REI and Dinosaurs: Prairiefire opens in Overland Park

Overland Park is now home to Kansas’ first REI store in its new $427 million development Prairiefire. Opening weekend was the first week of October, and you should stop by for a visit!

While I’m a fan of independently owned, smaller stores, REI, though it’s a big company, has to be one of my favorite stores in terms of quality hiking gear, in large part because of their return policy.

If you use the item, and it doesn’t work out for you (shoes give you blisters, shirt shrinks in the wash), they will take it back within a year of your purchase. So instead of having to hope for the best in terms of your gear working they way you want it to, you’ll always know you can go back and try again. They also sell Garmin devices, including the Oregon 650t, which we’ve tested and love.

Activities coming up with REI that will get you out exploring the Kansas City area (which, yes, does include Kansas City, Missouri, though our book will just focus on the Kansas side of the city).

And coming in May 2014 to Prairiefire will be a natural history museum called The Museum of Prairiefire. It ties in perfectly with the idea of our book – along with mapping out the trails, we’re going to be including some of the natural history of the areas, so you’ll have some context to where you’re exploring. And this museum is going to be a pretty big deal. It’s a partnership with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

For a sneak peek at part of the exhibits, there’s the World’s Largest Dinosaurs temporary exhibit that opened the first week of October 2013.

Featuring a life-sized, detailed model of a 60-foot-long Mamenchisaurus, the exhibit will run through the beginning of January.

Ticket cost: Adults: $10; children 12 and under: $5; Museum of Prairiefire Members: free.

If you go:
Prairiefire at Lionsgate
5750 W 137th Street, Overland Park, Kansas 66223
The center is between 135th Street and 137th Street  between Nall Avenue and Lamar Avenue.

Staying the night in Overland Park? We’d recommend the DoubleTree by Hilton.

Some of the best Kansas City barbecue: Oklahoma Joe’s

The Kansas City area has some great hiking and biking trails, like at Kill Creek Regional Park in Overland Park, which will be featured in our Kansas Trail Guide book, coming out early 2015. And while you’re in the Kansas City area, it would be a waste to miss out on authentic Kansas City barbecue. As a Kansan, I’d argue it’s some of the best barbecue in the world. And one of the best places to get the best barbecue is at Oklahoma Joe’s.

Oklahoma Joe's. Photo by Marshall Astor

Oklahoma Joe’s. Photo by Marshall Astor

The birthplace of Kansas City was near 18th and Vine on the Missouri side of the state, but Kansas boasts some great barbecue options in the barbecue city. The original Oklahoma Joe’s is rather unexpectedly located in a gas station, but don’t be put off. It was opened by Jeff Stehney and his wife in 1996 after their barbecue competition team, Slaugherhouse Five, had won hundreds of awards, and it will have lines out the door for lunch.

But the line is worth it, and one of their most popular dishes, and one that’s won a lot of their awards, is their pulled pork. I’m partial to the brisket, but really, you can’t go wrong with just about anything on the menu. It’s quite literally finger-licking good, and if you spend some time on the nearby trails in Kansas City, you won’t have to feel guilty about digging into the overwhelmingly delicious (though not really all that healthy) lunch.

Visitor information:
3002 W 47th Ave (the original gas station location)
Kansas City, KS

11950 S Strang Line Rd
Olathe, KS

11723 Roe Avenue
Leawood, KS 66211