When many people think of travel destinations, they may be solely focused on the East or West Coast. They may think of places like New York or Los Angeles. They want to see sites like the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the Hollywood Sign. While these are great places to visit, we think that nothing will ever quite top the experience of traveling to the American heartland as found in places like Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, and Kansas.
These states have long been stereotyped as nothing but vast, empty stretches of open grasslands. While you’ll certainly find that in abundance, there’s also so much more to see here in the true heart of America. In Wichita, Kan., alone, there’s so much to see and do that you could easily spend days or even weeks here and still not check every item off your travel bucket list.
Because there’s so much culture to absorb and so much to do, you’ll likely need to craft a list of all your must-see attractions for your next trip to Wichita. From there, you’ll be able to hit all your top destinations without missing any one of them. To help you do just this, we’ve prepared this travel guide to Wichita.
Transportation in Wichita
Before you can start to think about restaurants, sight-seeing, hotels, or much else, you’ll need to work out the logistics of your trip. Namely, you’ll need to know how you’re going to get to Wichita and how you’re going to get around once you’ve made it there.
Unlike some big cities, where driving is a nightmare of gigantic proportions, Wichita is a highly drivable city. If you decide to arrive in Wichita in your car, you should have no problem navigating the city streets to travel from one destination to another during your stay here. Parking is available in many places and traffic is accommodating. For many people, this may be an excellent way to see the city.
2. The Public Bus System
Wichita also offers an extensive network of public buses and convenient routes throughout the city. If you arrived in town without a car, this is a great way to get from one place to another. There are 18 fixed routes throughout the city so even if a bus route doesn’t take you directly up to the door of your desired stop, you can be reasonably sure that you’ll get pretty close.
3. Bike Sharing
Do you prefer your mode of transportation to be a little more physical? Maybe you’d like to get in your daily workout while you’re touring a new city? Then you might be excited to learn more about Wichita’s bike sharing and rental program. Simply buy a pass for a day, a week, or as long as you’ll need it, unlock a bike from one of the Bike Share Stations around the city, log your ride, and return it to a station. It’s that easy. This might not be the best solution if you’re carrying luggage or purchases. But for a leisurely trip around the city, bike sharing can’t be beaten.
4. The Wichita Airport
While this won’t help you get around in Wichita itself, this is one of the most efficient ways to reach our beautiful city. The Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport is located just a few miles from the heart of downtown, making it easy to fly in, pick up a rental car, and head right to your hotel, or a delicious restaurant. The fact that it’s so centrally located means there are plenty of things to see and do near the Wichita airport. If there’s anything you want to see or do in Wichita, the odds are good that it will be easily accessible from the airport.
Sight-Seeing and Exploring
Every city has those few spots that you just can’t miss. What are the all-important tourist destinations in Wichita? Here are a few we think you’ll want to check out.
1. Museum of World Treasures
Who would have thought that Kansas would house this fascinating collection of artifacts from across time and around the world? But that’s exactly what the Museum of World Treasures is. Here you’ll find dinosaur specimens, Roman coins, and Egyptian mummies on the first floor; military history and artifacts from American presidents on the second floor; and pop culture, sports, and literature icons on the third floor. For a whirlwind tour of the world right here in Wichita, this museum is not to be missed.
2. Old Cowtown Museum
For the history buffs, or those looking to learn more about what Wichita and many other towns on the Great Plains would have been like in times gone by, the Old Cowtown Museum is for you. Outside of downtown Wichita and along the banks of the Arkansas River, dozens of historic buildings show the history of Wichita and recreate the city as it would have been between 1860 and 1880. Tour the buildings, interact with authentically-dressed actors, and immerse yourself in the world of the past.
3. Old Town
Many cities have a particular district that features most of the historic buildings, and that maintains a quaint, old-timey feel even as the rest of the city has moved on into the 21st century. In Wichita, that part of the city is known as Old Town, and it’s filled with authentic brick streets lined with lampposts and converted warehouses that now serve as bars, cafes, art galleries, offices, and more. This part of the city is always bustling with life and activity, and different festivals are held throughout the year. For any trip to Wichita, this is one place you won’t want to skip.
4. Ulrich Museum of Art
Located on the Wichita State University Campus, the Ulrich Museum of Art is one of Wichita’s finest attractions. Whether you’re an art expert or just a casual admirer, you’ll find plenty of pieces here to ponder and enjoy. Browse both contemporary and modern art pieces, as well as permanent and temporary exhibits. Because some of the exhibits change, this is an excellent place to visit again and again. Every time you come, you’re sure to have a different experience.
5. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House
Fallingwater might be Frank Lloyd Wright’s most iconic and recognizable design, but Wichita is proud to be home to another of his architectural masterpieces. The Allen House is just one of the houses in his Prairie home collection, and it’s one that the architect himself considered to be among his best. The home was built in 1915 and has been restored to its original condition. It now functions as a museum, allowing you to tour the space and really experience the marvel of design for yourself.
6. Botanica Gardens
Kansas might be known for its seemingly endless stretches of prairies and grasslands, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of gorgeous plant-life to offer. Here at the Botanica Gardens in Wichita, enjoy plants and greenery from all around the world. Wander through tropical greenhouses, a butterfly garden, rock garden, Shakespeare garden, and more. Set across nearly 20 acres of land, this giant garden complex also hosts themed events throughout the year, so be sure to see what’s happening when you’re in town.
7. The Exploration Place
If you’re visiting Wichita with the whole family and worry about keeping young children entertained, worry no more. There’s an easy solution. Stop by the Exploration Place, where the entire family can have fun, learn, and explore together. Located in the downtown area, this is a hands-on science center featuring a 100,000-square foot building as well as a 20-acre campus full of exciting things to explore. Visit the space exhibit, a tornado simulator, a fossil dig, and lots more. This is one destination you and the kids will both remember for years to come.
It’s all well and good to spend the day exploring a new city, getting lost in museums, beautiful streets, and local attractions. But when evening rolls around, sometimes it can be fun to see a show or listen to some live entertainment. Often, this is one of the best ways to truly experience the arts and culture scene in a new city. And Wichita has plenty to offer in this department. Here are just a few of the attractions we recommend.
1. Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Playing for audiences since 1944, the Wichita Symphony Orchestra is a staple of our city and is truly an experience that any visitor who doesn’t attend would be missing out on. Their performances vary in style, genre, and era, and rotate throughout the year as they perform different pieces in their repertoire. Enjoy performances in everything from classical music and current pop hits to jazz, blues, and more. Check your travel plans to see if they’ll be playing when you’re in town.
2. Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center
You never know exactly what you’re going to find happening at the Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center. This gorgeous building houses a theater that’s the biggest of its kind in Wichita and doubles as a community center. Located in the heart of downtown Wichita, this theater is the headquarters and performance center for multiple local groups such as the Wichita Grand Opera, the Music Theater for Young People, and the previously mentioned Wichita Symphony Orchestra. Check their schedule to see who’s performing during your stay.
Of course, no trip could be complete without first sampling the local cuisine. You have to eat during your stay, and this means the perfect opportunity for checking out some of the finest in local dining. From diners to elegant black-tie restaurants, bars to breakfast-and-brunch places, Wichita has a little bit of something for everyone. Best of all, there are plenty of bars and places to eat near the Wichita airport, making them easily accessible even if you’re on a busy timetable. Not quite sure where to start? Here are a few places you won’t want to miss.
1. Wichita Food Tours
Only in town for a day or two, but eager to try as many restaurants and eateries as possible? You might consider tagging along on one of the Wichita food tours. Let a tour guide lead you through Old Town. The trip will last several hours, in which time you’ll stop at numerous iconic restaurants and get a taste for some of the best in local cuisine. At each stop, you’ll taste a pre-selected sample, as well as learn about that specific dish and the restaurant that produced it.
2. Small Cakes Cupcakery
Who can resist the delicious taste and charming aesthetic of a window full of cupcakes? At Small Cakes Cupcakery, these treats are so beautiful you almost won’t want to eat them. This is the Wichita branch of a Midwestern chain known for their delectable and beautiful cupcakes. The cupcakes themselves aren’t the only appeal, however. This shop also brings a quaint appeal to your experience, through pink walls, vintage décor, and an upbeat, trendy energy. You won’t regret stopping in here for a cupcake and a quick cup of coffee.
3. Doo-Dah Diner
One of the best restaurants near the Wichita airport is the Doo-Dah Diner, a local favorite that will give you a real taste of the authentic Wichita experience. Enjoy a menu that features traditional diner foods such as sandwiches, salads, soups, breakfast items, and more, and don’t forget that all these items are 100 percent handmade. Not only that, but they’re all based on old family recipes, so you can be sure you’re getting the real deal. Make sure to get there early, though, as they’re only open through the early afternoon.
4. Chisholm’s American Beef and Ale House
Looking for a restaurant that will truly make you feel you’ve stepped back in time and onto the Great Plains? Stop by Chisholm’s American Beef and Ale House.
Our dining room is designed for comfort and style, while also paying homage to the heritage of our great state. Enjoy a roaring fireplace and an open floor plan, as well as seating options ranging from the bar to the dining room. We even have a private dining room, in case you want to host your special event with us while you’re in town.
At Chisholm’s, we consider our menu to be a celebration of classic and local flavors. We don’t just use recipes that are traditional to the area, either. We’re also committed to stocking our kitchen with locally-grown ingredients as a way to give you the best dining experience possible while also giving back to our community. Because of this, our menu rotates with the seasons, to best take advantage of the delicious ingredients being grown right here in our own backyards.
The next time you’re visiting Wichita, don’t forget to stop by. We’re conveniently located on Airport Road, making us an ideal option for dining near the Wichita airport. Make your reservation today.