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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Last month, author Dave Zirin visited KU to deliver a keynote address for “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports,” presented by the KU School of Business, the Langston Hughes Center and Kansas Athletics. The event, co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association and streamed live for alumni, included an unfiltered discussion of race at the intersection of big-time college athletics.
In his no-holds-barred talk, Zirin, who is sports editor for The Nation magazine, tackled challenges involving racism, sexism and the exploitation of collegiate athletes, an issue that he cautioned has grown out of control. He argued that the NCAA may be nearing a breaking point.
“If we don’t get student athletes at the table, there is the risk of the entire system collapsing,” he told the audience.
During his talk at the Kansas Union, he also gushed about KU. Referring to his visit as a pilgrimage, Zirin was impressed not only by Allen Fieldhouse but also by his tour of the academic support facilities. He confessed to the crowd, “I actually do believe that Kansas is special, and I’m not just saying that because I’m here.”
“There is something else about Kansas, which I witnessed first hand. …I saw something that I have never seen at other big-time state basketball schools: utter engagement of the athletes with the academic and campus life.”
Zirin suggests that, by virtue of its reputation as a basketball superpower, Kansas has an obligation to help lead efforts to reform college athletics.
“As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and Kansas has a responsibility to not only feel content about what they are doing in Lawrence but to challenge the NCAA to fundamentally reform.”
Other than Kansas, he wrote, “one would be hard pressed to think of a major institution that has the credibility to stand up to the NCAA and be heard.”
NCAA Champion magazine’s winter 2015 edition chronicles Clarkson’s long and prosperous career as a photographer. He made a name for himself by capturing unforgettable moments in just about any sport imaginable. But it seems that given a choice, Clarkson would take his camera skills to the court any day.
“Basketball is so unique in that, unlike football or some other sports, nobody is hidden behind shoulder pads or helmets,” he tells NCAA Champion magazine. “You get to see and experience the emotions of the game. You see it on people’s faces. You see it in their body language. You get all this in addition to the beauty of great athletic prowess and beautiful plays. You see the human element as well. To me, it makes basketball the most interesting of all the sports.”
To read more about Clarkson’s journey as a photojournalist and hear him describe his own favorite moments in NCAA basketball history, click here.
Watch a video of Clarkson recounting how he took one of the most recognizable photographs of his career:
On this day six years ago, Jayhawks around the world rejoiced as the KU men’s basketball team won the National Championship, defeating the Memphis Tigers 75-68 in overtime. Mario Chalmers nailed the three-point shot heard ’round the world at the end of regulation to earn the extra five minutes of play.
Although we won’t have a repeat performance tonight after the current team’s earlier-than-hoped-for exit from the tournament, we can reminisce about the Jayhawk camaraderie during the madness of March.
KU Alumni Association staff members hosted watch parties in 12 key locations across the country during the first weekend of this year’s tournament, and hundreds of alumni, fans and friends turned out to show their support.
Watch the slideshow below to see some of our favorite pictures, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
The No. 2-seed Kansas Jayhawks are tackling one of the unique challenges of the NCAA Tournament: jam-packed weekends that force near-instant preparation for quality opponents. After rallying to stop upset-minded Eastern Kentucky with an 80-69 victory Friday at the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis, KU is hustling to get ready for Sunday’s 11:15 a.m. game (CBS) against No. 10-seed Stanford, which on Friday upset New Mexico.
When asked how he and his assistants prepare players for a team they haven’t faced in just one day, coach Bill Self replied, “The chances of them seeing more than one or two minutes of edit tape of the previous game would be very, very slim. Your focus is the next game. So we may say, ‘Hey, when we ran this, this didn’t quite look right; if we do it this way it maybe improve it.’ But that’s it. Our focus will be on the next team.”
Asked whether Self’s coaching style changes during the tournament, sophomore forward Jamari Traylor said it was too late in the season for Self or anybody else to inspire the players: “He shouldn’t have to coach us for intensity this time of year because everybody wants it and everybody wants to come out and give it their best shot. I don’t think that is a good look on your team if you have to coach that right now. So it’s just the same thing: Give everybody confidence and tell us what we’re doing wrong at times, and that’s about it.”
Traylor backed up his statements about intensity against Eastern Kentucky, propelling the Jayhawks’ second-half rally with 17 points and 14 rebounds and a determined energy that fueled his teammates.
“He gave us so much energy tonight,” said sophomore forward Perry Ellis, “there are no words to explain.”
Said Self, “I don’t know if he’s had a better game. I agree with what Perry said. I think he gave us the energy.”
Also hustling to prepare for the early Sunday game were KU Alumni Association staff members, who will against host, along with Kansas Athletics, KU’s official pregame rally at America’s Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, a 15-minute walk from the Scottrade Center.
Doors will open at 8 a.m. and the band, cheerleaders and Big Jay will launch the festivities at 9:30. As with Friday, there is no cover charge (with cash bars, concessions and KU Store merchandise), and the large room will remain open as a TV watch site for those without tickets.
Once again this year, we’re dispatching staff members to key cities across the United States to host watch parties for local Jayhawks.
Today, our fearless travelers are stationed in Denver, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Each location will have a KU Alumni Association table set up with free giveaways such as stickers and coasters. If you’re a member, though, be sure to show your card to receive a special gift! You can show your actual card, a digital copy of the card (it’s on some of our emails) or even a copy of a recent email that has your membership status at the bottom.
We’re already hearing reports from Teri Harris, director of membership, that Stoney’s Bar & Grill, our official alumni watch site in Denver, is packed with Jayhawk fans. The restaurant even put together a special Jayhawk menu with offerings that include “Naismith Nachos” and “Phog Allen Fries.”
And from Lottie’s Pub in Chicago, Tyler Rockers, coordinator of alumni programs, proclaimed that the sky is appropriately colored KU blue today.
Should KU win today over Eastern Kentucky and advance to Sunday’s game, staff members will host watch parties in Phoenix, Dallas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, Portland and New York City.
More than 1,000 alumni and fans filled a downtown St. Louis ballroom to supercharge their crimson-and-blue spirit in the hours before KU men’s basketball began its 2014 NCAA Tournament title quest against Eastern Kentucky at the nearby Scottrade Center.
The already festive atmosphere had an unexpected ghoulish tinge, as Jayhawks found themselves as neighbors in the sprawling America’s Center to a fun-loving bunch of Halloween entrepreneurs who gathered on the sunny St. Louis morning to share tricks of their haunted house trade. Good-natured Halloween boos turned to cheers as the KU pep band, cheerleaders and Big Jay rallied the crowd at the pregame rally co-sponsored by the KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics.
Among the celebrants was Gov. Sam Brownback, l’82, and his wife, Mary Stauffer Brownback, b’80, l’83, who are joint Life Members of the Alumni Association. The first couple of Kansas had a busy morning, as all three of the state’s Division I men’s basketball programs—KU, Kansas State and undefeated Wichita State—not only made the NCAA Tournament field, but opened on the same day on the same court.
“It’s an awesome day that really helps tell the story of Kansas being the cradle of basketball,” Brownback told Kansas Alumni magazine moments before the rally began. “And this time we have the opportunity to tell that story on a national stage. It’s a fabulous day for all Kansans.”
“Hopefully our league will pull for each other and our state will pull for each other,” coach Bill Self said shortly after KU’s Thursday practice. “It will be interesting.”
Should KU advance to Sunday’s Round of 32, the Association and Kansas Athletics will again sponsor a rally at the America’s Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about a 15-minute walk from the Scottrade Center. Doors will open 4 hours prior to the session’s start, again with no door charge, and cash bars, concessions and a KU Store stand offering Jayhawk gear. As with Friday, television screens will be available for fans without tickets to stay and watch the game with fellow Jayhawks.
See pictures from the pep rally in the slideshow below, or click here to view the photos on Flickr.
All photos by Steve Puppe.
KU’s men’s basketball team went through an easy practice, open to the public, at the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis Thursday afternoon, in preparation for Friday’s NCAA-tournament opener against Eastern Kentucky.
The Jayhawks (24-9) will be playing their fifth game without injured superstar freshman center Joel Embiid, but foremost on their mind was moving past their most recent game, a 94-83 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament’s semifinal. The Cyclones’ 94 points were the most scored against any of coach Bill Self’s KU teams in a regulation game.
“A loss isn’t all bad if you learn from it,” said senior forward Tarik Black, “and that’s what we did. We’d rather learn our lesson earlier than later.”
Eastern Kentucky (24-9) is one of the country’s best 3-point shooting teams, forcing the Jayhawks to find the defense that’s been missing since Embiid’s departure.
“It does change,” Self said of his defense without Embiid guarding the rim, “because we can make mistakes before and mistakes can be wiped away. And now mistakes turn into layups. … In the games in which we lost, teams shot a lot of easy baskets, in large part because we made a lot of the mistakes we have been making but he wasn’t there to clean them up. So we have to be much sounder out on the perimeter.”
Self said that should KU advance from St. Louis to Memphis, he hopes Embiid, who has a back injury, will be able to practice next week and perhaps be ready to join the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16 next Thursday in Memphis.
The KU Alumni Association’s pregame rally is set for Friday at America’s Center Convention Center, adjacent to the Edward Jones Dome, about 1 mile from the Scottrade Center. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for Alumni Association and Williams Education Fund members, and open admittance for the general public begins at 10. The pep band, cheerleaders and mascots are expected to arrive at 11:45. The event will remain open as a TV watch party site for those without tickets to the game.
The is no cost to attend, and concession stands and cash bars will be available, as will a stand to purchase crimson-and-blue gear from the KU Store.
If you’re headed to St. Louis this weekend for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, you need to read this. Paul Brickler, a’02, St. Louis Chapter leader, shares his best suggestions for places to go, things to see and what to eat and drink while you’re in town. Paul helpfully provides info about several popular districts in the city, including downtown, Forest Park, the Central West End and more.
Downtown: Dining and Drinking
There are a lot of great establishments to visit in downtown St. Louis, especially along the vibrant Washington Avenue corridor, which features a number of unique restaurants, bars and shopping opportunities. Some of my favorite places to eat and drink downtown include:
Photo credit: shock264 via Flickr
1. For a brunch, my favorite two places downtown are Blondie’s (1301 Washington Ave.) and Rooster (1104 Locust St.). Blondie’s serves one of the best, most diverse menus for weekend brunch, and Rooster features the best crepes in the city. Both have excellent coffee.
2. If you are looking for a familiar lunch you can’t go wrong at Planet Sub (211 N. 9th St.). You may know this place better as the famous Yellow Sub from Lawrence. If you need a quick bite and are already downtown, it’s great to get a little taste from home. Also, they give a discount to KU students and alumni.
3. Pi Pizzeria (610 Washington Ave.) features excellent pizzas in both the deep-dish Chicago style and a thin crust variety. They serve all sorts, from vegan to meat-lovers, and have a fun atmosphere to go along with their great pizzas.
4. For a great brewpub lunch or dinner, or even just for excellent beer, try Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust St.). They are perhaps the largest of the many locally-owned, family-run micro-breweries that St. Louis is famous for, but they may have the best selection when it comes to food. Ask to try the spicy ketchup, it’s really good.
5. If you like excellent wine, good beer, and small plates, Robust Wine Bar (635 Washington Ave.) has a great selection of all three, with an intimate atmosphere to go with it. Probably the best prosciutto I have sampled outside of Italy, too.
Downtown: Cultural Attractions
Most people would expect the Gateway Arch to appear here, but at present, I would advise against going. The grounds are in the midst of a major renovation so access is limited and many of the attractions are closed. You can still get an excellent view of it from Market Street, though, on your way to the Scottrade Center.
Instead, check out the City Museum (750 N. 16th St), a sculptural menagerie of found objects (airplanes, school buses, etc.) blended with architecture to create a sort of educational and experiential fun-house/playground that’s very entertaining to visit. The cost is about $12 per person, but there’s no place like it anywhere. Kids love it, but so has every adult I’ve taken there. Don’t be afraid to try the three-story-high roller-slide down to the lobby. It’s nowhere near as intense as the ten-story spiral slide from the roof. The museum also features the World’s Largest Pencil and an aquarium. It’s difficult to explain if you haven’t been, but I highly recommend it.
City Museum, photo by Jon DeJong via Flickr
Downtown West/Saint Louis University area
The SLU campus and its neighborhood cover an area west of downtown that spans from Lindell Boulevard to Market Street, both East and West of Grand Boulevard. There are a number of great places to visit around there as well.
1. For the best barbecue available in St. Louis, you have to go to Pappy’s Smokehouse (3106 Olive St.). They just do everything right. It’s amazing.
2. Vito’s (3515 Lindell Blvd.) is famous for their award-winning Sicilian-style pizzas, but they also have a full menu of fantastic Italian dishes to go along with it. Or so they tell me. I ALWAYS get a pizza. You won’t be disappointed either way.
3. The Field House (510 N. Theresa Ave.) is a great little sports bar just north of the SLU campus where you can watch all the games. Just make sure SLU isn’t scheduled to play before you go, or you may find the place overrun with Billikens. SLU students and fans are generally easy-going and friendly, though.
4. Another great local microbrewery has set up shop not far from the SLU campus. Urban Chestnut (3229 Washington Ave.) makes some of the best beers available in St. Louis. I highly recommend the Zwickel and the Schnickelfritz, but there are several others. We recently hosted a KU Alumni Association happy hour there, and it was a huge success. The large patio is nice – when the weather is – but they have plenty of cozy space inside when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Downtown South – Soulard, Lafayette Square:
Just south of downtown are the historic districts of Soulard and Lafayette Square. Soulard is known for its Farmer’s Market and an abundance of unique bars, while Lafayette Square tends toward the culinary. Here are a few of my favorites in that area:
1. 4 Hands Brewery (1220 S. 8th St.) makes some of the finest barrel-aged craft beer in St. Louis, and their tasting room does an awesome job of pairing it with unique, flavorful dishes for a modest price (most dishes are under $10). This place is a must-visit for any beer enthusiast.
2. If finer dining and even better cocktails are more your thing, I recommend the Planter’s House (1000 Mississippi). They have a small menu, but everything on it is superb. They make a poutine that would make French Canadians cry, and their Spaetzle is something I will probably tell my grandchildren about. But they can be a bit spendy, depending on your tastes and appetite. Their bartenders are full-fledged mixologists. It’s probably not the most appropriate place for children, but adults should have a great time.
3. If you have the time, consider an Anheuser-Busch Brewery (1200 Lynch St.) tour. They are free, last a little over an hour and feature free samples at the end. The kids probably won’t enjoy the samples as much as you do, but they might get a kick out of seeing the Clydesdale horses. The scale of the operation is impressive, and they include a lot of history about beer, Prohibition, and globalization in their tour.
City of St. Louis, photo credit kla4067 via Flickr
Areas to visit outside of Downtown
1. The Hill is St. Louis’ version of Little Italy, which runs along I-44 from Kingshighway to Hampton, and it has a vast array of neighborhood markets and restaurants. Some of my favorite restaurants there are Cunetto (5453 Magnolia Ave.) and Anthoninos’s Taverna (2225 Macklind Ave.) but there are many, many more. John Volpi’s Market, at 5258 Daggett, made a lot of the Italian-style cold cut meats for the East Coast deli’s during World War II, when imports from Italy were prohibited.
3. The Delmar Loop in University City is a lot like Mass Street in Lawrence – walkable streets with unique shops, restaurants, and bars. The Loop is just to the northwest of Forest Park. It’s also an easy MetroLink ride from downtown, if you like.
4. Another great little district to visit, the Central West End, is just to the east of Forest Park and is also located adjacent to a Metro stop. There are a lot of great restaurants, shops, clubs and pubs in this vibrant neighborhood.
5. A visit to the Missouri Botanical Gardens costs $8 for adults, but is free for children age 12 and under. As the former estate of Henry Shaw, it features an incredible multitude of flowering plants on display in a meticulously manicured walking garden. But that’s not their primary mission: the Garden sponsors research in the plant sciences and harbors several rare plant species which are nearing extinction, with the goal of maintaining biodiversity among our plants in a sustainable way.
Many thanks to Paul for sharing a great list of tips for visitors to St. Louis! What would you add to the list? Email us at email@example.com.