Hello from Wichita

Trip Start Jul 20, 2012
Trip End Jul 30, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Kansas
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day two of our Mid-America Family Vacation was a busy one. As this was our only full day in Wichita we tried to squeeze as much in as possible and this turned our day into a whirlwind: we visited three very different types of museums and ended at an observatory at 11pm at night.

Thanks to my Aunt Darlene for fueling us up with a hot breakfast to start out. In addition, she had Aria helping her make Aria's Great-grandma's recipe for banana bread (and gave her a small loaf for the road).

Our first stop was to pick up some cupcakes at a cupcake shop called Sweetly Scrumptious. Since we had just ate, we simply brought those back to Aunt Darlene's for later. But they sure looked tasty. 

We then headed downtown to take pictures at one of my favorite art pieces ever, the Keeper of the Plains Indian structure located on the Arkansas River. I remember this tall imposing Indian when I was young growing up in Wichita and I'm as impressed with it now as I was then. The city of Wichita did a great job building a nice setting for the art structure which made for a terrific photo opportunity.

Next we stepped back into time at the Old Cowtown museum. Here, we visited a museum made to look like a small town with original, restored houses and buildings from early days in Wichita's history. It seemed a little folksy but the kids enjoyed it. The houses were well restored inside and out and it felt like you were living back in the day. There were also plenty of actors who roamed the place dressed and interacting with each other as if it were really the 1800s.
We watched a gun fight re-enactment which was loud and had actors shooting at each other and some played dead - this had some kids crying. Luckily, Jadin and Aria took it all in OK. Although Jadin did say the fake gun shots were so loud they hurt his ears.

Old Cowtown also had some old toys that kids in yesteryear played including some stilts, so Laneshia and the kids had to try them out. Unfortunately, none of them were very successful in staying on. We also took a wagon ride and Aria was lucky enough to get a front row seat (with a great view of the backside of the horses).

The temperature today was  expected to reach 104 and although I never heard what the actual temperature got to, I'm pretty sure if it didn't get 104, it may of settled at 103. It was hot. So while we were at the Cowtown museum we went inside a restored "Saloon" and saddled on up to the bar for round of sarsaparilla's. This was my first time trying this type of drink so I had to ask what it was. We'll, it's basically a long fancy name for root beer. Doesn't matter the name - in that heat it hit the spot.

Our next stop was Wichita's Exploration Place Science Museum, another of the many, many museums we'll visit along our trip. And most of Wichita joined us as this is one place to let kids run wild and get out of the 100 degree heat the area is experiencing.
Jadin and Aria spent their time here in a three-story kids castle play area then in a large exhibit on Kansas' natural environment including a Tornado Chamber where they were able to feel the force of a twister. Jadin commented that it wasn't that strong - we'll I bet he doesn't really want to feel the real thing does he? 

Next up, we drove 60 minutes north of Wichita to Hutchinson, Ks to visit one of only two working salt mines in the world that allow visitors. The place is called the Kansas Salt Museum. To reach the mine 650 feet below ground we used the actual shaft elevator that the work crews used. Which meant we had to travel about 90 seconds in complete darkness in the elevator as we traveled down.

Once we got to the mining level we got to say Ahhh... as it was a nice 68 degrees. A relief from the 100+ degree surface temperature. But after a bit of time down there we eventually pulled out the jackets we bought.

The mine had several exhibits and information on mining and featured two different rides - one of which was a train ride on tracks and the other a "Dark Ride" on a rubber-wheeled tram. Laneshia got a front row seat on the Dark Ride next to the driver/announcer. Although it was called the "Dark Ride", Aria complained that it "wasn't really dark" as if she was expecting a scary ride.

Part of the Dark Ride included a stop to at an actual salt pile where visitors were allowed to take rock samples. The rules said that you were allowed to take rocks "no bigger than your palm". Well, Jadin got one as close to his palm size as possible - maybe even bigger.

We spent about two hours in mine and had a good time there - in fact, I was surprised when I looked at my watch and noticed it was 6pm: closing time. So we rushed to the elevator shaft to make sure we were not the last visitors out (or worse, left down there). That would be a very scary experience- being left in a mine. Plus one of the staffers there said they turn off all the lights at night. I was definitely not missing that elevator.

 The mine was pretty impressive in size and well worth the long drive outside Wichita. 

By the time we left the mine it was dinner time so we headed back to downtown Wichita and stepped into the historic Old Mill Tasty Shop. This classic malt shop has been a landmark in Wichita since 1932 and has had only two owners. We happen to meet the current owner who asked us how we learned about her shop (I found it on the internet, by the way). And she was pleased we found her. On the cover of the menu was a classic shot of the restaurant from the 1940's from a second story window in the shop and I was very interested to re-create the shot. I asked the owner for permission to go up, but she raised the bar and offered to go up her self and take our picture. Wow - I loved the extra effort by the owner. Check out the menu picture and the owner's shot of our picture. Cool!
As for dinner, we all had typically foods except for me - I tried to walk in Elvis' footsteps in tribute to upcoming trip to Memphis and his favorite: a peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich. It wasn't bad but, sorry Elvis, it won't make it as one of my favorites.

We lucked with our timing after dinner - with it being a few minutes before 9pm I got us over near the river to witness the nightly "Ring of Fire" Ceremony at the Keeper of the Plains structure. This was an awesome sight - I hope you enjoy the pictures of it.
To complete our day in Wichita we made a 40 minute late-evening trip west of Wichita to Goddard, KS to the Lake Afton Observatory to take in some star-gazing. We arrived after 10pm to facility, and boy, was it hard to find as there was no physical address so my GPS was useless. Plus, since they built the place in the darkest area they could find, there were very few street lights and none whatsoever near the place. As we approached it it was like pulling up to one of those horror places in the movies. We didn't have a clue if we were going to the right place as the signage was not able to be seen.  Luckily, once there, the folks inside were plenty friendly. There were a couple of dozen other folks visiting and observing outside with small telescopes and in the observatory with a massively large telescope. We missed the first viewing of Saturn but did see some other celestial bodies and viewed some of the exhibits.

Whew, it was long day. Although I grew up in Wichita I feel we really got a great "visitors" experience of the city. I don't expect my other days on our vacation to be so packed as this day wore us out. Kids and Laneshia are sleeping in tomorrow.


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Paulette on

You'll need a case of energy drinks with your itinerary, have fun!

Mary Hawkins on

Have fun in your birth place of Wichita, Kansas and home of most of your relatives Curvie. Yes, it will be hot on most of your vacation in the mid-west.

Nancy Amos on

Don't know WHEN you had time to plan such an interesting itinerary! Should be a great trip with lots of education and family fun. Stay safe!

Paulette on

You need to share the banana bread recipe. Sounds like lots of fun!

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