With its Old West ambiance, down-home hospitality, and scenic position along the Arkansas River in the Great Plains, the city of Wichita, Kansas makes for an unforgettable getaway destination. Along with renowned tourist attractions such as the Sedgwick County Zoo, the Wichita Art Museum, and the Museum of World Treasures, Wichita features numerous lesser-known marvels perfect for exploring. Situated close to most Wichita vacation rentals are unique museums and architectural wonders, as well as picturesque parks and gardens. Here are the best hidden gems in the city of Wichita.
1. Botanica, the Wichita Gardens
Botanica, the Wichita Gardens lies in a picturesque location on the east bank of the Arkansas River in central Wichita. Botanica has numerous sections, including the Jesse Wooldridge Brosius Rose Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Chinese Garden of Friendship. The popular Butterfly Garden is full of nectar plants that attract swarms of migratory and native butterflies. In the Downing Children’s Garden, kids can explore a tree house, a fantasy monster woods, and an interactive farm. Activities include storytelling, chalk drawings, and puppet shows. The Gene E. Spear Railroad Garden has miniature railways running through elaborate landscapes.
2. Old Cowtown Museum
Located near the Arkansas River in central Wichita, the 23-acre Old Cowtown Museum is an open air living history museum with 54 historic structures simulating a town out of the Old West. For instance, the Blood Family Homestead and the Smith House are frame houses built in the late 1800s full of vintage period furniture. The Southern Hotel is a recreated simulation of a 19th century rooming house with a lobby and dining room on the ground floor. Retail establishments include a livery stable, general store, saloon, blacksmith, and saddle and harness shop. The structures are full of thousands of pieces of authentic furniture, clothing, and other memorabilia. Costumed historical interpreters make your visit an immersive experience, and you can opt for self-guided or guided tours.
3. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House lies near vacation rentals in the College Hill neighborhood on the east side of Wichita. The prairie-style house, which is named after Henry J. Allen, a former Kansas governor who built it in 1917, is renowned as one of Wright’s finest designs. Docents take you on guided tours through the iconic house and gardens and provide fascinating insight into this amazing creation of one of the country’s foremost architects.
4. Kansas Firefighter’s Museum
The fascinating Kansas Firefighter’s Museum is in the old historic Engine House Number 6 just south of downtown Wichita. The ground floor has Model-T and Model-A fire trucks, an old hand-operated water pump, and a hose reel from the 1800s. Other equipment on display includes uniforms, helmets, buckets, ladders, and many other items. Head upstairs to see the beds that firefighters used, the brass pole they slid down, and other firefighting memorabilia from all over the state. Near the museum is the Kansas Fallen Firefighter Memorial, which consists of a brick plaza, a statue of a firefighter amidst debris, a memorial wall, and an area for meditation.
5. Great Plains Nature Center
The Great Plains Nature Center lies in the southeast corner of Chisholm Creek Park in northeastern Wichita. The exhibits in the Koch Habitat Hall include a look at the original state of the prairie, the changes as settlers moved in, and the ecology of the rivers, lakes, wetlands, and woodlands. At the far end of the hall, the Bob Gress Wildlife Observatory looks out over the wetlands of Chisholm Creek Park. To view the park up close, explore the two and a half miles of nature trails through prairies and woodlands, and observe the diverse mammals, reptiles, and birds that inhabit it. Within the park, fishing is allowed at Chisholm Lake and Island Pond.
6. Mid-American All-Indian Center
The Mid-American All-Indian Center is on the east bank of the Arkansas River in central Wichita. The facility serves as a cultural center and museum devoted to Native American artwork and history. Among the displays are paintings, sculpture, pottery, beadwork, as well as handicrafts and artwork in many other forms. The museum also has videos and interactive exhibits that emphasize Native American heritage. An outdoor learning center features a full-size Plains Indian tipi, supply carts, and traditional gardens for medicinal and edible plants. Join a guided tour, or explore the museum on your own.
7. Tanganyika Wildlife Park
The Tanganyika Wildlife Park is a family-owned zoo that lies just beyond the western edge of Wichita. The facility emphasizes interactive experiences and up-close encounters with the animals. For instance, you can assist in feeding the rhinoceroses, giraffes, lemurs, tortoises, and other animals. Kids of all ages love to ride on the camels. You can even swim with the penguins in their enclosure. The zoo also schedules expert handlers for meet-and-greet time with animals such as servals, warthogs, monitor lizards, Burmese pythons, and other wildlife.
8. Great Plains Transportation Museum
Located near vacation rentals in downtown Wichita, the Great Plains Transportation Museum offers close-up looks at historic train engines and cars. These include several steam, diesel, and electric locomotives. Climb onto the locomotives, and daydream of bygone days as you sit in the engineer’s seat. The collection also has a baggage car, a postal storage car, a tank car, and various cabooses. Inside the museum, exhibits display historic signs, tools, lanterns, and other equipment and artifacts.
9. Riverside Park
Beautiful Riverside Park consists of north, central, and south sections on a bend in the Little Arkansas River in central Wichita. Among the amenities in the large central section is the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, a free zoo that displays local animals such as foxes, bobcats, minks, beavers, and porcupines. Central Riverside Park also has a large interactive splashing fountain that is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. On the park’s northwest edge, look for the fascinating stone and mosaic solar calendar.
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