Wichita is the largest city in the state of Kansas and sits at the junction of the area’s Little and Big Arkansas Rivers. Wichita’s history dates back to the mid-19th century. This city has an impressive blend of history and nature and caters to those who are on the hunt for an authentic cultural experience.
There are numerous unique landmarks, national parks, and contemporary museums in Wichita. With so many attractions within this vibrant city, many tourists miss out on what’s going on outside of Wichita. Getting out of the city for a day trip is not that hard; if you enjoy hitting the road with some great company and good music, then this one is for you.
Here is our list of 15 best day trips that are within a tank of gas from Wichita:
Haysville is a suburb of Wichita which is usually referred to as the Peach Capital of Kansas. Its historic district has quite the story to tell. Back in 1876, the first school was built in Haysville; in 1919, the Haysville State Bank was built. However, in May 1999, a tornado hit Haysville and damaged the structures in the area. The only thing that remained standing on the eastern side is the bank’s vault.
Here, you will find the “Rock Island” – a railroad that goes from Herington through Haysville and merges with the Union Pacific Railroad, Oklahoma-Kansa-Texas Railroad, and the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
2. Junction City
This city got its name from its strategic position at the confluence of the Republican and the Smoky Hill rivers. Junction City is surrounded by history, adventure, and has a bright future.
Junction City is an ethically-diversified community with friendly residents and offers plenty of rural and small-town pleasures. Generally, the town’s atmosphere is inviting, making it an ideal destination for a day trip from Wichita.
Originally named Junction City, it was later known as Millard City – from 3rd October 1855 – and later renamed Humboldt in 1857. A year later, the local farmers renamed it to Junction City and the city was fully incorporated in 1859.
On your day trip, drop by the Heritage Park to explore the Vietnam Memorial, the Civil War Arch, and the Law Enforcement Memorial.
3. Mushroom Rock State Park
This small state park is located in the Smoky Hills region and characterized by captivating rock formations that are known as ‘hoodoos.’
The rock formations resemble mushrooms; they came about as a result of uneven weathering and erosion. During the process, the hard mass that forms the capstone resisted the weathering, while the underlying soft rocks were eroded. Mushroom Rock State Park has been labeled one of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas.”
Native Americans not only used the rocks as landmarks but also as meeting places. This is evidenced by the graffiti on some of the rocks that date several generations back.
The five-acre park is managed by Kanopolis State Park and is the smallest park in Kansas.
This city is located in Montgomery County, Southeastern Kansas, and was named in commemoration of the Declaration of Independence. It’s located along the Verdigris River and covers an area of 20.07 square kilometers.
Independence is a delightful small downtown that has a rustic, rural charm. The town has a humid subtropical climate that is characterized by hot summers and chilly winters.
Before September 1869, Independence belonged to the Osage Indians and was originally named Cofax.
5. Cedar Point Mill
Drinkwater & Schriver Mill in Cedar Point stands by a stone dam in the Cottonwood River. The mill is a former sawmill and has been a landmark since 1857. The mill’s primary function was sawing lumber. Unfortunately, the wooden mill was washed away in a flood in 1871. A new mill was constructed that same year from hand-cut native limestone.
Today, both the river and mill are reminders of pioneer America. The mill is located in Cedar Point, a scenic city that covers a total area of 0.21 kilometers squared.
The mill is under the management of a Kansas non-profit corporation that is renovating it with the aim of maintaining it and saving it as a historical site to attract more visitors in the future.
This city is situated along the Walnut River in Cowley County in South Central Kansas. Winfield is the most populous city in the county.
Winfield was founded in 1870. The city got its name from a reverend who promised to build a town church in exchange for the town’s naming rights. Winfield was incorporated as a city in 1873.
The Winfield area is well known for the manufacture of aircraft and aircraft parts. The city is home to the Southwest College and also renown for hosting the Walnut Valley Festival and the Winfield Country Roundup.
Emporia is 140 kilometers away from Wichita. It sits in the Flint Hills region of Lyon County, Kansas. The city was founded in 1857 and is located between Wichita and Topeka. In 1869, the first railroad was extended to Emporia.
This college town is home to the Flint Hills Technical College and the Emporia State University.
Emporia is a great place to go for a day trip from Wichita, thanks to numerous structures listed under the National Register of Historic Places. They include the Old Emporia Public Library, the Granada Theatre, the Finney House, the Mason House, and the Kress Building.
8. Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark
The Monument Rocks are also referred to as the Chalk Pyramids; they’re among the Eight Wonders of Kansas. They go up to a height of 21 meters and were among the first landmarks in the state to be designated as a natural landmark.
The rock formations are estimated to have been created more than 80 million years ago and include formations such as arches and buttes.
Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark lies on a private piece of land but the landowner is amenable to visitors – no special permission is required.
In one of the monuments, there is a huge gap – often referred to as the “keyhole” – which offers a perfect window to see the sun as it sets. Nearby, there is the Keystone Gallery, home to fossils, art, and other souvenirs that are for sale.
In addition to the area’s geology, Monument Rocks has cavities that offer a habitat for wildlife such as pigeons and falcons.
This city is located in Sedgwick County. Derby is the largest suburb of Wichita and was originally known as El Paso from 1903. The city name was officially changed to Derby in 1956.
Some highlights of a day trip to Derby are the Rock River Rapids and the Derby Historical Museum.
In the 1920’s, when the aviation industry started flourishing, an Air Force Base was established between Wichita and Derby. This was in order to meet the rising demand for more airplanes to be used in the Cold War. Most of the workers set up their homes in this town that remained largely rural until after WWII.
Andover was established in 1877. When Kansas was mapped, this territory was initially referred to as Minneha. This city was later renamed as Cloud City after Mr. Cloud, a railroad engineer.
On 7th June 1880, the town’s name was changed to Andover after the engineer had a misunderstanding with the area residents. They named the city after Andover, Massachusetts.
Andover is located in Butler County. The city has two parks – the Andover Park and the Andover Central Park – that you ought to explore on your day trip from Wichita.
11. El Dorado
The city of El Dorado is located along the Walnut River in Butler County, southern-central Kansas. The city’s name means “the golden one” in Spanish. The Spanish Empire used “El Hombre Dorado” to describe a mythical chief who covered himself with gold dust and then submerged himself in the Guatavita Lake, as part of an initiation rite.
El Dorado is headquarters of the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission and is well known as being in the center of Southern Arkansas’ oil boom in the 1920’s. For this reason, it got the nickname “Arkansas Original Boomtown.”
This city is located on the Arkansas River and is the largest in Reno County. The locals refer to it as Hutch. Since 1887, Hutchinson has been home to salt mines – it is for this reason that the city got its “Salt City” nickname.
The city of Hutchinson was founded in 1871 and is located 63 kilometers to the northwest of Wichita. The city’s nickname is “Temperance City” – that came about after the prohibition of alcohol in August 1872 by Clinton Hutchinson, the founder.
13. Arkansas City
This city is located at the point where Arkansas and Walnut Rivers meet. For the sake of brevity, the residents usually refer to the city as Ark City. This is for the purpose of minimizing confusion with the nearby state of Arkansas. These two names have, over the years, caused much confusion among the locals.
Arkansas City was established in the late 1860’s; the territory was initially referred to as “Nichonka” which means “place between the waters.”
Arkansas City is now home to the Arkansas River Path, which is a scenic walkway that allows you to see downtown Wichita as you take a stroll along the 3.6-mile path.
This city is located in Harvey County, 40 kilometers north of Wichita.
A highlight of the day trip to Newton City is the Kauffman Museum. This historical museum is dedicated to preserving information about the Mennonite settlement on the North American plains.
The museum is home to regional flora and fauna and a large collection of local historical artifacts. On the property, you will also find a restored farmhouse, a windmill, and a barn.
This city is located in Saline County, Kansas. Salina city is located in one of the largest wheat-producing areas in the world. The city is home to multiple colleges and remains a regional trade center for north-central Kansas.
Salina was founded in 1858 by the residents – led by lawyer and journalist, William Phillips – and became incorporated as a city in 1870. The town’s rapid growth can be attributed to the arrival of the Kansas Pacific Railway in 1867.