Wonders of Wichita


Our pride in Wichita icon: The Wichita Flag

I’m proud of my city. There’s nothing like having friends and family, or a bajillion college basketball fans, in town to appreciate what we have to offer. There’s so much to do here! We have excellent local cuisine, fun places to shop, a vibrant creative scene, and so many interesting local attractions. Why wait until company is in town to explore what Wichita has to offer? It’s Spring Break this week! You don’t have to leave town to be entertained.

Here are a few of my favorite attractions:

Waiting to get into the Wichita Art Museum for the Art & Book Fair

Wichita Art Museum

Full disclosure, I am on the board at the Wichita Art Museum, but only because it’s been one of my favorite places in Wichita since I was tween. My cousin and I spent many summer days hanging out in Riverside Park. When the sun got too strong, we’d go to the museum and stare in reverent awe, at the paintings in the air conditioning. It had a big impact on me. The only art work we had at home, were the reproductions we checked out from the library.

Right in our backyard, we have one of the best collections of American art in the United States. We wouldn’t have this amazing museum if it weren’t for a woman, Louise Caldwell Murdock, who made this happen. (She was also the catalyst for our Carnegie Library and 20th Century Club. She was a force of nature!)

While the permanent collection is fantastic, the traveling Monet to Matisse exhibit is phenomenal and we’re lucky to have it. If you haven’t had the chance to see these works, that influenced big changes in the art world in person, you owe it to yourself to go. There are guided docent tours and guest lectures, if you want to learn more about the fascinating stories behind the art. Check out WAM’s website for more.

Penguins!

Sedgwick County Zoo

Penguins. Need I say more? We are so fortunate to have a world class zoo in our city, with over 400 species of animals. It has grown over the years into 247 acres, the seventh largest zoo in the county, and has one of the largest walk-through aviaries in the Unites States. The way it’s laid out geographically, with well-planned exhibitions to duplicate natural habitats, makes this zoo a joy to explore again and again. In fact, the best way to experience the zoo, is to pick certain exhibits to take in at a time, and not try to see the whole zoo in one day. It’s exhausting, especially with little kids.

I always have to see the penguins (of course), the gorillas and the Jungle Building aviary. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been to see the elephant exhibit yet. Besides penguins and gorillas, they’re one of my favorite animals. I’ll go soon!

Wichita City Building, now home to the Sedgwick County Historic Museum

Sedgwick County Historic Museum

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me to this museum when it was on Douglas Avenue, were Kirstie Alley lives now. I remember the drug store exhibit, with glass jars of stick candy on display, and none you could eat.

Since then the museum has moved to the Old City Building, just a couple of blocks north from the Finishing School. I love our history and this covers a lot a ground. You’ll discover how Wichita got the name “The Air Capital,” how the electric guitar originated here, the Jones 6 automobile on the third floor that was built in Wichita, and so much more. Their online photo archive of our city is awesome too!

The Troll, up close and personal

Keeper of the Plains/The Troll

Of course a trip to Wichita isn’t complete without a visit to the Keeper of the Plains, the 44 foot tall sculpture that stands watch over the sacred land, at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas. It was created by Wichitan and Kiowa-Comanche Artist Blackbear Bosin, as a gift to the city. The best time to go this time of year is at 9 PM, when the fire pots that ring the sculpture are lit. Very romantic.

But the best, hidden secret attraction in Wichita is THE TROLL! He’s a little hard to find, and there are no markers or clues to its location. You just have to know. He’s imprisoned in a water outflow well down the sidewalk from the Keeper. (Here are directions.) This imaginative 5-foot bronze sculpture, created by woman artist, Connie Ernatt, is so much fun to discover. If this is the first you’ve heard of this, drive now to the Keeper and check him out.

Several years ago, I got to meet the Troll in person. He had to be brought out of his hole, after some vandals took off his arm for a souvenir. Connie lovingly gave him new arm and had him on display in her studio. Here’s an article with more details on the story.

No matter what you decide to do, get out there and enjoy what our city has to offer, whether you have guests in town or not. You might just find something new and unexpected.

Have fun!

Jill

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