By Carolyn Erickson, Blogger of the Month for June
So far this month I’ve tried to avoid focusing too much on Wichita, because our whole state has wonderful places to explore that are perfect for a quick family getaway. But because I live here (and I blog about it), Wichita is the place I know best.
Whether you’re traveling from another town or you live here, Wichita has a lot to offer fun-seeking families in the way of a staycation.
Of course, one of the first thing to consider when planning your getaway is what time of year you’ll be in town. We just finished the Hoopla in Doo-Dah (Riverfest), and it is always one of my favorite events. The price of admission is a $5 button ($3 for kids), and that gets you in for the concerts, the fireworks, the ice cream social, and dozens of other events happening throughout the week. If that’s your idea of a great vacation, you could splurge on a hotel downtown and be right in the middle of all the fun.
But other events and activities throughout the year are worth making a trip to town. Some of them are low-key, and perhaps less publicized, like the Great Plains Nature Center’s Walk with Wildlife, an annual event in June that lets kids (and grown-ups!) get up close and personal with as many as 50 species of Kansas wildlife. The volunteers who staff the event are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and really make this a fun event.
Another favorite of ours is the Bradley Fair Jazz Concert Series. These free concerts are held Thursday nights in June and are great for anyone who enjoys a music-filled summer evening.
When the weather is nice, we love wandering through Old Town/Downtown Wichita on Final Fridays. This is a great way to see some of the art galleries in Wichita and the work of local artists. We start in Old Town Square, where you’ll find the City Arts building, the Old Town Warren Theater, and sometimes buskers (a.k.a. street musicians) performing for tips.
Most Final Friday events are free, so that leaves you with a little pocket money to splurge on treats or even to buy a work of art! On Saturday mornings, head straight back there for the Old Town Farmer’s Market, which features local produce and crafts, live entertainment, and activities for kids.
I should also mention that right there in the Farm and Art Plaza is the Museum of World Treasures, which is so full of treasures you could spend a week there, at least. Another favorite of ours, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, is not too far away, at Main and William streets downtown. Every time we go, we discover something new. Last time, we discovered a working phone booth with a rotary phone. My daughter had never seen one and didn’t know how to make a call!
The Wichita Art Museum (free on Saturdays), the Mid-America All Indian Center, and Cowtown are all in the downtown area as well, along with your pick of good restaurants, theaters, and other entertainment venues. Something you don’t want to miss if you can help it is a show by Diamond W Wranglers, who perform in the Empire House Theater in Cowtown. Not only are they terrific musicians, but they are great storytellers, and you’ll leave with images and songs of the Old West playing in your head.
Several of the hotels downtown are in beautiful historic buildings, and they may even have specials that include meals or entertainment, so you should ask if you decide to stay downtown. I haven’t done this yet, but I think it would be a real treat. While you’re downtown, be sure to look for sculptures. They’re everywhere! We just discovered this squirrel next to the Ambassador Hotel yesterday.
I’ve barely scratched the surface, but there’s no way I could cover everything there is to do in Wichita. Of course, GoWichita.com and my blog are great places to begin your search if you’re planning a staycation here. And you should always feel free to ask me for suggestions. If I can’t help, I can ask readers on Facebook or Twitter. (They’re a friendly, helpful group!)
Carolyn Erickson blogs at Wichita on the Cheap from her home in Wichita, Kansas. She is also an adjunct instructor at Butler Community College, a WordPress instructor for Pixel Time, and a consultant for a national blogging network. She’s the mom of a teenager, stepmom (not wicked) to two grown boys, mother-in-law to two great gals, and Grandma C. to two boys, with a third grandson
on the way just born!