Wichita has retained its frontier roots while developing a cosmopolitan ambiance. The Old Cowtown Museum capitalizes on Wichita's past as a stop on the Chisholm Trail with forty-four original, restored, or replica buildings and displays depicting life between 1865 and 1880, along with programs celebrating Wichita's cattle-driving beginnings. Wichita turned the Arkansas River into a cultural asset by redesigning the riverside for public recreation and for popular events such as River Festival. Wichita's sophistication is evident in the city's outdoor sculptures, which number more than 125 and include such works as the large Joan Miro mosaic mural at Wichita State University. Price Woodward Park is located between Century II and the Arkansas River; on the park grounds are several sculptures.
The Botanica, or Wichita Gardens, is located near the banks of the Arkansas River and is the state's only such garden. Lake Afton Public Observatory, with its 16-inch telescope, is open on weekends for astronomy enthusiasts. At the Sedgwick County Zoo, more than 2,500 animals roam an imitation veldt, a tropical rain forest, and a herpetarium that switches night for day. The Great Plains Nature Center features the Koch Habitat Hall, two miles of hiking trails, and the Coleman Auditorium. Tanganyika Wildlife Park, located three miles west of Wichita in Goddard, allows humans to interact with such animals as giraffes, lemurs, and Bengal tigers. Children enjoy the rides and entertainment offered by Joyland, the largest amusement park in Kansas.
Arts and Culture
Wichita supports many organizations in the fine, performing, and visual arts. Century II, the city's center for cultural activities, houses the major performance organizations. The Wichita Symphony Orchestra plays a season of classical, chamber, and pops concerts in Century II's concert hall between September and May; a highlight of the symphony orchestra season is the performance of P.I. Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture that concludes the River Festival. The Wichita Pops series features the performances on the "mighty" Wurlitzer organ, which was housed in the New York Paramount Theater. The Metropolitan Ballet's season of concerts always includes a staging of Tchaikovsky's popular Nutcracker Ballet during the Christmas season.
Live theater is popular in Wichita. Music Theatre of Wichita features Broadway guest artists performing with a resident company at Century II; the summer season includes five productions in all. The Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre, one of the nation's ten largest dinner theaters, hosts professional performances of Broadway shows. Wichita Children's Theatre & Dance sponsors shows performed by children for children. Wichita Grand Opera offers a professional opera season at Century II, and Wichita Chorus Sweet Adelines International features female barbershop singers.
Museums in the Wichita area are plentiful. The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame opened in Old Town in April 2005 with 126 inductees from Kansas sports. The Wichita Art Museum, the largest museum in Kansas, houses a nationally renowned American Art collection. The Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum depicts historical life in the area through unique and informative exhibits. The Museum of World Treasures has an eclectic collection that includes dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies, armor and crown jewels of European royalty, the Hall of American Presidents, and Civil War and World War II artifacts. Exploration Place features interactive exhibits that stimulate curiosity and creativity. The Kansas Underground Salt Museum, located in nearby Hutchinson, will be the Western Hemisphere's only museum to exist in a working salt mine when it opens in late 2005 or early 2006. Other Wichita museums include the Frank Lloyd Wright–Allen Lambe House Museum, the Great Plains Transportation Museum, the Kansas African American Museum, the Kansas Aviation Museum, the Kansas Firefighters Museum, the Lowell D. Holmes Museum of Anthropology, the Mid-America All-Indian Center, the Museum of the Antique Fan Collectors Association, Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University, and Wings Over Wichita.
Festivals and Holidays
The Wichita River Festival, the city's major festival, draws more than 350,000 people for 10 days each May in a celebration centered on the Arkansas River. Held in conjunction with the festival are several other events, including an art and book fair, trolley tours, and a garden party at Botanica. Also held in May is the three-day Kansas Polkatennial. The Old Cowtown Museum presents music and 1870s saloon shows on the weekends from June to Labor Day; the museum also sponsors the Traditional 1870s Independence Days event over the Fourth of July weekend. More than 10,000 people attend the Old Town Concert Series each summer.
Wichita celebrates its jazz heritage with two festivals: the Wichita Jazz Festival in April, and a jazz festival hosted by Friends University in February. The Midwest Winefest is held over three days in April, and the Taste of Wichita takes place in downtown Wichita in early July. The Kansas Flight Festival, founded in 2003 as the Wichita Aviation Festival, features three days of air shows, aircraft displays, and concerts at the Colonel James Jabara Airport in August. September brings the Chili & BBQ Cook-Off. At the Old Cowtown Museum in October the Old-Time County Fair recreates a 1870s Wichita fair.
A number of diversity-based celebrations take place in Wichita throughout the year. Spring brings Multi-Cultural Celebration Week, which features a variety of events celebrating the ethnicity of residents. Traditional Native American dancing is featured at the Intertribal Pow-Wow in July. The Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is held in January, and an Asian Festival takes place each October. For three days in September, the Wichita Black Arts Festival showcases the artistic heritage of the African American culture. Other multi-cultural events include Cinco de Mayo and the Juneteenth celebration.
Sports for the Spectator
The Wichita Wranglers of the Double-A minor league Texas League play their home baseball games at the Lawrence Dumont Stadium. Each August, this stadium is also the venue for the nation's largest amateur baseball tournament, the National Baseball Congress World Series, which has been held in Wichita since 1931. The Wichita Thunder competes in the Central Hockey League at Kansas Coliseum from October through April.
The Wichita State University baseball team, the Shockers, consistently earns national ranking and holds the record for most victories in a season. Wichita State also fields winning basketball teams in National Collegiate Athletic Association play. Friends University teams, nicknamed the Falcons, play baseball and softball, football, men's golf, women's volleyball, and men's and women's basketball, cross country, soccer, tennis, and track and field. The Jets of Newman University compete in baseball and softball, wrestling, and men's and women's basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and volleyball.
The Wichita International Raceway sponsors drag racing on Saturdays during the summer, while 81 Speedway features dirt track auto races each week between March and October. Parimutuel greyhound racing action takes place year-round at Wichita Greyhound Park.
Sports for the Participant
Wichita maintains 107 municipal parks on nearly 3,000 acres for such activities as volleyball, croquet, softball, and soccer. Eighty-three public tennis courts are augmented by two private clubs; Riverside Tennis Center has been named one of the best public complexes in the country by the U.S. Tennis Association. For golfers, nine public and nine private courses are located in the area. Fishing and boating are permitted in authorized areas (El Dorado Lake is said to be the spot for prime bass fishing), and water skiing is allowed at Nims Bridge, North Riverside Park. A free fitness trail with 20 exercise stations is maintained in Sim Park. Cycling and rollerskating can be enjoyed in designated areas along the Arkansas River. The Soccer Club operates a regulation size indoor field for practice and league play.
Shopping and Dining
The Wichita area's shopping centers and malls include the state's two largest malls—Towne East and Towne West—with more than 270 stores and restaurants combined. Wichita is an antiques center; a number of antique stores and shops are located in historic houses and in the downtown district. Wichita Old Town, a historic warehouse district, has been restored and offers shops and restaurants. Old Town Underground near the railroad yards has blossomed into an area of unusual shops. Upscale shopping is the attraction on Rock Road, and shoppers also enjoy the Downtown Farm and Art Market. The Newton Factory Outlet Stores lie 20 minutes north of the city.
Wichita restaurants are famous for steaks, prime rib, and barbecue beef, but dining choices also include international cuisine such as Italian, French, Chinese, Mexican, and Indian.
Visitor Information: Greater Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau, 100 S. Main, Ste. 100, Wichita, KS 67202; telephone (316)265-2800; toll-free (800)288-9424; fax (316)265-0162; email email@example.com
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