There's nothing plain about this legendary stomping ground for cattlemen and iconic aviators
One of the best trips you'll take all year will be to Wichita, Kansas. If you've never been there, don't let all the stereotypes dissuade you. Kansas has beautiful rolling hills and tall grass prairies that you can't find anyplace else in the world. When you arrive in Wichita, you'll find hiking and biking trails and 36 museums that will keep you busy for weeks. Downtown Wichita has over 1,000 restaurants and shopping galore. Once you take a look around, you'll agree this is a pretty neat place.
Keeper of the Plains
One of the most notable attractions of Wichita stands at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers. The Keeper of the Plains is a 44-foot tall, stylized sculpture of an Indian Chief on a 30-foot pedestal. The figure pays tribute to the Native Americans who called the area their home before the European settlers came.
You can reach the statue by crossing a couple of pedestrian bridges from the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Here, you'll find a Native American Museum, the Gallery of Nations which also is used for special events, such as pow-wows, a gallery that features Native American artists and a gift shop. No trip to Wichita is complete without a stop here. In fact, it's a great place to start your visit.
When you think of Wichita, you'd be hard pressed not to give a little thought to the Old West and the cowboys that made the region famous. You see, Wichita was one of the railheads and stops on the Chisholm Trail. The trail was used by Texas cattlemen to herd longhorns to the railroad and carry their stock to the highly populated east coast. Every few months, cowboys would push the herd to Wichita, where the cattle would be loaded onto trains. Although the cowboy days are over a hundred years in the past, you can experience them at a living history museum in Wichita called Cowtown. Here, you'll experience life in the 1870's complete with cowboys, old west saloons and the families that tried to bring with them culture and education. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m.
Flowers, Butterflies and Birds
Just across from the Cowtown Living History Museum is an attraction that will cause you gasp in delight, assuming you like flowers, butterflies and birds. Take one step into the Wichita Botanica and your senses will spring to life with all the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful gardens. There are nearly 30 different gardens to browse, including a butterfly garden and a sensory garden that will not only give you a place to relax and unwind but could even give you ideas to take home to your own sanctuary. There are roses, pansies, evergreens and peonies. Be sure to take your camera because you'll want to preserve these spectacular sights for a long time.
Did you know there are over 30 golf courses in Wichita? Most are open to the public and all have their own sets of challenges awaiting you on your next day on the links. Many of the public courses in Wichita have been golfed by the pros and have been featured and rated in Golf Week magazine. Walk in the footsteps of the pros during your next visit.
Ever hear of Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh or Howard Hughes? They're all aviation pioneers and all have walked through the doors of what is now the Kansas Aviation Museum. The building at one time housed the Wichita Municipal Airport, and in 1944 was one of the busiest terminals in the nation, with flights taking off or landing every 90 seconds. In the early days of aviation, aircraft had to make a stop to take on fuel on cross-country flights and Wichita Municipal was the stop. This airport-turned-museum saw just about every celebrity aviator dust its doors, and it's said that Fred Astaire once entertained a group of passengers on a layover. Today, you can visit this aviation marvel and discover aircraft from every era. Check out original hangars, a vintage control tower and beautiful main lobby.
Hiking and Biking
Would you like to experience a different view of the city? Make sure your bike tires are inflated properly because it's time to hop on the two-wheeler and check out all the bicycle trails that cut through the city of Wichita. Nine trails cover 26 miles. Some follow the rivers while some follow the original Chisholm Trail. All the trails are safe for cyclists because they're designated routes that don't allow motor vehicles. They're fairly flat and easy, making them perfect for experienced and not-so-experienced riders.
Wichita also offers walkers and hikers a really unique way to see the city. The Wichita Development Corporation has created nine themed walking trails that weave around the downtown and have way-finding signs as well as informative and fascinating facts about the city.
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