9 Reasons to Visit Wichita, Kansas
When I planned a trip to Wichita, I had no idea the city would amaze me like it did!
Wichita, why isn’t the country talking about your incredible museums and urban outdoor spaces? Why am I just now starting to read about your hot culinary scene? And who knew that the culture of your city is one of the most unique I’ve seen in the entire United States.
#1 All of Your Food Will Be Incredible
Wichita will delight your taste buds no matter which cuisine you choose. Vegans and sweet eaters will love donuts and pastries from The Donut Whole, an eclectic shop that also serves juices, coffee, and boba tea. My picks are the maple bacon and key lime donuts. The Old Mill Tasty Shop is an iconic eatery. My kind waiter brought me samples of the most popular items: Steak Chili, Tomato Soup, Chicken Salad, and Tuna Salad. They were all really darned good. Old Mill Tasty Shop, an old-fashioned soda fountain, makes sodas with Coke Syrup and are also known for having the best milkshakes in the whole state.
In a city with over 1,000 dining options, I knew that I had to try one of the 86 Mexican restaurants. At Molino’s, I ordered Nachos with steak, decadent cheese dip, and chips and salsa. The salsa was not too spicy and just right. The staff is super attentive. I thoroughly enjoyed my Mexican food.
The Doo Dah Diner is at the top of my dining list; perhaps the best breakfast spot of my life! Here, I ordered the cooked from scratch Triple D (Breakfast Sampler) with half portions of Tanya’s Benny, Banana Nut French Toast (with vanilla molasses infused syrup), and Corned Beef Hash. Each and every bite was unbelievable, hence the best breakfast of my life!
#2 Wichita’s Culture Is LIke Nowhere Else
Art is everywhere in Wichita, often in the form of museums. The Wichita Art Museum, a cosmopolitan two-story building with sensational pictures, statues, and other artwork, has sculptures on the terrace and an award-winning Art Garden. The art by Charles Russell and Edward Hopper were my faves. The Wichita Art Museum’s Great Hall has a Chihuly Confetti Chandelier, the best reason for stopping! Admission is free on Saturdays. While you are there, eat lunch in the upscale Muse Cafe, where quiche and soup are two delicious options and desserts are in high demand.
Art is found in urban areas in the form of street art, bronze sculptures around town, murals, and urbanized spaces ranging from torn down building sites to parking lots. Washington artist Georgia Garber commissioned the 31 bronze “Streetscape” pieces along Douglas Avenue. Two of the most popular pieces in the collection are “Soda Fountain” and “Barefoot Business Man”.
#3 You’ll Sleep in a Comfortable Hotel
My accommodations were at the downtown Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview. It is in a great location, with more than 200 rooms, that allows for quick pickup by the free trolley that runs through downtown Wichita. The nearly 100-year-old historic Drury Plaza Hotel offers complimentary breakfast on the mezzanine with plenty of tasty and quality food options plus awesome service. The hotel has spacious loft-style rooms with a huge bedroom, upstairs bath, living area, and kitchen (plus another bath) on the first floor. I really liked this layout. The upstairs bathroom had a huge soaking tub, which really won me over.
Features I found fascinating were that each room comes with 60 minutes of long distance phone calls. Drury Plaza Hotel has an indoor pool, airport shuttle, and free soda and popcorn at certain times of the day. Great for a soda lover like me!
#4 You’ll Discover Fun Attractions
Wichita’s historic Delano district is one of the fun parts of town with independently owned cafes, boutiques, and plenty of cultural things to soak in. In years past, this was the part of town where provocative women and brothels were found, right on the Chisholm Trail. The grit of yesteryear gives it a bit of its edge today. I loved this part of town, full of lively entertainment and traffic.
Botanica: The Wichita Gardens is a wonderful botanical attraction with 18 acres dedicated to 4,000 species of plants and flowers. The center hosts events and educational activities, many with an emphasis on holidays. Brush up your horticulture knowledge as you explore its themed gardens and landscaping.
A new experience for me was attending a Pow-Wow at the Mid American All-Indian Center. This research center is packed with nearly 5,000 artisan pieces and educational displays explaining how local Indians currently live while preserving American Indian culture. It is a great introduction to their lifestyle and history.
I learned about Blackbear Bosin, one of the most famous Indian artists and one of the museum founders. Most American Indians from Wichita have now moved to Oklahoma but the museum is definitely worth a visit. During the Pow-Wow, I watched in amazement as the tribes beat drums, danced, and made beautiful music. The regalia was lovely and the young kids participating really made me smile. Such incredible talent.
#5 Witness a Sense of Community
The community has embraced the Keeper of the Plains as the most recognized symbol of Wichita. This 44-foot tall steel sculpture of an Indian with his arms raised toward the rising sun is the star of the city. Built in 1974 by Indian artist Blackbear Bosin, Keeper of the Plains was a gift to the city of Wichita. The statue is located on the banks of the Arkansas River, atop a stone base surrounded by fire pots which are lit each evening at sunset and burn for 15 minutes.
Sections of the plaza surrounding the Keeper represent the four elements: air, fire, earth, and water. Look for the street performers and food trucks each night. From the looks of the parking lot, I would guess well over 1000 people gather nightly for this ritual to socialize and enjoy family fun.
#6 Be a Part of Living History
I love anything related to living history. Wichita’s best example of preserved history is at the Old Cowtown Museum. This distinctive venue features an entire mock Western town with fun offerings such as the drug store, post office, one-room schoolhouse, O’Hara’s barber shop, Turnverein Hall, and Fritz Snitzler’s Saloon.
The entire property showcases 54 buildings over 23 acres. It is set as life was in the old West days when cattle and cowboys lived here. You can see 1870’s gunfights and gambling—everything connecting to history through its 10,000 artifacts including furnishings, art, tools, and textiles. Interpreters and interactive displays tell the story of the property in addition to hands-on exhibits. There isn’t a schedule as to where the actors/historical figures appear, but they are plentiful. Old Cowtown Museum is a self-guided attraction with plenty to see for the entire family. There are even wagon rides, farm animals, and a petting zoo barn area. Wear comfortable shoes.
#7 Indulge in Superb Children’s Activities
Exploration Place is Kansas’ premier science center. Exhibits such as Explore Kansas, Kansas in Miniature, and Kids Explore keep things fresh and fun for repeat visitors. Explore Kansas has cool hands-on displays to learn about air, weather, water, and land, with a tornado feature.
The Boeing Dome Theater and Planetarium will pique the interest of adults as well. The current traveling/temporary exhibit, Hall of Heroes, featured gadgets, spies, superheroes, and crime-fighters. More children’s’ museums around the country should be modeled after this one. Exploration Place has a new exhibit opening in December called Design Build Fly, showcasing Wichita’s spot in aviation history.
#8 Experience a Rib-Tickling Comedy Theater
My favorite attraction in Wichita was hands-down Mosley Street Melodrama. This dinner style local theater gives you the option of enjoying a buffet style catered meal or the show only. A cash bar and full-service waitress provide drinks all night long. Performances range from musicals to comedy, revues and variety shows.
During my travels, I saw Little Cookie Shop of Horrors, a kitschy take on the classic musical using, you guessed it, cookies in the storyline. I laughed so hard! The acting and costumes were top-notch. After that performance, the troupe took a short break and returned with singing, comedy, game show shorts, and many other hilarious offerings. The Mosley Street Melodrama audience ranged from teenagers to those in their late 80’s. I love that they encouraged audience participation. The whole evening was a real treat! I wish a theater like this was available where I live.
#9 Ooh and Aah Over Cute Animals
A piece of my heart still lies at the Sedgwick County Zoo, where I had my first encounter with adorable and energetic prairie dogs. How appropriate for a visit to Kansas! This conservation zoo is clean, family-friendly, and one of the best small zoos I’ve ever been to. My favorite exhibits were the elephants, North American river otters, gorillas, and capybara, a large rodent that looks like an enormous guinea pig. The gorillas had babies which were a pleasure to watch play and interact with each other.
Countless Reasons to Visit Wichita
Of all of my travels this year, Wichita has been the biggest shocker and my favorite! I had no idea all of the amazing attractions Wichita offered, or how artsy and colorful the city was. A combination of cultures and ethnicities make Wichita a city that aspires to be noticed and rightfully should be.
I will be interested to watch tourism boom in beautiful Wichita, the city that won me over.
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