I’m back with a recap of the second stop on our summer 2023 Great American Roadtrip — you can also read all about the genesis of our trip and our first stop in Omaha, Nebraska and our third and final stop in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
When we told people we were going to Wichita, many people recommended we head to Kansas City instead — but since we had both been to Missouri, and the majority of Kansas City lies in that state, we wanted to prioritize a destination squarely in Kansas. When looking at the map, Wichita became an obvious choice, as it was a fairly straight shot from Omaha — we went slightly west, past Lincoln, and then took I-135 the rest of the way — and due north of Oklahoma City on I-35, where we knew we wanted our terminus to be.
Of the three mid-sized, midwestern cities we visited — Omaha, Wichita, and Oklahoma City — Wichita was my least favorite. Compared to the other two, it didn’t seem to have as clear of a vision of what it wanted its ethos as a city to be, nor did it feel like the downtown core had been revitalized as much. That being said, I’m glad we visited as it’s always important to explore new places and it gave us a great look at some of the history of pioneer towns and Native Americans who inhabited the prairies long before we came. As such, I’d recommend spending a day or so in Wichita as part of a larger trip — like we did! — versus making it a destination of its own.
HOW TO GET THERE & GETTING AROUND WICHITA —
Wichita, Kansas does have an airport (ICT), but since we were driving down from Omaha, Nebraska in the rental car we picked up there, and then heading onto Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, we never visited it, so I can’t speak to that aspect. I will say, however, I thoroughly enjoyed our roadtrip through Nebraska into Kansas — I was mesmerized the whole way at how flat the land was, and as a result, how big the sky was. The corn fields stretched on for what seemed like forever. We drove through several storms, and it was wild to see how you could see the clouds moving over the landscape and how you could see how far the clouds stretched for because of how flat it was.
Once we were in Wichita, we did Uber or drive our rental car most places — since the city was a bit more spread out and not very populated, it felt like the safer option. That being said, Ubers were easy to come by and cheap, so it wasn’t an inconvenience at all!
WHERE TO STAY —
As with most vacations I go on, to find our hotel in Wichita, I first researched what our Marriott options were. That led us to the Ambassador Hotel, Wichita, a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. The staff here was so welcoming, and even ran out in the middle of an impending storm to help us with our luggage and valet our car. When we walked into the hotel lobby, they had a huge tray of freshly baked cookies — and I treated myself to one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had, no exaggeration.
The hotel itself is centrally located in downtown Wichita, in a beautiful historic building that’s been well kept up and refurbished. Our room was spacious and had a great view of the city. The hotel also has a steakhouse and speakeasy on the property — more on both below! If you’re looking for a luxurious hotel in Wichita, I can’t recommend the Ambassador Hotel enough, and would definitely check in for another stay if I ever found myself in Wichita again.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK —
Here’s where we ate and drank in Wichita:
Siena Tuscan Steakhouse — this was the steakhouse located off the bar of our hotel, and we stopped by for a late afternoon snack and happy hour before dinner. Candidly, this place felt like any generic steakhouse you’d find at a hotel, and reminded me a lot of the type of generic restaurant you’d end up on during a work trip. I’d recommend skipping it in lieu of something with a more authentic feel, but for our purposes, it worked out! The bartender was really nice, and we split a cheese + charcuterie board and the Italian-style meatballs.
Bite Me BBQ — we couldn’t go to Kansas and not enjoy Kansas BBQ! This place was the perfect local spot that was no frills and served up delicious food. I had the pulled pork sandwich with mac + cheese and coleslaw as my sides, and a margarita to drink — which, for some reason, is my favorite thing to pair with barbecue. Everything was super cheap, too! I think our dinner was under $20 each.
Dockum — this was the speakeasy at the Ambassador Hotel, and from what we ascertained, it is the place to be on Friday night! We got there on the early side (~6:30pm) and didn’t have reservations, so it was easy for us to snag a table, but by the time we left, they were on an hour+ wait, so I highly recommend grabbing a reservation if you want to go. This was the type of place that had really inventive cocktails on the menu, or you could tell your server what type of cocktail you liked and the bartender could mix you something custom. There was also a live band, which was fun.
Doo-Dah Diner — this was not only my favorite restaurant in Wichita, but my favorite breakfast of the trip! It is a super popular place, so I highly recommend you join the waitlist on Yelp before heading to the restaurant — we did this about 30 minutes before we arrived, and so we only had to wait about five minutes for a table. (We put ourselves on the waitlist around 8:30am, and it was even more crowded by the time we were done eating!) Doo-Dah Diner is your classic American diner that serves both breakfast and lunch food all day. Our server was so nice, and I treated myself to a cheeseburger, fries, and a large Diet Coke — heaven.
Some other restaurants and bars that came up in our research that we didn’t make it to on this trip include: Mort’s Martini & Cigar Bar, River City Brewing, Industry Old Town, Public at The Brickyard, and Homegrown Wichita.
WHAT TO DO —
Of the places we went to on this trip, we had the least amount of time in Wichita — however, the two activities we did while there were extremely memorable, and I’d recommend both:
Visit the Old Cowtown Museum — this is a living history museum that showcases what life was like in a pioneer town in Kansas during the late 19th century, complete with historic buildings and interactive exhibits. (They also have costumed historians at times, but since we went on a weekday, they weren’t there!) You can go into each building in the town and it’s set up to look like it would in the 1880s — there was a saloon, a general store, a post office, a boarding house, a farmhouse, a carpenter’s shop, and so many others. We explored for about an hour, and it was very cool to see — it also confirmed that I would have never survived as a pioneer girl.
Go to Ring of Fire at Keeper of the Plains — Keeper of the Plains is a steel statue that marks the conversion point of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers, which is sacred ground to the Native American tribes of Wichita. Every night, year-round, there’s a 15-minute “ring of fire” ceremony that happens at sunset where huge fire pits at the base of the statue are lit to celebrate this special land. From the statue’s vantage point, there’s also an incredible view of the Wichita skyline.
Other activities that came highly recommended in Wichita include visiting the Botanica Community Gardens, the Frank Lloyd Wright Allen House, the Wichita Art Museum, the Kansas Aviation Museum, and the Great Plains Transportation Museum.
Ever since I watched The Wizard of Oz as a kid, I wanted to go to Kansas, so it was really cool to check it off my bucket list. If you have any questions about our time in Wichita, Kansas, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or email me: email@example.com.