Here’s an article I wrote for the Wichita Eagle for a special section they publish in May called Perfect Summer. You can read the article below or see it online here: www.kansas.com/living/travel/article21238104.html
Kansas B&Bs offer variety, unique accommodations
By MeLinda Schnyder
Twenty-five years ago last month, Lynda Fort of Ulysses, Kansas, was one of nine folks to show up for meetings organized by the Kansas State University Small Business Development department that she said focused on “promoting alternate income for families in the late 1980s after the wheat embargo to Russia caused many farmers into bankruptcy.”
Fort had operated Fort’s Cedar View bed-and-breakfast since September 1987, when she converted the home where she raised her five children into an inn. She and the others gathered studied the standards and compliances of other states and developed the Kansas Bed and Breakfast Association on April 1, 1990, with 31 original member inns. Through the decades there have been about 175 KBBA members – as many as 130 at one time – and today there are roughly 83.
Because each bed and breakfast is a unique property, KBBA formed to help new innkeepers and to provide the public with assurance that member properties “have very strict standards and the inns have liability coverage, comply with state health codes and fire codes, and are licensed with the Kansas Department of Agriculture,” Fort said.
“There are probably 100 inns in Kansas that do not have KBBA membership, may not have licenses or standards that we have and some have infrequent guests and don’t have to collect sales tax or transient guest tax,” she said.
In 2004, Fort was hired as KBBA’s executive director, a role she still holds. Her inn is one of two KBBA charter members still active, along with the Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn in Valley Falls.
“I love my job and enjoy all the member inns in our association,” Fort said. “They are the frontline to events, attractions, history and where the good food is located in their areas. They host retreats, reunions, extended stay guests and offer a great bed-and-breakfast experience.
“In the national average, an innkeeper’s life is five years, which isn’t true in Kansas,” she said. “Many inns have been in operation for over 20 years and any closing is the innkeepers desire to retire, not sell the property.”
One of the goals of KBAA-member inns is to provide unique accommodations, and you’ll find a wide variety of B&B settings available in Kansas – old barns, new barns, Craftsman homes, bunkhouses on working ranches, Victorian mansions and small historic hotels, for example. Fort said 82 percent of KBBA inns are five rooms or fewer.
The best way to get a feel for the property is to visit KBBA.com, where you can search for inns by location, amenities or specialty. From there, Fort advises to visit the inn’s individual website and check review sites such as TripAdvisor. If television and Internet connection are important to you, for example, be sure to ask ahead of time.
About a dozen B&Bs show up in south-central Kansas on KBBA’s online map and many more in reasonable driving distances from Wichita. Here is a sampling of some of the closest, unique KBBA inns.
Barns @ Timber Creek, Winfield
Martin and Cheryl Rude opened their bed and breakfast in 2004 after moving a 1890s post and beam barn to their 35-acre farm, reconstructing it and adding modern comforts. An original stone barn is on the National Historic Register and was restored in 2011 into an event space. Late last year they added to the five rooms inside the beam barn by building a treehouse. “We’re pretty sure it is the only B&B guest room in a tree in the state of Kansas,” Martin said. “Perched in a hedge tree that’s not going anywhere, the treehouse is dominated by native cedar stairs and trim. The queen bed is in a loft and the main floor has a fully equipped bathroom and kitchenette.” Rooms start at $105 per night; www.timbercreekbarns.com.
Beaumont Hotel, Beaumont
The four suites and six deluxe rooms at the Beaumont Hotel are average motel-type accommodations; what’s unique is that you’re staying in a renovated hotel that was built in 1879. It’s a popular stop for motorcyclists and pilots, who can land at the nearby grass airstrip and taxi right up to the property for an overnight or a meal. The diner-style restaurant is known for hearty breakfast, hand-breaded chicken fry and excellent desserts. Right across the street is an 1885 Old Frisco wooden water tower, on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest one still operating in the U.S. A caboose was added next to the tower earlier this year. Rooms start at $99 per night; www.beaumonthotelks.com.
Bunkhouse at Wildfire Ranch, Medicine Lodge
When you book at Bunkhouse, you’re staying at the Ringer family ranch, situated in a pasture on top of a hill in open range, giving guests a 360-degree view of the Gypsum Hills. The bunkhouse is a log-sided building constructed eight years ago with beautiful wood interiors decorated with cowboy art and mounts. It has two bedrooms and a pullout available in the dayroom. A two-bedroom cabin is also available, and when a large group of hunters or a wedding party books there is overflow in the walkout of the family’s ranch house. Although the facilities have kitchenettes, Roger Ringer said one of the most popular amenities is the big country breakfast they serve. So far he’s counted guests from 24 countries, 43 states and at least 174 Kansas towns. Rooms start at $89/single per night; www.bunkhouseatwildfireranch.com.
Circle S Ranch & Country Inn, Lawrence
Circle S has been a working ranch through six generations since 1862. In 1998 the ranch was opened to the public when an inn was built to look like an old Kansas barn, with a lean-to and a silo that houses an eight-person Jacuzzi. A large party barn hosts many weddings, reunions and retreats. The inn has 12 suite-style rooms covering three separate floors. Each floor has its own large common area and beverage station, and each room has a different country chic décor theme. Guests will see a small buffalo herd, longhorns and for a fee can book horseback riding, hayrides and bonfires. “Breakfast is always included but we can also provide additional meals,” said owner Mary Beth Stewart. “We’ve been doing a lot of garden-to-table meals for our guests who get here and just don’t want to leave to go anywhere else.” Rooms start at $150 per night; www.circlesranch.com.
Inn at Glenstrae, Wichita
Robert Elliot and Tracy Sloat are the fifth owners of the 1900 Craftsman-style house in Wichita’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood tucked away a few blocks from northeast of the corner of Central and Hillside. They bought the well-maintained home in 2004 and after their children were grown they realized the home and their interest in entertaining and hospitality were the perfect mix for a B&B. Touring the house and learning its history is half the fun of staying here; the other half is the luxurious furnishings and personal treatment. There are two guest rooms: a smaller first-floor room and a spacious upstairs Flint Hills Suite, with a third room in future plans. Guests have access to five common areas: a front porch, screened side porch, living room, dining room and garden. Everything inside and out matches the boutique luxury experience the Elliots have created. Eggs Benedict is the house specialty, along with a sumptuous cup of house-blend coffee. Rooms start at $149 per night; www.theinnatglenstrae.com.