Keep kids busy with budget-friendly activities in Wichita area

Nate Tinius, 12, rides a tube into the water at the Richard A. DeVore South YMCA and Farha Sport Center on Labor Day in 2012.
Nate Tinius, 12, rides a tube into the water at the Richard A. DeVore South YMCA and Farha Sport Center on Labor Day in 2012. File photo

Bored kids are known to bug their parents or cause some mischief. It’s best to keep their minds and bodies occupied in summer, but it’s not always easy to do on a budget.

Make a family summer bucket list or fill a basket or jar with activities on strips of paper. Be sure to include things you can do around the house, such as bake cookies, draw with sidewalk chalk, play a board game, perform a skit and make slime or play dough.

You’ll also want to include free or cheap things to do all around town. Fill up your parenting arsenal with some of these options.

Interactive fountains

The city of Wichita has several options for interactive fountains. Put on bathing suits and take along towels. Particularly popular are Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. South, and Riverside Central Park, 720 Nims. Riverside has the advantage of lots of mature trees nearby as well as a wildlife exhibit. Other fountains are located at NewMarket Square, 21st and Maize; Old Town Plaza, 334 N. Mead; Lincoln Park, 1323 S. Topeka; and Fairmount Park, 1647 N. Yale.

Kids Bowl Free

Four alleys – The Alley Indoor Entertainment, Northrock Lanes, Seneca Bowl and West Acres Bowl – participate in the the Kids Bowl Free program. Sign up at for two free games daily throughout the summer. You will still need to rent bowling shoes, unless you happen to own them.

Book it to the library

In addition to shelf after shelf of material to check out, local libraries are a great source of programming. Keep in mind that you can also check out audiobooks, DVDs and electronic books for your devices. In addition to regularly scheduled story times, the June, July and August @ your library guide details free events for kids and teens, such as crafts, science projects and puppet shows. Visit Suburban libraries offer lots of programming, too. For example, the Derby Public Library is hosting Mr. Kneel with a hip-hop class for kids. At the Andover library, patrons can check out specialty cake pans and get family passes to local museums that are good for seven days.

Dive in

It’s hard to beat the YMCA water parks if you have a membership. If not, day passes are $10 for an individual or $18 for a family. Visit for locations. Don’t forget city pools as well, where admission is just $2 for children and $3 for adults. Find details under Recreation and then Aquatics at

Watson Park – it’s elementary

Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd., is worth the trip no matter where you live in Wichita. Rides on ponies or the miniature train are just $2 each. Pedal boats and miniature golf are $3 each. Also available are a campfire ring, volleyball courts and fishing on the 119-acre grounds.


There are many more gems of parks across town. In addition to your neighborhood park, be sure to check out Exploration Park, on the grounds of Exploration Place. It is divided into three distinct play areas for different ages. Sedgwick County Park, 6501 W. 21st St., boasts a “boundless playground” designed to be more accessible to children with disabilities. For skateboarders or aspiring skateboarders, check out the Wichita Skatepark at 645 S. St. Francis.

Wichita Wild

There are 12 parks and three undeveloped properties designated as Wichita Wild Habitat Areas. You’ll find prairies, streams and woodlands instead of manicured parkland. Take a hike, look for birds or just enjoy nature. Find the Wichita Wild areas on under the Parks tab. If that seems a little too wild, Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North, is another option. Admission to the grounds and the exhibits is free.

Hands on

CityArts, the city-owned art and creative gallery, offers a free Adult and Me Workshop from 10 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of every month. Children can take home a project they’ve created with the adult in their life. Workshops are set for June 13, July 11 and Aug. 8. For information, go to

Craft stores and home improvement stores offer free or low-cost workshops for kids. Be sure to register in advance. Michaels Kids Club projects are $2 per child. Lowe’s holds Build and Grow workshops at 10 a.m. on select Saturdays. Home Depot offers free kids workshops on the first Saturday of the month. Chick-fil-A also periodically offers “chef” classes for kids.

Movie mania

The Palace, 535 S. Ridge Circle, is inexpensive any day – at $3.50 per ticket – but especially so on TimeWarp Tuesdays. Tickets are just $1.50 all day. Be sure to bring cash – checks and cards are not accepted.


A Riverfest button is your pass to nine days of entertainment May 29-June 6. Adult buttons are $10, and those for kids 6-12 are $3. Younger kids don’t need a button. Visit for the full 2015 festival guide.

Garden party

Admission to Botanica, 701 Amidon, is just $3 on Thursdays all summer long. The Butterfly House enthralls kids, and the addition of the Downing Children’s Garden has made Botanica a top-notch destination for families. Play life-sized games in the garden on family game night Thursdays at Botanica.

All aboard

For train lovers, there are a couple of options. The Great Plains Transportation Museum, 700 E. Douglas, is open Saturdays and Sundays. The charge is $4 for ages 4-12 and $7 for adults. The Wichita Toy Train Club and Museum, 130 S. Laura, is open Saturday and Sunday on the second and fourth weekends of the month. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

Pioneer spirit

Head back to 1870 and give kids a taste of the Victorian era at Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd. The one-room schoolhouse, printing press, jail and more will fascinate them. Tuesday Time Travelers is a program offered the first and third Tuesdays of summer months. The two-hour programs cost $4 each for kids and adults. Two weeks’ advance registration is required. Topics include games, chores, hunting and herding. Visit


Entry to the Wichita Art Museum is free every Saturday. Additionally, WAM offers special programs for kids. During June and July, Art Start, aimed at ages 3-5, lasts 90 minutes. The Hot Art for Cool Kids programs last two hours and are aimed at ages 6-8 and 9-12. The fee is $5 per session, and registration is required. Visit for program dates and details.

Join the club

Invest in a membership for your family’s favorite spot in Wichita, whether it be Exploration Place, the Sedgwick County Zoo or the Museum of World Treasures. Go weekly, and make that price per visit go way down. Other institutions that offer memberships include the Mid-America All-Indian Center and Kansas Aviation Museum. All Star Adventures sells season passes as well.

Check out the zoo

Although the dates haven’t been set yet, Cox again will be sponsoring Twilight Tuesdays at the Sedgwick County Zoo. Admission is free from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on select dates with a voucher that will be available at these Cox stores: 2556 N. Maize Road, 2240 N. Rock Road and 725 E. Douglas. Check for details.

Nonmembers may visit the zoo for just $1 during the back-to-school bash from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 1. Bring school supplies to help needy kids in the community.

Wake up to the sound of lions roaring at the zoo’s creature campouts featuring overnight stays and flashlight tours. Cost is $35 per person. Campouts are scheduled for May 22, June 27 and Sept. 4. No tent? Sleep inside the Slawson Tiger Trek or the Downing Gorilla Forest for just $25 per person. Contact the zoo at 316-266-8213.

Wild Wednesdays

Wednesdays are the day to visit Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard. During June and July, a child’s admission is free with a paid adult, and the park is open until dusk. The park also offers a $3 hotdog meal on Wednesdays. Adult admission is $16.99, and admission for a child age 3-11 regularly costs $11.99.

Ride the Q-Line

Take the kids on a free trolley ride. The Q-Line runs downtown from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays, and noon to midnight on Saturdays. To track the Q-Line in real time on your mobile device, visit

Skating by

Check the calendar of the Wichita Ice Center at for discount public ice skating sessions. Instead of $10 for admission and skate rental, it is only $5 for ages 5 and up on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For roller skating, Roller City and Carousel have certain sessions that are cheaper than others. Consult their calendars to save a little money.

Be part of history

Rock River Rapids is trying to set a record for the world’s largest swimming lesson, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. June 18 at the pool, 1900 E. James St. in Derby. In an attempt to break the Guinness World Record of 36,564, Rock River Rapids will join aquatic centers from around the world as a part of the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson. Free.

Picnic theater

Enjoy a live production along with pizza, a drink and a cookie for $7.50. Wichita Children’s Theatre and Dance Center is staging “Pinkalicious,” “Chicken Little” and “Pinocchio.” For 10 a.m. shows, only cookies are served, and the cost is $6. Information:

If you exhaust this list and the kids still aren’t exhausted, there are always chores to assign.

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