Friday, May 15, 2009

Travel and Tourism Week - What to see in Hutchinson Kansas

May 9-17 is National Travel and Tourism Week. If you've traveled in Kansas this week you may have spotted these bright shirts commemorating the occasion. This is Britany, who was my server at the Grand Central Hotel and Grill in Cottonwood Falls on Monday.

If you think tourism doesn't matter to you, you might want to reconsider that. In Kansas alone, the economic impact of travel and tourism is 5 billion dollars. That's billion - with a B. I'm sure the figures for your state/country are significant too.

In honor of this week, I thought I'd give you a suggested itinerary of what you could do in Hutchinson, Kansas for a weekend visit. These are some of my top "cool things" in town, and things you might not find unless you have a local direct you.

Friday night at the Anchor
Arrive Friday night in time to go to the Anchor Inn for dinner. Friday night at the Anchor is a local institution. They're at B and Main Street and have been around since the 70s. They make their own tortillas. Their guacamole is fabulous. I recommend the buffet, which has piles of good stuff - my fave is cheese enchiladas and guacamole. The one thing you can't get on the buffet that's really wonderful is a basket of their chips, made on site and worth the cholesterol.

Hotel suggestions:
The nicest hotel in town is the Hampton Inn. If you want the "best" as far as new and maintained, that's the choice to go with. If you're traveling with kids who want to play in the water, the Grand Prairie is the best choice. If you want a B and B, then Prairie Moon on Main Street is the way to go - all the rooms there are nicely decorated so any choice you make will be good. There are a number of other standard hotels to choose from.

Saturday morning Breakfast at The Dutch Kitchen
Sleep in for goodness sake - it's Saturday! Or, get up and be industrious, but make your way to the Dutch Kitchen for breakfast. They open very early, so if you're not a late sleeper, they can accommodate you. It's about five miles outside of town and worth the drive. They make cinnamon rolls that cover your whole saucer. Their coffee cake is also wonderful. The oatmeal is real oatmeal, as opposed to instant. They're famous for their homemade pie, but I think the cinnamon roll is way under appreciated. The pie's good too, don't get me wrong, but you can't get a huge homemade cinnamon roll for under a dollar just anywhere. Yes, it's eighty cents.

You might want to make a quick stop at Glenn's Bulk Foods as you head back into town. They have some unusual things.

Saturday morning at the zoo
After breakfast, head to Carey Park. You can walk the Martinez Trail if you feel the need to work off that cinnamon roll, and then head to the zoo. We have a terrific zoo that features native animals.

In addition to seeing the critters, you can ride the train, too. The zoo is free. The optional train ride costs $1.50 per person.

My favorite animals are the river otters, Kyra and Willie, who are so darned cute they redefine cute.

Saturday lunch at Roy's Barbecue
This will be your only opportunity to have Roy's this weekend. They're closed Sunday and Monday. Roy's is a local institution and amazing stuff. It's on west 5th street. You'll think you're headed out of town, but go over a little bridge and you'll see a yellow building on the right. You've arrived.

Prepare for some of the best, melt in your mouth, barbecue you've ever tasted. You choose beef, pork, turkey, ham, links or ribs, and then you help yourself to the beans and salad bar. Tell Anne and Ryan you read about it here and they'll treat you extra nice. Okay, really, they'll treat you nice regardless so that's not really necessary. I just wanted to say it.

They open at 11, and close when they run out of food, which is never past 2. On a Saturday things can be getting sparse by 1. Don't miss it.

Take some time downtown
We've got some really cool antique stores downtown you don't want to miss. Also, if you like thrift shopping, don't miss the Et Cetera shop on Main. We also have an amazing kitchen store called Apron Strings and on the same block is Smith's Market - one of my favorite places in town. Pop in there and pick up some treats to take with you. Edit 9/19/2011: Check out The Toy Depot, in the next block north. It's chock full of vintage toys and you'll find something from your childhood - whenever that was. Let the kids blow off some steam at Avenue A Park, at the other end of that block.

Saturday afternoon at the Salt Museum
Head to the Salt Museum where you'll ride an elevator 650 feet underground for a tour in the caverns of salt that are left after mining.

You'll take a tram through "the dark ride" and your guide will explain what you're seeing. Then you'll have the opportunity to see exhibits on the mining process, the oldest living thing on Earth (250 million years old) and Underground Vaults and Storage, famous for storing many Hollywood films. Don't miss the newspaper printed right after Lincoln's death. You'll have a chance to pick up some salt as a souvenir of your visit. The last tour starts at 4. Make reservations earlier in the day so you're assured of a spot.

Dinner at The Airport Steakhouse
The attraction at the Airport isn't just steak, it's getting to watch planes come in and take off. The wall facing the air strip is all glass you you have a clear view. I'm not really a steak person, but people tell me this is great steak. I'll have to take their word for it. It is cool to watch the planes come in and take off, but you never know when that will be happening. It's fun for the novelty factor, especially if you're an aviation fan.

Ice Cream at Dairy Queen on Third
If you have room for some dessert, I'd suggest ice cream at the Dairy Queen on Third Street. It's an old-fashioned, walk up Dairy Queen, with benches beside it where you can sit and enjoy your treat.

Sunday brunch at Skaets
Skaets is our local diner where you can get breakfast anytime. They have all the traditional breakfast things. I'm not an egg person, so breakfast is often lost on me. But, what isn't on the menu, is that they'll cook you a burger on the grill at any time of day. (After 5 p.m. you can get it charcoaled, which is my favorite.) So, head there for Sunday brunch - those who want breakfast can get it. Those who want to prepare for the afternoon ahead at the Cosmosphere can get a Moon Burger. The Moon Burger was created in 1969 in honor of the moon landing. In other parts it's known as a bacon cheeseburger, but at Skaets it's just "the moon." I like mine extra well done with grilled onions and extra pickles but they'll fix yours anyway you want it. I go often enough that they just write "Patsy" on the ticket and the cook knows just how I want it.

Sunday Afternoon at the Cosmosphere

The Cosmosphere is a world-class museum, right here on the prairie. It's at 11th and Plum, but you'll know you're getting close when you see the rockets jutting into the sky. They have some amazing exhibits that trace the history of space flight, with artifacts from NASA, as well as a huge collection of material from the Russian space program. You'll want to see Dr. Goddard's lab show, and spend some time in the gift shop where you'll find unique items.

That's a wrap up of what I think is cool to see in just a weekend. If you've got a little longer, come in on a Third Thursday night when downtown is hopping with live music and artists in lots of the stores.

For more outdoor time, walk the trails at Dillon Nature Center or Sandhills State Park. Both are great.

I also love Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which is about a 35 minute drive from Hutchinson. I've never been there when the sunset isn't amazing. Maxwell Game Reserve is about 40 minutes north and also worth a visit.

More than 125,000 jobs in Kansas are created by travel & tourism activity. That's nearly 10% of total employment in the state. National Travel & Tourism Week is a collective effort to promote the power of travel. If you have a blog, take a few minutes and tell folks what to see in your town - the things that are must-sees and the things that the average tourist isn't likely to find.
See a local calendar of events online and contact me if you have questions about visiting here. Find more things to see and do in Kansas at

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