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Wichita, Kansas
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Wichita Area

From excellent museums to pleasant parks, Wichita has come a long way from its trading post days

Founded as a trading post in the mid-19th century, Kansas’ largest city has long played an important role in the state’s economic development. For many years, it was a major stopping-off point for cattle drives coming from Texas, and by the 1920s, it began transitioning into a major hub for aircraft manufacture. However, Wichita is more than just business and industry; this smallish city also has plenty to do and see for visitors, from top-notch museums to tranquil gardens.

First-time visitors to Wichita can’t be blamed for becoming awestruck by the 44-foot-tall statue that stands at the confluence of the Big Blue and Arkansas Rivers in town. The Keeper of the Plains sculpture depicts a Native American man wearing a head dress with hands raised in supplication of the Great Spirit. Created by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin in 1974, the cor-ten steel work of art stands on a 30-foot-tall rock Promatory. Foot bridges take visitors to the plaza that surrounds the statue’s base. On the grounds, well-tended sage, bottlebrush, medicinal herbs, prairie grasses, yuccas and cactus help put the majestic monument in context. Exhibits of ceremonial pipes and the circle of life shed insight into Native American Culture. During the evening, ceremonial flames are lit around the statue, creating a compelling ring of fire.


Travel Kansas

City of Museums

Founded in 1935, the Wichita Art Museum has a permanent collection of 8,000-plus pieces, including many paintings and sculptures inspired by the surrounding Great Plains. The institution also hosts a regular rotation of visiting and temporary exhibits, with themes ranging from modern art in Kansas to photography from the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s. While admission is nominal, the museum opens its doors for free to the public every Saturday.

One of Wichita’s most celebrated museums, the family-friendly Museum of World Treasures showcases all sorts of artifacts from around the planet, from mummies to the skeleton of an enormous Tyrannosaurus rex named Ivan, whose remains were dug up in South Dakota in 2005. There’s also an exhibit on life in the Wild West, a display on European monarchy, another on pre-Hispanic art discovered in graves and a giant piece of the Berlin Wall on display. The newest exhibit, Transcend: Religious and Royal Art of Asia, features gorgeous displays of ancient Hindu and Buddhist sculptures as well as artifacts from various Chinese dynasties.

Those interested in the Wild West should make a point of stopping by the Old Cowtown Museum, which takes visitors back to the rowdy frontier days of the 1870s. Here, you’ll find a huge number of old textiles, home decor items and other artifacts that illustrate what life was like in the Wichita of yore. The museum also offers plenty of daily activities and special events, including a country music festival, Independence Day celebrations and even a Steampunk Day.

History buffs may also want to stop by the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, housed inside the beautiful old City Hall building. Exhibits are spread out over four floors and include a collection of cut and engraved glass, an old-fashioned drug store, a display of toys and other children’s mementos from throughout the years. Also on display are several exhibits on life in Wichita’s early years.

Fans of the railways and anyone with kids won’t want to miss the Great Plains Transportation Museum, where there are plenty of displays of old railroad equipment, including old steam and diesel locomotives, signs, lanterns, and even a fake mechanical stoker that was once used to train locomotive staff.

Flying High in Wichita

Wichita is known for its thriving aviation industry, which is highlighted at the Kansas Aviation Museum. The museum is housed in a huge art deco building that started life in 1935 as the bustling terminal to Wichita Municipal Airport, at the time one of the busiest airports in the country. In 1944, at the height of World War II, there was a takeoff or landing on average every 90 seconds in this midcontinent stopover. Today, the structure and its surrounding grounds exhibit around 40 historic aircraft, plus engines, artifacts and other aviation industry-related memorabilia. Visitors can even climb into the old control tower for great views.

The city once called the “Air Capital of the World” puts on an annual Salute to Aviation in June. In addition to flyovers of aircraft with Wichita breeding, there are hot-air balloons and paper airplanes.



A Breath of Fresh Air

Though Wichita has enough museums to keep visitors busy for days, those who want to get outside will have plenty of opportunities to do so. The highlight for many a visitor is the Sedgwick County Zoo, the city’s most celebrated attraction. Around 3,000 animals live in this 250-acre zoo, divided into geographical or climatic regions.

There’s an entire section devoted to amphibians and reptiles, Cessna Penguin Cove that houses Humboldt penguins and Inca terns, a faux-tropical rainforest, and a special exhibit for children focusing on farms. There’s also a special orangutan and chimpanzee habitat. The zoo also hosts plenty of events and special activities throughout the year, from overnight stays to daily feedings.

Going Green

One of the most peaceful spots in town, Botanica, the Wichita Gardens features almost 18 acres of beautiful botanical gardens featuring a huge array of beautiful plants, sculptures and fountains. Highlights include the gorgeous Garden on the Rocks, which features perennials and shrubs sharing ground space with rock fountains and man-made formations.

With more than 350 rose plants, the Jessie Wooldridge Brosius Rose Garden is also not to be missed; it’s especially fragrant in the late spring and early summer when many of the flowers begin to bloom. Families will want to head straight to the Butterfly House, a specially controlled environment that’s home to 50 species of the fluttering insect. There’s also a special garden for kids featuring play structures, chalk drawing opportunities, and even a maze.

Wichita Games

Fans of pro sports will be pleased to discover that Wichita is home to minor-league baseball (the Wingnuts), hockey (the Thunder) and indoor football (the Force). At the 81 Speedway Race Track north of the city, cars, trucks and motorcycles hurtle around a 3/8-mile semi-banked dirt oval track on weekends throughout the year. Followers of Division I college sports can catch games played by the Wichita State Shockers, who field football, basketball, volleyball and baseball teams.

Lovers of gaming can flock to the Kansas Star Casino, home to a full range of slot machines, table games and a 13-table poker room.

Above and Below the Plains

Go beneath the Great Plains with a trip into Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. This unique attraction takes visitors 650 feet below ground in a working salt mine. Visitors can ride through miles of dark shafts on the Safari Shuttle.

Feeling claustrophobic yet? The Great Plains Nature Center opens its doors to fans of wide-open spaces. Two miles of fully accessible trails snake through wetlands and prairies that are home to 27 species of reptiles,amphibians, butterflies, birds and more.

For More Information

Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau




Kansas Department of Commerce, Travel and Tourism