by Erika Higgins
Its summer time and that means family vacation time! It’s the perfect time to kick back and get away from everything for a little bit, replenish energy reserves and renew overloaded minds.
Traveling with a family and setting out on long excursions to exotic faraway lands sounds exciting in theory but is not always a practical or affordable reality. The good news is that Wichita families don’t need to go far or take out a second mortgage to satisfy their needs for a fun-filled and memorable family vacation.
There are plenty simple, relaxing and fun “get-away” ideas right here in Wichita! The best part is many of these ideas are inexpensive or even free and can be spread out over the summer into several mini vacations.
Tour Wichita! Pick a day each week, a weekend, or an entire week and check out what Wichita has to offer.
Take a summer tour of the Wichita Public Library branches or a tour of the Wichita City Parks and Recreation Centers.
Keep your car at home and ride a Wichita City Bus to Downtown Wichita, the Historic Delano District, Old Town or the Douglas Design District. Try to find all the Douglas Street statues and
visit the war memorials along the River Walk. Before heading home, stop by the Old Mill Tasty Shop for a nostalgic and delicious treat in Wichita’s original Old Town soda fountain.
Add a little education to your summer touring adventure at the Museums on the River; Exploration Place, Botanica Wichita Gardens, Wichita Art Museum, Old Cowtown Museum and the Mid-
America All Indian Center’s. If you go on a Wednesday, be sure to try the Indian Center’s authentic Indian Tacos. Take a walk across the pedestrian bridge over the Big Arkansas River, visit the Keeper of
the Plains and then take a stroll through the Riverside Park and Zoo.
Go on a family bike ride through the Sedgwick County Park, to the Sedgwick County Zoo and on the many bike paths around Wichita. See a map of all the city paths and trails here: http://www.wichita.gov/CityOffices/Park/Bicycling/
Dreaming of the mountains? Grab the hiking gear, some bug spray and water and go on a family nature adventure in Swanson Park, Pawnee Prairie Park, or the Great Plains Nature center; all three
are right here in Wichita.
Grab a tent, some marshmallows and chocolate and have a family camp out in the backyard or at one of the three nearby State and County Parks; Cheney Lake Reservoir, Lake Afton Park and Observatory or El Dorado Lake. Bring swimsuits and sunscreen and make it a beach vacation.
Have a lazy-day fishing break or a picnic at your neighborhood pond or at one of Wichita’s Public Parks and Recreation Centers. O.J. Watson Park offers a day’s worth of excitement with bike paths,
concession stands, paddle boat and pony rides and even a miniature train ride and miniature golf course. Reserve a shelter and volleyball court and invite other families and friends to join in. Close the laptop, unplug the phone and TV, rent a movie, order pizza, close
the blinds and enjoy a family night at home.
Need a break from cooking and cleaning? Reserve a room for a day
or two of family-friendly entertainment at the Best Western Airport Inn and Conference Center. Homewood Suites by Hilton at the Waterfront also offers a great home-away-from-home experience
without the clean-up. Splash around in the pool, rent a video game or movie, walk or jog around the indoor walking and jogging track or play a game on the putting green. Enjoy a complimentary light meal and beverage reception in the evenings Monday through Thursday
or take a walk to one of the nearby Waterfront restaurants.
If you just can’t shake the urge to get of the city, look to the neighboring smaller towns for the best-kept secrets of enjoyable family day trips.
Float down the lazy river of Derby’s Rock River Rapids Aquatic Park, twist down the waterslides of Clearwater’s Aquatic Center or splash into the different community pools of the surrounding towns of Wichita.
Take a trip to the past and give your kids a real-life history lesson in the 1887 Victorian-style Warkentine House in Newton. For lunch, try the Old Mill Restaurant in Newton’s Old Mill Plaza, stretch out some restless legs in the Newton Athletic Park and stop off at the Newton Outlet Mall before heading home.
For a weekend or week-day get-away drive up to Abilene and visit the Eisenhower Museum, take a train ride on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, sit down for a scrumptious lunch and old-fashioned fine-dining experience at the Kirby House and then stroll down the streets of the “Newer Old Downtown” for some shopping before heading back home.
Visit the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson and then bite into a few slices of mouth-watering home-style pizza at family-owned Gambino’s Pizza in Colwich on the way home.
Lindsborg also offers a charming Swedish day-away. Spot all the various Dala Horses, eat Swedish pancakes, take a family bike ride on one special bike, take in all the beautiful art from several local talented artists and let imaginations run loose at the one-of-a-kind community-built playground in the Swenson Park.
For a real retreat from the busy world pack up the family, leave the electronics at home (except for the GPS) and take the scenic route through the Flint Hills or spend a night and a day in Yoder at the Sunflower Inn Bed and Breakfast.