Plenty of low- and no-cost things to do in the Wichita area will keep kids entertained during the summer, from free bowling to DIY workshops to playing mega-size games outdoors.
Most of the activities listed here cost about $5 or less, even for adults. So get out your summer calendar and start putting together a plan for a cheap, fun summer.
Admission to the Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., is free every Saturday year-round, and kids and families can do a variety of self-guided creative activities – from coloring and drawing to reading or staging a puppet show – in the museum’s Living Room gallery. On the fourth Saturday of the month, WAM hosts a special Family ArtVenture event, offering various interactive activities. The museum will celebrate its birthday with free ice cream from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, July 19.
WAM also is offering four themed, two-hour workshops for ages 6-12 this summer. Space is limited for the Hot Art for Cool Kids workshops so make reservations online or by phone. An adult must accompany children under age 9 enrolled in the workshops. Themes are: “Glass: We Got Color, We Got Shape, We Got Rhythm,” June 4 for ages 6-8, June 6 for ages 9-12; “Things That Go Bump in the Night,” June 18 for ages 6-8, June 20 for ages 9-12; “Let’s Bust a Move,” July 2 for ages 6-12; and “Paint Me Silly,” July 16 for ages 6-8, July 18 for ages 9-12. All sessions are 2-4 p.m. The cost is $3 per child for materials.
For more information: www.wichitaartmusuem.org, 316-268-4929.
Through a national program, kids up to age 16 can bowl two free games practically every day at five area bowling centers. Shoe rental costs less than $3 at most centers. Online registration at www.kidsbowlfree.com is required. Program times at the five participating centers are: Derby Bowl and Seneca Bowl, 4-9 p.m. daily May 1-Sept. 1; Northrock Lanes, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, June 1-Aug. 31; West Acres Bowl, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, June 1-Sept. 30; and the Alley, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Sunday 1-10 p.m. May 1-Sept. 30.
For more information: www.kidsbowlfree.com
Butterflies, kites and really big games
Regular admission at Botanica, 701 Amidon, is $5 for kids ages 3-12, with kids younger than 2 admitted free. Adult admission is $7, but take advantage of reduced prices during some special summertime events. During any visit, kids ages 6-12 can check out an explorer’s backpacks for free at the front desk.
Visitors with a River Festival button June 1 will pay $3 admission to Botanica’s Butterfly Festival, celebrating the opening of the butterfly house. The first 100 kids through the doors, which open at 1 p.m. Sundays, get to release a butterfly. Visitors can do several butterfly-related activities and games. Admission is discounted $2 during the entire week of RiverFest, May 31-June 8, with a River Festival button.
Play a 6-foot Jenga, checkers with 12-inch playing pieces or try to knock down 2-1/2-foot bowling pins as part of $3 Thursdays in June, July and August at Botanica. The gardens will stay open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays (as well as Tuesday, but regular admission prices apply) during the summer.
To celebrate Father’s Day, June 15, fathers will get in for free, with admission discounted to $5 for family members older than 12. Special activities include face painting, arts and crafts and a kite festival, where visitors can fly kites or watch professionals.
During any visit, allow older kids to become creative by turning them loose with a digital camera as they explore the Downing Children’s Garden, the Butterfly House and other attractions.
For more information: www.botanica.org, 316-264-0448
Take some spins around the rink – either on blades or rollers – during discounted skate times at the Wichita Ice Center and two area roller skating rinks.
During select times Monday-Thursday, the Wichita Ice Center, 505 W. Maple, offers $2 admission, with free admission for those 4 and under. Skate rental is $3. Check times for Monday Madness, $2 Tuesdays, Wacky Wednesday and Family Skate on Thursdays on the center’s online calendar. For more information: www.wichitaicecenter.com, 316-337-9199.
At Roller City, 3234 S. Meridian, take advantage of Double Dollar Day from 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays, when admission is $2. Every Sunday, from 1:30-4 p.m., parents skate free, while kids’ admission is $4. Skate rental is $3. For more information: 316-942-4555.
At Carousel Skate Center, 312 N. West St., admission and skate rental is $4 on Wednesdays starting in June. For more information: 316-942-4505.
Learn a craft
Knitting and crocheting are popular pastimes again, and anyone can learn either form of needlework for $2 with the purchase of materials, which start at $2 for needles and hooks and $4 for a skein, in drop-in classes at Heritage Hut, 2820 E. Douglas. The two-hour classes are held Tuesday-Saturday at various times. For more information: www.heritagehutyarn.com, 316-682-4082.
Kids can take part in free kids do-it-yourself workshops offered through Home Depot and Lowe’s. Participating kids get a free apron through both stores. Register early online to ensure a spot.
Home Depot holds its classes from 9 a.m.-noon the first Saturday of the month. Upcoming workshops for ages 5-12 include building a pint-size riding lawnmower June 7 and a bug house July 5. To register, go to http://workshops.homedepot.com/workshops/kids-workshops.
Lowe’s Build and Grow workshops are held on select Saturday mornings. For specific information about workshops and to register, go to www.lowesbuildandgrow.com.
Go back in time
Kids can take a trip back to the 1880s and see what kids did for fun before video games and computers through Thursday Time Travelers workshops at Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd. For $3, kids in grades 1-5 can take part in two-hour workshops starting at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. the second and fourth Thursdays, June through August. Workshop topics are: Victorian games and amusements, June 12 and July 24, chores and games on the farm, June 26 and Aug. 14, and hunting and herding, July 10 and Aug. 28. Registration required two weeks in advance. For more information: www.oldcowtown.org, 316-350-3323.
Check out the library
One of the best things about a city library is all the free stuff – from checking out books to a plethora of activities.
The Wichita Public Library offers an extensive calendar of free summertime activities at its nine locations, ranging from story times to puppet shows to dance-alongs and toy-building Even teenagers can find something to do through the library, including a black light party, a mystery-solving event and a Doctor Who-themed event. Space is limited so register 48 hours in advance. A listing can be found at www.wichita.lib.ks.us/calendar.
The Derby Public Library is featuring a number of special musical and science shows throughout the summer. A schedule of events can be found at www.derbylibrary.com.
More than a playground
Some area parks offer more than just playgrounds, picnic tables and green spaces to roam.
Not only can kids play on three different playgrounds at O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd. in southwest Wichita, they can ride ponies or a miniature train, play miniature golf, fish or take a 30-minute pedal boat ride (with adults). Fees range from free (fishing) to $3, but with the purchase of a coupon book at the onsite concession stand – where live bait is also sold – activities will be $2 or less. Coupon books are $40 for 20 tickets and $70 for 50 tickets.
At Central Riverside Park, 720 Nims, visit a free zoo featuring 25 species including beavers, porcupine, hawks and owls or play in the interactive fountains, which were scheduled to turn on May 10. On the park’s walking path, which was once an old horse-racing track, read markers that tell more of Wichita’s history.
Bring Frisbees and play some holes of free disc golf in Wichita’s Oak Park, 1355 N. Oak Park Dr. in Riverside, and Herman Hill Park, near Pawnee and Broadway. Disc golf courses can be found at Derby’s Stone Creek Park, 6350 S. Woodlawn, and at two Haysville parks – Old Oaks Disc Golf Course, 501 S. Jane and Riggs Park, 301 Park Drive.
Every day is free at the Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. N., where visitors can see a 2,200-gallon aquarium with native fish and tall- and short-grass prairies with preserved, native animals in the Koch Natural Habitat, and do interactive activities.
Story time is 11 a.m. Wednesdays, and Nature Adventure class happens at 1:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, June 2-July 31. Both activities are free and registration is not required.
Take the whole family fishing even if you don’t have equipment during free Family Fishing Nights 6-8 p.m. Thursdays, June 12, July 10 and Aug. 7. Free fishing is limited to 30 participants and reservations are required. Participating families get a free tackle box.
During the free OK Kids’ Blast from the Past, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 24, participate in butter-churning, natural tie-dying, family bird-house building, old-fashioned toy making and more.
During the center’s 30th annual Walk with Wildlife 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 14, visitors can view more than 50 species of wildlife at stations set up along the center’s nature trail in Chisholm Creek Park. Admission is $2. Kids 12 and younger can register for a free fishing clinic the same day sponsored by the Wichita Eagle. Look for registration forms in the Eagle or contact Michael Pearce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information: www.gpnc.org, 316-683-5499
Take in a flick
The Palace West theater, 535 S. Ridge Road Circle, continues its Timewarp Tuesdays, where admission to any movie is $1.50 all day. The Palace will also have summer cult showings; check movie listings for the schedule.
The Starlite Drive-In, 3900 S. Hydraulic, one of the few remaining outdoor movie screens, offers special $12 carload price for triple features during the early and late part of the summer viewing season. For schedules and prices, go to www.starlitefun.com or call 316-524-2424.
Try live theater
Get a discount on live Picnic Theatre performances at the Wichita Children’s Theatre, 201 Lulu, with the purchase of a 10-punch family card for $50. Regular admission is $6 per person.
Productions, which are generally aimed at kids ages 2-8, are “Billy Goats Gruff,” June 12, 13 and 20; “Little Red Hen, “ June 26-27; and “The Three Little Pigs,” July 10, 11 and 18. Show times are 10 a.m., noon and 7:30 p.m. For $1.50 extra, theatergoers can take part in a pizza meal before the noon and evening shows. Children are welcome to come in pajamas for evening shows. Reservations requested for meals. For more information: www.wctdc.com or 316-262-2282.
Ballet Wichita is performing Peter Pan for its annual Ballet in the Park series in early June, telling the story of Peter and the Lost Boys taking on Captain Hook and the pirates through dance. The 45-minute production is free.
Productions are: 7 p.m. June 5, Augusta Public Library, 1609 State Street, Augusta; 7 p.m. June 6, Riggs Park 706 Sarah Lane, Haysville; 7 p.m. June 7, Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S George Washington Blvd. and 2 p.m. June 8, Main Street Park, 400 E. Main St., Mulvane. There will also be a performance at 11 a.m. June 7 as part of the River Festival.
Check out ‘world treasures’
The Museum of World Treasures, 835 E. First, offers discounted admission on its family night the first Thursday of the month. Admission is $5 per person, children under 4 are free. For more information: www.worldtreasures.org, 316-263-1311.
Family game night
Want to try out some new family games? Check out the free family board game nights in the Sunflower Room at the Sedgwick County Extension Center, 7001 W. 21st St., from 7-9 p.m. June 13 and Aug. 8. Helpers are on hand to teach games, as well. For more information: 316-660-0114