Wichita is known for being an affordable place to live with great quality of life for residents. And it's true – some of the best things to do in Wichita are completely free!
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I've asked readers to recommend the Top 5 Free Things to Do in Wichita, and here are the results, along with some honorable mentions that are just too good to keep to ourselves.
The Top 5 Free Things to Do in Wichita
- Visit the Keeper of the Plains during the lighting of the “Ring of Fire” The centerpiece of Wichita, this striking sculpture by Blackbear Bosin 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.
- Stop in to the Great Plains Nature Center More than just a place to explore the wonders of Kansas wildlife, the Great Plains Nature Center is a wonder of cooperation by three government agencies. The City of Wichita, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all work together to provide environmental education to residents and visitors of South Central Kansas. And it's always free.
- Enjoy the Riverside Park Zoo and Fountain 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. >> See what's free and cheap this week in Wichita
- Participate in the Final Friday Art Crawl Find a place to park and hail a trolley (for free) on the last Friday of every month in downtown Wichita. Galleries, museums, and retail shops open their doors to visitors to browse collections of art or watch artists at work. 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.
Shakespeare in the Park The Wichita Shakespeare Company performs at various parks during the summer, and the performances are always free.
The Wichita Art Museum Always free on Saturdays, the art museum often features free or inexpensive programs for kids and families.
City Arts With weekly gallery exhibits and three floors available to the public, the City Arts building is free to enjoy. If you pop in at the right time, you might be able to see an art class or two in progress.
Bike paths around the city Although the city is hard at work making Wichita into a more bike-friendly place to live, we do have miles and miles of bike paths to enjoy. Enthusiasts can ride from one side of town to the other and spend the majority of the trip on a dedicated bike path.
Blacktop Nationals It's more than just a car show. This annual August event has live entertainment, food, and a heck of a good time for everyone. And it's completely free!
Float the Arkansas River The Arkansas River Coalition frequently sponsors “Twilight Floats” on the Big or Little Arkansas River for anyone with a kayak or canoe. If you don't have a canoe, you can borrow one from them with a suggested donation of $15. Otherwise, the trips are free, and provide participants with a whole new perspective of the city of Wichita.
Old Town/Downtown Wichita
Window shop in Old Town It's fun just to be in Old Town, peering into warehouses-turned-retail stores and restaurants and walking along the brick paths. Of course, you won't be able to resist actually going in to some of them, which include a few trendy local eateries (and drinkeries), a museum filled with treasures from around the world, and an all-digital movie theater that serves a full food and bar menu directly to you at your seat while you're watching the movie.
Themed Walking Paths in downtown Wichita Brand new in 2011, the Wichita Walking Paths take you through and near historically significant places in Wichita. The paths are dotted with markers that feature historical and interesting facts related to the path you're on.
Outdoor sculptures around town Whether you're driving or walking downtown or really anywhere in Wichita, you will likely come across a sculpture that is beautiful, interesting, or downright surprising. (I'm almost always startled into tapping my brakes when driving by one particular sculpture downtown. In my peripheral vision, it looks like a person about to cross the street! Thankfully, I don't think it's caused any accidents yet.)
Waltzing Waters Show at the Waterwalk Fountain Each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May through October, enjoy a 10-15 minute choreographed show with lights and music at noon, 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. Park for free in the Gander Mountain parking garage, the Waterwalk parking garage, or in the lot just across from the boathouse. The fountain show won't go on if winds are higher than 15 miles per hour.
Wichita's Fabulous Parks
Chisholm Creek Park This park features a beautiful paved walking path through carefully maintained native Kansas grasses and plants. It's the perfect place for solitude, exercise, and enjoying Kansas wildlife – all within the city limits.
Sedgwick County Park There's no place like Sedgwick County Park for a nice time out with the family. The park has several fishing ponds, playgrounds, and fields for kite-flying or playing games of softball. A walking path around the perimeter of the park takes you through shady and sunny spots, through quiet areas and places teeming with activity, up and down hills, and over a covered bridge. Covered pavilions and enclosed shelters at Sedgwick County Park are available and affordable to rent for picnics and meetings.
The WATER Center in Herman Hill Park There are aquariums, interactive displays, and knowledgeable staff who make it all come alive. Tours of the groundwater treatment plant are also available.
Interactive Fountains Many of our parks have playgrounds with leaping fountains where kids (and grown-ups) can splash around to keep the heat at bay. There's also a fountain at New Market Square in West Wichita, and one in Old Town Plaza downtown. All are free and open to the public.
Rumble in Delano A strictly pre-1963 hot-rod car show held annually in the fall in the historic Delano District, just west of downtown Wichita. It comes complete with a “Miss Rumble Pin-Up Girl” contest.
Woofstock Free with donation, Woofstock is held every fall at Sedgwick County Park as a benefit for the Kansas Humane Society. Bring your dog — on a leash — for a day of canine fun.
MorningStar Community Church Family Movie Night When a popular Wichita movie theater closed, a church moved in. Now the church offers free family movies with extremely low-priced concessions on the first Friday night of every month. It's located near E. Kellogg and Greenwich Road. Sponsored by WayFM.
Free Outdoor Concerts
Bradley Fair Jazz Concerts Held in June every year, these concerts bring in the big names in jazz, like Grady Nichols and Joseph Vincelli. The last concert before the Fourth of July always includes a wonderful fireworks display. It's hard to believe that these concerts are free.
KEYN/Wichita WaterWalk Summer Concert Series Just this year, the free KEYN Summer Concert Series moved to the Waterwalk in downtown Wichita, with plenty of parking nearby. These concerts often feature local favorites like the Grateful Not To Be Dead, Rudy Love, and Blue-Eyed Soul. They make for free and fun Friday nights during hot Wichita summers!
Horse and carriage ride in Bradley Fair during holidays Whether we're enjoying a winter wonderland or experiencing unseasonably mild temperatures, the free carriage rides at Bradley Fair shopping center will make you think of sipping cider and opening presents by the fire. They're also almost certain to make you want to open your wallet and buy gifts at the shopping center's many upscale retail stores, which is probably the idea.
Watch the sun set from anywhere The sky is transformed by fire-lit clouds at sunset on any given day here in Wichita. If you drive just 5 minutes outside the city limits, ordinary fields stretching out to the horizon take on a golden glow. The view can be breathtaking.