If your family is like mine, sometimes you long for something new, something exciting. You take the same trek through the zoo, go to the same parks, visit the same museums and libraries. You’re in a rut. I am a huge cheerleader for all the family friendly activities Wichita boasts, but every once in a while you need to mix things up a little bit. Below are four of my favorite spots around Wichita for out-of-the-box fun. Working parents: all of these activities are “open” evenings or weekends. Plus, they’re all little to no cost! [Most parents understand the cardboard box phenomenon: the amount of money you spend on something has no correlation to how much your child enjoys it.]
Kids and parents alike love Exploration Place, but have you ever skipped the interior and focused on the outdoor space? Park on the north side of the EP parking lot and start off across the bridge toward the Keeper of the Plains. Enjoy the wildlife (look for turtles and bald eagles), explore the paths around the Keeper and check out the educational information before continuing the trail along the river and take a right on First Street. All told it’s three bridges, one river, Veteran’s Park and a troll before you arrive at the fantastic Exploration Place playgrounds, Exploration Park. There are three distinct play structures for different age groups, a sand pit, a water feature and plenty of shaded picnic tables. As if that wasn’t enough to fill a fun morning, Exploration Place has an 18-hole mini golf course that’s just $2 per person. You can’t beat that view!
Kellogg Pedestrian Bridges
For the record, I am not the biggest fan of heights. The fact that I walked over six lanes of speeding traffic on a narrow concrete and steel arched bridge is a testament to how much I love my boys (and a desire to not pass my fears off on to them). My oldest LOVES this and talks about it all the time. There are two bridges, but I’ll recommend the west one. If you go: take the Washington exit from Kellogg, head north, right on Lewis, right on Laura, park on the street. Cross bridge; don’t pass out. Head west when you get the other side to play or picnic at Skyline Park before crossing back over.
Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport
This might be a lame one, but my family is more of a road trip type of crew so the airport is exciting for us! We are very amped to visit again when the new concourse and upgrades are done in 2015. I like to park in the Park & Ride lot; it is $3-6 depending on how long you stay, but you get to ride a mini-bus twice. Once inside there’s plenty to amuse: revolving doors, baggage claim conveyor belts, airplane themed art, people watching and food. The “new” airport will feature an Old Town themed restaurant in the pre-security area. If your kids are too old to be impressed by the novelty of the airport alone, try a field trip with a writing prompt about travel to get their imaginations going.
Wichita State University
I’m definitely not ready to send my boys off to college, but we love to visit! The Wichita State campus is a fantastic place to explore. There are wide walking paths, plenty of green space, manicured gardens and one of the nation’s top outdoor sculpture collections over 330-acres. Plan a scavenger hunt for older kiddos. If you get hungry or thirsty while you’re there, there are plenty of dining options including several in the Rhatigan Student Center. Because everything’s better when there’s a vehicle involved (according to my son at least), take a ride on the Shuttle System too. I know, there aren’t rolling hills, historic limestone buildings and it isn’t Aggieville-adjacent but it has a charm all its own (and an original Frank Lloyd Wright). Even if you aren’t an alum or diehard fangirl it is fun to get to know our city’s largest university. Everyone is welcome in Shocker Nation.