You know how I love my second cities. So, when I was accepted to participate in a Wichita press trip, I was all in. And—like most second cities—it had all the same “it factors” of a larger city… just on a smaller scale. I spent a jam-packed three days seeing all the things and eating all the food. Huge thanks to Visit Wichita for such a fun-filled visit with such a great team! Read about the 9 most awesome things to do In Wichita Kansas… below.
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Where to Stay When You Visit
First things first—where to stay while you’re taking in all that is Wichita’s awesomeness. I recommend the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview. This little gem sits right on the river in the middle of downtown and is celebrating its hundredth anniversary in 2022.
It pretty much has everything, and then some—breakfast is included, but dinner is also included; indoor pool and hot tub, plus an outdoor hot tub; and, did you know this? Every evening they have a cocktail hour where you can get three free drinks. Not one, not two, but three. I mean… in my book, that’s a done deal. (Drury, you just earned yourself a new loyal customer. Just sayin’.)
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Experience the Ring of Fire at the Keeper of the Plains
#1 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Probably the coolest thing I think we did was go see the “Ring of Fire” at Wichita’s “Keeper of the Plains.” You know how different cities have different statues or sculptures that get decorated, auctioned, and donated “On Parade?” Well, Wichita has “the Keepers,” Native American warrior statues offering blessings to the skies.
The all-original Keeper is a 44-foot, 5-ton steel sculpture sitting on a 30-foot stone pedestal. It was designed by the Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Boisin and overlooks the city and its rivers. Weather depending, you can see its “Ring of Fire” light up around its base every evening. And what a sight it is! Definitely one of the most awesome things to do in Wichita Kansas.
P.S. If you hunt around, you can find a troll statue hiding under a grate on the Riverwalk!
Enjoy Botanica’s Gardens, Sculptures & Carousel
#2 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Oh, you guys know me and my botanical gardens. And Botanica Wichita was so excellent. What a special little gem, seriously. 18 acres with more than 30 themed gardens! As though the gardens themselves aren’t enough to make you swoon, it’s got several other fun and exceptional “attractions,” too.
There’s plenty of artwork to view, including a series of “Washed Ashore” sculptures created from non-recyclable materials washed up from the ocean. There’s an entire children’s section with treehouses and games and a kid-friendly farm community. And—best of all—there’s a whole dang carousel sitting right in the middle of it. A functioning one. So, that had to be turned on just for us. (Because when’s the last time you rode a carousel?)
Pet Stingrays at the Sedgewick County Zoo
#3 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Just when you thought #1 and #2 on the list of awesome things to do in Wichita Kansas were pretty cool, they brought us to the Sedgewick County Zoo. And I can’t even remember the last time I visited a zoo. But I know I have a great time every time I do. They have penguins and meerkats and red pandas and Pumbas and lions and tigers…
Added bonus that they have a whole interactive “Stingray Cove” where you can pet stingrays, too. So fun. Yes, you’re required to wash your hands before entering so you don’t hurt the little guys. And, yes, they have their stingers clipped (which we were told is like clipping a fingernail and doesn’t hurt them). I even made special friends with their largest stingray, India, and one of their teeny little baby stingrays, Sailor. …They feel like wet mushrooms. In case you were wondering.
See Some Hoppers & Chihulys at the Wichita Art Museum
#4 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Sigh. Let’s just say Visit Wichita was hittin’ all the sweet spots with me, okay? Because we also went to the Wichita Art Museum. Seattle friends, I know you thought Chihulys were special for you with your whole Chihuly center there and all, but not so. Because they have a couple in Wichita, too. Which were absolutely breathtaking.
For all my RIT friends (that’s Rochester Institute of Technology, where I got my undergrad and which has well-renowned print and glass programs), Wichita also has pretty extensive printmaking and glass collections (in addition to the two Chihulys). It houses a premier collection of work developed by the Prairie Print Makers and a whole glass section. Not just a few pieces.
They have three Hoppers, at least one Cassatt, a Wyeth, and a Homer, too, so… The Wichita Art Museum isn’t messing around, y’all. It goes on the list!
Discover Downtown’s Fun Side
#5 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
I never miss a chance to take a walk through a downtown district and Wichita’s didn’t disappoint. Filled with renovated and revived historic buildings, there’s plenty to marvel at as you stroll around. See if you can’t find the wild and wonderful Gallery Alley or all 31 of Georgia Gerber’s bronze statues. Gerber’s Douglas Avenue Streetscape sculptures were intended to be interactive, and periodically, you’ll find them wearing hats or scarves donated by the local community. Super cute and just adds to the personality of any second city, amiright?
Explore the Douglas Design District
#6 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
If you think we were only having a blast at Wichita’s largest and flashiest sights, you’d be wrong. We went to the Douglas Design District, where we found all the fun street art and the Cleveland Corner (totally to die for).
There’s this little shop there that I highly recommend called The Workroom. I think I could’ve spent hours looking around there and I am not a shopper by any stretch of the imagination. It’s all curated, lovely crafts, trinkets, and decor that you pretty much want an entire houseful of.
But also, it has what they referred to as two “incubator” spaces. Extra retail spaces where small businesses with great ideas can move in temporarily to get a jumpstart before heading off into the sunset for bigger and better business horizons.
Visit the Mid-America All-Indian Museum
#7 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Remember the dude I mentioned before who created the gigantic Keeper of the Plains? Blackbear Bosin? Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal in Wichita. And, while the Mid-America All-Indian Museum has more than just his stuff, most of the artwork there was his and there was an active collection all about him and his life on display. Plus over 3,000 artifacts. It’s all pretty stunning.
You’ll also find two more little Keepers in this one location, a friendship pole—which is apparently different than a totem pole (Did you know that? Because I didn’t.)—and an impressive gathering room for legit powwows with a zillion different First Nation flags hanging from the ceiling.
Get Some Grub + Do Some Shopping at Clifton Square
#8 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Technically, Clifton Square is located in the Douglas Design District, but because it’s its very own little sight, I’m breaking it out separately. It’s a collection of Victorian-era houses that have been made into a fun little square of shopping and eateries.
Have some lunch at Ziggy’s Pizza or Dempsey’s Burger Pub, followed by a little ice cream at Papa’s General Store (don’t forget to check out upstairs there!). Then, stroll around and visit all the little shops. My personal fav was the Clifton Collective, which features products specifically from artisans in the Midwest.
Support Local Businesses in the Historic Delano District
#9 on the List of Awesome Things To Do in Wichita Kansas
Wichita’s Delano District served as a rest and “recreation” stop for cowboys back in the late 1800s. Now, it’s a quaint shopping district with more than 250 local businesses. Some of the more popular stops include Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works, Bohemia Healing Spa, and Bungalow 26 (which I had a blast at). Stop at Monarch’s for a culinary pitstop and enjoy a microbrew, too.
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