Wichita may be the largest city in Kansas, but many local destinations take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether you prefer to explore a restored neighborhood full of restaurants and entertainment, or spend time exploring nature, there are options for every taste.
The city’s beautiful riverfront lies at the intersection of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers. A 44-foot-tall statue near the shore, called Keeper of the Plains, is particularly striking. Built at a cost of $20 million, this enormous and graceful figure raises its hands towards the sky, and the Great Spirit that is revered by American Indians.
It’s only a short drive to the lovely Botanica Wichita, which has provided natural respite from spring and summer heat for more than 30 years. Spread across 9.5-acres, Botanica features beautiful gardens set amid rolling terrain as well as natural forest areas and plenty of water features.
Offering an ‘Old West’ reproduction village, with a vintage-style boardwalk Old Cowtown Museum is also a short drive from the riverfront. Visitors can step into Wichita history, from 1865 to 1880, with visits to an old-fashioned hotel and a saloon, as well as a tiny family homestead, and an 1880s general store.
On Douglas Avenue, in Wichita’s urban core, more than 30 bronze sculptures include a businessman reading the newspaper and a boy leading his horse. The most impressive piece is a life-sized representation of a Wichita lunch counter where black citizens broke the color barrier for service. You can get a map of the sculptures at the visitors’ center on Main Street.
Nearby, the lovingly restored Old Town neighborhood invites strolls to restaurants such as Mediterranean and American cuisine at Larkspur Bistro & Bar or Sabor Latin Bar and Grille. You can also enjoy a movie at the state-of-the-art Old Town Theatre Grille or spend an afternoon exploring the Museum of World Treasures.
Located less than 15 minutes west of Old Town, the terrific Sedgwick County Zoo offers plenty of opportunity to view wildlife at close range, whether through floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows or open-air animal enclosures. Tanganyika Wildlife Park lies further west and just outside of Wichita city limits. The privately owned wildlife park gives animals plenty of space and fresh air while delighting visitors with up-close-and-personal views.
A 15-minute drive from Old Town, in the opposite direction, leads to Great Plains Nature Center. Featuring 2.5 miles of paved trails and plenty of wildlife sightings, this destination also offers a healthy dose of environmental education inside the modern visitors’ center. It all adds up to a great stop for nature lovers.
You’ll visit the south part of Wichita to reach the Starlite Drive-In Theatre. Opened in 1973, this top destination allows guests to enjoy the latest movie technology against a backdrop of wide open spaces. Classic theater snacks such as funnel cakes or cotton candy, and burgers or hot dogs, enhance the old-fashioned ambiance.
While Wichita offers special events throughout the year, the city’s biggest party takes place each June. Riverfest draws more than 350,000 people who enjoy food and activities galore. The festivities kick-off with a massive parade that snakes through the heart of downtown and the multi-faceted party continues for nine days.