Abilene, Kansas is mostly known for being the hometown of President Eisenhower, but this small town has plenty more to offer than just a visit to his historic home and library.
I know you are thinking, what in the heck is there to do in this middle of this nowhere Kansas town. I thought the same thing until I had the chance to spend a weekend in Abilene. It was absolutely charming and with only being a couple hours away from Wichita or Kansas City, makes it a fun getaway from life in the big city.
I had the chance to visit in early December and enjoyed the Night of Christmas Magic. I loved watching the hustle and bustle of the families enjoying activities and the children’s faces when santa arrived. It was wholesome and some what nostalgic. Something I think many cities are missing these days.
I also went on the Homes for the Holidays Tour, which features beautifully decorated historic homes. Abilene features many activities throughout the year, so there is a reason to visit every season! Keep reading to see what season you will want to plan your visit!
Starting with spring, visitors can enjoy watching or participating in the Eisenhower Marathon in early April. Awards are presented by members of the Eisenhower family at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home Visitors Center.
The Saturday of Easter weekend, Washington D.C. has the White House Easter Egg Roll and Abilene does too! Thousands of eggs are placed on the lawn of the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home and children rush to find them.
Reitz & Rust Vintage Market & Vintage Camper Show. This event held in late April, features more than 200 vendors and dozens of vintage campers. It is labeled a must see event by Southern Living magazine.
Other spring activites include the Arts & Ales craft beer sampling and the Abilene Antique Fest.
In June, summer brings the opening of the Great Plains Theatre which was established in 1995. It is the only live professional theatre between Denver and Kansas City on I-70. The theatre features comedians, magicians, chart topping musicians and Pulitzer winning Broadway shows.
Celebrate Independence Day with an Old Fashioned 4th of July celebration. Activities include a variety of fun runs, pedal power tractor pull, sports tournaments, mud and sand volleyball, baby beauty contest, frog and turtle races, band performances and of course, a stellar fireworks display! Abilene is named one of Smithsonian Magazine’s “Top 20 Best Small Towns to Visit.”
The first weekend of August brings Central Kansas Free Fair and Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo, which was named one of the Top 5 Medium-Sized Rodeos by PRCA.
October brings Heritage Days complete with historic reenactments, activities for kids, farm machinery demonstrations as more! It is also your last chance of the season to catch the Excursion Train. This 10-mile excursion train ride through the Smoky River Hill Valley features a 100 year old wooden coach dining car and other vintage equipment.
December brings the Annual Homes for the Holidays Tour, where you can tour a number historic beautifully decorated homes though out the town. Along with homes tour is the Night of Christmas magic, usually the first weekend in December and is fun for the whole family. Activities include Santa’s workshop, craft fair, lighted Christmas parade, games, lighting of the historic Union Pacific Depot and more.
For Valentines Day in February, couples can plan a romantic getaway and stay at one of Abilene’s quaint bed and breakfasts. The Victorian Inn allows you to step back in time while still having access to all 21st century conveniences. Or you can pamper yourself at the Windmill Inn which offers in room massages.
Year around visitors can enjoy the variety of museums, including the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Abilene is full of history and 21 structures in town are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Seelye Mansion.
The Dickinson County Heritage Center depicts life on the plains during the American pioneer movement and westward expansion periods. It also houses the Museum of Independent Technology which shows the telephone system history through exhibits of antique telephones. It also tells the story of The United Telephone Company, which is now Sprint, that was formed in Abilene by C. L. Brown in 1922.
Children and parents both will enjoy a ride on the original 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel which is located at the Heritage Center as well.
Abilene is also home to the worlds biggest spur!
If you are a foodie or just a tired traveler along I- 70 looking for a bite to eat, Abilene offers plenty of great choices. The Brookville Hotel which traces back to the 1870’s became famous for serving family style fried chicken dinners, which still continue to this day. Reservations are highly recommended.
Another hot spot in town is Three one one and is labeled the “Key West of the Midwest.” This spot is family owned by Chef John Shaft from Florida and gets rave reviews about his fish tacos.
Downtown Abilene offers quaint shops such as Cypress Bridge, where you can pick up a hand poured custom scented candle, home decor items, homemade potpourri, scented oils, bath and body products for him or her and more. RHV, is a little hardware store that will have anything you need including unique products tailored just for that area. Antique lovers will enjoy browsing the many antique stores and for the Chocoholics, a visit to the Russell Stover 10,000 sq. ft. outlet store is a must. Visitors can purchase ice cream delights, along with the many other types of candies and homemade chocolate delicacies.
Lodging includes quaint bed and breakfasts, hotels and campgrounds.
For more information on planning your trip, visit the Abilene visitors website. Photos are courtesy of Abilene visitor center and myself. I wish to thank the city of Abilene for hosting my visit.
For those who have visited Abilene, please feel free to comment below on your favorite thing about Abilene.
Cranberry and Blood Orange Cocktail
This cocktail is perfect for a variety of holidays throughout the year with just a change in the garnish. With February upon us it makes a lovely cocktail for Valentines Day.
We had an early Valentines celebration with some friends and I had the La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila that I got in Mexico while at the El Dorado Royale. I thought with it’s beautiful red color it would make a fun Valentine cocktail. After a little trial and error, I got just the right combo of ingredients for this delicious cocktail.
La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila
La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila
Unsweetened Cranberry Juice*
Blood Orange Syrup
Sparkling Orange Water
Optional: Fresh Pomegranate Arils and Blood Orange Slices for Garnish
Pour pomegranate tequila, cranberry juice, blood orange syrup and agave nectar in to shaker. Shake until blended. Fill serving glass with ice. Pour drink mixture into glass add sparkling water. Garnish with pomegranate arils and blood orange slices if desired.
*If you are using sweetened cranberry juice, omit the agave nectar.
Round Pond Blood Orange Syrup
The blood orange syrup which you can see is gone, came in a set of syrups from the Round Pond Winery in Napa. The blood orange syrup is delicious and I have used it on a cheeseboard to be drizzled over goat cheese and have used it to drizzle over pound cake and ice cream as a dessert topping. The last of it went into this cocktail! I’m looking forward to cracking open the Meyer lemon syrup and see what happens. I already know it is delicious as I sampled it while on a visit there. I think you should be able to order it online at the Round Pond website.
Cranberry Blood Orange Cocktail Ingredients
I need to be clear that I am not getting any kickback on any of these products. It just happened to be the brands I had on hand or like. You can certainly find a variety of brands that make a blood orange syrup, juices and agave, so buy what ever you like! I made a note in the recipe but if you end up getting cranberry juice that is already sweetened, you should omit the agave nectar as it will make the cocktail to sweet.
I’m not sure about other pomegranate tequilas. You can do some sleuthing on your own to find a brand you like or you can find out where to buy the La Pinta in your area on their website. You could certainly use plain tequila as well.
La Pinta Pomegranate Tequila
I think this cocktail would be great for quite a few holidays. Just change up the garnishes a bit. For Christmas add a sprig of mint, basil or rosemary for a pop of green. For the 4th of July omit the blood orange slice and add blueberries.
I would love to hear what some of you favorite cocktails are so feel free to comment below or email me with any questions.
If you are thinking about visiting the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana should be on your list. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts including Excellence. We stayed at the Excellence resort a few months ago and are set to go back this spring. Below I have listed an overview of the property and all of the perks of the resort that we enjoyed.
Accommodations: Our room was a junior swim up suite that has it’s own beach bed just steps away from the pool. There are quite a few suite options that include mountain view, garden view, ocean view and ocean front. All suites range in price so it is the perfect place to stay as you can find one that fits your budget.
Food: With nine all-inclusive international dining options, one buffet restaurant and beach snack grill, you will not have to worry about getting hungry or hangry in my case. The food was quite good and elegant. It is not quite as gourmet inclusive as the El Dorado Casitas but we still very much enjoyed it.
Drink: You may get drunk, but you will not go thirsty. Unlimited alcoholic beverages and soft drinks are just a beck and call away wiith 24-hour room service and pool and beach waiter service. Or you can visit one of the 12 bars on the property! My favorite is the Piña Colada served oceanside in a fresh pineapple.
Activities: I was pretty content to just hang out in the beach bed or pool most of the day but I did manage a few workouts in the fully equipped fitness center. If you are not like me and want to get up and go, there are plenty of daily activities, snorkel gear and scuba lessons available. If you wish to venture off the resort, there are plenty of excursions including four wheeling, shopping in the local village, spelunking down the Caribbean’s longest underground cave, golf and more.
Entertainment: If you haven’t worn yourself out during the day and are still sober, there is nightly entertainment featuring a different theme show every night you can enjoy.
Spa: If laying out in the beach bed all day is not relaxing enough, you can pamper yourself at the Miilé Spa.The grounds of the spa are tranquil and tropical with a flock of flamingos lounging in the nearby lagoon.
There are plenty of treatments to choose from including massage, body wraps, facials, manicures, pedicures, salon services and more. I enjoyed a body scrub with a massage and it was heavenly!
Service: The entire staff is friendly and ready to serve you what ever your heart desires and being that it is all-inclusive all taxes and gratuities included.
Booking Specials: The prices are always changing but there is usually some type of special going on so just check out the Excellence Resort Website for information on rooms, pricing, amenities or any other questions you have.
As a traveler I enjoy researching and reading about people experiences on places we may visit so I hope this helps if that is what you are looking for. I need to be clear that I am not endorsing the resort nor was I compensated to write about this. This was a vacation we took and paid full price.
We very much enjoyed it and as I mentioned earlier already have a return trip booked. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions by commenting below or contacting me.
These travel essentials that are airline compliant can be put in your carry-on bag and will save the day should something go awry!
I have been traveling quite a bit over the past few years and am guilty of being an over-packer. After some trial and error have finally scaled down my bag but always include these travel essentials in my carry-on.
Whether I need to wipe down my tray table, my face, hands or take a spit bath when stranded in the airport. I love these chemical free Waterpura wipes. I received these as a sample and have fallen in love with them. I don’t see any sample packs available for sale on the website, so I will be investing in a travel wipe container as the next package I get will be way to large to carry-on
I am usually not a fan of the hotel soaps and shampoos and like to bring my own. I found these great containers at an IKEA store in Dallas. I cannot find them online to give you a link. They could be an in-store product only. The banded labels came from the Container Store.
IKEA Travel Containers
If your shoes start rubbing you the wrong way, the Fab Feet stick from target will help prevent blisters from forming. The tinted sunscreen from Chanel I found at Macy’s and that with a little tinted lip balm from Pacifica can help brighten up your complexion after a long day of travel. I also love the roll on perfume from Pacifica. It is lightly scented and easy to pack.
To freshen up my breath I love the Mouthwatchers travel toothbrush. MouthWatchers uses antimicrobial patented silver technology on its bristles which eliminate 99.9% of bacteria build up on the toothbrush bristles. The special designed bristles are thinner than that of other toothbrushes which clean in between teeth better and adds a flossing effect.
I love having a pill box when traveling and fill it with prescriptions, pain relievers and any other medications or supplements I want to have on hand.
For a quick fluff of the hair, a travel brush and pony tail holders are a must. Tissues, mints, hand sanitizer, glasses, contacts, saline are a few of my other essentials. I always have a nail file and a little travel size of nail polish remover pads.
To put it all together, the non liquids go in a zipper pouch from re-pac bags and for liquids we all know by now they must be in a TSA approved container. Mine is a zipper package that some pillow shams came in.
Instead of spending money on those packaging cubes, save those clear zipper pouches that a lot of sheets or bedding comes packaged in. They make great packing cubes for items that will go inside your checked luggage. I love using them to organize my workout gear, swimsuits, accessories and anything else I want to keep from getting mixed into my other clothes.
Now that you have all of your carry-on items packed. What is the best bag to use to put them in? I love a bag that has multiple storage areas like my Tumi bag. It fits my laptop, carry-on essentials, sunglasses, snacks, chargers, headphones and pretty much whatever else I need while still being slim and compact.
I would love to hear some of your ideas on packing for travel and what essentials you take in your carry-on.
When Chef Thomas Salamunovch of the fine-dining restaurant Larkspur in Vail, Colorado had a desire to bring fine dining to the masses, the fast-casual concept of Larkburger was born.
Larkburger is a Colorado based fast-casual gourmet burger chain that is quickly expanding beyond it’s borders. Overland Park, Kansas is the first city outside of Colorado to score this restaurant which opened in early 2017. Another location is in the works for the Missouri side just off of the County Club Plaza in Kansas City.
I recently had the chance to try it out thanks to a couple of “free burger” cards they sent me.
Guess what? They want to give you some too along with some other Larkburger swag. Two winners are eligible for that and details are below, but first here are the details on the menu and some really cool things you should know about Larkbrger.
The menu is diverse and a perfect place to take the whole family. From burgers to kale and a few things in between everyone can get something they like. I think one of my favorite options is the steamed edamame.
Larkburger Edamame. Chicken and Tuna burgers
Although, I am a sucker for fries, which are hand-cut in-house and are amazing, it is nice to have an unfired option when I am trying to cut back on calories.
The day I visited I had to grab a to go order for my son and I. The sweet girl taking my order was so patient with me as I could not decide what salad to get. I finally decided on the kale salad.
I knew my son would go for a burger but being the picky eater he is I knew I had to order it plain. I got him the traditional Larkburger with meat, cheese and bun which means he missed out on the special sauce which is made from scratch and what I think is the best part! All burgers are cooked to order at your desired temperature and of course served however you want it. All of Larkburgers sauces and dressings that accompany their array of burgers, sandwiches and salads are made in-house using only the freshest ingredients.
Although, I scored a bite of the burger which was tasty even without the sauce, I really enjoyed the kale salad and appreciate the diversity of the menu items Larkburger offers. It makes it super easy for carnivores and vegetarians alike to both order something that will satisfy their appetite. As I mentioned before it is great place to take the whole family. Not only do kids under 12 eat free on Monday’s with an adult purchase, it allows mom who may be watching what she eats get something satisfying when the rest of the family is craving burgers and fries.
I do need to mention that although a burger is going to have more calories then kale, you don’t need to feel as guilty if you indulge in one at Larkburger. The burgers are fresh and made from local Black Angus beef. That in itself is already going to be lower in calories than the average processed fast food burger that is shipped frozen from who know where.
Everything is fresh at Larkburger including the tomatoes which ripen in an in-house cabinet until they are at peak flavor and the house-cut fries are cooked in a trans free canola oil.
The Larkburger with Hand-Cut Fries
I recently attend a blogger event they had and got a little swag myself along with some tasty samples.
Larkburger Rocket Power Salad
Larkburger Salted Caramel Shake
Apart from having great food, Larkburger is also kind to the environment and takes sustainability seriously. Outside of the condiment packets and juice and milk cartons, everything is compostable. Every napkin, utensil, wrap, cup, bag, box and straw! The size of the restaurant trash can is no larger than a 9×13 baking dish. The space and decor is sleek and clean with the chairs made from recycled materials and the walls are reclaimed cypress wood. In addition, their fry oil is recycled and converted into alternative fuel and 100% of the electricity usage is offset by purchased wind credits.
Larkburger also is committed to supporting local and will source beer and soda from the region the restaurant is in to serve at that location. For a list of all Larkburger location visit their website.
Now in order to get free burgers and swag from Larkburger all you have to do is comment below on how you top your burger!
Two winners will be drawn using random. org from the number of entries. Example first commenter is number on and so on. Contest ends midnight Monday, June 12. Winners will be notified via email so be sure to leave a valid email with your comment. Good Luck!
This Chicago dining guide for local fare just highlights some of my favorite spots. If you are serious foodie like me and are spending the day in Chicago, I recommend adding these to your list to check out while visiting. Most of these places fill up quickly so it is best to get your reservation in at least a few days ahead of time if not weeks before dining.
Click on the restaurants link for directions, hours and menu information
The Farmhouse Chicago, Stuffed French Toast
This locally owned cafe is located a few minutes from downtown but feels like an old rustic small town cafe you might find in the middle of Iowa. The decor will take you back to your Grandma’s childhood kitchen with antique furnishings and appliances placed throughout the space. Dishes are prepared using local and seasonal ingredients from area producers as well as the restaurants owners farm.
Must try: Stuffed French Toast with extra syrup
Lunch: Fronterra Grill
Frontera Grill Sopecitos Rancheros
Fronterra Grill owned by Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless, is always on my list when visiting the windy city. The elevated Mexican fare is like non other. Rick is passionate about using produce and meats from local farms. The flavor combinations he uses in his dishes set Fronterra Grill apart from any other Mexican restaurants I have tried.
Must try: Sopecitos Rancheros
Snack: Garret’s Popcorn Shop
A visit to Chicago is not complete without a visit to the iconic Garrett’s Popcorn Shop. Once in the door the caramel corn aroma will have your mouth watering. I prefer the Almond Caramel Crisp, but the Garrett Mix that combines sweet Caramel Crisp with savory Cheese Corn is the most popular.
Must try: Garret’s Mix
Dinner: The Girl and The Goat
The Girl and The Goat
Get your reservation in early for The Girl and The Goat owned by celebrity chef Stephanie Izzard. The dishes are served family style, which make them ideal for sharing. Most come in the “small plate” format so it is ideal to go with a group to try a variety of things. The restaurant serves only dinner and opens at 4:30 pm. This makes a great spot if you are need of dining late as it does not close until 11 pm Sunday – Thursday and 12 am Friday and Saturday.
Must try: Chickpea Fritter
The Girl and The Goat, Chickpea Fritter