I fell in love with Wichita, Kansas when I was hosted for a visit last summer, and I’m convinced it’s one of the best-kept secrets of the Midwest. You’d think word would have gotten out because Wichitans love their city like nothing else, and they’re not shy about it!
You’ll see Wichita flags and icons on clothing, buildings, menus… everywhere. I’ve never seen such a fierce love and pride for hometown before, and believe me when I tell you it’s contagious. I bought more Wichita souvenirs than I’ve ever bought anywhere else (except DisneyWorld).
I can’t figure out why people aren’t shouting the ICT secret from the rooftops, but I refuse to keep it a secret. Wichita needs to be on everyone’s travel bucket list, and here are a few reasons why.
Wichita has the best public art.
Hometown pride and the famous Wichita murals go hand in hand, and I spent hours wandering Old Town, downtown and the Douglas Design District searching for and finding them. It was like a self-imposed scavenger hunt, and I was determined to find as many murals as I could in the time I had. (Get your own Wichita murals scavenger hunt started with this list and this list.)
Along the sidewalks of East Douglas Avenue and inside Lewis Reflection Square Park, you’ll find nearly two dozen fanciful bronze sculptures. The life-size statues created by artist Georgia Gerber beg to be talked about, touched and photographed.
Car Bumper Sculptures
As I was enjoying my downtown stroll, I spotted a sculpted horse made out of steel auto bumpers in front of the Bank of America building. Naturally, that begged for closer inspection! I found out later the animal menagerie continues inside the lobby, and there are a few more sculptures scattered throughout the city, so be sure to peek at a few of them while in Wichita. The master welder behind the animals was a Chicago artist by the name of John Kearney.
Pop-Up Urban Park and ICT #ChalkTalks
What was once an under-utilized space along Douglas Avenue is now filled with seating, tables, lights and “Keepers on Parade” statues. The park regularly plays host to a variety of food trucks and has become a favorite community gathering spot. When I was in town, the park was decked out in a beach theme — sand included!
The chalk wall installation is just outside the pop-up park and invites conversation surrounding a frequently changing question. Stop by and leave your two cents.
2. Old Town is an entertainment hot spot.
This part of Wichita is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, shops, live music and nightlife, and the brick-lined streets and buildings are full of old-time charm. There’s a fabulous farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, and on weekend evenings, many restaurants and bars offer live music on the patio.
3. Restaurants in Wichita (and breweries) are serving up great eats and drinks!
Egg Cetera (Old Town) – This casual and cozy breakfast eatery in Old Town has a great selection of American and Mexican-inspired dishes. I tried the breakfast burrito which was new to the menu and it was excellent!
Mead’s Corner Coffeehouse (Downtown) – This warm and cozy fair trade coffeehouse is open all day. Staffed completely by volunteers, Mead’s Corner is a non-profit business with a mission of community outreach. So when you order a cup of coffee or a scoop of gelato, you can feel good about where your money is going.
Old Mill Tasty Shop (Downtown) – Along with peanut butter and banana sandwiches, the Old Mill Tasty Shop has been serving up old-fashioned sodas from its marble-topped soda fountain since 1932, and it’s a very popular spot so get there early!
The Monarch (Historic Delano) – This fun hipster eatery smokes their meat in-house and has an incredibly delicious selection of sandwiches. I had the turkey and cranberry on ciabatta with house-made chips and devoured it. If you’re in the mood for bourbon, enjoy a tasting. They have 225 varieties!
Larkspur Bistro & Bar (Old Town) – I visited Larkspur for dinner, and though the patio looked mighty inviting, 100-degree temperatures had me opting for the cool A/C indoors. My filet mignon was delicious and the relaxed vibe with background piano music was a great way to end my evening.
Aero Plains Brewing (Historic Delano) – Don’t be surprised if you spend several hours at this themed neighborhood microbrewery which honors Wichita’s rich aviation history. The bar counter was built from a Beech Model 18, and the beer comes in names like Friendly Aviator German Pilsner, Jet Set Brunette and Skycap’s Pound Cake Porter.
Founder Lance Minor likes to refer to Aero Plains as a community center rather than a bar. His business leader (rather than business owner) mentality drives him to continue making a difference in the community, and Aero Plains has quickly become a favorite gathering spot in Delano.
Hangar One Steakhouse (West Wichita) – One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive at this aviation-themed steakhouse is “Amelia”, a 1945 Beech C-45 cargo plane jutting out of the building and named for Amelia Earhart. More memorabilia can be found inside, including tables made from airplane engines. It’s a very cool place celebrating Wichita’s aviation fame. Oh, and the food is pretty darn good too.
Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria – (2 locations) There’s nothing to fear with pizza and beer, especially when it’s wood-fired pizza like it is at Wichita Brewing. I ordered the capicola sunshine pizza with cilantro and it was fantastic, and although I would have loved to try one of their craft beers, I’m more of an evening sipper so I’ll just have to go back for dinner sometime.
4. You can stay in a luxury hotel in the heart of Old Town.
I was charmed the moment I walked into the Hotel at Old Town and heard 1920’s music playing in the background. I love a hotel with a sense of history, but even more… I love a hotel that showcases history while making sure guests have every modern amenity they could ever want or need. Hotel at Old Town does this perfectly!
You’ll feel spoiled beyond belief in the luxurious guest rooms, and if you have a city view like I did, you can throw open the curtains to feel the pulse of Old Town’s energy or close it off and enjoy a quiet escape in your own personal sanctuary.
5. The Q-Line Trolley offers free transportation around Wichita’s hot spots.
Pro tip: The best way to see a lot of public art in the shortest amount of time is to hop the Q-Line trolley. I hopped on and off from downtown to the Douglas Design District and Clifton Square before heading back towards Old Town. (There’s a special extension on Saturdays along that whole route.) Trolleys roll by pickup spots about every 10 minutes, and stops are just a couple blocks apart. It’s a fantastic free transportation system!
6. Wichita shopping is FUN.
In Delano, pick up one of the popular neighborhood candles at Bungalow 26, snack on a homemade pastry at Milkfloat or visit Hatman Jack’s for the custom hat of your dreams. Looking for Wichita gear? Trust me, you want some! You’ll find the cutest things at Lucinda’s and The Workroom. And don’t leave town before stopping in Nifty Nut House. It’s one of the places you have to see for yourself to believe.
7. Wichita’s landmark icon and its Old West history are legendary.
I dedicated a whole post to Wichita’s Old West Kansas fun, so you’ll want to check it out!
Wichita has the best of old and new, and I couldn’t have loved the city more. I can’t wait to go back! Contact VisitWichita.com for help in planning a trip.
Comments & Reviews
These art works are really amazing. Just love it.
I’m sad to say we’ve passed through there a couple times but never stopped. Looks like we’ve been missing out all this time!
I’ve been there a couple times but’s it’s been many years. Looks like I need to bring the family back, so much variety and fun things to do since I’ve been there.
I love that there is so much art and culture in Wichita, Kansas. I had no idea! I do know my first born has looked into college (liberal arts) in Kansas. From the sounds, they also have some great liberal art college options for residents and non-residents. I certainly will have to add this to my bucket list of travel! Especially if the firstborn truly desires to move to that state.
With my husband being a truck driver I have been through Kanas but, we have never stopped. After seeing everything you have listed here the next time we travel I’m going to make sure he stops. I would love to visit a lot of these places in Wichita Kanas especially Hangar One!!
What a great place to visit!! Kansas is one state in the midwest that I haven’t been to before!
Matthew Wohlever says
You left out the troll in downtown Wichita. Close to the old electric company, there is a statue of a life like troll that is AWESOME!! check it out!!
Oooo, I didn’t know about the troll! I have GOT to come back and see that!
I live in Wichita and I couldn’t be happier about it. ?
I honestly understand why now! Love your city!
Wichita has been our home for 5 years now and it is SO good to see someone finally getting why Wichitans are so passionate about our town! I’m a Kansas farmer’s daughter and small-town girl who never, ever thought I’d want to live in the city, but Wichita has made it a great experience.
Thanks again for a great blog post! And of course, we hope you’ll come back again!
I will DEFINITELY come back again!
Wow, I was born and raised in Wichita, now I live in Virginia and honestly don’t miss Wichita at all. I always joke that I never meet anyone who vacations in Kansas! But your list made me think somewhat differently about my hometown.
I have trouble appreciating my hometown (in Michigan) too, and it generally takes some outside perspective to be able to see it. Glad I made it sparkle just a little more for ya!
Sherry, I was also born and raised in Wichita and now live in Virginia. Funny!
You can find that flag in more places then just murals and shirts! It’s on skin too!
Very cool!! So glad you shared that!
I have lived in Wichita for many years, it’s an awesome city and a great place to raise a family. Wichita doesn’t get much press, good press anyway, thank you for the amazing write up! It truly is a great place.
It deserves it! I love Wichita!
Wichita is wonderful! An entirely renewed city in the last 20 to 25 years. I love it here and have chosen to retire here. Just the right size for things to be accessible and lots to do!
I love how easy and quickly you can get from one side of town to the other!
We built a house in Wichita 11 years ago and would live here in the summers so our girls could do all of the fun activities they couldn’t do in the Houston area (think: expense, time, traffic, headaches). Here they were busy all day long, but it was a fun busy! They did Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, Great Plains Nature Center, Cowtown, Monart, ice skating, horseback riding, the Y, Wichita Children’s Theater. We would get season tickets to Music Theater of Wichita – they are just finishing high school and have seen more than 50 Broadway caliber stage shows. And it didn’t break the bank or test my patience at all. 4 years ago we got the chance to live here full time and I never want to live anywhere else! So glad that you enjoyed so many things our city has to offer – Wichita gets overlooked far too often!
Wow! I love how you were able to enrich the girls’ lives so much in Wichita, and that you love it as much as you do. I’m happy to give a little love to the city. It totally deserves it!
On your next visit, check out the Great Plains Transportation Museum.
I will definitely do that! Thanks for the tip!
Laurie Reese says
I have lived in the Wichita area for 45 years now and we do have a lot to do in the area. There is something here for people of all ages. If you have not yet been to the Sedgwick County Zoo, please check it out on your next visit. Our zoo is consistently ranked as one of the top ten zoos in the country and it is fabulous. We also have Tanganyika Wildlife Park just outside of Wichita that is a wonderful smaller zoo. If you like museums, there are several choices as well such as the Museum of World Treasures and the Kansas Aviation Museum just to name a couple. We do have a great city with lots to do and see and eat!
Aaron Santry says
Wichita didn’t use to be this fun or show this much pride. I’ve been here since 1985 when I came to Wichita State and vividly remember seeing “Avoid the rush, hate Wichita early” bumper stickers. The murals have really exploded over the past two years.
I’ve recently added a mural gallery to my photography website, http://www.scatteredlodgephotography.com to highlight some of the new murals.
Thank you for this post.
I’m glad you shared that, and I’m glad Wichita pride has exploded since your college years. 🙂
I so happy you got to visit this great city. Next time you might want to go check out the Frank Lloyd Wright house in the College Hill area.
Yes, I definitely want to see that. I believe it’s a Usonian house if I remember right from the museum!
B&C BBQ – you missed that. 🙂
Darn!!! I need to try that next time!
Excellent, great information! I visited last year and also fell in love with the entire area, I am hoping to relocate this year from Miami, FL