Suzanna Mathews, known as the Date Maven, has made a career of date coaching and matchmaking services.
Wichita’s biggest fault with dating, she said, is its own bad attitude. Many perceive a lack of opportunity, but that’s just not the case.
“If you make an effort, you can pretty much find something to do,” Mathews said.
She offered ideas for three great outings in Wichita, whether it’s for a first date or the 500th.
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Keeper of the Plains
“I love what I call a walk-and-talk date,” Mathews said. “I love an activity that gets people moving physically.”
She suggested starting at Wichita’s iconic Keeper of the Plains sculpture. The dating duo can head north into Riverside Park on foot or choose to visit Exploration Place or the Wichita Art Museum.
“It gives a way to get under the hood with the other person,” she said.
Another nearby destination is Delano for a drink or coffee.
And of course, the couple will need to walk back to the Keeper at the end of the date.
“I like the Keeper as a place to begin and end,” Mathews said, calling it both “romantic and spirited.”
Kansas liquor laws changed in 2012, and it has been a boon to Wichita daters. Happy hour drink specials had been prohibited since 1985, but the new law allows alcohol-related promotions for a portion of a day.
Mathews suggested that daters make a game to visit all the happy hours in town over a series of dates.
“Sometimes, maybe it’s going well – you stay for dinner,” she said.
Melissa Schumacher and her husband regularly do happy hours for their date nights. They got hooked when they lived for a year in Oregon and were thrilled when Kansas’ law changed in 2012. They find that the happy hour deals are much better than the daily specials that were previously permitted by state law.
“We don’t even go out that much, but when we do, we do happy hour,” Schumacher said.
For the Schumachers, the draw is not just the discounted drink prices – it’s also the accompanying small plates on the bar menus at many restaurants. They like to eat early, so happy hour works for them for dinner.
Schumacher recommends arriving early, since customers usually have to sit in the bar to get the happy hour specials.
It’s also worth checking in with each restaurant, she said, as days and hours vary slightly. Typically, happy hours start around 4:30 and end by 6:30 on weekdays.
Movies will always have their place, but particularly for new couples or people on first dates, Mathews recommends activities that allow for conversation and varied encounters.
For that reason, Wichita’s Final Friday art crawls fit the bill. On the last Friday evening of the month, area galleries, museums and shops stay open late, typically from 7 to 9 p.m.
“There’s something new every few steps,” Mathews said.
Consider starting on Commerce Street across the street from Intrust Bank Arena, she said, and then head toward Old Town. Each month’s schedule is listed in The Wichita Eagle’s Friday Go! section or can be found on the Final Friday ICT Facebook page.
On a recent Final Friday evening, Janine Kesterson and Travis Cravens strolled hand in hand down Mead Street. It was their first visit.
“We’re normally looking for something to do on Friday nights,” Cravens said.
They thought art would be interesting, and the price – free – was right.
Friends University student Rachel Funk attends Final Fridays frequently – sometimes with friends and sometimes on a date.
Funk says Final Fridays are great for both established couples – you might find a memento to purchase along the way – and for potential couples – “you’re not awkwardly sitting there at dinner.”