Things to do in Wichita
I visited this unheralded patch of middle America with Wake and Wander’s Will McGough, who’s also no stranger to big-city dwelling. At some point we concurred that most braggy urbanites don’t actually take advantage of their theaters and museums, the worldliness at their feet -- ask most New Yorkers about their last trip to the opera and watch them squint back at you. In our respective cities, we decided, one live music venue, two bars, three neighborhood changeups, four restaurants, and five friends pretty much does the trick.
Translation: Wichita has more than enough to get a kick out of a weekend trip. The vibe here starts with a beer revolution that truly brings locals and visitors together. The city’s surging beer garden culture revisits pre-Prohibition USA, when every hamlet had beer-making public houses.
But a visitor cannot survive on draft pints alone. Now the milieu includes sophisticated art galleries, urban murals, 30-odd museums, live music venues, and a prairie-style Frank Lloyd Wright building. And “dragging Douglas” is back as Wichita’s favorite pastime; you’ll find Wichitans walking, using bike share, or hopping on the city’s free trolley. While mile-long freight trains rumble past Douglas Avenue, Wichita’s main drag flows through four diverse and dynamic neighborhoods:
Old Town now has 100-plus thriving businesses on brick-lined streets showcasing an anthology of mid-1800s converted warehouses, antique lamp posts, Coleman’s founding factory, and swank condos. You can feel history shaking hands with an overflow of happy hours.
Historic Delano, Wichita’s once notorious sin city on the Arkansas River, was known for booze-fueled brawls, busy hookers, gnarly gamblers, and overflowing saloons with cattle-driving cowboys prone to gunfighting (even though Wichita was a “check your guns at the door” city, even in those days). Today, you’re more likely to overindulge at a bakery or a brewery.
Downtown is a hub for humble-hipster expression and gathering spots like Gallery Alley and the Pop-Up Urban Park with rotating food trucks, such as Funky Monkey Munchies’ crab Rangoon tacos.
The Douglas Design District has fun hangouts like Donut Whole, a trendy-but-earthy donut shop and coffeehouse. The area is also erupting with murals representing the likes of Wichita’s cowboy and aviation history and forward-leaning “love where you live” messages. Wichita’s wide sidewalks mean you’ll get to wander around here without being punished like a pinball.