If you’re looking for a perfect day of small-town vibes and a great blend of historic and modern, look no further than Wichita! This gem in the Midwest has seen everything from cowboys to flight exploration, and it continues to be a hub for art and innovation!
Top Things to do in Wichita Kansas
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Wichita at a Glance
Wichita is home to about 650,000 people and has grown from a humble stop along the Chisholm Trail to the largest city in Kansas. The city made its big transition from “Cowtown” to the city it is today with the birth of Travel Air Manufacturing Company in 1925. Since then, several aviation companies have called Wichita home, earning it the title “Air Capital of the World.” Other notable brands have also taken off from Wichita, including Pizza Hut and White Castle.
The city is full of opportunity, and at every turn, you can see the amazing ways that city has grown and developed through the years. Let’s take a walk through Wichita and explore all that the city has to offer!
What to Do in Wichita
Wichita’s Old District and Downtown
History buffs, this is for you! Wichita boasts a thriving Old District in the heart of the city. Here, you’ll find the Museum of World Treasures (at 835 E. First St.), where you can trace the entire history of the area, starting with prehistoric times and coming all the way up to the present. It’s a great place for kids, too!
If you’d prefer to experience the history of Wichita in a more hands-on way, you can head to any of the long-standing shops, restaurants, and pubs in the Old District. For example, Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works in the Delano District is a taste of the past, with personalized service and hats for everyone! Or, if you’re feeling thirsty, step into any of the 11 historic breweries; Never City Brewery is the oldest.
For some classic Wichita flavor, drop by The Spice Merchant, Nifty Nut House, or The Arcade in Old Town. These little shops are the historic purveyors of fine goods; just be sure to go early, since they close before 6 pm!
Outside the historical center, the streets of downtown Wichita are also home to plenty of art, including several murals. To easily find the murals, download the Douglas Design District Mural Map. You’ll have a guided tour in your pocket. You’ll also be sure to see the more than 31 sculptures by Georgia Gerber scattered throughout Downtown Wichita.
(Don’t forget to use popular hashtags like #VisitWichita, #ilovewichita, and #ITCMoments when sharing your photos of street art!)
Keeper of the Plains
This steel sculpture stands 44 feet high and serves as the lookout for the spot where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers meet. In the heart of Downtown Wichita, it has become the central point of the newly-renovated Plains Plaza. Every evening, you can see the “Ring of Fire,” which burns for 15 minutes at nightfall. The sculpture is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike!
Sedgwick County Zoo
This zoo’s biggest stars are the Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley. Home to the country’s largest elephant enclosure, the Sedgwick County Zoo (5555 W Zoo Blvd) is hailed as the #1 outdoor family attraction in all of Kansas. You can also enjoy a boat ride through the zoo for a unique view of the animals and an adventure for the whole family! This is definitely a must, especially if you visit Wichita with kids.
Historic Delano District
The Delano District is located along Douglas Avenue on the west bank of the Arkansas River at the end of the Chisholm Trail, and was established during the days of the Chisholm Trail cattle drives as a place for the cowboys to blow off steam after months on the trail from Texas.
Delano is the echo of the cowboy era in Wichita. While you may not find a saloon on every corner, you can visit more than 250 shops, restaurants, and bars in the area.
Old Cowtown Museum
For a more historical take on the Delano District, pop into the Old Cowtown Museum (1865 W. Museum Blvd). In this living history museum, you can interact with the history of Wichita! Experience a day in life of a cattle town in this non-traditional museum.
Here, you can explore more than 50 historic buildings which are home to hundreds of displays. Besides checking out the artifacts, you can walk, talk, and interact with history! Throughout the 23 acres of land belonging to the museum, there are “living exhibits”: live demonstrations and explanations of life as it was throughout the 19th century. A walk through the Old Cowtown Museum takes on an adventure through history, where you can experience the growth and change of Wichita firsthand!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House Museum and Study Center
Whether you’re an architecture buff or just a lover of pretty houses, this most recent example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie house style is sure to appeal. Originally built for prominent publisher Henry Allen in 1918, the house now serves as a museum and public space dedicated to its famed architect.
Where to Eat
Start your day at Homegrown Wichita (2835 N Maize Rd), where you can taste the best and healthiest of the local flavors. Or, head to Reverie Coffee Roasters and Founders Bakery (2202 E. Douglas) for award-winning, home-roasted coffee and delicious cakes to compliment!
If you’re downtown at lunchtime, try out Tanya’s Soup Kitchen at 1725 E. Douglas Avenue or The Kitchen at 725 E. Douglas Avenue. Both feature light and healthy lunch options, made fresh and creative with local ingredients. If you’re feeling especially hungry, head to The Anchor at 1109 E. Douglas for a hearty burger, or any of their other delicious offerings.
Or, if you’re around Delano at noon, you can stop by any of the area’s eateries. Our favorites include Picasso’s Pizzeria and Yokohama Ramen Joint. Or, for a filling and delicious smoked salmon salad, swing by the Monarch, right at the roundabout.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Kansas without barbeque! For an authentic taste of the local delicacies, try Bite Me BBQ at 132 N. St. Francis, which was named as one of the best barbeque restaurants by Kansas! Magazine. Even Southern Living Magazine has mentioned Bite Me BBQ as “The Kansas BBQ to put on your BBQ Bucket List.”
Or, for some more varied fare, you can head to Bradley Fair! Here, you’ll find European favorites at YaYa’s EuroBistro (8115 E. 21st St N.), Mediterranean cuisine at Bella Luna Café, and classic American seafood at Newport Grill (900 N. Rock Road #144).
If you have a sweet tooth, you need to go to the Old Mill Tasty Shop (604 E. Douglas), where they’ve been making milkshakes and malts since 1932. Or, head to Milkfloat if you’re out later at night. For a fancy artisan option, try Cocoa Dolce, where you can find the most exquisite of chocolates.
Where to Stay
For a classic option with great amenities and location, Wichita Marriott Hotel at 9100 Corporate Hills Dr. is your best bet. They have spacious rooms and excellent dining options at The Greatroom and Fireside Grille.
If you’re looking for a room on a budget, the Marriot Fairfield gives you the most bang for your buck, with competitive prices and standard amenities.
For a fancier stay, try the Ambassador hotel downtown. It’s the only AAA 4 Diamond hotel in all of Kansas!
Finally, if you’re traveling with kids, the Hotel at Waterwalk is the place for you! This boutique hotel caters to families with children, and offers deals and discounts to many of the family-friendly attractions in Wichita.
Best Family Friendly Hotel In Wichita
A great family-friendly place to stay during your time in Wichita is The Hotel at Water Walk. Featuring free breakfast, a swimming pool, a fitness area, and a pet-friendly attitude, the hotel will provide you with a comfortable night’s rest without blowing your budget.
The best time to visit Wichita
Fun Facts About Wichita
- Wichita is the birthplace of both Pizza Hut and White Castle.
- The Sedgwick County Zoo is one of the largest in the nation and has more than 2,500 animals.
- Wichita is known as the “Air Capital of the World.”
- Before planes could cross the country without stopping, Wichita had one of the busiest airports in the US.
- Before Marshal Wyatt Earp earned nationwide fame for his role in the O.K. Corral shootout, he worked as a Wichita city policeman.
- Civil Rights historians recognize Wichita as the site of the first African American sit-in at a segregated restaurant, which took place at the Dockum Drugstore downtown.
- Wichita’s most famous resident is Dennis Mitchell of Dennis the Menace fame.
- Actress Kirstie Alley was born in Wichita.
- The coldest month in Wichita is January and the hottest month is July.
- Coleman lanterns hail from Wichita and date back to 1901.
- In 1894 mentholatum was first developed in Wichita.
- It is illegal for restaurants to sell cherry pie ala mode on Sundays in Wichita.
We hope you enjoy your day in Wichita. It’s a city big enough to offer a wide range of attractions, yet small enough to get around easily. There are certainly loads of fun things to do in Wichita and it’s a town I hope to visit again!
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I visited Wichita on a media trip and I’d love to say a huge thank you to Visit Wichita, for their generous hospitality. As always, all opinions are our own.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.