The skyline of Wichita, Kansas beckons visitors with the glitter of city lights against the waters of the Arkansas River. This city, known as “Cowtown” and “The Air Capital of the World,” has welcomed visitors with open arms since 1870, when it officially became a city.
Today, Wichita offers visitors a place to experience the history of the Midwest alongside the culture and fun of one of America’s finest metropolises. You’ll find history waiting in the city’s museums, the beauty of nature in the city’s gardens and zoo, and always a new adventure around every corner.
Here are 19 great things to do in Wichita that we know you’ll love!
KEEPER OF THE PLAINS
Hundreds of years ago, the sweeping prairies of Kansas were home to Native American tribes. One of them gave the Midwest metropolis its name: the Quivira or Wichita tribe. To the tribespeople of the region, the juncture between Little Arkansas and the Arkansas River held a sacred place in their culture. Today, that sacredness remains honored by the Keeper of the Plains statue.
Rising 74 feet above the rippling rivers, the Keeper of the Plains statue has guarded the city since 1974. Its creator, Blackbear Bosin, incorporated traditional Native American elements from his Kiowa/Comanche ancestry and that of the surrounding Indigenous tribes.
To truly experience the majesty of the Keeper of the Plains, visit in the evening after the sunset. At night, flames light up the statue of the regal warrior from the aptly named Ring of Fire.
SEDGWICK COUNTY ZOO
At the Sedgwick County Zoo, you’ll meet animals from around the world without having to leave Wichita! This award-winning zoo houses endangered species in habitats designed to immerse visitors in the wilderness – it’s not your run-of-the-mill zoo.
Over 3,000 animals call Sedgwick County Zoo home. Plan on spending an entire day meeting them all – and remember to wear comfortable shoes; the Sedgwick County Zoo sprawls nearly 250 acres.
During your visit, you’ll get a chance to explore exhibits like the Slawson Family Asian Big Cat Trek, where endangered Amur Tigers frolic in their pool and the Amur Leopard snoozes in the sun. In addition, you’ll see the Kangaroos of Australia, the brightly colored frogs of the rainforest, penguins, elephants, and more during your stroll through the zoo.
You can also enhance your zoo trip with added attractions! For example, kids always love visiting Stingray Cove, where they can touch and feed friendly stingrays. Or, the whole family can hop on a boat and enjoy the zoo from a unique angle during a Conservation Cruise ride.
A visit here is one of the best things to do in Wichita!
THE ALLEN HOUSE
Of the 1,000 houses designed by the architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright, the Allen House of Wichita holds a special place in his portfolio. Commissioned in 1916 for Kansas Governor Henry Allen, the house is the last of Wright’s prairie houses.
A visit to the Allen House takes you into the mind of Frank Lloyd Wright. Experts in architectural history call the Allen House one of Wright’s best, with its unique combination of Japanese and prairie elements.
Keep in mind that visitors to the Allen House must take a guided tour (self-guided tours aren’t allowed). The guided tours offer visitors unique tidbits and history as you stroll through the warmly lit halls of the house and the tailored grounds.
WICHITA ART MUSEUM
The Wichita Art Museum (fondly known as WAM by locals) first opened in 1935, though its origins date back to 1915. The magnificent Art Deco building may as well be an exhibit all its own, with its walls of glass that reflect the Wichita sky on sunny days. But, it’s not the building you come to see – it’s the collection.
Inside the Wichita Art Museum, visitors can explore thousands of art pieces spanning from archaeological finds to paintings to sculptures. The rotating exhibits vary throughout the year, with recent offerings including exhibitions on American Art Deco, Japanese Block Print, and glassmaking.
Visitors to the museum should expect to spend at least three hours there, more if you take a guided tour. The Muse Restaurant provides plenty of tasty options for a lunch break, and the museum store has the perfect souvenir for you to commemorate your visit.
At Wichita’s Exploration Place, visitors learn just how fun science can be! Here, visitors explore physics, nature, space, and engineering in exhibits tailored to get kids excited about science.
Exploration Place offers a variety of engaging exhibits, including permanent and traveling options. Previous traveling exhibits have explored the lives of dogs, outdoor survival skills, and Thomas the Tank Engine! Traveling exhibits rotate regularly, so you’ll want to check the venue’s website before heading over to see what’s current.
No matter when you choose to visit, Exploration Place’s permanent exhibits continue to wow and inspire visitors. You’ll get to play a giant version of Operation, watch the kids play, rule a medieval castle, explore the universe, and more.
Note that Exploration Place does not have a cafeteria, so you’ll want to factor lunch into your plans. However, the venue does have a snack bar, and the outdoor Exploration Park offers the perfect venue to picnic and play on a warm summer day.
OLD COWTOWN MUSEUM
I know what you’re thinking – how did Wichita get the title of “Cowtown” anyways? Well, back in the golden years of cattle ranching, Wichita was one of the stops along the Chisholm Trail. And at Old Cowtown Museum, you can experience what life was like in 1865-1880 Wichita during the height of its Cowtown era.
The Old Cowtown Museum isn’t your typical historical attraction. Instead, the 23-acre museum is comprised of historic structures, dirt roads, and the occasional actor telling tales about Cowtown. It’s a museum made for walking shoes, but well worth the exercise!
Along with exploring the 54 historic buildings that comprise the museum, visitors can enjoy a wagon ride and watch a gunfight. In addition, I recommend checking out the immersive tour, where historical reenactors will share facts about life back in 19th century Wichita. Plan on two hours to get the full experience!
MUSEUM OF WORLD TREASURES
Take a stroll through time at Wichita’s Museum of World Treasures. Here, three floors of historical artifacts take visitors from the sands of ancient Egypt to the battlefields of WWII.
The Museum of World Treasures is a family-friendly adventure, full of unique artifacts and exciting stories. In the Fossils Exhibit, dinosaurs roar, while over in the Sea Creatures of the Plains, the story of Kansas when ancient oceans covered it comes to life.
If you plan on taking a group tour, you can also enjoy exciting experiences like the Museum Escape – a free escape-room style experience where you solve puzzles and clues to “escape” the museum. Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop! A stop at this museum is one of the best things to do in Wichita.
Where can you find winding mazes, colorful flowers, and peaceful meadows? Why at Botanica Wichita, of course. These botanical gardens are spread across 18 acres, housing over 4,000 plant species.
Botanica Wichita offers a peaceful escape from Downtown’s hustle, with miles of walking trails and flowerbeds for guests to enjoy. Visitors can explore over 30 different themed gardens, including the famous Koch Carousel Gardens (and yes, you can ride the carousel).
Butterfly gardens, a horticulture library, and an aquatic garden are additional popular sites.
In addition to exploring the gardens, events are held here throughout the year. The summertime live music concert series, Twilight on the Terrace, is popular, and is held on the fourth Tuesday night of May, June, July and August.
It’s not every day that you can visit an old mine beneath a city, but at Strataca, visitors get to do just that. Visitors descend 650 feet into the earth, where the remains of a massive salt deposit wait. Once, Strataca was an active salt mine. Now, it’s a popular tourist attraction!
Visitors to Strataca can take a ride on a tram to explore the mine and briefly experience complete darkness. In addition, several galleries depict the tools and life of a salt miner and the history of the retired mine.
Keep in mind that Strataca is an underground attraction, so claustrophobic individuals, and younger children may not enjoy the experience.
BOATS AND BIKES AT RIVER VISTA
Exploring the Arkansas River is a popular pastime for visitors and locals alike in Wichita. The rowing team at Wichita State University offers visitors a chance to experience the river fully with their rental program at Boats and Bikes at River Vista.
The team at Boats and Bikes at River Vista offers outdoor health and fitness options for folks wishing to experience the river. Kayak rentals, paddle boating, a bike ride along the shore, and recreational rowing are popular river activities you can enjoy with help from Boats and Bikes.
TANGANYIKA WILDLIFE PARK
Located just 15 miles west of downtown Wichita, the Tanganyika Wildlife Park brings visitors a taste of the wild. You can meet with sloths, feed giraffes, and even meet a Eurasian Lynx!
The Tanganyika Wildlife Park offers unique experiences outside a traditional zoo. Visitors can explore over 500 animals from around the world on a leisurely one-mile walk. There’s a playground, cafe, and hotel on-site too, so you don’t have to leave the park for anything!
KANSAS AVIATION MUSEUM
Before it became a museum, the Kansas Aviation Museum was an airport terminal. Airplanes are kind of a big deal in Wichita, which holds the title of “Air Capital of the World.” Today, the museum details the history of aviation in Kansas and displays an extensive array of planes for the public to enjoy.
The Kansas Aviation Museum consists of indoor and outdoor exhibits, and because of this, I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and packing an umbrella in the summer. Outside you’ll find B-52 Bombers, jets, and passenger planes.
You can explore the Aviation Hall of Fame, a WWII exhibit, a cozy Reading Library, and other aircraft-related displays inside the museum. Don’t miss out on the Control Tower, where you can catch 360-degree views of Wichita!
WICHITA-SEDGWICK COUNTY HISTORICAL MUSEUM
Another museum you won’t want to miss during your visit is the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. If you want to learn about Wichita and the surrounding area, this museum is the place to be.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum resides in the old county courthouse. It’s a majestic building that rises like a castle above the city streets – locals know it as the “Palace of the Plains.” Inside, over 80,000 artifacts detailing the county’s history are maintained for the public’s education and cultural enrichment.
KANSAS SPORTS HALL OF FAME
Sports are a big deal in Kansas, whether it’s football, basketball, baseball, or track and field. The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have influenced sports history in Kansas, and takes visitors through the history of sports in the region.
Keep in mind that the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame is open by appointment only. You’ll want to take extra time to explore the basketball area – after all, Kansas is “The Cradle of Basketball.” Several NBA jerseys are on display, as well as memorabilia from legendary Kansas coaches.
MID-AMERICA ALL-INDIAN CENTER
Beneath the protective gaze of the Keeper of the Plains stands the Mid-America All-Indian Center. The center preserves the culture of the region’s Native American tribes as both a museum and heritage center.
Over 3,000 culturally significant artifacts are on display in the Mid-America All-Indian Center. It is also home to the largest collection of Blackbear Bosin artwork in the United States. It is a remarkable tribute to the man who designed the Keeper of the Plains and other notable Native American artworks.
GREAT PLAINS NATURE CENTER
The Great Plains Nature Center protects the natural beauty in the heart of Wichita. The center’s crown jewel is Chisholm Creek Park, where 282 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and prairies await your exploration!
Chisholm Creek Park provides the perfect place to listen to local birds sing while strolling along the paved paths, or enjoy the sight of trees bending in the wind. You may find yourself walking past deer, turkey, or the occasional turtle during your visit to the park.
You can learn more about Wichita’s wildlife at the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, also part of the center. The exhibit offers children a chance to meet 25 different species of animals for free! Additionally, Koch Habitat Hall provides an opportunity to explore wildlife exhibits.
FIELD STATION: DINOSAURS
Get ready for a roar-some good time! At Field Station: Dinosaurs, you can see 40 life-sized dinos shake their tails and roar their roars a mere 20 minutes from Wichita! This family-focused venue offers 10 acres of walking trails lined with Jurassic friends; the kids can even “meet” a baby dinosaur up close and personal.
Field Station: Dinosaurs offers more than dinosaur exhibits. There’s also a mini-golf, a raptor maze, games, and a playground! Kids can even pretend to be an archeologist at the fossil dig site for a day.
CENTURY II PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
Get your taste of refined culture at the Century II Performing Arts Center. Here, music and theatre mesmerize and inspire visitors. It’s the perfect way to end a romantic evening out on the town! But, make sure to book tickets early; shows are known to sell out quickly!
The Century II Performing Arts Center is home to the talented singers of Wichita Grand Opera, but there’s more to the center than that. You may also find tickets to Broadway theatre hits or a symphonic rendition of The Beatles, put on by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
THE ORIGINAL PIZZA HUT MUSEUM
In 1958, a legendary restaurant was born: Pizza Hut. The first Pizza Hut ever came to be in Wichita, where Wichita State students Dan and Frank Carney decided to start selling pizza out of a small building near campus.
Today, the Pizza Hut franchise has spread around the world. Visitors to the Pizza Hut Museum can learn about the restaurant’s legacy from Wichita State students who help run the museum. After visiting the museum, you’ll no doubt want to grab a bite of pizza on the way back to the hotel!
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