Keeper of the Plans

The 20 top things to do in the Wichita area this summer

Sunrise drone flight over Cheney State Park

(AUGUST 29, 2017) - Take a sunrise drone flight over Cheney State Park.
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(AUGUST 29, 2017) - Take a sunrise drone flight over Cheney State Park.

Editor's note: During Twilight Tuesdays at the Sedgwick County Zoo, admission is $3 with a voucher. A previous version of this story was incorrect.

Memorial Day weekend: the last vestige of spring (or whatever passed for spring in Wichita this year).

Summer is just around the corner, which means it's time to bust out the sunscreen and the shorts.

We've compiled a list of the top 20 things to do in Wichita this summer — both special events and fun Kansas things to do all summer long.

Use this to help plan those long, lazy summer weeks.

Wichita Riverfest

June 1-9, downtown Wichita

Riverfest has always been the unofficial start of summer in Wichita — and for good reason. It's got just about everything you could want in a summer festival: two nights of fireworks, multiple concerts, fair food, street performers and lots more. For festival first-timers, be sure not to miss the opening-night Safelite AutoGlass Sundown Parade, followed by the Twilight Pops Concert and the Textron Aviation Opening Night Fireworks.

Buttons are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-12. www.wichitariverfest.com, 316-267-2817

Bradley Fair's summer jazz series

7:30-9 p.m. June 7, 14, 21, 28, July 5, Bradley Fair, 21st and Rock

Need a way to fill your Thursday evenings with free entertainment? Bradley Fair's summer jazz series is always a popular event for those seeking a good time. The series features smooth jazz artists from around the world, culminating with "Celebrate America" on July 5. There will be a long fireworks show after the "Celebrate America" show, perhaps the most popular of the jazz concerts. Many shops in Bradley Fair stay open late during the jazz series as well.

Free. www.bradleyfair.com, 316-630-9990

Music Theatre Wichita's summer season

Select weekends June 13-Aug. 18, Century II, 225 W. Douglas

Music Theatre Wichita is one of the city's premier arts organizations, regularly bringing in Broadway-caliber actors and actresses to put on a series of five musicals over a roughly two-month period every summer. This year, the company is producing "Sister Act," "Guys and Dolls," "Disney's Freaky Friday," "Pippin" and "Disney's The Little Mermaid."

$32-$69 per show, depending on time and seat location. www.mtwichita.org, 316-265-3107

Stearman Field Fly-In

10 a.m.-midnight June 16, Stearman Field, 14789 SW 30th St., Benton

This annual tradition is in its 11th year. Throughout the day, various aircraft will fly into the airfield, allowing visitors to see them up close. A car show is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Later that evening, The Lucky People will play from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Stearman Field Bar and Grill will be open for business.

Free. www.stearmanbarandgrill.com

Doc Sunback Film Festival

June 21-24, 101 E. Main, Mulvane

Will this summer take you down to Mulvane? The Doc Sunback Film Festival is one of the most underappreciated summer events in the Wichita area. It's a small film festival that highlights films made by both local and regional filmmakers.

$2 for about an hour’s worth of films; $39-$59 for VIP passes. www.docsunbackfilmfest.com

Field Station: Dinosaurs opening season

2999 N. Rock Road, Derby. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Sun. through Sept. 9, then switching to weekends only

Derby's brand-new dinosaur park attraction is sure to be a hot ticket this summer, especially for families with children between the ages of 3 and 11. The 14-acre park features 44 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, as well as a mini-golf course and an indoor "challenge course" with ropes. The park cost $6.5 million, and it opened Memorial Day weekend.

Tickets to the Dinosaur Path are $16.50 for ages adults 12 and over, and $13.50 for ages 2-11. Other attractions cost extra. www.kansasdinos.com, 855-999-9010

(FILE VIDEO -- MAY 24, 2018) Field Station: Dinosaurs, the new animatronic dinosaur park in Derby.

Last year for Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Ongoing through Sept. 3, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore

Baseball fans were a little shocked earlier this month as the Wichita Wingnuts announced this would be their final season at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Turns out, 2018 will be the last year for Lawrence-Dumont in general. Take this chance to enjoy a couple of ballgames at Wichita's longtime ballpark before it is gone for good — and for superfans, the first 1,000 people at the Aug. 28 game will receive a mini replica of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

$6-$13. www.wichitawingnuts.com, 316-264-6887

Tuesdays on the Terrace at Botanica

6-8 p.m. Tuesdays from May 29-Sept. 25, Botanica, 701 N. Amidon

Looking for Tuesday-night relaxation and live music this summer? Botanica is bringing back its popular Tuesdays on the Terrace series of concerts for four months. The gardens will be open, and while you're at Botanica, be sure to check out its Butterfly House, which will be open for the season.

$10 nonmembers, $5 members. www.botanica.org, 316-264-0448

Red, White and BOOM! fireworks show

5-10 p.m., July 4, Hyatt Regency Wichita, 400 W. Waterman

This popular Fourth of July event, sponsored by the Wichita Parks Foundation and Freddy's Frozen Custard, is returning this summer. Food trucks will be on site starting at 5 p.m., and a beer garden will be open all night long. Local '80s dance band The Astronauts will perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m., and the fireworks show is scheduled to start at 9:45 p.m.

Free. www.wichitaparksfoundation.org

Twilight Tuesdays at the zoo

Tuesday nights in July, Sedgwick County Zoo, 5555 Zoo Blvd.

Every Tuesday night in July, the Sedgwick County Zoo stays open late for its annual Twilight Tuesdays series. Admission to the zoo is $3 after 6 p.m. with a voucher from select local Cox Solutions stores or a zoo membership. Vouchers are available after June 22. The zoo stays open until 8:30 p.m. — perfect for late-night fun with the animals.

$3 with voucher. www.scz.org, 316-660-9453

Find out what it takes to feed all of the creatures at the Sedgwick County Zoo. The annual budget for food is $750,000. If you have an idea for Inside Wichita, please e-mail jgreen@wichitaeagle.com.

Sedgwick County Fair

July 18-21, Sedgwick County Fairgrounds, Cheney

What do monster trucks, carnival rides, wacky foods and a parade all have in common? They’re all things you can find at the annual Sedgwick County Fair. Check out favorites like the annual Sedgwick County 4-H show and Fair’s Got Talent to whatever concerts the fair brings in.

Ticket information not yet available. www.ourcountyfair.com

Pretty Prairie Rodeo

July 18-21, Booster Club Arena, 202 N. Elm, Pretty Prairie

What's more Kansas than going to a summertime rodeo? And of the many rodeos in the state, I've always found the Pretty Prairie Rodeo to be the best of the bunch. The event, which bills itself as the Largest Night Rodeo in Kansas, is attended by thousands every year. Watch bull-riding and mutton-busting, then stick around for dances every night.

$11-$25. www.pprodeo.com, 620-459-6205

LevelUP parking garage party

2-11 p.m. July 21, 215 S. Market

This summer, to celebrate Wichita's birthday, a group of creative locals are organizing an unconvential party in the Sutton Place parking garage. There will be live musicians, makers, yard games, local shopping, craft beer tastings and more — culminating in a rooftop party where a DJ will perform.

Free.

El Dorado Dam Music Festival

July 27-28, El Dorado Lake, El Dorado

The Dam Music Festival was a big hit in its inaugural year last July — so the festival is returning with a bigger lineup this year. Headlined by Toby Keith, the festival will also feature country stars Brantley Gilbert, Colt Ford, Aaron Lewis and Jamey Johnson, among others. There will be sponsored beach parties through the festival as well.

$99. www.dammusicfest.com, 316-866-2940

Kansas State Fair

Sept. 7-16, Kansas State Fairgrounds, 2000 N. Poplar, Hutchinson

If Riverfest is the unofficial start of summer, then the Kansas State Fair is the unofficial end of summer in Wichita. School is already in session by this point, but the State Fair will surely grant that last elusive taste of summer. Be sure to take in some of the fair classics, like pig races, chicken-bathing shows, Midway carnival rides and tasting a variety of odd fried foods. Pronto Pups and chicken noodle dinners are some of the fair's best food options.

Tickets $7 for adults, $4 for children until Sept. 6. www.kansasstatefair.com, 620-669-3600

The perennial racing pigs at the Kansas State Fair on September 11, 2015 in slow motion. (video by Jaime Green)

Honorable mentions: Things to do all summer long.

Take a dip in the pool

Starting Memorial Day weekend, pools around the Wichita area

The city's eight public swimming pools open to the public on Monday, as well as Derby's popular Rock River Rapids waterpark. The daily cash-only rate at Wichita public pools is $2 for ages 17 and younger, $3 for adults or $8 for a family of six with at least one adult. Admission at Rock River Rapids is $9 for ages 18-59 and $8 for everyone else. The four waterparks at area YMCA locations open on Saturday — which are open to nonmembers for $10 per person or $18 per family.

www.wichita.gov/parkandrec, www.rockriverapids.com, www.ymcawichita.org

Kayak on the Arkansas River

noon-3 p.m. Saturdays from June 16-Aug. 18, by the former Gander Mountain space, 605 S. Wichita

If you've ever wanted to kayak or paddleboard on the Arkansas River but don't have the equipment, the City of Wichita Park & Recreation Department can help. This summer, it's offering kayak and paddleboard rentals on Saturday afternoons from mid-June to mid-August. Participants will receive basic instruction on kayak paddling techniques and safety beforehand. Life vests are provided.

$10/hour for kayaks, $15/hour for stand-up paddleboards. Cash only.

Rent a Kansas cabin overnight

Various parks around the state

In Wichita, we often forget just how cool a night in the more rural parts of our state can be. Kansas has oodles of natural beauty just waiting to be found — and if you're looking to make it a lakeside weekend, there are cabins for the renting. A few parks I'd recommend: Kanopolis, Cross Timbers, Eisenhower and Clinton state parks. HorseThief Reservoir is a private retreat worth mentioning as well.

Rates vary. www.ksoutdoors.com/state-parks/reservations

Kansas state parks use yurts to offer a camping alternative.

Watch movies at the drive-in

Showtimes vary, Starlite Drive-In, 3900 S. Hydraulic

Wichita is home to one of a few remaining drive-in movie theaters in the country, so this summer is your chance to take advantage of that. Pull into the drive-in (which is now charging individual admission for the summer) to catch a weekend triple-feature, which just may keep you at the drive-in until 4 a.m., depending on how late the movies start. Call or check the website for showtimes.

$9 for ages 12+, $3 for ages 5-11, free for ages 4 and under. www.starlitefun.com, 316-524-2424

Pick fresh berries at a local farm

Strawberries, peaches, blackberries in season during the summer at various farms

Visiting a you-pick berry farm is a fun way to get a taste (literally) of summer. Various local farms let guests pick their own berries, which can be a fun experience for the whole family. A few local suggestions: Elderslie Farm (blackberries), Meadowlark Farm (peaches) and Sweet Berries and Brambles (strawberries, blackberries).

www.eldersliefarm.com, www.themeadowlarkfarm.com, www.sweetberriesks.com

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