Already it’s August, and stores are advertising back-to-school sales. But it’s not too late to squeeze the last drops of juice out of summer with a vacation in your own town – a staycation.
Whether you’re on a budget or just looking for one last summer hoorah, Wichita has a plethora of options for the staycationer. Heck, for some Eastsiders just venturing to the West side may be a whole other world. (While there, don’t miss: Sedgwick County Zoo, the west Warren IMAX or Tanganyika Wildlife Park). and brave Westsiders might want to bust a move on the East side. (Take in exquisite dining and shopping at Bradley Fair and the Waterfront).
Curling up on your sofa with your loaded DVR doesn’t count as a staycation – unless you want it to, in which case, organize your take-out menus, close the blinds and push “play.” but a more typical staycation includes looking at your hometown through the eyes of a visitor. What events, activities and attractions have you always been curious about, but never found the time for – such as the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve with its 41 miles of hiking trails?
Similar to a traditional vacation, planning is key. Check hours of business, buy tickets, set a budget and draw up a schedule ahead of time. Sample some new restaurants and sluff off dishes and routine chores as much as possible. With plenty of imagination and planning you can be out all day, feeling like you’re not in Wichita, yet sleeping in the comfort of your own home at night.
Summer break is for creating new memories with the kids and helping them log topics for the dreaded “What I Did on my Summer Break” essay. So splash down at one of the four local YMCAs that boast outdoor waterparks. take in the Crown Uptown’s production of Aladdin, complete with a macaroni-and-cheese buffet. Go in for some old-fashioned fun with bowling, roller skating or a triple feature at the Starlite drive-in. Cycle through the scenic Arkansas River bike trails, cruise past the Keeper of the Plains and lock up at Exploration Place to explore the Tony Hawk Rad Science exhibit, or hunt for some of the many geocaches on the museum grounds.
Here are some totally gratis or low-cost entertainment options sure to put a smile on your face and your wallet: August 9 is Customer Appreciation Day at the Museum of World Treasures with admission just $3. Add two more greenbacks and enjoy $5 Wednesdays at the Warren Old Town. On Final Friday, August 29, whole sections of the city transform into a free art gallery – and the Wichita Art Museum is always free on Saturdays. Take a driving tour of the 122 architectural gems in town that have been listed on the National Register of historic places.
Just like many native New Yorkers have never been to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and many Los Angelenos have never set foot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, many lifelong Wichitans have missed out on Kansas attractions that are just an hour or two’s drive away. how many of us have actually visited all 8 Wonders of Kansas (not this writer), which include the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, the Underground Salt Museum and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, to name just three. For outdoor lovers there are not one, but two arboretums – Bartlett Arboretum (which also offers a summer concert series) and Dyck Arboretum (hosting concerts year-round.) and every Kansan should visit the recently renovated State Capitol building in Topeka with its 304-foot dome gleaming in newly polished copper.
There are so many staycation possibilities in ICT we couldn’t fit them all on one page, so here are four more, web-exclusive, sample staycations.
The great outdoors is just an hour or two away at one of many area lakes where tension floats away on a sailboat’s wake or the ripples cast from a rod and reel. Pitch your tent or hook up your camper at Cheney Reservoir, El Dorado Lake, Fall River Lake or Wilson Lake. Sleep under the stars on the shores of Lake Afton — or view those stars up close and personal through the telescope at nearby Lake Afton Observatory.
If you can’t travel in space you can certainly travel in time, especially in Kansas with its legacy of pioneers, cowboys, stagecoaches, iron horses and Native Americans. The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum is celebrating its 75th Anniversary with a special exhibit. Cowboys and saloon girls stroll the dusty streets of Old Cowtown Museum, and the First Nation come to life at the Mid-America All-Indian Center & Museum. Tour locomotives at The Great Plains Transportation Museum. Walk in the footsteps of millions of head of cattle on the Chisholm Trail and travel back to the Civil War and “Bleeding Kansas” era at the Fort Scott National Historic Site.
The Night Crawl-Cation
Pull out a new mini dress or your favorite party shirt and hit all the hotspots: Start off with live music and DJs spinning in Old Town. Sample some of the many specialty brews on tap at the Anchor, smoke a cigar on the patio at Mort’s and catch comedians on the national circuit at the The Loony Bin. Groove to Chris Isaak at the Orpheum on August 20. Roll the dice on an evening at the Kansas Star Casino — or maybe spin the roulette wheel or double down at the blackjack table. Take that special someone out for a romantic dinner at Newport Grill, watch the sun setting over the Waterfront then spend a memorable evening at the historic and beautifully restored Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview.
Want to feel like you’re in another country without ever leaving the city limits of ICT? Stroll through the Nomar International Market on a weekend where traditional food, music, jewelry and crafts from south of the border are on offer. Stop in for authentic taco el pastor or ceviche at El Paisa or homemade papaya ice cream at Paleteria La Reyna. Step into the exotic sights, smells, labels and languages of Thai Binh asian market and grab a Vietnamese dessert and a tamarind soda for the road. On August 16 Botanica will be transformed into an Asian Night Market where for a $7 admission you can wander leisurely among dancers, musicians and ethnic food vendors. Tour several continents in one day without worrying about jetlag.