We love the range of things to do in Wichita and wish it got a bit more kudos for being a great vacation city. Before we tell you just how amazing it is, let’s look at the city’s background and some facts and figures. Wichita is the largest city in the midwestern state of Kansas and is located in the southern end of the state. The city is named for the Wichita people, who were originally found in north Texas and southern Oklahoma, but were forced into the area that is now Kansas by settlers from Europe. Kansas is famous for being the home of former US President, Dwight D Eisenhower, and the President grew up in Abilene, just 90 miles from Wichita. The city’s airport was named after him in 2015. On the subject of airports and aviation, Wichita is known as the ‘Air Capital of the World’ because of its history as the USA’s aircraft production hub. Aviation geniuses, Laird, Beech, Cessna, and Stearman all designed and produced aircraft in the city. These men put Wichita on the map long before Boeing was formed by a takeover of Stearman Aircraft in 1929. Although Wichita might fly under the radar in comparison to other midwestern cities (see what we did there?), it’s a fantastic place to spend time.
So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in Wichita on your visit.
Kansas Aviation Museum
This museum is housed in what used to be the Wichita Municipal Airport building and, let’s face it, what could be a better space? Wichita has an incredible aviation history, and the city didn’t get the nickname ‘Air Capital of the World’ for nothing. The museum takes you through the early stages of aviation – from the humble beginnings of Cessna and Stearman – to the wartime bombers produced in Wichita by the newly formed Boeing company. The museum has many classic jets and other aircraft on display and a day out at Kansas Aviation Museum is one of the best things to do in Wichita.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $7.50-$9.50
Old Cowtown Museum
Old Cowtown Museum has recreated what life was like in Wichita in the 1870s and tells the story of how the city transformed from an old frontier town to a center for agriculture. Within its 23 acres, there are more than 12,000 exhibits – ranging from recreated outbuildings to original farm wagons – and stepping into it is like going back in time in the very best way. Sometimes, It’s difficult to imagine how things used to be, but Old Cowtown brings an entire era to life. It’s one of the best things to do in Wichita with kids. In fact, it’s a brilliant thing to do for the whole family.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $5.50-$7.75
Botanica: The Wichita Gardens
Covering more than 17 acres of ground, the Botanica has numerous plant and flower species, including a specialist rose garden, woodland area, juniper garden, butterfly house, and a greenhouse for tropical plants. One of the newer areas of Botanica is a children’s garden, which includes a musical maze, monster garden (less scary than it sounds), and a sunflower fountain. The garden is a lovely place to go for a leisurely afternoon stroll in the Kansas sunshine, and a visit is a fun thing to do in Wichita, KS.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $6-$9
Sedgwick County Zoo
Wichita Zoo is the top-rated outdoor attraction in the state of Kansas. The 47-acre site is home to more than 400 species and 3,000 animals. It has an acclaimed conservation program and breeds rare and endangered species, such as Amur Leopards and Sumatran Orangutans. However, it’s not just endangered species that can be seen here. We particularly liked the Highland Cows and Capybaras because SO much fluffy cuteness. We’re less fond of the Vampire Bats and the Puff-Faced Water Snakes because they give us nightmares. As well as a host of extremely cute and absolutely-not-cute-in-the-slightest beasties from foreign climes, the zoo is home to some wonderful domestic animals. The American Elk, Bison, Zebu, and Yak are all highlights, and let’s not forget about the always beautiful (from a safe distance, obvs) American Black Bear. The zoo has a fantastic reputation and is one of the best things to do in Wichita, KS.
Tickets required, available online or from the entrance, $11.70-$15.70
Even though we’re all adults here, Exploration Place is our favorite thing to do in Wichita. The science and discovery center has a ton of amazing exhibits and covers a huge range of topics, like wild weather, oral health (with the help of an enormous interactive mouth), a miniature Kansas, and CreatorSpace, which allows kids to design their own creations and understand how they work. In addition to the main exhibits, Exploration Place also has the Boeing Dome Theater and Planetarium – the largest in Kansas – with a 60 foot, 360-degree screen. There are numerous wonders inside the building, but the structure itself is equally special. Designed by Boston architect, Moshe Safdie, and taking more than 2.5 years to complete, its futuristic design sits between the Arkansas River and a reflecting pond. The beauty of the building, grounds, and location makes it easy to see why it’s such a popular venue for weddings and events.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $7-$10.50 (excluding dome)
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House
We’ve added this in as a quick pitstop because it’s only right to include a home by world-renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, in any city guide we do. This 1918 Prairie-style house was built for then Governor of Kansas, Henry Justin Allen. The home sits on North Roosevelt and is open to the public. It’s not often you get the chance to tour the inside of such an iconic home, so we think it’s one of the best things to do in Wichita, KS for the experience alone.
Tickets and booking required, available from the entrance, $18-$40, depending on tour length.
Museum of World Treasures
This museum was started by a local Doctor and his wife who had, over the years, amassed an enormous collection of artifacts from around the world. They founded the museum with a view to allowing the public to see the collection, and the museum grew from there. Today, there are items on display from more than 200 collectors and span practically every time period you can think of. There’s section of the Berlin Wall, original documents signed by numerous US Presidents, and weapons that were used during the First and Second World Wars.
There are also fossilized carcasses of some truly mean-looking creatures. The museum has given them all names and somehow Ivan the T Rex doesn’t seem so frightening when you know what he’s called. Also, there’s an actual, genuine shrunken head on display. It’s not pretty but, if we’re being honest, we’ve never seen a shrunken head that was. The Museum of World Treasures is a fantastic thing to do in Wichita, KS with kids, although you might want to keep them away from the shrunken head to save you from a barrage of questions for days afterward.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $6.95-$9.95
Off-beat things to do in Wichita
If you’re not faint-hearted, you could pay a wee visit to The Wichita Troll sculpture. He’s not well known to anyone outside the city, and he lives under a storm drain on the Riverside. By day, he’s hard to spot, but when the sun goes down, he glows in an eerie green. There’s no indication of his position, so he’s hard to locate. He’s also completely grotesque. We’re not kidding – he really is quite hideous. Imagine stumbling across him and not realizing he was there? Terrifying.
FAQs About Wichita
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Wichita. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this midwestern city has to offer.
What is there to do in Wichita KS for free?
Head over to where the Little Arkansas and Arkansas Rivers meet and pay a visit to The Keeper of the Plains. The steel statue, designed by Blackbear Bosin, stands at 44 feet high. It’s a stunning work of art and looks incredible when it’s lit up at night. You could take a trip over to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and check out all the inductees since 1961. They include Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game of basketball, and World and Olympic Champion track athlete, Maurice Green. This is just an example of some of the fun things to do in Wichita, KS for free, but there are many more.
What can adults do in Wichita KS?
There’s a great range of things to do in Wichita, KS for adults and the city is home to 33 museums and 22 galleries. Wichita also has 11 breweries, and you gotta be an adult to enjoy those. If breweries aren’t your thing, hit up one of the eight shopping districts and put a large dent in your bank account.
What is famous in Wichita?
Wichita is the home of Pizza Hut, which we think is a damn good reason to be famous. The first outlet opened in 1958 by Dan and Frank Carney. To date, the chain has around 18,500 outlets throughout the world. Wichita is also famous as the birthplace of actress, Kirstie Alley.
Is Wichita safe?
Wichita is the least safe city in the state of Kansas, but this isn’t unusual for a capital. As with any large area, where there are more people, there tends to be more crime. There are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself safe, though. Don’t show off your valuables, don’t wander around unpopulated neighborhoods after dark, and keep your wits about you.
How cold does it get in Kansas?
Winters in Kansas can be chilly, with average temperatures dipping to around 25c in January. Wichita averages around 13cm of snow each year, compared to the US average of 28 inches.
Wichita doesn’t get nearly enough attention as far as we’re concerned. It is a great city to spend time in, and there are so many amazing things to do that it can be hard to know where to start. We have a real soft spot for Wichita and its mixture of museums, galleries, shopping, dining, and outdoor spaces. It really does have something to appeal to everyone, regardless of age. Wichita and the wider state of Kansas are listed as great places to raise a family. This is because the cost of living is lower than the US average and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is one of the lowest in the United States. Add that to the fact that Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz are from Kansas and we’re sure you’ll agree you need to go. We hope we’ve given you a list of all the great things to do in Wichita, KS and hope to see you there real soon.