BudgetTravel.com, the online resource for savvy travelers, included Wichita in its 2017 feature on the 51 coolest affordable hot spots in the U.S. (one in each state, plus Washington, D.C.). If you’re a budget traveler looking for an inexpensive vacation spot, add Wichita to your list of cheap places to travel.
Here is a sample weekend itinerary packed with Wichita’s budget travel deals:
Liquid fireworks: From May through October, watch the dancing fountains at WaterWalk. The fountains’ 1,200 nozzles put on a 10- to 15-minute show choreographed with lights and music at noon, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. The fountains are at 605 S. Wichita, between the WaterWalk apartments and the Boathouse. It’s free, but check the wind before you head out. The show doesn’t go on if wind speeds exceed 15 mph.
Find nearly a dozen free interactive fountains and splash parks across Wichita. Based on weather conditions, water playgrounds are turned on in late May and run through October.
View art: If you’re lucky enough to be in Wichita on the final Friday of the month, be sure to check out the Final Friday art crawl across the city, including a large concentration of stops in the downtown area. Galleries, studios, museums, restaurants and retail shops stay open late and welcome visitors to celebrate art with special showings, artist demonstrations and receptions.
If you miss Final Friday, don’t worry, you can visit the galleries during their regular business hours and there’s plenty of free public art to enjoy in Wichita any day of the month. Check out Gallery Alley, an under-utilized alley that has been transformed into a public space with permanent local art and also hosts public events, like outdoor movies. There are more than 40 art installations throughout downtown, and Douglas Design District has a growing series of murals created by local artists.
Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art is known for its modern and contemporary art collection and is always free. Its collection includes more than 70 outdoor sculptures across the WSU campus, including a massive mosaic mural by Spanish surrealist Joan Miró, one of only four in the U.S. and his only mural in the world made predominately of mosaic glass.
Ride the free Q-Line Trolley: Jump on board the Wichita trolley, the Q-Line, for fun and convenient transportation to restaurants, bars, hotels, museums and entertainment venues throughout downtown, from as far east as College Hill to as far west as the Historic Delano District.
Visit Kansas’ largest art museum for free: The Wichita Art Museum is always free on Saturdays. In addition to its collection of 8,000 pieces with an emphasis on authentic American art, the museum has an 8-acre outdoor art garden open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The museum also hosts special events on select Saturdays, from family-friendly art-making activities to yoga.
While in this area, check out our other Museums on the River. All of Wichita’s museums have affordable admission rates that will give you hours of entertainment. You can save a few dollars if visiting several museums by using the free Explore Card.
Go ice skating: No matter what the temperature is outside, you can enjoy ice skating indoors at the Wichita Ice Center. The center has public skating sessions daily for as low as $2 admission/$3 skate rental on weekdays and $7 admission/$3 skate rental on weekends. They offer free skate rental on Friday afternoons and a family skate package to save a family of four or more a little money.
Visit a free nature center: Great Plains Nature Center offers two miles of accessible trails through wetlands, prairie and riparian habitats on the 240 acres of the Chisholm Creek Park. The pathways are free as is the visitor center (closed on Sunday and Monday), which houses a 2,200-gallon aquarium and other nature exhibits. The nature center – a collaboration between the city of Wichita, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – also hosts youth, adult and family programs throughout the year. Many are free, including the all-age Naturalist in the Know from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
See the city’s iconic 44-foot-tall sculpture: The icon of Wichita, the 44-foot-tall Keeper of the Plains steel sculpture by Blackbear Bosin, stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers. The striking sculpture is free to visit as is the surrounding plaza that features exhibits depicting the Plains Indians’ way of life and representing the four elements essential to life – earth, air, water and fire. At nightfall throughout the year, the Ring of Fire surrounding the Keeper of the Plains is lit for 15 minutes. It’s a popular and lively gathering place for locals and visitors of all ages.
If visiting during the day, step inside the Mid-America All-Indian Center to learn even more about the history and culture behind the sculpture and other Native American artwork. Admission ranges from $3 to $7.
Enjoy the free wild wild west: Old Cowtown Museum is free on Sundays from April through October. Enjoy regular daily activities like gunfights and wagon rides at the living history museum, as well as special events like vintage 1870s baseball games on select Sundays.
Explore a downtown path on foot or bike: Take a walk and learn about people and places of the region via our downtown walking paths. The Art Trail, Wichita Historic Trail, Exploration Trail, African American Trail, American Indian Trail, Tallgrass Film Festival Trail and People of Kansas Trail go through the heart of Wichita. Scattered throughout downtown are stations for Wichita’s bike share program, Bike Share ICT. Users can borrow the bicycles through an hourly membership, at a rate of $3 an hour. Throughout Wichita there are more than 125 parks and greenways with walking and biking paths, including a scenic, paved trail on the banks of the Arkansas River.
Play at a park: Wichita’s park system has 144 parks with more than 5,000 acres of land. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s a disc golf course; dog park; Memories Park with oversized props and scenic backdrops to encourage fun photo opps; Riverside Park’s playground, interactive fountain and Kansas Wildlife Exhibit; or O.J. Watson Park’s 119 acres of picnic tables, playgrounds, volleyball courts, 40-acre lake for fishing and pedal boating or fee-based activities like miniature golf, train rides, pony rides and hayrack rides. There’s even the ICT Pop-Up Park, an urban park downtown on Douglas Avenue that has become a regular gathering spot for food trucks.