WIchita's Downtown Neighborhood
Don’t judge downtown Wichita on its lack of skyscrapers. Of all the neighborhoods in town, this is arguably the most eclectic and entertaining. There are plenty of offices to work in, but you’ll also find some interesting places to try local food, drinks and music, enjoy the outdoors, and take in national concerts and theater shows.
Downtown Wichita sits east of the Arkansas River and north of Kellogg. It’s bordered by Central Street to the north and Hydraulic to the east, but Douglas Avenue is the main corridor through the area.
Wichita was a true “cowtown” when it was incorporated as a city in 1870, but only for about four years. Downtown Wichita was spared the worst of the rowdiness of visiting cowboys because most of the entertainment they sought was limited to theDelano area just across the river. After the cattle trade moved west to Dodge City, Wichita became a major hub for commercial ventures, initially in manufacturing and agriculture and eventually expanding to aviation. As a result, a rail line runs through the middle of downtown, and there are a number of historic buildings and warehouses throughout the area.
If you’re visiting Wichita, or just looking for something to do downtown on a summer evening, the downtown area is home to more than 30 outdoor sculptures that can be viewed for free. Of course, the most obvious is the Keeper of the Plains, which sits high atop a stone pedestal in the middle of the Arkansas River just north of Douglas. Be sure to visit during the evening for the “Ring of Fire” show, and then walk south along the east bank of the river to find another notable statue, the Troll. It’s not hard to find - just follow the eerie green glow coming from his lair. Along Douglas Avenue, between Main and Topeka, you can find 31 life-like bronze statues of both historical events, like the Dockum Drug Store sit-in, as well as scenes from everyday life. At Broadway and Douglas, you’ll find a giant horse made of chrome car bumpers, which is one of several such sculptures by John Kearney around the city.
Downtown Wichita isn’t entirely without green space. Naftzger Memorial Park sits at Douglas and St. Francis, where you can see flowers, trees, a pond, and a Carry Nation Memorial Fountain. (She famously smashed Wichita’s Eaton Hotel Bar on December 27, 1900.) In September 2015, an urban Pop Up Park opened between Main and Market on Douglas. Nearly every day, you can find some of Wichita’s best food trucks serving up lunch, snacks, and even dinner. The schedule is on the ICT Pop Up Park’s Facebook page. Although not a park, the WaterWalk area between Main and Wichita Street just north of Kellogg offers several opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, including a fountain show with lights and music, summer outdoor concerts and food truck rallies.
Looking for things to do in downtown Wichita? There are lots of things to keep you busy! From sports, theater and concert venues like Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center, Intrust Bank Arena and the Orpheum Theatre, to museums, a comedy club and a trampoline park, there’s truly something for everyone. Wichita's Arena district, which refers to the the four square blocks that surround the arena, has a lot to offer. Many of the bars feature live music and local bands, and there are almost always events going on, like RiverFest, the Downtown Chili Cookoff, and Midwest Beer Fest.
There’s no shortage of restaurants downtown, whether you’re looking for a sports bar, barbecue, Mexican food, burgers, Asian food, or even something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
According to the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, there are more than 23,000 parking spaces. They’re divided into monthly leased lots, paid daily and short term parking, business customer parking, street parking and garages. Most Wichitans have a few tried and true spots where they park for downtown events, but if you’re not familiar with the area or you’re visiting from out of town, here are a few tips for getting a good spot:
- Check this interactive parking map before you go. You just select your event, and get a list of available parking areas with hours and fees, if any.
- Bring change and cash in case you have to pay for parking. Many lots around Intrust Bank Arena offer parking for $5-$10 during concerts and games. There are also several parking garages downtown that allow hourly parking for a fee
- If all else fails, follow the signs. There are parking signs at almost every lot downtown, telling you if public parking is allowed and when, and if there’s a cost.
When you’re visiting Wichita, you can find both boutique hotels and national chains downtown. With so many great places to eat and play nearby, you can't go wrong no matter which one you choose.
Downtown Wichita has experiencing a revitalization in its housing market in recent years, with several new buildings and loft renovations in historical structures such as old warehouses. If you want to live in the center of Kansas’ largest city, there’s a wide range of apartments, lofts and condos to choose from.