Sometimes when you are running the line between local-staycationing, dating, and travel, you come across a day that is an odd mixture of all of the above – for Ryan and I, Wichita was the near-perfect example of this. On the most basic level, the day consisted of lunch, a bookstore date, and a more traditional date – a few hours in an entertainment center.
First up, The Redrock Canyon Grill. Ryan and I decided to try something food-wise that was more local (or at least the we had never tried) and when we did an area search, Redrock popped up near the top places to try. And after our time here, I understand why. The food and service was great. The atmosphere made us feel a little bit under-dressed in t-shirts and jeans but there were a few parties dressed similarly so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought the prices were a bit high at first but the portions are huge, so they are actually fitting for what you get.
Our server was amazing, very sweet and, since we weren’t there at a rush, stayed by the table for a while and talked to us about our trip as well as food recommendations while we were ordering. What I loved the most, however, was a small gesture I’d never thought to ask about: when she asked if Ryan wanted his leftovers packaged, we said that we were road-tripping so couldn’t take them. Instead, she brought us ice water in to-go cups because it was hot and she knew it was a long drive ahead of us.
Again, between the food, the service, and this kind gesture, I totally recommend the Redrock Canyon Grill.
The next stop was Barnes and Nobles – in no way a local hot spot. To start, Ryan and I are both big book nerds so whenever we get a chance to hit a bookstore, we will. And, as a book nerd, I love seeing the variations even in these big chain book stores. For me, this is a great line between travel and staycations – it’s not near home, however, it’s like home but different enough to want to run around and explore.
Finally, we wanted to do something very traditionally date-like but also new, so we looked for an open escape room that would be available early enough that we could still hit the road in time to get to Fort Riley before nightfall. This was impossible since these book up pretty far in advance, but we quickly discovered Glow Golf instead. Again, this isn’t an experience you can only get in Wichita – these kind of entertainment zones are popping up all over the country.
This particular location has a lot of choices, and while not expensive, each thing costs you a little and they add up. First off, everything is black light so if this messes with your eyes, you may want to skip out; if not, jump on it! We played golf (two games for the price of one), the laser maze (a thief-type game that we played over and over again), ping-pong, and cornhole with light-up bean bags. Dating with some fun competition thrown in? Yes, please! Especially to break up a long drive day.
Again, none of these activities really scream ‘exploring Wichita’ because they weren’t for that. Sometimes in travel, you need a slacking off day, and I loved our day slacking off in Wichita and wouldn’t take it back for all the explorations we could have done, especially on our time table. But more of that to come as we continue to explore Kansas.
So this is Kansas: day one – and really day one. I got off the plane, picked up my bags, found Ryan’s car, and we headed straight over to Starlight Theater – these plans definitely contributed to my airplane dress code.
This is an amazing arena style theater (similar to the Hollywood Bowl for Los Angeles readers) with all outdoor seating and large screens for anyone who struggles to see from further seats. The atmosphere with a lot of twinkle lights, seating areas, shops, a show happening while sunset and twilight settled around us, and lots of red brick, this was also a lovely spot to have our official first date.
I missed a local LA production to fly out to Kansas so Ryan got us tickets to see Jersey Boys here and the production was fantastic. I actually had never seen Jersey Boys before and, while I know the Four Seasons, I never realized how many of their songs I grew up listening to (at least covers if not the real deal).
In terms of cost, like more attractions, you will pay for everything, but, luckily, this theater offers a military discount. However, you are require to purchase the tickets with this discount on the day of, at the box office which means seat choices are more limited. Still, we ended up getting relatively good seats and the production was phenomenal as this seems to be one of the main theater stops for major tours.
The theater preforms in all weather conditions (yep, rain or shine), so you don’t have to be worried about shows being cancel on you, however, you may need to be prepared for said weather or purchase a poncho at concession stands. Speaking of concessions, there are many food options from bringing something from home, your normal concessions like hot dogs and popcorn, to fancier buffet style dining. We chose that latter and, as a non-member, it cost about $30 each but the food was so good and, since we got to eat all we wanted (including ice cream) it was well worth it.
You also have to pay for parking but you get to choices: Lot or Grass. We chose grass parking (since it was a little cheaper) which was an easy walk in and, as long as you don’t mind navigating normal grass hill issues (like inclines) this is an easy option. Just remember to bring your cash!
If you are a Kansas City local, the membership seems well worth the price for all the shows and perks you have access to. If we were in the area again, we would definitely check out the line up and return.
The theater is also just outside the Zoo so if you have more time, you can also decide to send the day out here, fist at the zoo followed by a show at The Starlight! Just remember your sweater because even in the sweltering summer, it does cool down considerably. Also if you get here early and like to take pictures, bring in your camera because it really is a beautiful area and well worth a night out if you are in Kansas City!
WARNING: MAJOR FANGIRL ALERT AHEAD! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
A few weeks back, I was once again so lucky to hit the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is amazing. I talked about this once before back in June 2014 (after my first visit), but it was a brief mention hidden in my nerd/fandom post about traveling around the fandom-centric sites of the UK.
This post is going to get more specific, but I won’t tell too much and give anything too big away—you’ll have to visit and experience it for yourself!
First to explain where I’m coming from (because, no, Harry Potter is not just for kids, DA’s honor! too far? too far…) :
I’ve grown up with these books, these characters, and this world. We listened to them on cross-country road trips narrated by Jim Dale, I’ve gone to book and film midnight releases dressed in Potter-bound apparel (I’m not a full out costume person), slept curled around the seventh book during my mid read nap so no one in the house could steal it, been to the Los Angeles’ WB Harry Potter/Costume/Lot museum, the London tour twice now, the theme park in Florida and can’t wait for the opening in LA. There are probably more—including the Ravenclaw cardigan I am currently sporting and its Slytherine double hanging back at my flat which have begun to grace my work and everyday wardrobe—but this list feels sufficiently long enough.
I’m technically a Ravenclaw (through and through—thank you, Pottermore), but I have a not so secret desire to fall a bit more on the green side, and that streak is strong. There is a whole theory I have behind this (which doesn’t even touch on my high school feminism and Harry Potter thesis), but alas, I digress (feel free to ask me about it, however!).
Anyway, as one of the cast members explained to a nearby group, where Florida is a theme park, The lot tour in London is a giant museum—and I emphasis giant.
Filling two large sound stages and some of the outdoor space between them, this is really The Harry Potter museum. Each of these sound stages is filled with the real costumes, props, hair pieces, and sets used to film the film adaptations. While you can’t walk onto (most of the sets) you can take as many pictures as you want of everything you see and a few bigger sets even have small interactive aspects.
You are led through the tour by videos playing across screens throughout the tour as well as large information signs, but you can buy (either with your ticket or before entering the tour) a personal media tour guide which will give you more digital commentary on what you are seeing, behind the scenes stories, and image galleries you wouldn’t see otherwise.
My suggestion: if you are a big fan, you’ll want to get the earliest entry time available. We went in at 10 am and left the lot at around 5-5:30 pm; they announced the last tour entry when we still had a few rooms left to go—rooms where we spent the most amount of time as well! This being said, we listened and read absolutely everything, stopped for a quick bite at the midway point, and spent more time than I’d ever considered in the wand room (which I’ll get to in just a minute).
The second half of the tour is great for anyone interested in the design aspects of film making from prosthetic work to models while CGI falls near the end of the first soundstage. This second half also showcases artists’ renderings and concept art which are so beautiful you’ll want them for your house—again, you can take pictures of all of this!
Before we get to the wand room, as promised, I want to touch on the food situation. This was updated from the first time I’d gone on the tour three years ago, so it’s a fully enclosed area. There are two areas you order from: one is everything (food and drinks) and the other is the Butterbeer stand. The set up gets crowded so if you have a few people, after ordering, leave one or two to grab the food (party size depending), a few to pick up the drinks, and anyone else to grab a table.
This is one of only three places in the world that carry Butterbeer and, if I may say, the taste has definitely improved from my first try. There are different variations depending on where you go—Florida had warm, cold, and frozen when we visited—and here in London the Butterbeer is served cold or in ice cream form. If you just go to the drink stand, you won’t see the ice cream option so be aware it’s there because it is absolutely worth it! (I can’t say the same for the Mac’n’cheese, however, just so you know.)
But onto the Wand room.
My other post touched on the beauty and awe of the large scale castle model—again, I almost burst into tears and probably spent a good hour in this particular room on each of my visits—but I never even considered until this last trip, how long a person could find themselves wandering the wand room—the last room you enter before hitting the gift shop.
This room looks—at a simple glance—like a neater version on Ollivander’s Wand Shop. These wand boxes, however, are not real props and do not contain wands—instead, each box end has a name of a person who worked on the film in some way over the course of the 8 films. this rangers from actors and directors, to prop designers and camera crews; if a person was listed on the workers books, they have a box.
Most visitors fly through this room without a second thought, however, inside this room, there is always a robe employee who you can ask to point out anyone whose box you’d like to see. We spent probably the same amount of time in this room as we did with the castle model, asking the employee about everyone we could possibly think of and she pointed out a few extras we hadn’t even thought to ask about (don’t forget, J.K. Rowling has her own box as well!).
If you are lucky and really give the employee some tough things to remember, they may even give you some extra stories they’ve learned for the sets and about people named in the room. This room was truly so much fun!
Once you are out of the wand room, you enter the most dangerous room in the whole tour: the gift shop. A neat tip we got from the girl in the wand room: You can try on and take pictures with anything without buying it—robes, sorting hat, ect—though I’d note, within reason! This is great if you can’t afford to buy these items but want to instagrm a picture souvenir.
My go to purchases are the house sweaters and cardigans, and this is the place I’d go to buy them because, unlike the shop you will find in King’s Cross station (another thing I missed from fandom locations I’ve visited), these sweaters do not have house logos!
There are pros and cons to this fact, however, both dealing with the fact that they look like normal clothing. This means you can get away with going Potter-bound anywhere and no one is the wiser. It also means that your cosplay is closer to the films where they aren’t patched. Unfortunately, this means that the sweaters look like your everyday, inexpensive sweater, but with a fandom price tag which (at least) doubles the cost.
With that in mind, it’s a tossup. Since I’m not growing anymore, I’m fine with what I have now, but I’d be wary about buying for kids.
Also, make sure you get the washing instructions from the checkout; the sweaters shrink up a lot in the wash so the directions are very important since you are paying so much you don’t want to ruin them!
For all the other logistics from prices to how to get to the lot (plan well ahead for this; if you are late and miss your window, they say you may not be allowed in), check out the site. And a final note from me: be aware of the season and times you are going. Tourist season has heavy traffic through the tour as do various times through the school year (like in September!) when school trips come through!
And with that, I think this post has gone on long enough. If you have anything to add, questions to ask, whatever, comment below!
Lights and London’s eye. The London Eye, London, England. December, 2014.
If you’ve been paying attention, dear reader, you’ll remember that I moved to London four months ago to get my Master’s degree (and travel when I can, obviously). So this week in class, we’re really starting to look into our masters dissertations and, with my focus, this means one thing: major nerding out when it comes to anything literature based.
My focus seems to be settling of comparative history, mixed with industry analysis with a dash of grub street while my elective is looking at the history and culture of books (as in the actual object and construction of books)…
So yes, I’m (being) a book nerd.
But what, you may well ask, does this have to do with travel?
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably continue to say for a while to come: plan your travels to your passions. And that, my friend, is what I’m starting to do.
In just shy of a month, I’ll be on my reading week and, since most of my breaks have been spent wandering pretty aimlessly around London (not a bad thing to do or a bad place to do it), I’m working hard now to be free of school responsibilities and free to wander out further.
This is where the nerd comes in. While I can’t really travel around the world in the week I have off, I’ve been doing my research and there are a few things I’ll be going out to see.
First, I’m planning a Bookstore Tour of some of the coolest bookstores (look and history) that I can get too in the week. While there are lists like this that give you tons of options from around the world (which, hopefully, I will manage to get out too eventually!), I’ve narrowed my field to stops in England and France.
I’ve been to both of these countries before and plan to go again, so making a few day trips out and about to spend the day wandering to and around bookshops doesn’t seem like a waste of travel days—it’s all about the experience!
During this time, I’ll also be finding the location of the extinct “Grub Street”, which is framing my dissertation, and then I’m off to Bath for a belated birthday, to see one of Box Tale Soup‘s literary productions. That week, they are putting on puppet enactments of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” for children’s theatre; and M.R. James’ “Casting the Runes” which are both supposed to be brilliant. I’m sad they aren’t doing Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” at this time, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled for other chances!
So, that’s my nerdy plan and I’ll be updating you on my comings and goings, as well as any adventures unfolding in the next couple of weeks and remember: life’s too short not to follow your passions, even if they lead to a week of running in and out of bookshops!