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Newcomer’s guide of things to do in Wichita

People take a ride on a paddle boat at O.J. Watson park.
People take a ride on a paddle boat at O.J. Watson park. The Wichita Eagle

I moved to Wichita a year ago, and my friends recently made a list of things I’ve “got to try.”

The idea was to compile a list of quirky, one-of-a-kind experiences in the Wichita area.

Check it out, and maybe you’ll want to visit some of these places this summer.

Bartend for a night at Gianni Bacci’s: Play bartender for a night at Gianni Bacci’s, 301 N. Washington, and benefit a charity while you’re at it. The speakeasy-styled bar and restaurant lets people 21 and older work as “celebrity bartenders” on Wednesday nights. The bar usually allows up to two people at a time, who serve a set menu of five or six drinks from 7 to 10 p.m. Bartenders at Gianni Bacci’s will prepare the drink menu and teach the guest bartenders how to mix the cocktails. They’ll even make the drinks around a theme of your choice. “Just come with your A-game,” said Brian Love, a bartender at Gianni Bacci’s. If guests don’t have a charity chosen for the donations, Gianni Bacci’s will donate a portion of the sales to local charities.

Try some liquid-nitrogen ice cream: The shop uses liquid nitrogen in what looks like a magic trick to make the ice cream before your eyes. The result of such fresh ice cream, the owners say, is a smoother texture that prevents tiny ice crystals from forming. Churn & Burn, 556 S. Oliver, serves ice cream (the churn) and coffee (the burn) year round. Order prepared ice cream from the case or make a custom order on-the-spot with liquid nitrogen by ordering candies or nuts (from Nifty Nut House) to mix in.

Eat steaks in a cattle barn in El Dorado: It doesn’t get much more Kansas authentic than a steak dinner inside a cattle barn. The Real Deal Cafe, 2593 SE U.S. 54 in El Dorado, doesn’t have a sign displayed outside and is unsuspectingly inside the El Dorado Livestock Auction barn. But it has some of the best steaks around. The Real Deal is open Thursdays, auctioning day, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Steak dinners with sides and a salad run between $22 and $25. The cafe serves breakfast Thursday mornings. Be sure to order the chips and salsa as an appetizer. The owner sells the salsa at Whole Foods, Dillons and Green Acres and serves it with fluffy homemade tortilla chips.

Drinks at Frosty Mugs then karaoke at The Stop: For dive bar night out, visit Frosty Mugs, on South Washington just north of Harry, then head less than a block to the corner of Boston and Washington for karaoke at The Stop. Frosty Mugs is a long, narrow brick building painted green with a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign that says “Frosty Mugs” over a red awning.

Paddle boat at O.J. Watson Park: Act like a kid again at O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd., with a day of paddle boating ($3 for 30 minutes per person), mini golf ($3 per person), fishing and a ride on the new train ($3 per person).

Visit Timbuktu’s patio: Timbuktu Bar & Grill, 1251 N. Andover Road, has been open since 1982 and claims to be the first and oldest bar and grill in Andover. Check out the bar’s mural-lined patio with face cut-outs to take photos and a gorilla statue named Buk Gorillini. Yell “Howdy Joe!” for a free basket of chips. And the bar has adult coloring books, Farkel, Old Maid and checkers to entertain you while you wait for your burgers. Make sure to order the jalapeno relish. It’s cash or check only, but the bar has an ATM. Children are allowed at all times, too.

Watch planes take off and land with patio dining: Stearman Field Bar and Grill, 14789 SW 30th St. in Benton, has a bar and grill with garage door walls that rise above the restaurant to create an outdoor patio right at the base of the Benton Airport runway, where general aviation planes take off and land. The grill is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Kayak down the Arkansas River: A nonprofit called the Arkansas River Coalition organizes kayak and canoe floats during the spring, summer and fall. The group welcomes first-time paddlers on most of its floats with a suggested $15 donation for using its equipment. Floaters meet at a set location around 8 or 9 a.m. on Saturdays for floats about 8 to 10 miles in length. The group also organizes twilight floats in Wichita from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the Arkansas or Little Arkansas. To receive announcements about scheduled floats, e-mail wallyseibel@aol.com.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

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