72 hours in Wichita, Kansas: Things to do, places to eat, fun to have during
WICHITA: Regarded by many as a fly-over-state, Kansas has a great deal going for it, both as a place to live and certainly one you should consider visiting. There are some things that are just Wichita true. Like a farmer’s rough-skinned hand-shake that tells the story of life in The Wheat State. A warm greeting from a total stranger making you feel at home.
The wide-open spaces under clear skies and those clear horizons speak of the largess of the land. Barbecue is an art. Even Big Al’s, the local Chevrolet dealer seems more honest.
Hard work, good food, warmth, big skies and a horizon that swallows the setting sun. These are all synonymous with Wichita, Kansas.
Wichita: The Air Capital of the World
Situated in the south-central part of Kansas is Wichita. The town is the largest Kansas city with just over 300,000 people. This city has gone through and continues to go through many revolutions, creating a community in which both business and its residents enjoy good quality of life.
The aviation industry has been a part of Wichita since 1927 when Cessna Aircraft opened their first factory.
Wichita aircraft companies have built approximately a quarter-million aircraft leading to the 1929 Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce naming Wichita the “Air Capital City,” a title which the city has claimed ever since, expanding it to “Air Capital of the World.”
Wichita is a harmonious blend of an era gone by, with its roots steeped in American history, combined with a modern feel downtown that will cater to a variety of ages and interests.
It still has an older Midwest feel to it in regards to the energy of this town while doing a great job of keeping itself modern and relevant.
Originally open in 1922 as the Broadview Hotel, The Drury Plaza Hotel, located right on the Arkansas River, is a centralized hub for all things Wichita.
Its renovation in 2011 did a stellar job of preserving much of the original layout and design. The end-result is a harmonious combination of old-world charm with modern luxuries.
It provides high-quality suites, a free hot breakfast and its own happy-hour bar session they call “kickback reception” that takes place at 5:30, daily.
There is no better place than the mid-west to venture out and grab some comfort-food breakfast. Meeting all the requirements is the Doo-Dah Diner. Serving up the classics like biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, pancakes, waffles, omelets, chicken fried steak and other delectable dishes, it knows it farming community customers.
If you are not an early riser, the Doo-Dah actually serves breakfast menu twenty-four hours per day, so you’ll never be too late for breakfast.
If you’re looking for something spectacular; a place to eat classic breakfast foods with a twist, then you’ll need to try the Dempsey’s Biscuit Company.
At Dempsey’s they are masters of taking classics like chicken and waffles and kicking it up a few notches.
Additionally, the homemade biscuit breakfast sandwiches cannot be missed. With a small cafeteria feel and welcoming staff it is as if Starbucks meets a small eatery that makes its food with love, passion and a smile.
You can’t get fresher beer than from the source and that’s exactly what you’ll find at this brewpub, located downtown in the Old Town district. They keep 16 beers on-tap and offer-up a tantalizing food menu of many dishes that pair great with their beer.
A few menu highlights include house-made pork rinds, the Brewer’s Board cheese and salumi platter, marinated steak salad, River City fish n’ chips, the apple whiskey pork chop and it’s amazing selection of Mac n’ Cheese dishes.Monarch:
Just over the river from the Drury is the Delano district where you’ll find the Monarch Restaurant.
Sit outside on the enclosed patio or dine inside where find a modern decor that combines elements of old – there’s even a spiral coal-painting machine.
The casual menu features comfort food favorites that are sure to appeal to most anyone.
A few favorites include fried mushrooms, goat cheese poppers, an everything cheese ball, smoked salmon salad, the gold rush grilled cheese, the roundabout sandwich as well as its flatbread.
If you’re a fan of bourbon, you’ll not likely a better selection. In fact, Monarch has an entire Bourbon menu that can be enjoyed during happy hour.
Beer fans will appreciate the many locally-sourced craft brews.
Who would have thought that you can find world-class pizza in the heartland? Thanks to chef-owner, Robert McMullin, you can have Napoli-style pizza in Wichita. In fact, it’s so good, that even the most die-hard pizza snob will love the pies that Robert and his team turn out, each night.
The one pizza to order when trying a new pizza place is the classic Margarita. You know if they can do this one right then the rest of all they do will be equally as good. Even though it’s only three ingredients, the quality and care of the ones used are a direct reflection of the chef’s passion for making world-class pizza. Needless to say, Robert nails it.
You have the fresh mozzarella, a beautiful sauce comprised of only tomatoes and salt, along with fresh basil. They make their own dough that goes through a 3-day fermentation time. T
The end result is a beautiful blistering all the way around the pizza and a dough that’s to die for.
Things to do:
Take a step back into the old-west as you enter into this modern-day cow-town. Many of the structures are original and you’ll immediately feel like you’re in a Western Movie. There’s a working blacksmith, postmaster, and saloon (that also serves sarsaparilla).
You’ll see original textiles, furnishings and other delights here that give you a glimpse into Wichita’s past. It’s an all-ages attraction that will keep kids entertained for hours. There’s even actors dressed in period attire that will answer questions and show you how things were down in the 1800s.
Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works:
One of the last-remaining hat stores in the country, Hatman Jack’s makes custom hats, repairs hats and has a bountiful inventory on-hand.
They have outfitted many celebrities and politicians over the years and are the go-to store for any and all hat needs. Even if you’re not in the market for a hat, it’s worth stopping into this store and checking out Jack’s operation.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to fly in a vintage World War II Biplane, now is your chance. Stearman Sky Tours uses original 1943 Stearman PT-17 Biplanes to give you a ride – up to 40 minutes – that’ll make for a lifetime memory.
Pilots Greg Largen and Randy Hardy have over 9,000 hours of combined flight experience so you couldn’t be in better hands.
During the flight, you’ll have direct communication to your pilot as he points outnotable landmarks and gives you a brief history of the area. They’ll take all the questions you have about the aircraft and their role in World War II.
There really is not a better way to see Wichita than from about 200 feet above the ground at 80 miles per hour.
To see a sweeping history of the significance of aviation to Wichita, then make sure to check out the Kansas Aviation Museum that’s housed in the original Wichita Municipal Airport Terminal. You’ll see all sorts of significant aircraft that have played an important role to the area and the overall history of aviation.
Take the stairs up into the old control tower and you can hear live air traffic control from the nearby Air Force base.
Built on the shores of the Arkansas River, this modern science center has some of the coolest attractions you’ll find anywhere. An all-ages venue, there’s a good combination of features that are both entertaining and educational. The aviation exhibit focuses on Aerospace engineering.
You’ll see sections of aircraft you can sit in, kids can learn what it means to rivet airplane parts, test landing gear and climb into a private jet.
There’s also an area dedicated to traveling exhibits so you’ll want to call ahead of time to see what’ll be on display during the duration of your planned visit dates.
If you’re seeking an entertaining night out, the Old-Town area is where you’ll want to be. The combination of live music, friendly crowd and more food and drink then you can shake a stick at, create the ultimate adult getaway.
The brick-lined streets and converted warehouses create a yesteryear ambiance while the cornucopia of food and drink options are phenomenal.
A couple of must-try spots include:
This amazing distillery will reward with you in-house produced spirits that are as delicious as you’ll find most anywhere. Their vodka is absolutely to die for and the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful.You’ll find vodka, and whiskey produced from wheat as well as some delightful rum and gin. Make sure to try a martini with their own gin – to die for. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you like your drinks mixed or straight-up, the quality of what is being poured here is second to none and a shining example of how well spirits can be made.
Easily one of the best entertainment spots in all of Wichita. I stumbled onto this amazing venue while out and about around Old-Town.
It’s a quaint, hole-in-the-wall place that opens up into an amazing outside music venue with a stage and lighting.
The bar keeps the drinks flowing and there’s food as well. If you want to experience some of the best local musicians in an amazing setting, then the Brickyard is your de facto choice.
The bottom line is that Wichita has grown-up even if you haven’t known about it or simply regulated all of the heartland area as “nothing to see here”. The fact is, you’ll find plenty to do here, for all ages and there’s enough attractions, food drink and mid-west charm to keep you coming back year after year.
Far more than a fly-over state, Wichita Kansas is a worthwhile destination that’s great for singles, couples, families our friends traveling together. Whatever is your cup of tea for things to do, you’ll likely find it in Wichita.