Wichita is known for its affordability, so it’s no surprise that the city is full of affordable and free things to do. From the iconic Keeper of the Plains to outdoor art, it’s easy to visit Wichita, and stay on budget. Here’s our list to get you started.
Visit the Keeper of the Plains during the lighting of the “Ring of Fire”
The centerpiece of Wichita, the Keeper of the Plains, is a striking 44-foot tall steel sculpture by Blackbear Bosin, which stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers. 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 and is completely free. If visiting during the day, step inside the Mid-America All-Indian Center to learn even more about the history and culture behind this Wichita icon. The Mid-America All-Indian Center features almost 30 other pieces of Blackbear Bosin's artwork and much more inside. Admission ranges from $3 to $7.
Go for a stroll or take a hike
Take a walk and learn about people and places of the area and Kansas in walking paths in downtown Wichita. 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. Find the maps here.
Kids can learn about Kansas habitats at the Great Plains Nature Center. It’s free to visit the indoor displays – where you can see a 2,200-gallon aquarium with native fish and tall- and short-grass prairies with preserved native animals in the Koch Natural Habitat – and wander the trails. The center offers several free, ongoing, year-round activities, like Naturally Crafty for all ages from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays; Story Time for kids ages 6 and younger at 11 a.m. Wednesdays; and Naturalist in the Know for all ages from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Enjoy green space at one of Wichita’s many parks
Incredible hiking trails, green spaces and adventures are all around Wichita and surrounding communities that you can enjoy for free. Wichita’s more than 125 parks and greenways covering nearly 5,000 acres makes it easy to enjoy nature. In addition to hiking trails, Wichita has more than 26 miles of bicycle paths following scenic areas such as the banks of the Arkansas River, giving the cyclist a safe, easy and enjoyable ride. Scattered throughout downtown are Wichita’s bike share program, Bike Share ICT. Users can borrow the bicycles through an hourly membership, at a rate of $3 an hour.
At the approximate center of the city of Wichita, you’ll find Riverside Park. Flanked by the Arkansas River on three sides, this park features a children’s playground, an interactive fountain and a Kansas Wildlife Exhibit that locals call the “Riverside Zoo.” Families with young children can stay entertained for hours here without paying a cent. After a morning playing in the park, swing by Songbird Juice Co. or R Coffeehouse for some refreshment. Both are located nearby in one of Wichita’s most charming neighborhoods.
View art galleries and public, outdoor art
Wichita has more than 28 art galleries to choose from. At Infinity Art Glass in Benton and Karg Art Glass in Kechi, watch hand-blown pieces being made. Douglas Design District has a plethora of murals created by local artists. Kansas’ largest art museum, the Wichita Art Museum, is always free on Saturdays and the 8-acre art garden showcases 11 sculptures, including two new commissions, and is open 24/7. Wichita State University’s Ulrich Museum of Art is known for its modern and contemporary art collection and is always free. Plus, the campus boasts a collection of more than 70 outdoor sculptures on its campus. Some particularly fun sculptures to take posed photos or selfies at include “Millipede” near the 17th Street entrance; and “Man With Cane,” “Woman With Umbrella,” “Love” and “Three Women Walking,” all in the heart of the campus off Hillside Avenue. An online map is available here.
Starting at just $5, enjoy admission to Botanica Gardens’ 18 acres of themed gardens. Springtime blooms 50,000 tulips and 100,000 daffodils. The Downing Children’s Garden is an educational, imaginative, interactive and engaging environment where families can play, discover and appreciate our natural world.
In recent years, a mood of excitement and pride has emerged in Wichita. The city has evolved into a vibrant, active, multicultural city, with many new restaurants, shops, breweries and outdoor spaces you can enjoy for free like the ICT Pop-Up Park, an urban park in downtown Wichita and regular gathering spot for food trucks and lunch-goers, and the brand-new Gallery Alley, an under-utilized alley that is now a vibrant public space, complete with local art, a portable concert stage, a screen for outdoor movies and outdoor seating.
On the last Friday of each month in downtown Wichita, find a place to park and take the free Q-Line trolley to the many galleries, museums and retail shops that open their doors to visitors to browse collections of art or watch artists at work during Final Friday. It’s all available at no cost, and some venues will even provide free light refreshments.
Shop at the Old Town Farmers Market
From spring to fall, the Old Town Farmer’s Market offers locally-grown produce and handmade items for sale, along with free live entertainment, activities for kids, and free cooking demonstrations. It’s a lively and fun way to spend a Saturday morning in Wichita.
Make a splash
Water is a welcome cool-down in the hot days of summer in Wichita, and there are nearly a dozen interactive fountains and splash parks in Wichita. In nearby Derby, you’ll find Rock River Rapids, unique water park featuring a treehouse-themed water play area, six water slides, a lazy river and much more for under $10 per person and kids 2 and under are free.
Watch the dancing fountains at WaterWalk during summer months. The fountains’ 1,200 nozzles put on a 10- to 15-minute show set to music at noon, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. 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.
Explore Wichita’s many affordable, engaging museums
Let 33 museums in Wichita take you to distant cultures, days gone by and the edge of space. You’ll discover that museums in Wichita are one of the best things – and affordable – things to do in the city. Art museums, history museums, our cluster of museums along the river – you can see one of the most complete tyrannosaurus rex in the country or a Frank Lloyd Wright house and much more.
Bowling, laser tag, go karts and arcades
Get the family together for a few frames at one of Wichita’s bowling centers. Northrock Lanes has 48 lanes, West Acres Bowl has 36 lanes and The Alley Indoor Entertainment has 32 lanes. The Alley also has indoor electric go karts, a laser maze and an arcade. Laser Quest offers a multi-level arena for live action laser tag, and in the same complex you can race go karts on one of the country's only indoor asphalt tracks at Xtreme Racing & Entertainment. All Star Sports and All Star Adventures have large arcades. While both have go karts, they operate outdoors alongside the miniature golf. You can also play laser tag at the west location (All Star Sports). For indoor miniature golf, the only game in town is GlowGolf, played under black lights with florescent golf balls and putters. They also have a laser maze challenge.
Join in a pick-up game
Besides hosting practices and tournaments for soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball, Wichita Sports Forum opens up its sports courts when they are not in use by teams. That includes beach volleyball every Saturday on the facility’s indoor sand volleyball courts. Call ahead to see what other courts are available for $10 open play.
Twirl around at an ice skating rink
Whether you’re into hockey, figure skating, speed skating or just looking to spend time with family, the Wichita Ice Center offers lessons and time on the ice at their indoor facility. They offer public ice skating sessions daily. Check their schedule on Facebook for times. They rent skates and also operate a concession stand. Cost ranges from $5 to $10, including skate rental, depending on the day of the week. The center also offers a family skate package for $30, including admission and skate rentals for a family of four.
Satisfy a sweet tooth
Family owned since 1937, the Nifty Nut House features every kind of nut you can imagine - roasted or raw - fresh daily. Also featured are a huge variety of candies, by the piece or in bulk, including nostalgic candies and a good selection of sugar-free candies. Old Mill Tasty Shop has been a family tradition since 1932. Have a soda made the old-fashioned way from a working, marble countered soda fountain. Churn & Burn is a hand-crafted ice cream and coffee shop. They use local ingredients and liquid nitrogen to freeze their ice cream.