For many, fall is the perfect time to picnic with the family before it gets too chilly.
Here are a few of the top spots in town to picnic with your kids:
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Wichita Art Museum’s Art Garden
The Art Garden at the Wichita Art Museum, 1400 Museum Blvd., is always free and open to the public, regardless of the climate. The Art Garden provides ample grassy areas to spread out a blanket and unwind while taking in the sculpture garden. While it’s not a total playground – you can’t climb on the sculptures or walk on the flower beds – it’s definitely a more kid-friendly environment to instill art appreciation in your kids from a young age. If you’re pressed for time, you can order to-go lunches from the museum’s Muse Cafe, which has a kids menu with dishes such as grilled cheeses, PB&Js, buttered pasta with Parmesan, and hamburgers. Admission to the museum is free on Saturdays, so if you go then, you can have a free morning and afternoon of fun.
Details: Wichita Art Museum, 1400 Museum Blvd. Art garden is free and open to the public; admission to the museum is free on Saturdays.
For years, Eastborough Park has been one of my favorites. Despite its relative closeness to the intersection of Kellogg and Woodlawn, the large brick walls surrounding the park almost completely block out the traffic noise. When you hang out in Eastborough Park, it’s almost like the rest of the world goes away for a while. It’s very relaxing. Plus, the park has a nice playground for the kids to burn energy while you prep the picnic spread.
Details: Eastborough Park, 33 Willowbrook Road, Eastborough.
For west-siders, it’s pretty hard to beat Buffalo Park — in terms of fun things to do and in the overall size of the park. Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean the kids can’t enjoy the splash pads, which opened earlier this summer. The splash pads operate from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily until late October, when they shut down for the season. The park also has gazebos, tennis courts and a large playground to keep the kids entertained for a full afternoon of fun. Bring a Frisbee or kite to take full advantage of the large fields at Buffalo Park.
Details: Buffalo Park, 10201 W. Hardtner. Splash pads operate from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily until late October.
Before last year’s Illuminations began, Botanica wrapped up construction on a new enclosed area by its koi pond and lake. Its doors open up much like those in a garage and provide access to the outdoors. For the kids, Botanica has its acclaimed Downing Children’s Garden, which is bound to keep your kids entertained for hours. You will have to pay admission to get in at Botanica (unless, of course, you’re a member).
Details: Botanica, 701 N. Amidon. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays year-round. In September, Botanica is open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Botanica is also open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays through October. Admission is $7 for adults (13-61), $5 for youth (3-12), and $6 for seniors (62 plus) and military.
O.J. Watson Park
No family picnic spot listing would be complete without mentioning O.J. Watson Park, on the south side of Wichita. Simply put, the 119-acre park offers the most family-friendly activities of any of the Wichita parks. A simple picnic could easily turn into a full day of mini golf, paddle boating, pony rides, miniature train rides and family fishing. In addition, O.J. Watson Park has three separate playgrounds of different sizes and on different surfaces to please any playground aficionado. Most of the attractions, like mini golf, paddle boats and pony rides, cost a couple bucks per person but are still cheaper than if you were to pay for the same activities elsewhere.
Details: O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd. Through Oct. 4, rides operate from 5 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 8 p.m. on weekends. Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 31, rides operate from 5 p.m. until dark on Fridays and from noon until dark on weekends.
ICT Pop-Up Urban Park/WSU Food Truck Plaza
If you’re after a different kind of picnic, the ICT Pop-Up Urban Park or the Food Truck Plaza on the campus of Wichita State University is the place for you. We all get busy, and sometimes it’s too much effort to pack an entire picnic lunch before going out. At either of these pop-up parks, you can have your lunch catered by one of Wichita’s many food trucks and still get the outdoor eating experience you’re craving. If you’re picnicking with young children, check out the WSU park first, as the downtown pop-up park is rather close to traffic on Douglas. Both places actively update their Facebook pages with a schedule of the food trucks planning to be in attendance, so be sure to like “ICT Pop-Up Urban Park” and “Wichita State Food Truck Plaza” on Facebook to get information on when to catch the trucks.
Details: ICT Pop-Up Urban Park, 121 E. Douglas. Wichita State Food Truck Plaza, 1845 N. Fairmount. Lunch is typically served from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For an up-to-date listing of the food trucks scheduled to be at both locations, check both parks’ Facebook pages.
Pawnee Prairie Park
Wichita’s Pawnee Prairie Park is one of the city’s oft-overlooked gems. The park, on the west side of town and just off Kellogg, provides many miles of marked nature trails to explore and offers ample spots for a family picnic. The area for picnicking is best accessed from the entrance off Pawnee, and if you choose to picnic here, feel free to bring the burgers and hot dogs. Pawnee Prairie Park has charcoal grills available (provided you provide the charcoal and lighting material), and picnic tables. Bring Fido as well, because dogs on leashes are welcome to come along while you explore the nature trails with the kids.
Details: Pawnee Prairie Park, east on Pawnee from South Maize Road.