If you find yourself low on cash after paying for summer camps, classes and your family vacation, consider these free options for fun this summer in Wichita.
Make some memories
From disc Frisbee to dog parks, there are lots of green spaces and parks in Wichita and surrounding communities that you can enjoy for free, but you can make some fun memories at a special place in Sedgwick County Park, 6501 W. 21st St. Along a path on the west side of the park, you’ll find the Memories Park, which offers various backdrops, like an oversized blue chair, for family photos.
Walk around the art
Check out Wichita’s newest garden and sculpture place: the Wichita Art Museum art garden, 1400 W. Museum Blvd., which opened in September. The 8-acre park showcases 11 sculptures, including two new commissions, and is open 24/7.
Wichita State University boasts a collection of more than 70 outdoor sculptures on its campus. Some particularly fun sculptures to take posed photos or selfies at include “Millipede” near the 17th Street entrance; and “Man With Cane,” “Woman With Umbrella,” “Love” and “Three Women Walking,” all in the heart of the campus off Hillside Avenue. An online map is available at www.wichita.edu/ulrichmuseum.
Take a hike
Take a walk and learn about people and places of the area and Kansas in walking paths in downtown Wichita and in Haysville. The Art Trail, Wichita Historic Trail, Exploration Trail, African American Trail, American Indian Trail, Tallgrass Film Festival Trail and People of Kansas Trail go through the heart of Wichita. Find the maps at www.downtownwichita.org/get_around-bike_walking_paths.php. The Magic Trail and Sesquicentennial Trail are in Haysville.
Make a splash
Playing in water is a welcome cool-down in the hot days of summer, and there are several places – and times – where you can do that for free. Most of the nearly dozen interactive fountains and splash parks in Wichita and the surrounding area were scheduled to open earlier this month, weather permitting. Some, like the one at Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. South, feature spraying water creatures, while at Fairmount Park, 1647 N. Yale, there are two different areas to accommodate younger and older children. The newest splash park in Wichita is in Buffalo Park, 10201 S. Hardtner. Here are others to check out, too: NewMarket Square, 21st Street North and Maize; Old Town Plaza, 334 N. Mead; Lincoln Park, 1323 S. Topeka; Riverside Central Park, 720 Nims; Haysville, 525 Sarah Lane; and McLaughlin Park, 722 McLaughlin Park, Valley Center.
Free swim days are scheduled at the following Wichita swimming pools: Harvest, June 5; McAdams, June 10; Boston, June 13; Aley, June 25; College Hill, July 4; Minisa, July 10; Orchard, July 16; Linwood, July 18; and Evergreen, July 30. You’ll need to wear proper swimming attire.
Bowl ’em over
Through a national program, kids up to age 15 can bowl two free games practically every day at the following five bowling centers: Derby Bowl, 444 S. Baltimore; Northrock Lanes, 3232 N. Rock Road; Seneca Bowl, 1909 S. Seneca; The Alley Indoor Entertainment, 11413 E. 13th St.; and West Acres Bowl, 749 N. Ridge Road. You must register online at www.kidsbowlfree.com. All centers, except West Acres, start the program this month; West Acres starts June 1. All programs continue the entire summer to varying end times in September. You have to pay for shoe rental, which is generally about $3 or less. A discounted family pass, starting at $24.95, allows up to four adults to bowl two games every day with the kids.
Watch glass blowers in action at the Karg Art Gallery, 111 N. Oliver, Kechi, from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, and 8:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, but call ahead at 316-744-2422 to confirm, since schedules are subject to change.
No need to be bored
There’s no need to be bored with today’s myriad board games. Some encourage learning and life skills, like doing math, combining players’ efforts to reach a common goal rather than one-player domination, and learning to take turns and be a good sport. That’s the purpose behind Bonding With Board Games, a two-hour gaming event offered at the Sedgwick County Extension Center Sunflower Room June 3 and Aug. 12, starting at 7 p.m. Helpers are on hand to teach games, some of which take as little as 15 minutes to play. It’s a come-and-go sort of event. For more information, call 316-660-0114.
Grandparents and kids are encouraged to have a day out and play at a free inter-generational board game event 10 a.m. to noon June 18 at Naftzger Park, 650 E. William. Games will be provided.
More games, like horseshoes, and family activities are on tap when Barry’s Mobile Recreation Station, a traveling van named after the Wichita Park and Recreation mascot, visits the following parks from 6 to 8 p.m. on these select Thursdays: Osage, June 16; Fairmount, June 30; Harrison, 1300 S. Webb, July 14; and Buffalo, July 28.
More stuff outdoors
Kids can learn about Kansas habitats at the Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North. It’s free to visit the center – where you 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 wander the trails. The center offers several free, ongoing, year-round activities, like Naturally Crafty for all ages from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays; Story Time for kids ages 6 and younger at 11 a.m. Wednesdays; and Naturalist in the Know for all ages from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Special free summer activities include Nature Adventures, where naturalists share knowledge and experiences with nature and wildlife, at 1 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, June 6-July 28; Bird Walks (binoculars provided, reservations required) from 8 to 9 a.m. Saturdays May 21, June 4 and June 18; and Family Fishing Nights (tackle provided if you don’t have your own, reservations required) at 6 p.m. Thursdays, May 19, June 16, July 21 and Aug. 18.
For more information and details on the various programming, visit www.gpnc.org or call 316-683-5499.
You can visit two pretty awesome art museums for free – WSU’s Ulrich Museum of Art, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; and Wichita Art Museum on Saturdays. On July 16, WAM will party it up for its 81st birthday with free ice cream and live music.
The Ulrich Museum is known for its modern and contemporary art collection, while WAM is noted for exceptional American art.
Do it yourself
DIY is all the rage, so get ’em started young. Kids can make things like planters and other wooden crafts at free kids do-it-yourself workshops offered through Home Depot and Lowe’s. Participating children get a free apron through both stores. Register early online to ensure a spot.
Home Depot holds its classes from 9 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of the month. 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 and to register, go to www.lowesbuildandgrow.com.
Make some history
Kids ages 10 to 18 can climb to the top of the clock tower at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main, during the museum’s Young Historians Day, 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, June 3, when they can learn more about the museum and local history. In June, the museum is offering free writing workshops focusing on songwriting, Wichita history and cursive writing. Call 316-265-9314 for details.
Light it up
The iconic Keeper of the Plains statue is pretty impressive during the day, rising above the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers at 650 N. Seneca. But check it out from 9 to 9:15 nightly, when the five fire pots at its base are ignited (if the weather’s not too windy or the river too high) to pay tribute to the circle of life that includes water, earth, air and fire.
The dancing fountains at WaterWalk are now back on for the summer. The fountains’ 1,200 nozzles put on a 10- to 15-minute show set to music at noon, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The fountains are at 605 S. Wichita, between the WaterWalk apartments and the Boathouse. It’s free, but check the wind before you head out. The show doesn’t go on if wind speeds exceed 15 mph.
Check out the library
The Wichita public libraries offer free programming all summer long with puppet shows, crafts, drive-in movies and science shows geared to youth from babies to high school students. For teens, there’s grounded Quidditch, super-sized games and classes on writing a resume. For a complete schedule, go to www.wichitalibrary.org.