Sitting in the middle of the United States, Wichita has a vast mixture of traditions and cultures, all on display around the city. While in town, be sure to take advantage of one of these cultural experiences:
Mid-America All-Indian Center
Learn about Wichita’s native populations and their impact on history and today’s society. At the Mid-America All-Indian Center tells the stories of tribes through artwork and artifacts, offering more than 8,000 items explaining the tradition and culture of the Plains Indians.
Visitors have the chance to view and purchase authentic artwork in the gift shop, knowing the proceeds go back to the native community and the artists who work so hard to create these masterpieces. Also available: jewelry, movies, CDs, food and other types of artwork.
Outside, visitors can see a real, full-size tipi, travois and a medicinal native garden representing the type of lifestyle of the Plains Indians. There are also artists gardens honoring the life and works of Comanche-Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin and Potawatomi artist Woody Crumbo.
Blackbear Bosin created the most iconic sculpture in Wichita, the Keeper of the Plains, which sits just outside the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Woody Crumbo was a Wichita State graduate and Wichita Symphony Orchestra flautist. He also created many famous works of art, some of which are owned by Queen Elizabeth II.
Learn more about how you can get immersed in native culture here.
Keeper of the Plains
After visiting the Mid-America All-Indian Center, head outside for the perfect photo opportunity standing beneath the 44-ft.-tall Keeper of the Plains. This sacred sculpture means a lot to all people in Wichita, but is especially important to the native community.
Among the Keeper Plaza lives an environment of plants, yucca, medicinal herbs and cacti. Visit the Keeper by crossing the pedestrian suspension bridge. If you visit at night, get ready for one of the most beautiful experiences in Wichita. At 9 p.m. March-October and 7 p.m. Nov.-March, enjoy the Ring of Fire, the lighting of large fire pots in the river to complete the Keeper Plaza tribute to the Circle of Life: water, air, earth and fire.
Learn more about the cultural impact of this magnificent monument here.
Old Cowtown Museum
Step out of the modern world into the land of 1860s at Wichita’s Old Cowtown Museum. This one-of-a-kind experience takes you back to the 19th Century when cowboys ran the Wild West and Wichita was a booming cattle town. Sitting right along the Chisholm Trail, the town (not quite a city) moved thousands of Texas Longhorn cattle through, on their way to Abilene.
Old Cowtown Museum commemorates this time period with a more than 10,000-piece permanent collection of artifacts, tools, textiles, furnishings and buildings from 1865-1880. The museum focuses on telling the story of Wichita’s transformation from a simple settlement to a booming cattle town before it evolved into an agricultural and manufacturing hub.
You won’t believe your eyes when you meet and interact with costumed interpreters re-enacting the traditions and lifestyles of Wichitans in the days of the Chisholm Trail. Keep your eye out for several live animals, including Percheron horses, a Durham milk cow, sheep, a goat and several chickens.
Children will have a blast with hands-on activities, educational programming and interaction with the actors who answer any question the crowd might have. Plus, stop into the saloon for an ice-cold sarsaparilla, or witness a re-enacted gunfight as it erupts in the streets!
Learn more about your options for this interactive experience by clicking here.
The Kansas African American Museum
Experience the history of African Americans in Kansas and the strong fight against segregation in America on a cultural tour with The Kansas African American Museum. On the Civil Rights Tour, visit a bronze statue recognizing the 1958 Dockum Drugstore Sit-in, the first, successful, student-led sit-in in the nation. The tour moves to the site of a deadly 1965 plane crash that killed more than 30 people near 21st Street and Piatt. Learn about the fight against discrimination right here in Wichita at what was then Ackerman Island Park (now, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium) as you discover the history behind a 1925 baseball game between the Ku Klux Klan and a local Negro team called the Monrovians. Follow that up with a trip to a memorial of the national campaign with local roots. World War II's "Double V" campaign (victory at home against discrimination as well as victory abroad against the Axis) began with a letter from a Wichita cafeteria worker's letter to the nationally circulating Pittsburgh (PA.) Courier newspaper. Civil Rights tours are available by appointment only.
The Kansas African American Museum is now establishing a Kansas African American History Trail, a federally funded, statewide project to preserve black history. As of 2017, the museum joined with partners to tell the story of black Americans in Kansas at a collection of historical sites. Those sites include the following:
- Nicodemus, African American Township
- The Buffalo Soldiers, stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Ft. Riley and active in Ft. Scott and Baxter Springs
- Brown vs. Board National Park
- The John Ritchie House, Abolitionist
- The Richard Allen House, home of a Buffalo Soldier
- Home of Langston Hughes, Lawrence
- Home of Gordon Parks, Ft. Scott
- Several sites of the Underground Railroad, Lawrence
- John Brown Memorial Park, Oswatomie
- The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Kansas City
- George Washington Carver, Ottawa and many more!
There are several other ways to get a dose of culture in this city of culture. Always check Visit Wichita then plan your cultural getaway!