The Best Things to Do in Wichita, Kansas

Midwest Travel, USA Travel

With a population of about 650,000, the Wichita metropolitan area is the 48th-largest city in the United States and the largest city in Kansas. Wichita started in the 1860s as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail, and they incorporated the town in 1870. Then, it became a significant destination for cattle drives traveling north from Texas. The area connected cattle with the railroads, earning the nickname “Cowtown.”

Thank you to Visit Wichita for hosting my stay.

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In the 1920s and 1930s, business people and aeronautical engineers established several aircraft manufacturing companies. Lloyd Stearman, Clyde Cessna, and Walter Beech established the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in Wichita on January 26, 1925. Wichita became a hub of U.S. aircraft production, and people knew it as The Air Capital of the World.

Today, Wichita remains a significant center in the U.S. aircraft industry. Beechcraft, Cessna, and others, including Learjet, Spirit AeroSystems, and Airbus, continue to operate design and manufacturing facilities in Wichita.

You and your family will want to make the time to spend two or three days in this vibrant city. Here are some of the nine best things to do in Wichita. Attractions you won’t want to miss.

The Arkansas Valley Elevator, a grain elevator at the Old Cowtown Museum
The Arkansas Valley Elevator, a grain elevator at the Old Cowtown Museum

Old Cowtown Museum

First up on our list of attractions is visiting the Old Cowtown Museum. Take a step back to the 1800s by walking down the old dirt roads and reading about how Wichita developed over time. As the westward expansion happened, Cowtown turned from a frontier settlement to a cattle drive endpoint, and today you’ll find a large agricultural and manufacturing city. So experience Wichita like it’s 1865.

The Old Cowtown Museum, a living history museum, immerses you in the sights, sounds, and activities common to a Midwestern cattle town. Start your visit by touring the 1880 DeVore farm, learning how farm life worked back then, and even seeing real-life farm animals and common machinery used in that period. 

Next, we headed down to the residential community to see the houses and roads flooded with settlers coming west. They used Wichita as a checkpoint to gear up for the long, challenging journey to claim their homestead. The Old Cowtown Museum is such a fun place for the whole family. When we visited, we saw kids trying out activities as children did in the late 1800s, like pumping water and carrying full buckets back to the farmhouse. It took two kiddos to carry one pail. After chores, they played period games, like rolling a hoop with a stick.

Piper’s Pro Planning

For a budget-friendly option, visit on Sundays when they have free admission.

Keeper of the Plains Plaza and Ring of Fire

Throughout Wichita, you’ll find various interpretations of The Keeper of the Plains, but the quintessential example stands where the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers meet. You’ll find the 44-foot, 5-ton weathered steel sculpture atop a 30-foot pedestal overlooking the city. The Native American artist Blackbear Bosin donated the sculpture to Wichita in 1974.

The Ring of Fire, a ring around the Keeper of the Plains, burns for 15 minutes once daily. Be aware that weather will affect if the fire burns. The night I visited, weather conditions like high winds or high-water levels prevented the team from lighting the fire. They don’t announce that they aren’t lighting it, but after a few minutes, it is evident.

Piper’s Pro Planning

The start time depends on the time of year you visit due to daylight saving time. Arrive a little before 9 p.m. and park at the northwest corner of the Exploration Place parking lot to get to a good viewing spot.

Inside the Mid-America All-Indian Museum
Mid-America All-Indian Museum

Mid-America All-Indian Museum

Located along the Arkansas River, the Mid-America All-Indian Museum contains over 3,000 artifacts and pieces of American Indian history demonstrating how American Indians lived and celebrated their lives. In addition, the museum preserves the culture and art of American Indians.

In addition to seeing traditional American Indian artifacts and contemporary artwork, I learned more about the designer of the Keeper of the Plains sculpture, Blackbear Bosin. The museum features 39 pieces of his art on permanent display, making it the most extensive public collection of his craft. While known for designing the Keeper of the Plains sculpture, he was also a founder of the Indian Center.

The museum combines interactive exhibits, videos about the displays, and artwork. Typically, they have four to six collections featured at any time, but they always have Blackbear Bosin’s work on display.

You can visit a genuine tipi, and learn about American Indian medicine, what a Three Sisters Garden is and how it benefits their crop growth throughout the growing season. Also, be sure to stop by the Artist Gardens and see the American Indian art influence and artists who created beautiful pieces of art.

Piper’s Pro Planning

Most days, the museum is open, you can access the Keeper of the Plains Plaza. Except during inclement weather, the gate to the plaza is open from 10:00 a.m. to about 3:45 p.m.

 Dale Chihuly at the Wichita Art Museum
Dale Chihuly at the Wichita Art Museum

View American Art at the Wichita Art Museum

For a contrasting view of American Art, the Wichita Art Museum is a must-see. You might get lost in all the beautiful art pieces and the history behind each of them. Founded in 1935, this museum is a staple of South-Central Kansas and the Midwest. The exhibits rotate constantly, so you will want to check out their website to stay updated on their current exhibitions.

Fred Danziger’s painting called Man Guarding Textiles
Fred Danziger’s Painting Man Guarding Textiles

You’ll see unique American art from artists like Dale Chihuly, Mary Cassatt, and Edward Hopper. I particularly enjoyed Fred Danziger’s painting called Man Guarding Textiles. What’s fascinating about this painting is the yardstick and swatches of fabric at the bottom of the picture appear to have a 3D effect to the point when you first look at it, your eye thinks it is actual fabric rather than acrylic on canvas.

Another piece you’ll want to seek out is Dale Chihuly’s Wichita Art Museum Confetti Chandelier. I always enjoy his blown glass pieces and was excited to see another example of his work.

Piper’s Pro Planning

The museum has a free charging station on the second floor outside the Museum Store to charge tablets and smartphones. Each charging locker also has UV Sterilization to sanitize the surfaces of your electronic devices.

The Exterior of The Kansas African American Museum
The Kansas African American Museum

Kansas African American Museum

The Kansas African American Museum opened in 1997 to display African Americans’ vibrant history within Kansas. Formerly the home of Calvary Baptist Church, Doris Kerr Larkins fought to preserve the building that would later become the Kansas African American Museum. The museum displays the timeline that paved the way for African Americans in America today.

Locomotive 3768 at the Great Plains Transportation Museum
Great Plains Transportation Museum

Great Plains Transportation Museum

Visit the beautifully preserved Great Plains Transportation Museum and learn about the locomotives that paved their way through the Great Plains. There are two large displays: The Santa Fe steam locomotive and the Santa Fe FP45 diesel locomotive. These two have a unique note in that they are the last generation of passenger trains built for the Santa Fe railroad. While these two exhibits are outside, there are multiple indoor exhibits and different artifacts for viewing.

Piper’s Pro Planning

Arrive and enter through the entrance along Douglas Avenue under the railroad tracks.

Tiger at the Wichita Sedgewick County Zoo one of the best things to do in Wichita
Tiger at the Wichita Sedgewick County Zoo

Wichita Sedgwick County Zoo

Last up on my list is the Wichita Sedgwick County Zoo, one of the ten largest zoos in the country, with over 3,000 animals from almost 400 different species around the world. The zoo celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 with an all-new entry complex and the Slawson Family Asian Big Cat Trek. Amur leopards are on the critically endangered list, and the new space allows the zoo to house enough leopards to participate in the Species Survival Plan breeding plan.

The animals that call this zoo home live in their most fitting geological setting and natural habitat. One of my favorites was an all-new stingray cove, where I could reach out and touch them as they swam by.

Shops in the Historic Delano District

If you’re planning on shopping in Wichita, you must visit the historic Delano District shops. With many small, locally owned stores, you’re sure to find something you can’t live without. 

Peruse local shops like Bungalow 26 and Hatman Jack’s. Jack Kellogg of Hatman Jack’s is a legend and is a must-stop shop in Wichita. Bungalow 26 has handmade home goods and health and beauty products.

Murals in the Douglas Design District

The Douglas Design District, known for its variety of murals, is home to over 500 small businesses emphasizing artistry. While many companies are located here, the walls have been reimagined as a giant canvas for local artists to share their talents. In a span of about 2.5 miles, you’ll be able to enjoy over 50 murals.

Grab a photo by the Wichita Mural on the side of College Hill Deli at 3407 E Douglas or the Wichita one on the side of Reuben Saunders Gallery at 3215 E Douglas. Then, swing by The Workroom for a few minutes to peruse local goods or snag some Wichita souvenirs.

Our trip to Wichita, Kansas, was so much fun with all the sights to see. Have you visited Wichita before? Let us know what you went to see in the comments and if there is anywhere else where we should go on our next visit.

For more things to do in Wichita, check out Vanessa Whiteside’s book, “100 Things to Do in Wichita before You Die”:

Where to Stay?

The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott-Wichita Downtown is conveniently located right off Highway 400, which runs through downtown Wichita. Old Town, Wichita’s premier entertainment district, is just minutes away. The property offers 102 standard rooms with two queen or one king beds and 29 Suites featuring microwaves, mini-refrigerators, and sofa sleepers. They serve a complimentary breakfast daily.

The Fireside Lounge includes an outdoor courtyard with a fire pit, and we found it ideal for relaxing with a nightcap. They also have a heated indoor saltwater pool. In addition, you’ll find complimentary parking available in the adjacent parking garage.

Where to Eat?

HomeGrown Wichita is a daytime eatery with three Wichita locations, with the downtown location being the newest. They have a patio and sit right next to Naftzger Park, a newly redesigned downtown park. The same Homegrown company also owns Peace, Love & Pie next door. They are passionate about building community and committed to locally sourced food and creative dishes.

HomeGrown can become very busy. Check the wait times on Yelp and join a waitlist if you see that wait times are long. Of course, they shouldn’t be as busy as a weekend day, but you never know.

Doo-dah Diner in Wichita
Doo-dah Diner

Doo-dah Diner serves a gourmet version of comfort food at breakfast and lunch. They have a whimsical, laid-back space sure to brighten your day. Sometimes the line can be long, but they have call-ahead seating at 316-265-7011.

Public in Wichita’s Old Town district features farm-to-table unique eats and a great atmosphere. Well-known chef Josh Rathbun creates special dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

Located in the Delano District in downtown Wichita, Alzavino Wine Tavern is a wine bar with 90 different bottles from around the globe, with 16 on a self-serve machine for you to try in one-ounce, three-ounce, or six-ounce pours.

Vora located on the east end of the Douglas Design District, features a menu created by their Milan-born chef. The menu is influenced mainly by France and Italy, but they also have German, Greek, and Spanish dishes. If you decide to dine at Vora, reservations can be made online or by calling 316-977-9277.

Doma is one of Wichita’s newest, trendiest eateries. It offers small bites in one of the first shared plate concepts in the area.

Getting There

Located in Sedgwick County, Wichita, Kansas, and is in the Central time zone. Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT) is Wichita’s airport, serviced by Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and United.

How far is Wichita from these towns?

CityDistance
Denver, Colorado519 miles
Dallas, Texas364 miles
Kansas City, Kansas199 miles
Lansing, Michigan896 miles
Lincoln, Nebraska276 miles
St. Louis, Missouri441 miles
Driving Distance from Wichita, Kansas, to Other Cities

Getting Around

If you fly in, you’ll want to rent a car, as many attractions aren’t within walking distance of each other.

Want more information on things to do in Kansas? Check out Roxie on the Road’s 100 Things to Do in Kansas.

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BOOK YOUR TRIP

Let’s get something on the calendar! Here are some of Piper’s Pro Planning links to help you book your trip.

Plan your flight and book your airline ticket with these links:

Plan your overnight accommodations anywhere from national chains to private homes with:

Plan to save on all of your activities, from tours to attractions. These links will help:

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    1 Comment

    1. Elaine Masters

      I love this. Rode through Wichita too quickly on last spring’s road trip but I’d love to spend more time exploring.

      Reply

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    Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

    Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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