Military members visiting Wichita, the Heart of the Country, will have a variety of attractions to explore during their stay. Here are some of the museums and destinations not to be missed that stand out for their exhibits which honor military, showcase war artifacts and tell the stories behind Wichita’s rich aviation history.
Photo credit: Darrin Hackney
Kansas Aviation Museum
Just outside the gates of McConnell Air Force Base, the Kansas Aviation Museum is housed in the original Wichita Municipal Airport. The museum gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves in Wichita’s deep connection to flight. Indoor exhibits educate guests about aircraft companies including Boeing, Cessna, Beechcraft and more, all of which were founded in Wichita – the Air Capital of the World. New in 2022, the Women of Aviation Museum exhibit features aviation greats like Amelia Earhart and Rosie the Riveter. Outside, visitors can get an up-close look at airplanes including a KC-135, Cessna Citation, Learjet and Boeing 737 to name a few. Don’t miss the Control Tower, which features a 360-degree view from one of the highest points in the city.
B-29 Doc Hangar, Education and Visitors Center
Home to one of only two airworthy Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft remaining in the world, the B-29 Doc Hangar, Education and Visitors Center offers guests the opportunity to view the historic airplane and get a closer look at Wichita’s aviation heritage. Found wasting away in the Mojave Desert in 1987, Doc has been restored to flying status and now serves as a flying museum. Depending on the day, guests may be able to watch volunteers maintain the warbird in the 42,000-square-foot facility and ask questions. Those wanting an enhanced experience may choose to purchase a 30-minute ride on Doc for up to nine passengers. Because Doc travels for a variety of events, it’s wise to check the schedule or live streaming before planning a trip. A Women of Aviation exhibit was added in 2022 and honors women who worked in the defense industry during World War II.
Museum of World Treasures
Conveniently located in the heart of Old Town, the Museum of World Treasures has something for every history buff. The museum gives visitors the chance to view treasures from around the world from the age of the dinosaurs, past presidents and more. The museum also features weaponry, uniforms and other artifacts from the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam War and Korean War. Guests can also view an 11-foot section of the Berlin Wall. In addition, visitors can marvel at the fossilized skeleton of Ivan the T-Rex as well as other pre-historic artifacts that span the museum’s three floors.
American Overseas Schools Historical Society
An attraction military members will appreciate is the The American Overseas Schools Historical Society (AOSHS). This free attraction is located in the historic Delano District just west of downtown. Guests can browse the collection of yearbooks, photos, letter jackets and other memorabilia from various military schools overseas. Those unable to look at their old yearbook in person may be able to access it via the online database. Also of note, AOSHS was gifted a 12-foot-high section of the Berlin Wall by the Berlin Brats, Berlin American High School’s alumni group, and then donated it to Wichita’s Museum of World Treasures in 2005, where it remains on display today.
Cosmosphere and Strataca
Travel 45 minutes outside of Wichita and 650 feet below the earth’s surface to explore Strataca, one of the state’s coolest attractions – literally. Bring a jacket and enjoy 68-degree temperatures year-round in the underground salt mine. The most popular tour, the Salt Blast Pass, is a two-hour excursion that takes visitors on a narrated train ride, to the mining gallery and a 30-minute tram ride. Also found stored underground are film reels and movie memorabilia, including costumes and props from blockbuster hits like “Twister” and “Batman and Robin.” Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are highly recommended.
About 10 minutes away from Strataca, the Cosmosphere International SciEd Center & Space Museum is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum, featuring the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. The museum’s expansive collection uniquely tells the story of the Space Race. Visitors can see rocket science brought to life in Dr. Goddard’s Lab, see documentaries and films on weekends in the Carey Digital Dome Theater and explore the universe in the Cosmosphere’s state-of-the-art Planetarium.
Don’t miss out on other things to do during your stay in Wichita, including free attractions to visit, including Wichita Veterans’ Memorial Park, located along the Arkansas River downtown and just a short walk from the Keeper of the Plains. Also, be sure to check out House of Tank, a museum featuring tanks from WWII to modern day. Admission to House of Tank is free, but donations are accepted.