So it’s mid-March and you find yourself in Wichita.
You’ll likely be spending a lot of time in and around Intrust Bank Arena for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have down time.
What is there to do in this Kansas town?
We’ve compiled a quick-and-easy guide to the top attractions here, other than the tournament.
▪ Keeper of the Plains, 650 N. Seneca
The Keeper of the Plains is our town’s most recognizable icon – it’s a 44-foot-tall statue of a Plains Indian looking skyward, erected at the confluence of the Little Arkansas and Arkansas rivers – a stone outcropping accessible via pedestrian bridges. During the day, the Keeper of the Plains provides a restful spot to take in the Arkansas River. Park in the back of the Exploration Place parking lot, 300 N. McLean, for easiest access.
Hours: Open 24/7
Don’t miss: At 9 p.m. nightly, fire pits surrounding the Keeper are lit in a “Ring of Fire” for 15 minutes. It’s free.
▪ Sedgwick County Zoo, 5555 W. Zoo Blvd.
The zoo has a national reputation as one of the country’s top zoos and features a variety of animals – from penguins to lions to giraffes and elephants. Wear comfortable shoes, though, as you’ll be walking a lot.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Cost: $15.95 adults 12-61, $11.95 seniors 62+ and youth 3-11, free for children 2 and under
Don’t miss: In 2016, the zoo finished the $10.6 million Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit. Check out the elephants as well as the Koch Orangutan and Chimpanzee Habitat, another popular exhibition.
▪ Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, 701 N. Amidon
While plants are just beginning to bloom, there is still be plenty of greenery to appreciate.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Cost: $7 adults 13-61, $6 seniors 62+ and military, $5 youth 3-12
Don’t miss: If you have kids, don’t miss the Downing Children’s Garden. It’s got an elaborate playground, rainbow arches to run under, a “musical maze” and other fun and educational areas. The garden’s most recent addition is its Chinese Garden of Friendship, painstakingly recreating a Ming Dynasty-era garden – complete with a pond and mini-waterfall and pagoda.
▪ Kansas Star Casino,777 Kansas Star Drive, Mulvane.
Located about 16 miles south of Wichita on I-35, the casino has more than 1,770 slot machines, 50 table games, a poker room, nightclub and five restaurants. Must be 21 or older.
▪ Underground troll sculpture, northeast of the Keeper of the Plains, along the north riverbank
A grate by the riverfront has a bronze carved troll lurking underneath, gazing up to the light. It’s something you should look for if you’re visiting the Keeper of the Plains, if for no other reason than its oddity.
▪ Commerce Street train platform, east of Commerce Street, off Waterman (adjacent to the railroad tracks)
Just across the street from Intrust Bank Arena is this area, which at first glance appears to be nothing more than a parking lot. But look further back, near the Finn Lofts, and you will find a stage/platform that was recently built by area artists to allow people to watch freight trains pass. At night, there are light-up LED “railgrass” sculptures that blink when a train is passing through.
▪ Central Riverside Park, 720 N. Nims
Not saying the park is necessarily “weird,” but it does have its quirks. Inside the park is a little free zoo of sorts, called the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, featuring animals that can be found in Kansas. Its claim to fame came in 2015 when its beaver, named Chapa, escaped his enclosure, leading the entire city to go on #ChapaWatch in an attempt to locate the rogue beaver. That actually happened. He’s back in his enclosure for public viewing. There’s also a miniature Stonehenge-looking sculpture installation in the park that’s popular on solstice days, when light shines perfectly through orbs installed on the piece.
▪ Museum of World Treasures, 835 E. 1st Street
This museum is the city’s most eclectic, as it was originally a wealthy Wichita man’s private collection of artifacts from all over the world including shrunken heads, a roughly 65-percent complete T. rex skeleton and a section of the Berlin Wall. It also houses two 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummies. Best of all: It’s in the heart of the Old Town entertainment district. 316-263-1311
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.
Cost: $9.95 adults 13-64, $8.95 seniors 65+, $7.95 children 4-12, free for children 3 and under. Family Day Pass (2 adults, 2 youth) available for $32.95
Don’t miss: The museum recently reworked its fossil area, which includes Ivan the T. rex. While they’re not originals, be sure to check out the Hall of Presidents, where you can see copies of presidential notes from George Washington through Barack Obama. The museum has the originals in its storage areas. Only copies are on display.
▪ Exploration Place, 300 N. McLean
Wichita’s science museum is primarily geared for kids but also entertaining for adults. The domed IMAX theater daily screens educational films (and the occasional Pink Floyd concert). The building is one of the most unique, architecturally, in downtown Wichita. It was designed by the architect Moshe Sofdie, who also designed the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore. 316-660-0600
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
Cost: $10.50 adults 12-64, $9 seniors 65+, $7 youth 3-11, free for children 2 and under
Don’t miss: Exploration Place’s “Design Build Fly,” an homage to the city’s aviation industry. It includes interactive stations, on manufacturing aircraft from tightening bolts to spraying an even coat of paint.
▪ Wichita Art Museum, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.
It has one of the most prestigious collections of American art in the country. While you’re there, learn about the Prairie Print Makers, one of the region’s most important art groups of the 20th century. It recently opened an outdoor “Art Garden” that’s free to the public. A large statue by Tom Otterness – a Wichita-raised artist – sits outside in the garden. Admission to the museum is free on Saturdays (except for admission to its newest traveling exhibition). 316-268-4921
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.
Cost: $7 adults 18-59, $5 seniors 60+, $3 students with ID and youth 5-17, free for children under 5. Free on Saturdays
Don’t miss: “Monet to Matisse: French Moderns, 1850-1950,” an exhibition on loan from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Tickets to this exhibit are an additional $10.
For the family
▪ Starlite Drive-In, 3900 S. Hydraulic.
One of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters left in the country, is officially open for the season. It costs $13 per carload. For more information and to see screentimes, visit www.starlitefun.com. 316-524-2424
▪ Warren Theaters, east-side, west-side and Old Town locations.
Sure, you can see a movie anywhere, but Wichita’s Warren Theaters are a little more upscale. It was one of the best privately owned movie theater chains in the country. Last year the theaters sold to Regal. The east-side theater has a luxury 21-and-over section, the west-side theater has a world-class IMAX theater, and the Old Town theater has straight-to-seat food service. After 8 p.m., the Old Town theater is open to people 18 and older. The east and west side theaters are modeled after art deco theaters, featuring marble floors, neon lights and hand-painted murals. For showtimes, visit www.warrentheaters.com.
▪ Wichita Ice Center, 505 W. Maple
Still in the figure-skating spirit? The Wichita Ice Center downtown holds public skating hours and rents ice skates. For more information on the ice rink, visit www.wichitaicecenter.com. Skating typically costs $7 with a $3 skate rental. 316-337-9199
▪ The Arcade, 139 N. Mead
This retro arcade recently opened in the Old Town entertainment district, and it’s a hot spot for people who love arcade games. It has more than 60 classic game cabinets, primarily from the 1980s and ‘90s, including four games in the Pac-Man series. All machines are set on free-play, and you pay either $8 for an hour or $10 to play all day. It’s open 6-10 p.m. Thurs., 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat., and 1-8 p.m. Sun. 316-844-0010
▪ The Alley, 11413 E. 13th Street
Probably the nicest bowling alley in Wichita, this will entertain both adults and young ones. It has cosmic bowling lanes in addition to the regular lanes, an arcade, pool tables, go-karts and large bowling-alley pizzas. It’s open noon-11 p.m. Wed., 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Thurs., noon-1 a.m. Fri., 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., noon-11 p.m. Sun. 316-618-1000
▪ Wichita Sports Forum, 2668 N. Greenwich
If you have kids who need to burn off some energy, the Wichita Sports Forum is a popular indoor 20,000-square-foot trampoline park and sports venue. It’s got a ninja obstacle course, extreme dodgeball, trampoline basketball dunking, a trapeze and more. On Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m.-midnight it hosts “Club Aviate,” an event for teenagers 15 and older, where the park is lit up with blacklights, glow lights and laser lights. It’s $10 per hour. 316-201-1414
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