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

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.