Expecting out-of-town visitors this summer?
Quick to-do list: Clean the house. Put fresh sheets on the guest bed. Stock the kitchen with their favorite snacks and drinks.
And, most important, look at Wichita with fresh eyes – tourist eyes – and plan a few activities to entertain your guests and show off the city.
Here are a few options to consider:• See the iconic Keeper of the Plains, which pays tribute to the Native Americans who made this area their home before settlers arrived. The plaza, at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers, includes pedestrian bridges, boulders, music, historical information and a “Ring of Fire” that lights up every evening between 9 and 9:15 p.m.
• Head to Old Town, Wichita’s premiere entertainment district. Eat at one of the district’s many restaurants, watch a movie at the full-service Warren Old Town Theater & Grill, enjoy live music in the courtyard or splash in the fountains, which run throughout the summer.
• Watch a movie at the Starlite Drive-In at Hydraulic and MacArthur. Wichita is among a dwindling number of cities that still offer families the nostalgic experience of double and triple features under the stars.
• Brave water slides or tube the lazy river at Rock River Rapids in Derby. The water park, which opens for the season May 27, is a fun and economical way to entertain children and teens in the summer. Open from 12:30 to 7 p.m. daily, the park costs $9 for adults, $8 for kids ages 3 to 17; children 2 and under free.
• Experience wildlife at the Sedgwick County Zoo, one of the state’s premiere tourist attractions. Exhibits include the Slawson Family Tiger Trek, the Cessna Penguin Cove and the Downing Gorilla Forest.
• Check out some stores and restaurants that you can’t find anywhere else: Browse antiques and thrift stores along Douglas Avenue. Have a dog and shake at Dog-n-Shake. Sample the goods at the Nifty Nut House. Grab a pair of cowboy boots at Sheplers. Try on hats at Hatman Jack’s. Have a handmade malt at the Old Mill Tasty Shop. Have a NuWay and root beer at NuWay Cafe.
• Enjoy free cultural events. The Art For Your Ears concert series – at 7 p.m. June 6, July 11 and Aug. 1 outside the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University – features singer/songwriters from around the country. Throughout June, the Wichita Shakespeare Company will perform “Two Gentlemen of Verona” at public parks in and around Wichita. And don’t forget the Final Friday art gallery crawls through downtown. (Check Kansas.com for details and listings.)
• Head to the ballpark. Watch the Wichita Wingnuts at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium or the WSU Shocker baseball team at Eck Stadium. If your guests visit in early August, you might treat them to Baseball ’Round the Clock during the National Baseball Congress World Series.
• Play slots or table games at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. The casino and resort, near Exit 33 on the Kansas Turnpike, opened in a temporary building in December 2011 and now features a hotel, restaurants and shopping.
• Go for a walk. Wichita features several outstanding parks and walking trails, including at the Great Plains Nature Center, Sedgwick County Park, Central Riverside Park and O.J. Watson Park.
• Visit one of Wichita’s museums or cultural attractions: Old Cowtown Museum, the Wichita Art Museum, Exploration Place, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, Botanica, the Museum of World Treasures, the Kansas Aviation Museum and more. Admission to the Wichita Art Museum is free on Saturdays.
• Tour an architectural treasure. The Allen-Lambe House Museum, at Second and Roosevelt in Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood, was designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1915. The museum is open for tours by appointment only, with at least 10 days’ advance notice. For more information or to schedule a tour, call 316-706-9286.