Wichita began life as a cowtown (a time and style of life that can still be explored today thanks to the living Cowtown Museum) but has grown to be the largest city in the state of Kansas as well as the self-proclaimed Air Capital of the World. This claim is not made lightly with more than half of the world’s aircraft being built here thanks to the presence of some of the aviation world’s major players.
Whilst the rest of the state of Kansas should take precedent during a visit to the area, there is still plenty to warrant spending a couple of days in Wichita including some great museums and park spaces as well as the vibrant Oldtown area.
Oldtown has plenty of history in its buildings but the current occupants provide good value for a visit too. The area is lively and vibrant with a host of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues worth visiting. If you only have one day to spend in Wichita then be sure to visit the Oldtown area at some point in the day.
If you have a little longer to explore, here are the 25 Best Things to do in Wichita:
1. Discover some world treasures
The Museum of World Treasures is without a doubt one of the best museums in Wichita and in the entire state of Kansas. The museum explores a wide range of exciting exhibits Ivan the T Rex, Ancient Art and Form and Function: Making a Living in the Cenozoic, which explores what life was like in the last ice age. Entrance for an adult costs just over $8 and the museum is open seven days a week.
2. Explore Exploration Place
This science museum and not for profit organization aims to inspire interest in science through exciting and thought provoking exhibits. Among the exhibits on display at Exploration Place are a flight and design exhibit, a miniature model of Kansas complete with moving trains and a 7 foot tall so-called “Big Mouth”. The museum also features constantly changing traveling exhibits. The museum is open 7 days a week and is free to members or $9.50 to non-member adults.
3. Travel back in time to Old Cowtown
The Old Cowtown Museum is a living museum that recreates life in the late 19th Century in and around the Wichita area. The museum occupies 23 acres of land just off the Chisholm Trail and is truly different each and every time you visit due to the live actors and the interactive exhibits. The people you will meet during your visit include herdsmen, hunters, fur traders and farmers. The actors here are very passionate and it does not take much of an imagination to get into the experience.
4. Visit the Sedgwick County Zoo
This AZA accredited zoo is certainly one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wichita. Founded back in 1971, the zoo has been ranked as one of the best in the country and is home to more than 3,000 animals from over 400 species. The park is divided into themed exhibits from each continent, for example, the North American area is home to otters and grizzly bears whereas in the African area of the zoo, you will find rhinos, lions and elephants.
5. Take flight at the Kansas Aviation Museum
The former airport terminal, which operated between 1935 and 1951, is the perfect setting for this aviation museum in Wichita. The museum is a good day out for all ages with interesting and well researched exhibits as well as plenty of exciting craft for children to marvel at. The planes on show here include a 1927 Swallow, which crashed in 1929 and was put into storage before being restored, as well as more modern aircraft including a passenger Boeing 727.
6. Learn about plants at Wichita Gardens
These botanical gardens on Amidon Street were opened in 1987. The different gardens you can explore here include a butterfly garden, Chinese garden of friendship and a rock garden. There are a great number of plants to see and it is worth visiting in different seasons to see the transformation of the gardens. For those with a passion for learning about gardening and flora; there are lunchtime lectures held on a variety of topics each and every Wednesday.
7. Find out about Wichita’s history
No trip to Wichita should be complete without a visit to the interesting and informative Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum. The museum explores the history of the Wichita and Sedgwick County and is housed in the stunning City Hall building. Exhibits include exploring the industries that have provided for the county in the past as well as the earliest inhabitants of the area and the first 50 years of the county’s existence.
8. See some great trains at Great Plains
Great Plains Transportation Museum is a railroad museum in Wichita that has a collection of locomotive engines, carriages and other artifacts to do with railroad transport. The museum is found in East Douglas and is open seven days a week during the spring and summer months.
9. Tour the Orpheum Theater
The Orpheum Theater claims to be the first atmospheric theater in the United States and hosts many world class performances throughout the year. You will find the theater on the corner of 1st and Broadway in the downtown area of the city. Tours of the theater, which include architectural highlights and historical facts, can be booked by phoning the theater directly. The tours cost a minimum donation of $10 per person.
10. Admire art at the Wichita Art Museum
Established in 1915 when the will of Louise Murdoch’s will was used to start a private art collection, the Wichita Museum of Art is now home to a large collection of art from all styles and genres. The exhibits include American art from local artists and contemporary art from all over the world. The Past and Present: Wichita’s Legacy is particularly worth seeing and explores works from two of the cities best known artists.
11. See the Keeper of the Plains
The Keeper of the Plains is a statue that was built in 1974 where the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers meet. The statue, which is 44 feet tall and weighs around 5 tonne, depicts an Indian Chief and was designed by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin. The most impressive time to see the statue is when the “Ring of Fire” surrounds it which happens seven days a week but only for 15 minutes each day. In winter the ring burns from 7pm and in summer it burns from 9pm.
12. Take a walk in the woods
Another attraction of the Great Plains, the Great Plains Nature Center aims to educate people about the flora and fauna within the area. The Great Plains, which stretch from the far north to the south of the US, are home to an impressive variety of wildlife including 87 mammal species, more than 450 bird species and a whopping 150,000 insect species. As well as learning, the area is a great place to walk in the woods in an otherwise built up urban area.
13. Join the Arkansas River Trail
The 10 mile Arkansas River Trail path is the longest and best loved multi use trail in the city. It runs along the Southwest bank of the Arkansas River and is popular with runners, cyclists and walkers. The trail is also a great way to get from point to point and along the way, you will find stadiums, shops, museums, an ice rink and even the city zoo.
14. Visit the original Pizza Hut
Back in the 1950s, the pizza craze gripped the United States, it was at this time that two brothers opened the very first Pizza Hut restaurant. The building has since been moved to the campus as a symbol for the students of what hard work can achieve. Although this is the holy grail for pizza fans, the inside of it is actually used for office space by the University and cannot be accessed by the public.
15. Admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House, also known as the Henry J Allen House is another of the famous American architect’s buildings built in Prairie Style. It is considered to be one of his finest designs. Guided tours of the building are by appointment only and serve groups with a minimum of five people and maximum of twenty.
16. Rifle through the Coleman Factory Museum
The Coleman Factory Museum is not quite large or special enough to justify a trip on its own merit. But if you are passing by, it is worth popping in and seeing some of the items on display. The company was started in Oklahoma in 1900, two years before moving to Wichita. The company sold gas pressure lamps. Entrance to the museum is free and may appeal to fans of Wichita Old Town.
17. Visit Oldtown
Situated right in the heart of Wichita is Oldtown. The area is home to many historic buildings including old warehouses and shops, some of which date back to the mid 19th Century. Oldtown is now home to over 100 businesses including shops, restaurants and two of the best known hotels in the city. As well as being popular with tourists, Oldtown is becoming a popular place to live in Wichita and lots of condos and apartments are popping up in the area.
18. Learn about Native Americans
The All Indian Center in Wichita is a great tribute to the Native American founders of the city as well as being a great educational resource about Native American History and culture. Exhibits in the center are constantly changing and include Native American artifacts as well as artwork and Native American contributions to more recent events including World War 2.
19. Pay your respects to war veterans
The Veterans Memorials in Wichita consist of a variety of different areas and is a fitting tribute to many veterans from many wars. The memorials include those dedicated to veterans of World War 2, the Korean War and Military Order of the Purple Cross. A walk through the park is a reminder of the cost of freedom.
20. Visit the Toy Train Museum
Lots of good fun and trains can be found at the Wichita Toy Train Museum. The museum was founded by a club who originally were just responsible for a large exhibit at the Wichita Children’s Museum. As their collection has grown so has their exhibit space and now consists of enough toy trains to warrant its own museum.
21. Hunt a bargain at the Paramount Antique Mall
The Paramount Antique Mall opened for business in 1999 and has become the city of Wichita’s premier destination for bargain hunting and antique shopping. The mall in West Wichita occupies an area of 40,000 square feet and more than 225 booths. It is one of the largest antique malls in the state of Kansas.
22. Discover the Ulrich Museum of Art
One of the city’s hidden museum gems is the Ulrich Museum of Art which can be found on Fairmount Street. The museum is home to more than 6000 modern works of art ranging across a variety of mediums including photographs, sculptures and paintings. The museum can be found on the Wichita University Campus. Current exhibits include the Masters of Fine Art Thesis Exhibition.
23. Visit a hidden gem
Another lesser known but worthwhile museum in Wichita is the Kansas Firefighter’s Museum. The Museum is located on Broadway Street and is housed in a former fire station. The collection of antique fire fighting equipment includes a horse drawn pump, a hand pump for drawing water and an old chemical wagon. There are also a number of vintage fire fighting vehicles.
24. Drink Wichita’s finest beer
The Central Standard Brewing Company in Wichita is the city’s top brewery and brewery tap. Central Standard Brewing produce a quality and wide range beers. Tours of the brewing facilities are run by passionate staff who know their stuff about both the beers and the production process.
25. Visit Wichita Cathedral
Also not known for its great cathedral, Wichita does have its very own Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The cathedral was built in 1872 and is the seat of the diocese of Wichita. Tours of the building include looking at the various architectural aspects that make the building so visually appealing as well as the history of the cathedral and its religious uses.