Fun things to do in Wichita when you’re short on money

A woman jumps up as she gets ready for the Tony Toni Tone concert at the Wichita River Festival. (June 8, 2012)
A woman jumps up as she gets ready for the Tony Toni Tone concert at the Wichita River Festival. (June 8, 2012) The Wichita Eagle

There are lots of ways to have fun in Wichita this summer without breaking the bank. Check out these frugal finds.

It’s a Keeper

The Keeper of the Plains, one of Wichita’s most recognizable features, is spectacular any time of day, but when, if ever, was the last time you saw the Ring of Fire? The five fire pots are lighted for 15 minutes every night starting at 9, as long as it’s not too windy or the river isn’t too high. The Keeper can be accessed by two suspended foot bridges stretching across the Little Arkansas and the Arkansas rivers. Park south of the Keeper in the far end of the Exploration Place parking lot at 300 N. McLean Blvd., or park north of the Keeper off of West Central near the entrance to Riverside Park.

Lights, water, action

It’s a spectacle for the senses when the Fountains at WaterWalk are turned on. The approximately 15-minute choreographed show combines lights, music and dancing water several times a day and evening during the summer. Weather permitting, shows are scheduled for noon, 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 5. For the latest show schedules visit wichitawaterwalk.com or the Wichita WaterWalk Facebook page. The fountains are near Gander Mountain in downtown Wichita, 605 S. Wichita.

For the bookworm

The Wichita Public Library offers lots of programming for adults, including monthly book discussions at various locations and times of day. Go to www.wichita.lib.ks.us and click on the events calendar. Watermark Books also hosts many book clubs and author talks. Visit www.watermarkbooks.com.

Garden variety

Botanica has a few options for the thriftily inclined. Starting June 4, admission on Thursdays is just $3 all day. As a bonus, giant lawn games are available to play Thursday evenings 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Enjoy live music all summer long at Tuesdays on the Terrace. Admission is $7 ($3 for members), and dinner is just another $7.

More information is available at www.botanica.org.

Float your boat

The Arkansas River Coalition holds regular floats to get people out and enjoying the Arkansas River. There’s no fee to join the floats; a donation is requested if you need to borrow equipment belonging to the coalition. Go to www.arkrivercoalition.org for more information. First-time paddlers are welcome, and a typical Saturday float covers 8-10 miles with a sandbar stop for packed lunches.

Happy hours

Happy hour drink specials have been back on the menu in Kansas for a few years now. Many Wichita restaurants only offer not only drink specials but also deals on small plates when you sit in the bar. Check with each restaurant, but happy hour typically runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.

Film fun

Movies are just $5 every Wednesday at the Warren Old Town Theatre Grill, 353 N. Mead.

Or head west to the Palace, 535 South Ridge Road Circle, where movies are just $3.50 each, and concessions are discounted, too. Be sure to take cash, though. Credit cards and checks are not accepted there. For an even better deal, go to the Palace on a Tuesday: Flicks are just $1.50 each all day for TimeWarp Tuesdays.

For nostalgia and a different ambience, visit the Starlite Drive-in, 3900 S. Hydraulic. If you can stay up, you’ll enjoy a double or triple feature for the cost of one.

Great outdoors

Explore the miles of bike trails and walking paths across the city of Wichita. The Parks and Recreation Department, found at www.wichita.gov, is a great resource for finding hidden gems throughout every quadrant of the city.

The Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North, is ideal for wanderers, walkers and runners, and the exhibits are also free.

Eyes to the skies

Embrace the Air Capital’s love of flight. For the price of parking, wander the new terminal (this side of security) at the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Or, head out to the Stearman Field Bar and Grill in Benton. Buy a drink, and watch the small planes fly in and out.

Field trip for Fido

Change up your regular routine, and take your dog to one of Wichita’s three dog parks: Meridian Dog Park, 2127 N. Meridian, Chapin Dog Park, 2466 E. MacArthur Road or Murfin Animal Care Campus Dog Park next to the Humane Society at K-96 and Hillside.

Art attack

The Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W Museum Blvd, is free on Saturdays. No entry fee gives you permission not to tour every gallery from top to bottom. Soak in a room or two, and then come back another Saturday. Take off your shoes and walk on the bridge that envelopes Chihuly blown-glass pieces.

Put the Wichita Center for the Arts, 9112 E. Central, on your radar, too. Admission to the gallery, open 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, is always free.


A $10 button will serve as admission to countless events during the nine-day Wichita River Festival, including the Koch Twilight Pops Concert, the Village People and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

The festival begins May 29.

Marvel at Museums

Even regular admission to Wichita’s many and varied museums is less than the cost of one regular-priced movie. Be a tourist in your own town. There’s something for everyone: Old Cowtown Museum, the Museum of World Treasures, the Kansas Aviation Museum, the Mid-America All-Indian Center and more.

Frugal Wichitans can make museum memberships work double for them. Not only do memberships allow unlimited visits to your favorite, but they often can get you into top-notch attractions in other cities with reciprocal membership programs. For example, an Exploration Place membership will gain you free entry into such places as the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and Science Museum Oklahoma.

Cultural events

Two of Wichita’s favorite cultural events are also free.

The Wichita Shakespeare Co. will perform “As You Like It” Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from June 5-21 at area parks. The production begins 7 p.m. June 5 at College Hill Park; June 6, Andover Sports Park; June 7, Mulvane Main Street Park; June 12, Central Riverside Park; June 13, Hand Park in Derby; June 19, College Hill Park; June 20, Hap McLean Park in Park City; and June 21, Central Riverside Park.

In September, the company will perform “Hamlet,” starting with a performance Sept. 4 in Central Riverside Park.

Opera on the Lake is back at Bradley Fair, near 21st and Rock Road, with Wichita Grand Opera’s soloists, chorus and orchestra performing favorites from Puccini, Verdi and more in an outdoor concert with the lake and the evening sky as a backdrop. Arrive early, bring a lawn chair and grab take out or ice cream from the shopping center’s restaurants. The production begins at 8 p.m. July 18.

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