It’s official: World’s largest waterslide ready to ride in Kansas

After delayed openings and safety concerns, the Verrückt waterslide is now ready to ride at the Kansas City Schlitterbahn. Check out the video of one of the first riders below, and you’ll see why it was named for the German word for “crazy” or “mad.”

That doesn’t, however and sadly, mean it’s yet open to the public. It starts with a 168 feet and 7 inches drop of excitement/terror/adrenaline, then up another 5 story hill and back down. It’ll open for 4-person rafts, so you don’t have to go it alone. It should be opening any day now – keep checking their website for updates.

Would you ride it? I’m not sure if I would – let us know in the comments below!

3 adventures to check out this Valentine’s Day weekend

Happy Valentine’s Day! Since of course you don’t want to show your significant other how much they mean to you on just one day, stretch it out over at least the weekend with some of these three special opportunities:

Salt Safari Adventure in Hutchinson

Go underground on a unique tour of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (3504 E. Avenue G, Hutchinson). It’s a 3-hour hike on February 15, 2014 through some of the unimproved caverns of the salt mine, perfect for adventure loving couples.

For tickets ($60) and more information:

The couple who runs together, stays together. Compete with a loved one in a 5K  run or go to cheer on the runners at the Ritz Carlton Plaza (9000 W. 137th, Overland Park) on February 6, 2014 at 9am.  Prizes go  fastest male, female or coed two person team in Kansas City. All runners will get custom finishers medals and long sleeve race shirts.

Dinner and a show: “Run For Your Wife”

Enjoy some laughs together over dinner with “Run For Your Wife” at the Historic Santa Fe Depot (201 E Wyatt Earp Blvd, Dodge City). The Dodge City based Depot Theater Company is taking on the story of a London cabbie who’s juggling two wives.

Tickets are $40 and the show starts at 7:30pm on February 14 and 15, 2014.

For more weekend options, check out the Kansas Calendar.

Photo by puamelia

Happy Valentine’s Day! Photo by puamelia



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.

DoubleTree by Hilton in Overland Park, Kansas

From the Olathe Prairie Center with its open vistas over the plains to the rocky mountain biking loops through the trees of Shawnee Mission Park, Kansas City, KS is full of trails. And during my time on the trails in the Kansas City area, I stayed a night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Overland Park.

5 pillows and a cookie? Not a bad night’s stay

“Here’s your chocolate chip cookie,” said the front desk agent as she finished checking me in.

“Thank you,” I replied in wonderment, taking the warm, paper wrapped cookie. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been welcomed at a hotel with a cookie. I very nearly dropped that cookie when I opened the door to my room. Room? No, that’s not the right word. Suite. Thanks to the Overland Park Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, I got hooked up at the DoubleTree.

Hello beautiful!

The corner room had a separate living area with a couch, easy chair, and small dining area, and a flat screen TV that swiveled so it could be viewed from the couch or the bed.

All of those are nice (as was the mini fridge and the comfortable bed with white linens so you know without a doubt that they’re clean), but it is the little details that stand out and make a hotel more than just a bed for the night. It’s always the little things. Here, it was the separate sections in the wastebaskets for recyclables and trash (love that! Every hotel should have those!) and the Wolfgang Puck coffee maker.

Beyond the room, there was a pool, whirlpool, sauna, and workout room. OK, a lot of hotels have those. But how many hotels have a racquetball court on the premises?

Racquetball – who would have guessed?

Tucked away behind the pool area, two men were working up a sweat in the little room. I silently applauded them for their efforts, and then headed back to my room to lounge around, watching TV from the bed then getting up to watch it from the couch as I took notes on the trails of the day (Olathe Prairie Center – mowed loop options with pleasant picnic area in the middle. Shawnee Mission Park – popular with local bikers and well-maintained and signed).

And wanting to get the full experience of the hotel, and not wanting to put on shoes, I called for room service from the Trofi Restaurant. Pricey, yes, as room service and hotel food tends to be, but it was delivered quickly and was yummy.

With its location near Corporate Woods and its loads of meeting and convention space, it’s popular with business travelers, and for anyone who needs a last minute gift from a trip, there is a small gift shop in the lobby.

So if it comes down to this hotel vs. another similarly priced hotel in the same area, remember, this one will give you a free cookie.

If you go:
From $115
10100 College Boulevard
Overland Park, Kansas, 66210-1462
TEL: 1-913-451-6100 FAX: 1-913-451-0386

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

Where to buy hiking and camping gear in Kansas

Here are some of our favorite places to get new hiking and camping gear.

Hutchinson area
Heartland Outdoor
1 Heartland Drive
South Hutchinson, KS 67505

Kansas City area
Backwoods Overland Park
6825 West 135th Street
Overland Park, KS 66223

10300 Cabela Drive
Kansas City, KS 66111

In fall 2013, there will be an REI in Overland Park.

Sunflower Outdoor & Bike
804 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044

The Pathfinder
304 Poyntz Avenue
Manhattan, KS 66502

Backwoods Wichita
1900 North Rock Rd. Suite 108
Wichita, KS 67206

2427 North Greenwich Road
Wichita, KS 67226

Coleman Factory Outlet
235 N. St. Francis
Wichita, KS 67202

Did we miss your favorite place to get gear? Let us know in the comments.