Surprising Wichita KansasWichita may surprise you with its designation as a cultural and outdoor destination. This remarkable, mid-west Mecca offers an incredible range of attractions. Whether you want to feed and pet a two-toed sloth, discover preeminent architecture or stroll through an amazing sculpture garden, the city is an ideal place to visit for fun and relaxation.
Old Town & Free Q TrolleyWichita's Old Town is a great place to shop and check out the Museum of World Treasures. This eclectic museum is a blast and a fun place to bring the kids; especially for the Fossil Gallery to see the huge skeleton of T-Rex Ivan and Ivan's Playhouse that features a stage for kids to perform with costumes, scripts, puppets, backdrops and a large play area as well.
The museum's 20 different galleries range from Ancient Egypt, with mummies to Sea Creatures of the Plains and the Ancient Greece exhibit with gold coins dating back to Julius Caesar.
The Mosley Street Melodrama is an entertaining dinner theater that will leave you in stiches while you enjoy a buffet meal. The theater shows engage the audience to participate in its comedy performances while guests dine on delicious fare, such as smoky brisket. The shows change every month to two months, so check the theater's website for dates.
An easy way to get around downtown Wichita is to take the free, Q Line Trolley. The Q is a hop-on and off trolley that runs along the city's main thoroughfare of Douglas Street. The trollies run every 10-15 minutes with stops located under the Q signs. For schedules and route info, pick up a transit map at Wichita Transit.
The Great Outdoors & WildlifeTanganyika Wildlife Park is a must-visit in Wichita. This humane-certified and accredited zoo boasts a successful breeding program for over 43 rare and endangered animals and they care for over 400-animals to help create sustainable populations. visitors at Tanganyika are able to stroll through the wildlife park and experience 41 different wildlife habitats, such as White Tigers, Red Kangaroos and Two-toed Sloths. You can even view baby animals through Tanganyika's nursery windows, such as sweet and fuzzy Clouded Leopard kittens romping around or being hand-fed with a bottle of milk.
The wildlife park is exciting to visit and learn about animals and they offer many opportunities to interact with different species. With general admission, you can choose one of nine different Animal Encounters, including a Dromedary Camel ride or feeding Ring-Tailed Lemurs. In the park's special Behind The Scenes program, meet a Two-toed Sloth. Visitors enter the sloth habitat with a park keeper and are able to feed and pet Chewy, a sweet and friendly male sloth that loves veggies (especially carrots) and enjoys visiting guests. Although Chewy sleeps about 20 hours a day, he seems to be up for a good petting and a few photos.
Ever wondered what to was like to live in an 1860s? The Cowtown Museum is like stepping back in time with a fascinating, 23-acre recreated town with 41 different buildings and homes (some over 100-years old) that visitors can explore on a self-guided tour. The town looks so real that when you walk down the roads and into the buildings, it looks like the people living and working there just stepped away from whatever they were doing. Each building has authentic artifacts and period reproductions that visually represent the decor and lifestyle of the era. Walk into the Klentz Dressmaking and Millinery store to see what the seamstress was working on with her foot-driven sewing machine, or visit the print shop and talk to an interpreter who will demonstrate how the large printing presses worked to make newspapers and flyers.
In addition to the wonderful self-guided town tour, the museum offers many cool Cowtown reenactments and events that range from Hay, Hooves and Halloween to a Victorian Christmas and Steampunk Day.
Botanica Wichita, located minutes from downtown, offers garden lovers and kids an extraordinary destination with 30 different themed gardens, water features and events. In this 17-acre paradise, graceful art and statues line the paths that lead to stunning gardens, such as the beautiful Shakespeare Garden. This garden is a relaxing haven with classical marble statues that encompass a circular floral garden and a central fountain with viewing benches available to relax and enjoy the blooms.
If you bring your kids or just want to feel like one, Botanica's Downing Children's Garden is a magical place to explore. This combination education and interactive environment features numerous play areas. the musical maze is fun to meander through with drums, pagoda chimes and rainmaker musical instruments created from unusual materials. Another popular area in the children's garden is Monster Woods. This fantasy wooded play area of crafted tree structures with amusing faces are carved from real and manufactured trees. Kids can climb through the trees and follow a path to a giant tree house to explore or locate the spot where mice make their calculations on rocks and build a rocket ship to fly to the moon.
If you visit Botanica, take advantage of the helpful app for your smart phone that provides your self-guided tour with the names of plants and flowers and a photo for the specific garden you're visiting. Moreover, no matter what time of year you visit, Botanica offers awesome events and programs (especially at Christmas & Halloween).
Art & ArchitectureWichita's excellent public art in downtown and eye-catching wall murals that grace the town's buildings are just a few of the free artworks you can discover in the city. For a superb free contemporary art museum visit and sculpture tour, drop by Wichita State University's Ulrich Museum of Art. The Museum offers a changing exhibition of galleries throughout the year with inspiring artworks.
Located on the campus's 330 acres, the Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection offers 80 sculptures by nationally and internationally recognized artists. A few of the notable sculptures you'll find on the tour include Millipede by Tom Otterness and the fascinating The Celestial Mechanic by Randy Regier. The university's campus is picturesque and perfect for a leisurely tour of the sculptures.
In addition, if you go, download the Ulrich Museum of Art mobile app (for App Store & Google Play) for six tours that will guide you through the sculpture collection with in-depth info on each artwork.
The Wichita Art Museum is free on Saturdays and is one of the best art museums in the state that presents a lively schedule of events and programs. The museum offers an outstanding collection of American Art, think Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. And, an exceptional blown glass Dale Chihuly chandelier that has become synonymous with the museum.
Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture is magnificent and eager enthusiasts can tour the city's Allen House, located in the College Hill district. Wright designed this Prairie School Style home in 1915 for Henry Allen and his wife Elsie and considered it among his best. The remarkable home with its earth-tone colors and interior gilt mortar joints is fascinating to walk through and quite large in size (five bathrooms and five fireplace) compared with most of Wright's other homes designed later in his career.
The Allen house retains most of the original art and 40 pieces of the original furniture. Several impressive features of the house include the mesmerizing elevated dining room with its chevron-patterned light fixture and the telescoping table and chairs that Wright custom-designed for the house. The extensive living room is a prominent feature of the home that measures 50 feet long and 25 feet wide with westward, floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the patio and garden. In addition, Wright invented several features in the Allen House, such as the first wall-hung toilet and kitchen back splash for sanitary purposes.
Wright's Allen House is exciting to visit with every room a marvel of architectural beauty and design; make sure to schedule your tour before you arrive and plan several hours to experience this incredible home and garden.
If You GoFor Breakfast and Lunch, try the unique family-friendly HomeGrown with a philosophy of kindness. You'll savor the best and freshest fare in Wichita and all made from scratch. Don't miss their stellar homemade pastry Pop-Tarts and their addicting and delicious fruit juices (try the Sunrise).
For dinner, book a table at Vora Restaurant European. The restaurant is committed to sourcing high quality sustainable ingredients, including their Kansas bred beef and pork. Try the succulent Duck Frites, a pan seared char crusted Maple Leaf Farms duck breast sliced and topped with Breton sauce, served with house made fries and herbed dijon aioli.
Wichita proffers many excellent hotels; however, our top recommendation is the elegant Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview Wichita. Located downtown and on the trolley route, the historic Broadview was built in 1921. The grand lobby is stunning with ornamental high ceilings, checkered floors and chandeliers; definitely a great place to sit and people watch. The rooms are spacious and beds are blissfully comfy with crisp linens; some rooms feature great views of the Arkansas River as well. For additional information, Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview Wichita.
For more information on Wichita, Kansas go to VisitWichita.
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Patrice Raplee is an accomplished travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for award-winning travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in national magazines and newspapers such as Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Beyond and the Seattle Times. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.