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Smack-dab in the center of the country sits a mellow city that may not be on your radar—yet. Wichita is quietly making a name for itself through its vibrant arts, historic haunts, and Midwest charm, proving it’s one city that shouldn’t be overlooked.
By Amanda Gleason
Hotel at Old Town Situated just blocks from the galleries in Wichita’s lively Old Town neighborhood, this boutique getaway invites guests to relax in its low-key piano bar after eyeing the city’s finest art.
Hotel at Waterwalk Your favorite reds and whites await at this all-suites spread’s lively bar, where karaoke takes center stage Saturday nights.
The Inn at Glenstrae Snuggle up next to the wood-burning fireplace in this cozy B&B, built around 1900 and surrounded by towering black walnut trees.
Continue to paint the town and...
The creative juices are flowing at Wichita Center for the Arts. Need proof? Look no further than their 14,000 square feet of gallery space, filled with grand oil paintings like Clyde Aspevig’s 2012 Victoria Falls Canada. Or how about the 484-seat theater, which hosts plays like Bruce Norris’ racially charged, 2011 Pulitzer Prize–winning Clybourne Park? But the inspiration doesn’t stop there. During monthly workshops, this artistic hub gives anyone with an inkling to design the chance to create their own keepsake. Young van Goghs will have a ball painting animal portraits, while adults can try their hand at photography and jewelry-making. And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, wine classes covering the basics of the beverage have been added to the lineup to give you one more reason to raise your glass.
Make a beeline to:
Botanica Peacock red kale and pansies are in full bloom at this garden escape, where eager visitors can partake in classes ranging from kitchen botany to arts and crafts.
The Forum Theatre Classics like Driving Miss Daisy are performed regularly at this nonprofit theater, which has seating for 600 guests throughout its two levels.
Prepare to explore the land down under as you…
Make Your Descent
The salt of the earth hang out 650 feet underground at Strataca, located about fifty miles northwest of Wichita in Hutchinson. This subterranean attraction was built within a 27,000-square-mile bedded salt deposit that stretches across central Kansas and was formed when the Permian Sea dried up some 275 million years ago. Though guests aren’t allowed to travel to the active mining site (salt has been mined here since 1923), you’ll still have a blast riding the double-decker shaft below ground; exploring the Stratadome, a 100-foot-long room made entirely out of salt; and eyeing one of the first diesel-powered mining vehicles. Itching for more? Armed only with a lighted hard hat, have a go at the new Salt Safari, a three-hour hike through rugged areas of the mine. Now that’s going against the grain.
Old Mill Tasty Shop Savor a vanilla, chocolate, or cherry Coke at Wichita’s oldest downtown restaurant, where you’ll still find the original soda fountain from 1932.
Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar This rousing hangout serves more than 160 martinis, including the Fallen Angel, made with Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, white chocolate, and dark crème de cacao.
Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper A visit to this 77-acre ranch includes a four-hour dinner spectacle featuring all-you-can-eat barbecue followed by a Western-themed show.
Get ready for an outta-this-world trip when you…
Blast to the Past
Got stars in your eyes? If so, you’ll feel right at home at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which boasts one of the largest collections of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. You’ll be blown away by treasures like the Russian Vostok I, which carried the first human into space in April 1961; the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, which housed the famed crew on their attempted trip to the moon in 1970; and Liberty Bell 7, the space capsule recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in 1999 after a flawed mission sank the vessel nearly 40 years earlier. If that doesn’t leave you feeling on top of the world, check out the moon rock collected by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their monumental Apollo 11 lunar mission. Looks like if you ask for the moon, you just might get it.
Then settle in at:
Starlite Drive-In Every Thursday through Sunday, new movies unspool at this throwback venue, which screens double and triple features on select weekends.
Watermark Books While munching on mocha muffins and gingersnaps, bury your nose in some 30,000 titles found at this cafe and books nirvana.
Exploration Place Continue your space quest with a spin on this interactive learning hub’s flight simulator, or check out the live science demonstrations, dinosaur films, and more.
Dig deeper into the city’s roots when you…
Relive the Past
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo once roamed. Located along the Arkansas River, the 23-acre Old Cowtown Museum is modeled after an 1870s Midwestern cattle town. Saddle up to the log cabin of Darius Munger, one of Wichita’s founders, or watch a man of steel bang away at his trade at the blacksmith shop. In need of a cure for what ails you? Drop in to Fritz Snitzler’s Saloon for a sarsaparilla, a soft drink believed to have healed skin problems, or stop by the drugstore to eye peculiar herbal remedies. (Did you know dog fennel boiled with lard was used to soothe sore throats?) Though it’s open year-round for self-guided tours, be sure to visit when costumed reenactors set the scene every Saturday of the year and every Tuesday through Saturday from April to October—if you can hold your horses.
Getting There Fly into Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (ICT).
Getting Out Through February 26, admission to Sedgwick County Zoo is only $2.50 on Wednesdays.
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