“Being in Wichita, you get the best of all worlds…and then add your own flavor to it.”
Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Visit Wichita, and may contain other affiliate links. While at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission off of bookings through this post.
A gem of south – central Kansas, Wichita is the largest city in the state with a population of nearly 700,000 people.
It is home to the public research school, Wichita State University, and many world-class art museums and historical sites. Known as the commercial, financial, medical, cultural and entertainment hub of the state, it sits on the Arkansas River.
The below itinerary is the result of a one week trip in partnership with Visit Wichita. With this, I hope to show that Wichita’s roots stem far beyond college basketball and barbecue — and in the best way possible.
Read on below to learn where to stay, play, and eat during five days in the “Air Capitol of the World.”
Wichita is home to the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (ICT), so there are many domestic flight route options available.
I flew from Evansville, Indiana with a connecting flight in Atlanta, Georgia. Then, from Atlanta direct to Wichita for a total round trip cost of $227USD.
If flying into Wichita, it’s most convenient to reserve a rental car in advance. Kansas is very flat, so a smaller SUV or compact car is great for navigating the roads.
Traffic in Wichita is also generally very manageable. You can find all of the car rental options available for airport pick up and drop off here.
We meet James from Visit Wichita who helps us with our luggage and drives us downtown to the tourism board’s headquarters.
After a brief meeting and an overview of an exciting itinerary, we head off to our accommodation to freshen up and drop off our luggage.
Cozy Accommodations at Hilton Garden Inn Wichita
We arrive at our accommodation for the duration of our time in the city — the Hilton Garden Inn Bradley Fair.
Located in the bustling neighborhood of Bradley Fair, fine dining and luxury retail stores surround this three star property.
Just a short 8 mile drive into the city, the Hilton Garden Inn Wichita is a prime location for travelers. It is both couple and family friendly, and is nine miles to the Botanic Gardens, and 20 minutes from the Sedgwick County Zoo.
Room + Amenities
The friendly hotel staff greet us and check us into a 2-Queen bedroom. The room is fully equipped with a kitchenette, microwave, coffee maker, complimentary toiletries, and a 37-inch HDTV.
High speed internet and a work desk with an ergonomic chair provide extra seating and a convenient work space — important amenities for a content creator!
Downstairs, the Pavilion Pantry is open 24 hours for snacks and coffee in the lobby. The hotel’s restaurant, Great American Grill, serves an extensive selection of breakfast and dinner items daily.
Touches of Luxury
The hotel also features an indoor pool, fitness center, pet friendly rooms, a business center, and daily room service.
We settle in, then go downstairs for a complimentary coffee by the lobby’s cozy fireplace. After warming up and winding down, bye take to the road for our first adventure.
Learn more about the property, additional amenities, and hotel room rates here.
A Taste of the Sea at Newport Grill:
After a long day of traveling, we’re thrilled to learn that our dinner reservations are within walking distance to the hotel. Less than five minutes later, we take a seat at the poshest seafood restaurant in the city: Newport Grill.
What to Drink:
- The “Newport Cosmo” with citrus infused vodka, orange liqueur, white cranberry juice, lemon simple, candied lemon rim, and expressed lemon peel.
It’s easily the most beautiful drink on the cocktail menu (see below!)
What to Eat:
- “New England Clam Chowder” with manila clams, bacon, celery, chives, and paprika in a rich cream sauce.
- Two “Blue Lump Crab Cakes” with roasted corn and sherry saffron
- “Hawaiian Ahi Tuna” with crispy brussel leaves, quinoa, and citrus beurre blanc
- “Alaskan Cod” with creamy whipped potatoes and broccolini.
For something sweet:
- “Peanut Butter Bomb”with creamy peanut butter mousse, chocolate shell, and flame torched marshmallow fluff.
View the full menu at Newport Grill as well as pricing for menu favorites and daily specials here.
Wichita Art Museum
Our first full day in Wichita begins at one of the city’s most renowned museums: The Wichita Art Museum (WAM).
The WAM began in 1935 at the will of Louise Caldwell Murdock — a request to use the money from her estate to purchase art for the city.
The collection, chosen by a friend of Mrs. Murdock in the mid 1960’s a collection was first named in memory of Mrs. Murdock’s newspaper publisher husband.
Multiple expansions in the 1970’s and early 2000’s has shown the property through multiple additions and renovations into the 115,000 square feet it is today.
The modern property now boasts a new restaurant, a museum store, a research library, and an art services area.
Modern Day WAM
We make our way to the second level and pass under the giant rainbow colored handblown glass chandelier. It’s designed by famous artist Dale Chihuly, and demands attention in the main foyer.
Another large-scale work by Chihuly in known as the “Chihuly Bridge.”It can’t be missed upon first entrance to the building — just make sure to look up!
We start with the newest exhibit, the American Art Deco display.
Rooms full of dozens of glamorous ballgowns, accessories, and stunning paintings and sculptures span wall-to-wall in the adjoining exhibit, “Putting on the Glitz: Art Deco Fashion”. Both exhibits are available for viewing until May 29th and May 8th respectively.
Other exhibits worth visiting are:
- The International Block Print Renaissance Then and Now: A Centennial Celebration of Block Prints in Wichita, Kansas, 1922-2022 February 26 – August 7, 2022
- Charles M. Russell and the American West (Ongoing)
- Pre-Columbian Art and Artifacts from the Museum’s Collection (ongoing)
- Storytelling: Highlights and Insights from the Wichita Art Museum Collection (Ongoing)
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information on tickets and exhibits, click here.
Lunch at Delano Barbecue Company
After exploring the Museum, we drive a short distance across town to the lively Delano District.
The Delano District is a hip commercial and residential mixed neighborhood that runs through Douglas Avenue. This beloved hole-in-the-wall is home to Delano’s — a BBQ joint known throughout Wichita for its live fire cooking.
In fact, Delano’s claims that’s what they’ve done best since 1994 — and you can taste it.
Early every morning they fire up the smokers — using no chemicals — and get the hickory and pecan woods flavors in each of their smoked meats through patience and dedication.
Made From Scratch
Here, everything is made in-house from the rub that goes on the meats, to sauces, their famous potato salad, (and my personal favorite), ranch dressing.
Other popular favorites are the Kansas and Nebraska sourced brisket, ribs, and the pork belly burnt ends (only available on Wednesdays).
Order these to eat:
- “1 Meat Lunch” with sliced chicken breast and white cheddar mashed potatoes;
- “Twisted Turkey” with sliced smoked turkey, pepper jack cheese, mango, apricot, and habanero jam on a jalapeño cheddar bun;
- A side of “Mac n’ cheese“;
- “Funnel Cake Fries” with powdered sugar for dessert.
Click here to view the fill menu and learn more about weekly specials.
Sweet Treats at Nifty Nut House
To continue our sweet tooth, we head to another local favorite: Nifty Nut House.
Nifty’s is a third generation family-owned business that sells hundreds of unique brands of candy and snacks at great prices.
From assortments of nuts and dried fruit, to gum and decadent chocolates and fudge, Nifty’s has something to curb every craving from the midnight munchies to movie night.
In addition to the goodies, guests visit Nifty’s simply for the experience and the friendly staff. Products are priced by the pound, and can be purchased for as little as a quarter of a pound.
Securing the Sweets
We make our way around the store and leave with nearly two pounds of sweet and savory treats. We plan to indulge in the Boston Baked Beans, chocolate covered almonds, pink M&M’s and sweet n’ spicy trail mix later in the evening back at our hotel.
Nifty’s is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
You can learn more about Nifty’s Nut House here.
Step Back in Time at The Old Cowtown Museum
The most unique attraction in Wichita is one that is a complete but pleasant surprise: The Old Cowtown Museum.
The 23 acre open-air living museum is a step back in time to Wichita in mid 1800’s. Here, visitors immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and activities that were common to a former cattle town.
From the ring of the blacksmith anvil to a sarsaparilla being poured over ice in a saloon, visitors get an authentic Midwest experience.
Exploring the Town
We walk a short distance from the visitors center to the town — a near exact replica from more than 160 years ago. Some of the buildings are even originals that were transported to the museum, and all contain artifacts that would have been utilized during the cattle town days.
Museum volunteers stroll the grounds in full character, dressed for the times and playing the parts well. They stop and chat with visitors and tell them tales of love, loss, scandal, and growth, and how Wichita became the Midwest city it is today.
The museum offers regulars demonstrations such as Western shoot out re-enactments, lectures, and festivals. Many movie sets have also made their homes here, making for a truly unique experience for visitors of all ages.
When to Visit:
Museum hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission starts at $5.50 for children 4-11, $6 for youth 12-17, $7.75 for adults and $6.50 for senior citizens 62 and older.
Learn more about The Old Cowtown Museum here.
French Fare at George’s French Bistro
After a full day of exploring, we make our way to one of Wichita’s most exclusive restaurants: George’s French Bistro.
Providing an authentic experience that only a French bistro can provide, George’s is known for its warm and friendly interior and classic French fare.
We each start with a glass of champagne and a basket of fresh French bread with creamy salted butter.
What to eat:
- “Seafood Bouillabaisse” with rock shrimp, bay scallops, clams, Price Edward Island mussels, and salmon in a Provençal sauce
- Mixed “Seafood Linguine” with little neck clams, mussels, rock shrimp, and bay scallops tossed in a lemon butter sauce.
Other popular dishes at George’s:
- The “Troutamandine” rainbow trout encrusted with Parmesan and topped with lemon buerre blanc and capers; and
- “Steak Frites” with prime Kansas City striploin topped with L’Entrecôte sauce. It’s served with truffle fries and arugula salad.
Breakfast Faves at Leslie Coffee Co.
To start the morning, we head to Leslie Coffee Co., a local gem recently named the “Best Coffee Shop in Kansas” by Food & Wine Magazine.
Calling 930 W. Douglas home, it’s become a Wichita staple since owner Sarah Leslie opened the doors in early 2018.
It’s known as a place you “walked into and feel like you’ve stepped forward a decade or more.” The interior is filled with bright and airy decor, beautiful plants from floor to ceiling, and chic accents.
Employees at Leslie’s are well-trained and friendly. The coffee menu at first glance is clearly top-notch. There is no question as to why it was named the seventh best coffee shop in American by Food & Wine Magazine in 2019.
Leslie’s features handmade breakfast sandwiches, breakfast bowls, and pastries to name a few.
What to Eat:
- “Avocado Toast” with roasted red peppers + sprouts
- “Overnight Oats” with fresh blueberries + almond butter
- Bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich
What to Drink:
- “Matcha Latte” with almond milk
- “Vanilla Cappuccino” with oat milk and cinnamon.
Leslie’s is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Learn more about the menu and the history of the coffee shop, click here.
Afternoon of Adventure at Exploration Place
For a new kind of adventure, we made our way to one of Wichita’s favorite family-friendly museums: Exploration Place.
Known as the the Sedgwick County Science and Discovery Center, Exploration Place is Kansas’ premier science center.
Since opening in April 2000, it’s been inspiring a deeper interest in science and technology for all who explore its ever changing exhibits.
While some exhibits rotate out seasonally, others are permanent including the impressive “Design Build Fly”. The exhibit walks visitors through how planes are built showcasing tools used by aeronautical engineers on real life airplane models.
Guests can sit in the pilot seat and live out a celebrity’s life in the body of a real private jet.
It’s a great exhibit for those that are intrigued by airplane functionality or avid travelers such as myself.
A seasonal exhibit that is also worth visiting is “Survival: Are You Prepared?’
The exhibit teaches visitors valuable survival skills through hands-on scenarios. These survival challenges range from animal and insect bites in the rainforest and sunburns in the desert, to surviving intense temperatures in the high mountains.
It’s an especially useful exhibit for avid travelers who may find themselves in life threatening situations while exploring extreme environments.
Fun for the Whole Family
Other fun exhibits include “Health Inside Out”, which teaches visitors about the inner workings of the human body and physiology.
The “Explore Kansas” is also a must-see as it gives guests an in-depth look at Kansas’s weather and geological makeup. Plan to spend at least a half-day at the museum to experience all of the exhibits.
Exploration place is open from 10am to 5pm seven days a week. For membership options and ticket prices, click here.
Fire and Sunset at the Keeper of the Plains
I love to catch a good sunset, so when I was told to visit the Keeper of the Plains for the best view in Wichita, I didn’t hesitate.
So what is the Keeper of the Plains, exactly? It’s a fair question to ask upon hearing the name, but it’s a staple to the Wichita skyline.
A 44-foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture, it was created by renowned Native American artist Blackbear Bosin. Installed in 1974 to commemorate the United States Bicentennial, it now sits at the intersection of the Little and Big Arkansas rivers.
The area was renovated in 2007 to complete the grounds into what stands today on an elevated rock platform.
Due to the sculptures close ties to Native American art and culture, many tribes continue to gather at this sacred site to this day.
Fast Facts about Keeper of the Plains
Pedestrians can take in the views via two bow-and-arrow-inspired cable-stay bridges which span the rivers. A “Ring of Fire” is manually lit each night at the foot of the Keeper and burns for 15 minutes.
During high winds, rain, high water levels, or other inclement weather, the Ring of Fire is not lit. During Daylight Savings Time, the ring is lit on Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. for 15 minutes. On Sunday through Thursday nights it is lit at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. for 15 minutes.
The area is free and open to the public year-round.
Learn more about visiting the Keeper of the Plains here.
Brew + Bites at Norton’s Brewing Company
For some late night bites, we drove to the heart of downtown Wichita to check out the menu at Norton’s Brewing Company.
Outside, we’re immediately down to twinkly lights, lit fire pits, and cozy igloos perfect for winter dining.
A hip and popular craft brewery, Norton’s is known for much more than just the booze.
Owned and operated by entrepreneurial power couple Dan and Becky Norton, the brewery serves up some of the most innovative cuisine in the state. From sandwiches, dips, salads, burgers, and desserts, everything is made fresh in their from-scratch kitchen.
What to Eat:
- “Train Wreck” sandwich with smoked gouda, grilled onions, dijon mayo, bacon crack (candied bacon) on rustic panini bread; and
- An order of the “Parmesan Garlic Fries” served with garlic aioli dipping sauce (this one is for the garlic lovers!)
What to drink:
- A pint of the “Polkadot Princess” beer that had a light, mildly sweet peachy note; and
- Two ounces of the “Don’t Poke the Bear”, a darker brew with notes of Tahitian Vanilla, chocolate, and Kenyan AA coffee from a local spice merchant.
Other popular items on the menu include the “Bacon Crack” appetizer, and the “Monte Cristo” sandwich.
A Morning at Sedgwick County Zoo
We begin our fourth day talking a walk on the wild side at the Sedgwick County Zoo.
If you haven’t noticed by now, if I am traveling in a larger city, you will most likely find me at the zoo. I love animals, and there’s no better way to spend a morning (in my opinion).
The animals are most active in the mornings, and there are less crowds: a win-win.
The Sedgwick County Zoo is a special place. Not only is it considered one of the nation’s top nature preserves, it houses more than 3,000 animals and 400 species.
The zoo has also been recognized internationally for its support of field conservation programs, and its successful breeding of rare and endangered species.
Where the Wild Things Are
Animals at the zoo are separated into 11 separate exhibits making it one of the largest walk-through aviaries in the U.S. These exhibits are specially designed to help guests immerse themselves in the animal’s world for a truly unique experience.
Species from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, the Caribbean, Antartica, and South America take refuge on the grounds.
We make our way through the exhibits, finding particular interest in the penguin exhibit and the Koch Orangutan Chimpanzee Habitat. Floor to ceiling glass windows allow us to get up close and personal with the orangoutangs — a family that consisted of a father, mother, brother, and baby sister.
The open air giraffe exhibit is also state-of-the-art, and allows us to get safely within arms reach of the majestic animals.
An impressive new exhibit that can’t be missed is the Asian Big Cat Trek. Here, there are Amur Leopards, Snow Leopards, Amur Tigers, and Red Pandas in their natural habitats.
Plan to spend at least three hours walking through the zoo, or more if you want additional time at certain exhibits.
The zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. daily, and ticket prices vary. Click here to see membership options and special online pricing.
Mural Hunting in the Design District
It’s not a trip to Wichita without a stop at the Douglas Design District.
A combination of locally-owned businesses, the district features boutique shops, delightful eateries, and a collection of some of the world’s most beautiful murals.
Spanning 3-miles from west of the Arkansas River to east Wichita, Douglas Avenue runs through one of the city’s fastest growing communities.
Here, locally-created murals are found in every nook and cranny — literally. Even better, every year they paint even more.
Art and the City
Every September the city hosts Avenue Art Days in an effort to attract young artists to the area.
All of the murals are vibrant paintings that showcase messages of positivity, innovative designs, and plenty of Wichita pride.
Visit Wichita’s website offers an interactive map that provides exact locations of murals. However, visitors can simply drive down Douglas Avenue and explore on your own. They are hard to miss!
Below are a few of my favorite murals (with locations):
- “Greetings From Wichita”, 3215 East Douglas Avenue
- “Wichita Illustrated Map”, 2525 East Douglas Avenue
- “Souvenir of Wichita Kansas”, 3015 East Douglas Avenue
- “We’ve Got The Joy”, 3407 East Douglas Avenue
Kansas Strips at Scotch & Sirloin
Exploring the murals in the Douglas Design District took all afternoon, and then it was time for dinner.
We make our way to what we were told is “the best steakhouse in Wichita” — Scotch & Sirloin.
One of the “Top 20 Restaurants in the U.S.” for its wine and wine service, it has been Wichita’s premier steakhouse for nearly 40 years.
Serving fine wines, cocktails, and unique cuisines, Scotch & Sirloin serves anything but ordinary cuts of meat. The famous cocktail known as “The Aviator” is an easy first choice. It’s made with Aviation Gin, Creme de Violette, and lemon juice.
We decide to get the three course meal with an appetizer, main course, and a dessert.
What to Eat:
- “Classic Caesar Salad” and fresh bread with whipped butter. You can choose between a full salad or a half salad.
- The 14 ounce medium rare “Kansas City Strip”. Ask for “Oscar style” with crab meat and Bernaise sauce
- A side of whipped mashed potatoes with white gravy
- Skillet of “Lobster Mac n’ Cheese” to share.
- “New York Cheesecake” with strawberry sauce for dessert.
Fast Facts About Scotch & Sirloin
The servings at Scotch & Sirloin are generous. It’s easy for two to three people to share plates, especially a la carte items.
Cuts of meat include filet mignon, prime rib, Kansas City Strip, Rib Eye, and Au Poivre Medallions.
To view the full menu and learn more about the restaurant, click here.
Nostalgic breakfast at Jimmie’s Family Diner
After a full night’s rest and a quick morning coffee, we drive to brunch on Wichita’s east side.
A staple since 1987, Jimmie’s Diner is considered one of the 50 Best Diners in America. It’s also known as the best diner in the state of Kansas.
Serving up nostalgic dishes and desserts, guests enjoy fresh griddled pancakes, flapjacks, crispy bacon, omelettes, classic burgers, chicken fried steak, sundaes, and more.
We decide we can’t pass up a plate of the “King’s X-Waffle” that’s been a menu staple for more than 60 years. We get “The 5 Star” that includes a side of crisp bacon, plenty of butter, and scrambled eggs.
My mom orders one of Jimmie’s famous combos, the “Two-Two-Two.” It’s two eggs any style, two large pancakes, and two strips of bacon.
To share, our waitress tells us to get the jumbo homemade cinnamon roll — it’s a solid choice. Another perk of Jimmie’s are the prices. They are almost unheard of, and very family friendly.
Jimmie’s is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. Learn more here.
Great Plains Nature Center — Koch Habitat Hall
To enjoy the beautiful Midwest weather, we drive to Wichita’s most popular outdoor center.
Known as the Great Plains Nature Center, it’s an oasis in the heart of the city that offers free exhibits and paved walking trails.
One of the nature center’s main attractions is the Koch Habitat Hall, a 3,500 square foot educational center. The exhibit is home to a 2,200 gallon aquarium with local fish and rotating live animal exhibits, and many interactive exhibits.
Guests can walk through state of the art prairie, wetland, and woodland exhibits, and learn about the climate of the Great Plains. There is also a hands-on exhibit with bones, feathers, and furs that is perfect for families with kids.
At the far end or the hall sits the Bob Grass Wildlife Observatory that overlooks the Chisholm Creek Park wetlands. Here, we see numerous species of birds feeding and interacting including songbirds, wild turkeys, and mallard ducks.
Next, we head to the trails at Chisholm Creek Park. One of the largest parks in Wichita, it’s 282 acres with two-and-a-half miles of paved trails.
There is a shorter 20 minute loop that leads into the wetlands and back to the parking lot, which is perfect for a quick walk. We see other visitors enjoying picnics, leisurely jogs, and birdwatching along the way.
Fast Facts about Visiting the GPVC
Trails are all are ADA accessible and kid friendly. Pets and bikes have a designated path, and the collection of seeds and plant life is not allowed.
The Great Plains Nature Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and is always free to enter.
Learn more about the exhibits and history here.
Know Before You Go
While there are so many amazing things to do, see, and explore in Wichita, this itinerary can’t cover it all! However, this is a great starting point for those wanting to get the most out of their first time exploring this Midwest gem.
Here are some additional helpful tips:
- Average cost of lodging is $106 per night (between $44 and $138).
- Roundtrip flights to Wichita are between $178 to $254 on average.
- Rent a car to explore the entirety of the city, though Uber and Lyft are also available.
- Wichita is a generally safe city, but the best neighborhoods to stay in are Downtown, Wichita East, or Bradley Fair.
- Stay at least three to four days to explore most major attractions.
- Go for the barbecue, but eat more than just that! Wichita’s culinary scene offers something for everyone.
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