Posted on Mar 20, 2018
The Jayhawks have advanced to the Midwest Regional, and Omaha is ready to host! Before KU fans arrive in Nebraska’s largest city, we reached out to local alumni for their recommendations on places to see, eat and drink.
Desert Dome, photo credit: wgunther via flickr
What to do
Omaha is home to more than 400,000 people, including more than 2,000 Jayhawks, but there’s plenty to see in just the immediate area surrounding the CenturyLink Center.
Ask any Omaha native what to do in town, and you’ll get the same answer first: go to the zoo. Named one of the five best zoos in America by USA Today and Trip Advisor, the Henry Doorly Zoo is a must see for visitors of all ages. Enter the Desert Dome that towers above the grounds, and be sure to see Kingdoms of the Night, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, located underneath.
Half a mile south of the CenturyLink Center is the Old Market, an arts and entertainment district sprawling across cobblestone streets. With over 50 businesses in the area, you’ll find a place to shop, eat, or drink the way you like it.
Just like Kansas City, Omaha has preserved their historic Union Station with a museum honoring the history of Omaha and the region. Bring the kids, and let them explore the exhibits, including a 1950s steam engine and train cars. It’s only a half-mile walk from the Old Market.
Durham Museum, photo credit Shelby L. Bell via flickr
Where to eat
Whether you’re looking for a place to watch a game or dining in the historic Old Market, Omaha has something for everyone.
Located in the heart of the Old Market, Upstream offers a variety of microbrews to go with a full menu for lunch or dinner, including Omaha’s famous steaks.
A hip lunch spot that’s easy to miss, visitors to Block 16 will find a burger Alton Brown calls his favorite in the country, and fries served in ways you’ve never seen before. Think Lawrence’s own Burger Stand with an expanded menu.
Artisan pizzas are the offering here, with fresh, quality ingredients making up pizzas that are as handmade as it gets.
While there won’t be any official watch parties in Omaha for KU’s games, the Good Life hosts the Omaha Jayhawk Network for watch parties throughout the season. Standard bar fare and plenty of wings make it a perfect place to watch the games on KU’s off days.
The Omaha Jayhawks at The Good Life
Where to drink
This Irish Pub is buzzing when the College World Series comes to Omaha every summer, and it’s sure to do the same for the NCAA Tournament with the CenturyLink Center a short walk away.
Omaha’s first brewery and distillery since prohibition, Brickway brews seasonals, weekly specials, and local favorites on site, with a couple food items to pair.
Many thanks to volunteers from our Omaha Network for their recommendations!
Posted on Mar 14, 2018
Wichita is the site of first and second round games in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region. It’s also the largest city in Kansas and home to more than 10,000 Jayhawks. We reached out to some of our alumni to get the scoop on what to do while you’re in town, and they were more than happy to share their favorites.
You might be surprised at just how much there is to do in this bustling midwestern city—and you might even find yourself coming back for another visit.
As Monique Pope, one of our Wichita Network volunteers, put it, “What’s there not to do!”
What to do
The museum’s new curator, Dr. Tera Hedrick, is a proud Jayhawk who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from KU. Don’t miss the Monet to Matisse exhibit that showcases 59 masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum collection.
“We’ve taken many out-of-town family members to the art museum, and they’re always surprised at the quality of art—especially the Chihuly glass pieces,” said Elaine Level.
Learn about Wichita’s transformation from a frontier settlement to a cattle town to an agricultural and manufacturing area at this one-of-a-kind museum. Take a walk through history and see over 40 buildings that replicate the late 1800s, filled with a 10,000-piece permanent collection that includes textiles, furnishings, tools, art and more.
This “botanical paradise on the plains” includes more than 18 acres of gardens that change with the season. It features more than 4,000 plants, both native and new to the region. Sculptures, streams, fountains, and waterfalls help create a visually stunning atmosphere.
The top outdoor family tourist attraction in Kansas, the zoo is home to 3,000 animals of nearly 400 species. It has been recognized with national and international awards for its support of field conservation programs and successful breeding of rare and endangered species. Be sure to check out the new elephant exhibit!
On March 16, basketball-themed activities will be featured throughout the zoo. Get $5 off zoo admission through March 25 with your NCAA ticket stub.
If you’re into shopping, be sure to stop by Bradley Fair at 21st and Rock Road. The vibrant destination provides a mix of local and national stores and restaurants.
Old Town, nestled in the heart of Wichita, is home to over 100 businesses including restaurants, shops, clubs, galleries, museums and more. The charming district includes brick-lined streets and historic lampposts, along with a collection of converted brick warehouses dating back to the mid-1800s.
The 44-foot tall steel sculpture stands at the juncture of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers in downtown Wichita. It is also home to the Mid-America All-Indian Center.
The Keeper of the Plains sculpture was created by Blackbear Bosin and erected in 1974 to celebrate the United States Bicentennial. It is celebrated by Wichitans as one of the main icons of the city. Time your visit for 9 p.m. to see the ring of fire!
Bringing the kids? Check out Kansas’ premier science center, located along the Arkansas River in the scenic downtown Museums on the River district.
The 100,000-square foot facility includes permanent and traveling exhibits, a planetarium, and an 18-hole mini golf putting course. Exploration Park is a free area nearby that includes a wetlands habitat, adventure play yard and picnic groves.
Bring the kids and explore history at the Museum of World Treasures. Delve into the lives of dinosaurs, Egyptians, past presidents, and pop culture icons.
Current exhibits include Sea Creatures of the Plains, Civil War, Forgotten Heroes, Berlin Wall, Mesopotamia, Greece, and more.
Another kid-friendly option for your off day: one of the largest family-owned zoos in the country, right outside of Wichita. The park has grown into the third largest animal collection in Kansas, and one of the largest attractions in the state.
Enjoy more than 40 exhibits with interactive stations and more than 400 animals. The first day of the 2018 season is March 16.
Where to eat
Wichita is a true foodie town with diverse and authentic ethnic cuisines. Dine on anything from Mexican to Mediterranean to Vietnamese—and everything in between.
Wichita is known as the “Air Capital of the World,” and kids will love watching the planes at Stearman Field, a family-owned and operated airport located just outside the city. Grab some food at Stearman Field Bar & Grill, and Stearman Sky Tours is available if you want to catch a different view of the area.
Coffee fans will love Reverie, which serves premium specialty coffee beverages as well as breakfast and lunch in the cafe. The wholesale coffee roastery opened in 2013 and quickly grew into what it is today.
If you’re looking for an upscale steak dinner paired with fine wine, make your way to Chester’s. Reservations are recommended as tables fill up quickly.
One of the central tenants of Clifton Square, a collection of boutiques and restaurants in renovated houses, Ziggy’s Pizza offers indoor and outdoor seating with pies that serve two to three. Be sure to stop by College Hill Creamery next door afterwards for a cone!
You’ll find delicious street tacos, queso and margaritas at District Taqueria. Located right in the heart of downtown, it’s an easy walk to Intrust Arena or Old Town.
Possibly Wichita’s biggest shooting star, the Doo-Dah Diner serves over-the-top breakfast items all day, drawing the praises of multiple ESPN personalities. Try the Crispy Corned Beef Hash, or the Steak Benedict: more than enough to share!
Connie’s is Wichita’s oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant, celebrating 55 years in business next month. It’s located in the historic NOMAR (North Market) neighborhood in North Wichita, among a long-established enclave of Hispanic-owned businesses.
For those missing Joe’s Bakery, swing by the Donut Whole on Douglas for cake donuts both classic and goofy: Try the maple bacon! It’s hard to miss, look for the rooster up on the roof.
Located in the beautiful Douglas Design District, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen serves hand-crafted soups, salads and sandwiches. We hear the chicken curry soup is must— but be prepared to wait in line.
Where to drink
Central Standard Brewing
Craft beer fans will love Central Standard Brewing south of Douglas on Greenwood. With a fun atmosphere on a giant outdoor patio, it’s a popular hangout on warm days, and you can often find a food truck or live music nearby.
Located on Douglas, Wichita’s main drag, Wine Dive lives up to its name with an enormous selection of wines. It’s also a short walk from College Hill, a neighborhood full of historic homes and a park.
Right in the heart of Wichita’s Delano district, right off the Arkansas river, the Monarch offers a wide variety of specialty bourbon cocktails along with plenty of appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches, all under $10.
Walking distance from Intrust Bank Arena, Public at the Brickyard features a gastropub menu with a local, green focus: their website lists where in the area all ingredients come from. A wide selection of beers continues the trend, with options from breweries across the U.S. with a Midwestern focus.
This speakeasy serves craft cocktails in downtown Wichita. Located beneath the Ambassador Hotel, it prides itself on exclusivity and discretion. The location also has an important historical context: it’s where the 1958 Dockum sit-in took place. The sit-in served as one of the catalysts of the civil rights movement.
Many thanks to volunteers from our Wichita Network for their recommendations! The top two photos in this post are used with permission of the Wichita Art Museum.