Hoops to hippos

Spring break ideas that won’t break the bank

Written by Karen Long

Flying by the seat of your pants for spring break this month? Chill out — there are enough things going on in and around our town to please any spontaneous vacationer from two to 92.

Hometown favorite Tanganyika Wildlife Park is re-opening on March 16 after being in winter hiatus, and they have cheetah and penguin babies in the nursery, according to Matt Fouts, assistant director. Plus, Nessie, the baby pygmy hippo born last year is set to start visiting the feeding station. Between March 1–14 you can purchase a season pass for $19.99, the price of one adult admission, and make spring break last all year.

Exploration Place has a full slate of Spring Break Edventures running from March 16–23 in conjunction with their national traveling exhibit, “Rescue.” During these workshops kids will create their own night vision goggles, race the clock to a daring rescue, engineer an escape and much more. And local emergency personnel will be presenting special activities and demos, according to Christina Bluml, museum representative. In addition the new “Design Build Fly” aviation exhibit, with dozens of hands-on activities, is still building buzz. “We consider it a ‘sleeper!’ “ Bluml says.

Mortal Kombat, Primal Rage, Galaga, Pac-Man. Whether you remember video games of the 80s and 90s with passionate nostalgia, or are just discovering them for the first time, The Arcade is the place for you. The new shop has set up in Old Town with over 60 lovingly hand-selected games. Play all day for $10. Open during spring break at 1 p.m. each day.

An annual March favorite, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Historic Delano, rolls down Douglas Avenue on Saturday, March 17 at noon. Previous years have featured marchers such as cowboys, bagpipers and leprechaun clowns and a sailing ship and antique cars. Nancy Lawrence, parade organizer for 12 years, says it gets bigger and better every year.

Fresh flavor experiences

’Tis the season for fresh cuisine, with restaurants budding all over town. A Wichita favorite, Texas Roadhouse, opened its second restaurant, bringing hot rolls and honey butter, peanuts in the shell, ribs and steaks to the east side at K-96 and Greenwich.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, part of a Texas chain, just breezed into town at 306 N. Rock Road with a Baja beach ambiance, fish tacos, chips and queso and a full bar, including creative margaritas. If you can’t go to the beach for spring break, Fuzzy’s at least brings the perfect cantina lunch, dinner or late-night drinks to you.

If you’re hankering for a craft brew paired with a funnel cake, then Nortons Brewing Company is the place for you. The former head brewer at River City Brewing Co., Dan Norton, and his wife, Becky, are putting the finishing touches on their new restaurant at 125 N. St. Francis, where they’ll serve “beer that has soul,” alongside a menu of burgers, funnel cakes, fries, sandwiches and so much more.

Norton says they plan to open by March 23 for The Dead South’s Western Crawl Tour, an intimate show in the beer garden. Also watch the Norton Brewing Company Facebook feed for details on an upcoming grand opening.

Tournament tailgate

Why would basketball fans want to leave town when ICT is the place to be March 14-17 as the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds charge into Intrust Bank Arena? No game day tickets? No worries. You can still experience some of the excitement during Open Practice Day on March 14. Observe these amazing athletes first hand, free and open to the public.

The perimeter of Intrust bank arena to the north, west and south will take on the air of something between a street festival and a massive outdoor sports bar as restaurants and organizations vie to outdo each other with food trucks, libations on tap, bands and DJs, the tournament on big-screen TVs, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and family-friendly yard games. Here’s a map to get you started — or just wander around and see what catches your fancy.

(Also, check out Old Town, especially on Saturday night when the combination of March Madness plus St. Paddy’s Day equals rollicking parties and entertainment.)

NCAA tournament parties

1. Brews and Basketball
Third Place Brewing, 630 E. Douglas
Wednesday through Sunday

2. Fan Fest
Near Naftzger Park, northeast of Intrust Bank Arena

3. Battle of the Brackets
Brick + Mortar Venue, 229 S. Emporia St.
Wednesday through Sunday

4. Wichita Brewing Company Tailgate Party
Directly west of Intrust Bank Arena
Wednesday through Saturday

5. Bracket Bash
Presented by Barleycorn's and Wichita Festivals, Inc.
Directly south of Intrust Bank Arena
Thursday through Saturday

6. Courtside on Commerce Street — The Alley to Excitement
Commerce Street
Wednesday through Saturday
Commerce Street closed to traffic on Thursday and Saturday

7. Party on the Patio
Lou's Place, 220 S. Commerce
Tuesday through Friday

For full details and schedules on all the parties see visitwichita.com


Hit the road, Jack

If a raucous street party isn’t your cup of tea, maybe a short road trip to Hooray Ranch is in order. Just 35 minutes from Wichita in Kingman, Kan., the Hooray Ranch is a hunter’s and outdoor-lover’s paradise, located on the Central Flyway waterfowl migration route. From lodges lovingly constructed of wood reclaimed from Canadian barns to windswept prairie views, it’s an idyllic rustic getaway.

Veer north up K-96 to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kan. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate real pieces of history from the space race, including an actually-flown Apollo 13 command module and Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft, and a lunar rock brought back from the first manned Moon mission.

While the Cosmosphere’s sights are set on the stars and planets, another Hutchinson landmark will take you deep underground. At Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, you’ll learn about the rich vein of salt left behind when an ancient sea dried up, and what a day in the life of a miner is like. Don’t lick the walls!

On the way home, stop at Carriage Crossing in Yoder, KS, and savor home-style fried chicken, country fried steak, catfish, fried okra and more stick-to-your-ribs goodness. Save room for the biggest, stickiest cinnamon rolls you’ve ever seen.

You’ve read her cookbook and watched her series on The Food Network, but did you know that The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is just a hop, skip and a jump over the border in Pawhuska, Okla.? The historical building — originally the home of the Osage Mercantile Company, built in 1903 — was meticulously restored and stocked chock-full of Ree Drummond’s signature country wares. There’s also a restaurant and bakery, plus a lodge tour. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even meet The Pioneer Woman herself!

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