Wednesday, June 23, 2021

6 Must-See Wichita Attractions


Have you ever visited a city only to wish you had more time to see everything? For me, Wichita, Kansas, was one of those places. Though I’ve spent time there on many occasions seeing family or working, I never took in the sites like a proper tourist. 

Photo credit: Visit Wichita

That’s why when Visit Wichita recently offered to set up a stay so I could check out some of the places on their Attractions Tour 2021, I jumped at the chance! My just-turned-80 mom came along too.

Our home base for our three-day visit was Sonesta Simply Suites on the Northeast side of town. Mom and I had adjoining rooms. 

Both were furnished with a queen-sized bed, recliner, huge desk... a kitchen equipped with a coffee pot, toaster, stovetop, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher—plus plates and utensils. The free wi-fi was reasonably fast, and there were plenty of channels on the TV. 

While there was no complimentary breakfast, the hotel did have free coffee and snacks available, as well as a small grocery area to pick up a thing for two. The bed was comfortable, and I got a great night’s sleep while I was there. This hotel would be a great place to say for families trying to save money on meals or in need of a kitchen for specialty diets. Mom and I loved having our cold beverages and favorite snacks at the ready.

Thirteen area attractions are participating in this year’s tour. All you have to do is pick up a passport at your first stop, get it stamped by at least six of the thirteen places, and then mail it into Visit Wichita before September 6th. Then you’re in the drawing to win a 2022 annual pass for you and your family to ALL 12 ATTRACTIONS and a home Wind Surge ballgame for up to six people. 

Here are the six places I picked visit and highly recommend, in no particular order:

1. Tanganyika Wildlife Park is located just outside of Wichita in Goddard, Kansas. Both Mom and I are big fans of zoo television shows on Nat Geo Wild and Animal Planet, so this was a must-see for us. They had scooters available to rent, so we got one for Mom, which made her visit even more enjoyable on a steamy, hot summer day. 

Photo Credit: Tanganyika

The best part about this place was the numerous opportunities to interact with animals. I got to feed a ring-tailed lemur, an Indian rhino, and my favorite animal, a giraffe. We had Unlimited Encounter Passes, so there were many animal-feeding opportunities open to us—pygmy hippo, lorikeet, bunny, tortoise, and guinea pig, plus the ones I already mentioned. Plus, I got to pet a couple of kangaroos. Check out their website to see all of the animal encounters available.  

2. Kansas Aviation Museum I love flying and spent much of my childhood dreaming of being a flight attendant so that I could zoom around the world. Since Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World due to the multiple airplane manufacturers in the city, I had to visit the Kansas Aviation Museum. 

Located in the original Wichita Municipal Airport Terminal, built in the 1930s, I explored exhibits on Cessna and Beechcraft, complete with full-sized airplanes. I was especially intrigued by the WWII exhibit and how Wichita was key to the U.S. war effort. And I adored the view from the air traffic control tower.  

3. The Kansas African American Museum was one of the more enlightening stops on my Wichita trip. I’d never heard of this place before, which is why I picked it. Located in the former Calvary Baptist Church in what once was a vibrant black community in Wichita, the museum tells the story of African Americans both from the city and state in a meaningful way to everyone. 

Currently, there is an outstanding exhibit called A Portrait of a Man. The displays highlight influential African American men in Kansas, both past and present, to illustrate the complex characteristics of this group, who are often seen as one-dimensional. As a KU Jayhawk basketball fan, I was fascinated by the display about John McLendon, Jr. He learned the game from James Naismith while attending the university but couldn’t play on the then-segregated team. Eventually, he became the first black basketball coach at a predominantly white university (Cleveland State) and coached in the pros. 

Being a former preschool teacher, I also fell in love with a lithograph titled “Boys” by Elizabeth Catlett. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and learn when you visit TKAAM. It will expand your knowledge and touch your heart. 

4. Old Cowtown Museum takes you back to the Wichita of 1865-1880. Mom and I got a golf-cart tour led by Anthony Horsch, director of education and interpretation. 

I felt like I’d stepped onto the set of an old Western movie. Of course, my favorite spots were food-related, such as the cheese counter in the Meat Market, as well as the General Store. 

My traveler’s heart also was drawn to the train depot. Be sure to spend most of the day at Cowtown. There is a lot to explore!  

5. Mid-America All-Indian Museum was another of my “I’ve-never-heard-of-it” picks. Not only did I discover some new-to-me facts on the Native American experience (they were not automatically U.S. citizens even though they were here first!), but I also enjoyed an excellent display on the work and life of artist Blackbear Bosin. He designed the iconic Keeper of the Plains statue located on the Arkansas River outside of the museum. 

Bosin also painted some beautiful pieces, such as one titled Prairie Fire, which was in National Geographic magazine. 

I also liked his humorous cartoon drawings. This museum isn’t large, so it doesn’t take long to make your way through the exhibits. 

Photo credit: Jessica Sawatski

6. Wichita Wind Surge ballgame was the only attraction on my schedule that I didn’t experience, thanks to the weather. No, the game wasn’t a rain-out—just the opposite. The temperature was more than 100 degrees! Not ideal for a visit to the ballpark. However, I did see the beautiful Riverfront Stadium. This is the first season in the city for the Wind Surge, a Minor League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. While I was disappointed to miss the game, I will try again soon. 

For information on all 13 Attractions Tour locations and lodging and dining info, check out the Visit Wichita website. I’m already dreaming about my next trip to this friendly, fun city.

Disclaimer: While Visit Wichita covered the cost of my hotel, food, and attractions, all of the opinions expressed are my own. All photos are mine except where noted. 

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