Summer Road Trip: Rediscovering Wichita

This week we are bringing you new ideas for weekend family road trips from Kansas City. For this post, the writer received an all-expense paid trip, however the opinions belong to the writer alone.

My family was in desperate need of a getaway. I am not interested in flying or a long car ride, especially with a three-year-old. So, we needed a close destination and something that wasn’t going to break the bank. We decided to head three hours south to Wichita. The city is very familiar to us; my husband is from Wichita. We usually visit once every other month to spend a weekend with family, but it’s never enough time to explore and be adventurous. This was our chance to be tourists and learn about the city we consider our second home.

Friday Night
We pulled into Wichita about 3 p.m. and checked in to our hotel, Homewood Suites by Hilton @ The Waterfront. Two words. Indoor pool. While I unpacked, my husband and the boys hit the pool. We were ready for our first night of exploring, but first we needed to fuel up. We had dinner at Ruben’s Mexican Grill in Wichita’s historic Delano District.

The food was amazing! I consider myself a Mexican food snob and I prefer traditional, authentic Mexican food and Ruben’s didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere was fun too. The restaurant was colorful and had bright and vibrant Mexican decor. We will definitely be going back. The Delano District was a fun area to explore. It’s filled with locally owned galleries, studios, restaurants and retail shops and has a hip vibe. It’s also in the path of the Q-Line trolley, which offers free transportation throughout the downtown Wichita area, and Bike Share ICT locations can be found in the area.  A definite plus, if your from out of town and each trolley runs approximately every 10 minutes.

We found a Pop Up Urban Park and the kids had a blast burning off some energy. They colored on the chalk wall, ran around and enjoyed some dessert. The Pop-Up Park also serves as a venue for local food trucks to provide a tasty lunch option for Downtown workers. A big summer plus, is that the food trucks are available for brunch and dinner. This was a fun option for the kids. I wish we could have spent more time here!

From there we headed to The Arcade in Wichita’s Old Town district. The Arcade has an amazing collection of retro arcade games. They have more than 60 80’s and 90’s arcade games plus pinball. You can play all the games for low price of an admission fee. 

The Arcade was awesome, my 9-year-old and my husband had so much fun. My older son is just now getting interested in video games so this was a great place for he and his dad to bond. There was some definite competition  going on! My 3-year-old did get frustrated after about 30 minutes because he couldn’t play any games. The Arcade isn’t geared toward toddlers, so I would make sure you have alternate plans if you have a younger child. If I could do it over again, I would have let my husband and older son go during my 3 -year-old’s nap time.

We finished our first night at the Keeper of the Plains. This is a can’t-miss experience in Wichita! The Keeper of the Plains is a 44-foot tall steel sculpture standing at the point where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers join together. The Indian Warrior sculpture pays homage to the United States Bi-centennial and has kept a watchful eye on the city ever since.  A complete renovation of the sculpture and installation of the Keeper of the Plains Plaza now brings people out each evening to see the Keeper and the “Ring of Fire,” which can be viewed during the summer months  at 9 p.m. for 15 minutes. It was pretty packed when we visited. This is a great activity for all ages. The Keeper of the Plains Plaza is a nice walk and a great way to end an evening, if you have little ones you will want to bring a stroller.

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Saturday
We started the morning at our hotel’s free, daily breakfast. They offered fresh fruit, eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy, fresh made waffles and more. We definitely took advantage of this perk!

After breakfast, we checked out Wichita’s Community Mural District. It’s a 3-mile stretch of more than 300 locally-owned businesses, and 50+ murals decorating the eclectic district. The art is vibrant, colorful and highlights the beauty of Wichita and the state of Kansas. It was a rainy morning, so we didn’t get to appreciate the full effect but the boys didn’t let the rain stop them. We are already planning to come back and walk the 3-mile stretch to experience all of the murals and artwork on our next visit.  A big plus is that visitors can view a mural map at http://avenueartdays.com/Maps or download the district’s Mural Map app. Plus, the  Q-Line Trolley is on the path if you don’t want to drive the route or you can walk it, you will need a stroller if you have little ones.  

We spent the rest of the morning at  Exploration Place. I can’t even put into words the excitement my kids had when they entered the building!  The museum overlooks the Arkansas River and is filled with activities to keep your family busy all day.

We started at all new Design Build Fly exhibit, which gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the aviation industry.  We had the chance to touch and feel genuine aircraft parts and learn  how airplanes are made. This exhibit had something for each of my kids and it was fun to watch them learn about all things aviation. You have the  chance to plot a flight path, design an airplane seat, test landing gear, sit in an executive jet, visit the Maker space for a hands on demonstration of how to build airplane parts and so much more. 

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Exploration Place also had a traveling exhibit, RESCUE. My 3-year-old really enjoyed this exhibit since he is currently obsessed with becoming a fireman. The exhibit displays the technologies used by emergency crews on land, in the sea and the air that are used to perform a rescue. We had the chance to lift off in a helicopter simulator, escape a burning building, locate a missing person, perform a daring water rescue on a jet-ski and be a reporter in the field covering a fire. 

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We could have spent a whole day at Exploration Place. There is an exhibit on nanotechnology, the human mouth, Kansas weather, trains, fossils, a play area to learn about agriculture and so much more. Exploration Place definitely kept each of my kids busy. And a mom plus is that hand sanitizer stations are in every exhibit as well as stroller parking.

We worked up an appetite! We headed to Jimmie’s Diner, which is a Wichita family tradition since 1987.  This place was right out of the movie, “Grease!” The drinks are from old-fashion soda fountains, the waitresses wear poodle skirts and have names like Tootie, Sandy and Frenchie. I got to take a picture with the original “Rizzo,” and did I mention the banana split?! 

While my three-year-old and I got in a much needed nap, my 9-year-old and my husband headed to leap tall buildings. They went rock climbing at Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex.  

My 9-year-old was hesitant but once he got into it, he loved it! The indoor rock climbing gym features a 38 ft. top-rope and lead climbing wall, auto-belays, 15 ft. bouldering wall and more. My 9-year-old said he felt like Superman!

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They still had more energy to burn so we headed to Wichita Sports Forum’s Aviate Trampoline Park. This was not your typical trampoline park! The Wichita Sports Forum is a sports complex which houses not only the trampoline park, but also basketball and volleyball courts, sand volleyball courts and an indoor soccer fieldThis is such a genius idea! If you have one kid playing on the courts, the other can be entertained at the trampoline park. It offers more than 20,000 square feet of play and includes an obstacle course, flying trapeze, dodge ball, basketball and more! There is also a toddler section, if your young one doesn’t want to jump with the older kids. Another plus, they had cubicles for shoes, coats and other belongings and hand sanitizer to wipe down kids on the way out. 

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We earned some calories and stopped at Ziggy’s Pizza. Ziggy’s is a locally-owned and family-operated restaurant. Their specialty is homemade pizza, which is the one food my kids never turn down. Ziggy’s didn’t disappoint. They ate every last bite on their plates.

We headed back to the hotel. It was a full day for mama. The boys got a second wind and headed to the pool. I hit the pillow. 

Sunday
We checked out of our hotel. We had a lot to do before we started our drive back to Kansas City.

I highly recommend Homewood Suites by Hilton @ The Waterfront. You can’t beat a free breakfast, plus the hotel’s indoor pool, basketball sports court and six-hole putting green. There was so much fun stuff to keep the kids occupied. Plus, they offer a Family Fun Night package which includes your room, snacks, toys for the kids and a $50 gift card. You can’t beat that!

We stopped at Hurts Donut for breakfast. This place is AMAZING! They have every kind of donut you can imagine and I had some pretty happy people. With over 70 varieties of donuts, there is something for everyone at this specialty donut shop. We went with gumball, peanut butter and German chocolate. Needless to say, there was none left.

We finished off our trip with a stop at the Sedgwick County Zoo, the seventh-largest zoo in the nation.  Grab your walking shoes and stroller because this place will definitely get you moving. The have a new new exhibit, Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley. It encompasses more than five acres of sprawling outdoors space, plus indoor facility and world’s largest elephant pool at 550,000 gallons.

You can explore the intimidating roar of the lions in Africa, the playful nature of the river otters in North America, the beauty of flight of the amazing birds in Australia and South America.We got up close with gorillas, colorful birds, playful penguins, poison dart frogs. The Sedgwick County Zoo has more than 3,000 other individual animals of all sizes, shapes and colors. The Zoo is breathtaking and just a beautiful place, which is why it’s the  No. 1 outdoor family tourist attraction in Kansas.

The Sedgwick County Zoo was another place where we could have spent all day. The kids were mesmerized by all of the animals.  You can even enjoy a snack or lunch while watching the giraffe roam around.

After the zoo, it was time to head back home. We had so much fun and we didn’t even visit everything on our list! Tanganyika Wildlife Park, Botanica Wichita and Rock River Rapids just to name a few.

My family had a great time rediscovering Wichita and our goal is to do something new each time we visit. Here is any easy Summer Vacation Planning Guide for your perfect trip to Wichita.  

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