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Tank Trip: Things to do in Wichita, Kansas

Keeper of the Plains The Keeper of the Plains statue watches over Wichita. | Photo by Trevor Hawkin/Visit Wichita

Wichita, Kansas, has acquired many names over the years: Cowtown for its cattle heritage, ICT after its airport code, and even the whimsical Doo-Dah for its laid-back vibe. But whichever name you use, Wichita means fun, with a long list of attractions that make it a go-to city for arts and entertainment.

What to do in Wichita

Botanica, The Wichita Gardens

Explore an oasis of display gardens, sculptures, and fountains at Botanica, the Wichita Gardens. | Photo by Trevor Hawkin/Visit Wichita

A great first stop is the Keeper of the Plains statue at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers. Cross a suspended pedestrian bridge for an up-close view of the 44-foot-tall steel sculpture designed by Kiowa-Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin. At its base, listen to the sounds of Native American chants and watch the Ring of Fire ignite at 9 p.m. in spring and summer and at 7 p.m. in fall and winter.

Known for its hands-on exhibits, Exploration Place is a science center for those who want to learn more about the way things work. Fly a virtual plane or fire up a rivet gun in the “Design Build Fly” exhibit, which shares a behind-the-scenes glimpse of airplane construction. In other exhibits, peer into a 7-foot replica mouth, explore a 3-story medieval castle, and safely step into a tornado. When you’re ready to relax, enjoy an enveloping 360-degree show in the Dome Theater.

Old Cowtown Museum

Old Cowtown Museum brings the 1870s to life with exhibits and demonstrations. | Photo by Glasscock/Visit Wichita

Exploration Place is part of Museums on the River, a group of attractions within walking distance of one another along the Arkansas River. Immerse yourself in the frontier at Old Cowtown Museum and discover Native heritage at the Mid-America All-Indian Museum. The Wichita Art Museum’s collection of more than 10,000 works emphasizes American art, and Botanica, the Wichita Gardens showcases an ever-changing landscape.

During baseball season, cheer on the Wind Surge at Riverfront Stadium, which opened about a year ago. As the Minnesota Twins’ Double-A affiliate, the team brings high-energy excitement and fan-friendly promotions to downtown from April through September. Walk the stadium between innings to view murals and sculptures. Along the way, you may spot the team’s mascot, Windy, who’s always up for a photo op.

A manufacturing hub for aviation, Wichita earned another nickname—the Air Capital of the World. Explore its history of flight at the Kansas Aviation Museum, located in the city’s original 1935 art deco municipal airport terminal. History buffs appreciate the interactive exhibits, a 360-degree tower view, and the vintage plane collection, including a 1944 Beechcraft Staggerwing.

You may also like: Architectural wonders you have to see

 Where to shop in Wichita

Nifty Nut House

A Wichita mainstay, Nifty Nut House overflows with roasted, salted, and raw nuts of nearly every variety. | Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

Stock up on salty snacks at the Nifty Nut House; Food Network’s Alton Brown called it “a national treasure.”

In the Old Town district, shop for home decor and gifts at Mr. Diggs Dwelling & Co.

Find grills, sauces, and more at All Things Barbecue in the Historic Delano District, which is also home to Bungalow 26 and its collection of goods for bath, body, and home.

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Where to eat in Wichita

Locals love Doo-Dah Diner for its hearty breakfasts, especially the Brutus: hash browns topped with chicken-fried steak, 2 eggs, sausage gravy, and caramelized onions.

Old Mill Tasty Shop

Stop in for lunch at Old Mill Tasty Shop, but save room for a sundae or shake. | Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

Families have been flocking to Old Mill Tasty Shop since 1932 for comfort classics like meat loaf; leave room for a milkshake or sundae from the soda fountain.

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Where to stay in Wichita

A historic gem on the banks of the Arkansas River, Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview dates to 1922. Rates start at $149.

Ambassador Hotel Wichita, Autograph Collection

A 1926 bank building was refurbished to create the AAA Four Diamond Ambassador Hotel Wichita, Autograph Collection. | Photo by Vanessa Whiteside

The AAA Four Diamond Ambassador Hotel Wichita, Autograph Collection wows guests with luxurious furnishings in an old bank building. Rates start at $219.

For Wichita tourism information, call Visit Wichita at (800) 288-9424.

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