an art play space, puzzle garden, science gallery, and more with activities for babies, toddlers, and elementary school age kids.

NOTO Arts District (800 and 900 Block of North Kansas Avenue. Keep in mind that many of the shops are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays).

The best time to visit is for the First Friday Artwalk, but if you can’t make it then, there’s still plenty to see. A mix of artist studios, antique stores, boutiques and a handful of cafes.

See that statue on top? You can climb practically all the way to it!

Capitol Dome Tour (300 SW 10th Street. Tours are free and run Monday through Friday: 9:15, 10:15, 11:15 a.m., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 p.m. Saturday: 10:15, and 11:15 am., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:15 pm. Keep in mind, if it’s too hot, tours will be cancelled).

296 steps and you’ll be at the top of the nation’s only state capitol dome where you can walk outside. The tour starts with checking out some of the capitol building’s many murals, and then you head behind the scenes and up, up, up.

It’s a bit intense if you’re scared of heights, but there are protective railings and a tour guide to put you at ease. And the views from the top, especially on a clear day, are impressive You can also turn back at any point. Read more about it here.

Ted Ensley Gardens (3650 SE West Edge Rd. Open 6am to 11pm).

You can boat, fish, sail, and swim at Lake Shawnee, but there’s more to the area than water activities. Along the west side of the lake are the Ted Ensley Gardens. Trails through the arboretum, a meditation garden, and over a thousand types of flowers and trees, it’s a pleasant, pretty spot.

View from a Capitol Plaza Hotel room

Stay

Capitol Plaza Hotel (1717 SW Topeka Boulevard. Rooms from $109).

Next to the Kansas Expocentre, the Capitol Plaza Hotel is a great place to stay. It’s pet-friendly and non-smoking complete with an indoor pool, hot tub whirlpool, and exercise room.

You get free WiFi throughout the hotel, and there are two restaurants — the Falling Water Grille and Water’s Edge Lounge.

There’s plenty of parking, the beds are comfy, and I must admit that even as an adult, I’m always a fan of glass elevators — this one overlooks the garden atrium.

Part of the Great Mural Wall of Topeka near the Capitol Plaza Hotel in summer 2016

It’s also a few minutes walk from the Great Wall of Topeka-Mural along SW Western.

Ramada Inn Downtown (420 SE 6th Avenue. Rooms from $84).

If you want to easily access history, stay at the Ramada Inn Downtown as it has the in-house Holley Museum of Military History. Along with this unexpected amenity, the hotel has three restaurants: Madison Street Diner, Maddie’s Cocktail Lounge, and Uncle Bo’s Bar, which has live bands every Friday and Saturday night.

Along with the seasonal outdoor pool, there’s an indoor pool and hot tub. Each room has a microwave and mini-fridge, and they have a free hot and tasty breakfast. You get free WiFi, and in the fitness center, you can take a yoga class.

Come see us July 8 at 2pm in Emporia

We’re excited to be back this summer to keep on sharing our love of Kansas trails, and letting people know what’s out there throughout the state.

We’ll be giving a talk on the varying trails and ecosystems and adventures of Kansas at Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia at 2pm on July 8. That’s one week from day! Mark your calendars and bring your copy to be signed or buy one!

Fun fact on the place itself — it’s named after Ellen Plumb, who opened Emporia’s first bookstore back in 1870.

If you go:

Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore
1101 Commercial, Emporia

Saturday, July 8
2pm

Vote for the Kansas Top Trail Town 2017

In honor of the upcoming National Trails Day (June 3), we’re hoping to find out which Kansas town / city you think is the best one for trails.

Whichever location gets the most votes will be honored as our Top Trail  Town of the Year 2017, and we’ll be sending a free copy of our book to the winning town’s public library.

We’ve included in our poll the places that are expanding their trail system, have embraced the local trails, and embody the spirit of adventure on the plains.

  • Iola has the Thrive Allen County campaign as well as being the trailhead for the Prairie Spirit Trail, Southwind Rail Trail, and the Lehigh Portland Trails among others.
  • Marysville combines the old and new trails of Kansas. It’s home to the recently completed Blue River Rail Trail that extends into Nebraska as well as the Pony Express Trail and Oregon Trail. The Kansas Sampler Foundation named it the Trails Capital of Kansas.
  • Topeka is the trailhead for the Landon Nature Trail, which starts at the historic site of Brown v Board of Education, it has the only set of trails outside of a Governor’s Mansion, and it’s an access point for the Kansas River Trail.
  • Lawrence is another stop on the Kansas River Trail, and it has a plethora of well-loved and well-maintained trails including the KU Field Station, Clinton Lake, and the nearby recently restore and expanded Baker Wetlands.

Did we leave one out? Let us know and let us hear your vote!