Discover places to go in Kansas using this category, including itineraries for city visits, tips for kid-friendly destinations and Kansas restaurants to try. Learn about Iowa cities like Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas.
Who doesn’t love a good road trip? You don’t have to go too far from Omaha to have a fun getaway. I’ve collected some of my favorite Midwest destinations for this post to give you a variety of options near and far. All road trips from Omaha on this list are within a day’s drive, and most are much closer than that. Happy travels!
COVID-19 update: Current CDC guidelines advise against all non-essential travel. But if you do decide to travel, please keep in mind things have changed. Double-check your destination to make sure 1) you’re not traveling to a hot spot; 2) it’s even open and what the new hours may be; and 3) the activities you want to do are still running.
Road Trips From Omaha
These getaways are just a car ride away. Read on for destinations to consider for your next overnight or weekend trip.
Home to one of my favorite places to hike in the Loess Hills of Iowa, Honey Creek is my go-to destination on a sunny weekend day. Hike at Hitchcock Nature Center, visit the goats and try goat yoga at Honey Creek Creamery, or try the zipline at Mount Crescent Ski Resort (or if it's winter, you know, go ski there).
Tip: Don't skip the visitor's center at Hitchcock Nature Center. It's full of interactive exhibits for kids. In the winter, you can rent snowshoes there. It's next to the lookout tower.
Home to the Sarpy County Fair in the summer and just south of Omaha, Springfield is an easy day trip for Omaha families. I usually pair a visit to Springfield with a trip to a nearby state park. You could visit Louisville SRA for water time at the beach and inflatable obstacle course and end the day at the old-fashioned soda fountain at Springfield Drug for ice cream. Or, hike Schramm Park and then sip the afternoon away at Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewery.
Tip: Soaring Wings often has live music, especially on the weekend. Pack a picnic and lawn chairs, and then buy a bottle of wine to enjoy an evening overlooking the vineyard.
Enjoy a mix of history and nature on a visit to Ashland, Neb. Exit 420 off Interstate 80 will take you to three of the state's big attractions: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, Wildlife Safari Park, and Mahoney State Park. Just beyond those attractions, you'll find Platte River State Park (look for the waterfall!).
If you're visiting in the summer, Mahoney State Park offers a full day of activities, including horseback trail rides, an aquatic center with a wave pool and water slides, and putt-putt golf.
Tip: Ashland is home to two great wineries. My favorite, Glacial Till, has a tasting room on the main street of town. Try the cider.
It doesn't matter the season, Nebraska City is a favorite day trip for my family. We'll spend a few hours at an apple orchard like Kimmel, and a few more hours at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. You can also tack on a visit to Arbor Lodge to explore the historic mansion.
Tip: Have a blast exploring the Treetop Village treehouses tucked inside the Tree Adventure.
Most Nebraskans make the trek to Lincoln at least once, if only to attend a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Huskers football game. The city has a college town feel to it, with affordable local restaurants, charming shops, and plenty of museums.
Learn about Nebraska's unique history and see giant Mammoth fossils at Morril Hall. If traveling young kids, a stop at the Lincoln Children's Zoo and Lincoln Children's Museum is a must.
For such a small town, Brownville packs in a lot of history and arts. Bookstores, galleries, and one excellent winery can found in the town of a population just over 100, as well as a vibrant seasonal music and theater scene.
Tip: Brownville is pretty close to Indian Cave State Park, which has horseback riding, great hiking trails, and an interesting little living history area.
For a relaxing lake getaway, Lake Icaria near Corning, Iowa, is a well-known secret to Omaha families. This is the place for fishing and water fun in the summer. The cabins are affordable, but RV and tent camping is also available.
Tip: Food trucks stop by on the weekends, seasonally. We lucked out and found a barbecue truck on the Saturday we were there.
Sioux City has two of my favorite things: A gorgeous state park in town, and museums. Stone State Park has wonderful trails and is near the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, which has a great nature playscape. For museums, families with young kids will want to go to LaunchPAD Children’s Museum. Art lovers should check out the Grant Wood corn room at Sioux City Art Center. And music lovers should check out the memorabilia scattered throughout the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Tip: Don't leave without a visit to Palmer’s Old Tyme Candy Shoppe, home to the Twin Bing.
Indoors or outdoors, Des Moines has a lot for young (and young at heart) to enjoy. Favorites of my family include the Science Center of Iowa, Adventureland, and Living History Farms.
Tip: One location of my favorite Des Moines restaurant, Fong's Pizza, is within walking distance of the science center. If you time it right, the large Des Moines farmer's market takes place in front of Fong's too in the summer.
Boone is your winter and summer destination for activities, and the Hotel Pattee in Perry is where you'll want to stay. We've been to Boone in the summer to wander around the beautiful Ledges State Park and ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. In the winter, we had a blast skiing and tubing at Seven Oaks Recreation.
Tip: Hotel Pattee's rooms are all themed, and you can request specific family suites with fun themes.
My family has had many great adventures to Kansas City, from wild rides at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, to hours on end spent at Science City and Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. Oh, and the barbecue is pretty tasty too!
Tip: The City Market is a lively year-round farmer's market that's free to explore. While there, stop at the Steamboat Arabia Museum, another free attraction.
I found Excelsior Springs more of a couples or friends getaway than a family destination. Why? The gorgeous Elms Hotel has a fantastic spa with a grotto where you'll just want to relax the hours away.
The hotel is within walking distance of two great stops: A great barbecue joint that offers live music on some summer evenings and the excellent microbrewery, Dubious Claims Brewing Co.
Tip: There are a couple of wineries near Excelsior Springs, including Van Till Family Farm Winery. Order one of their artisan pizzas and a bottle of wine and grab a table on their covered patio for a low-key date.
I have so many childhood memories of canoeing the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska. This calm river flows through some scenic cliffs that will surprise you, plus the state's famous Smith Falls. I dare you to stick your head in the falls!
This is a popular river for tubers and can take on a bit of a rowdy, party atmosphere on some weekends. Which may or may not appeal to you.
Tip: Valentine is one of the closest cites to use as a homebase. Alternatively, outfitters often offer campsites along the river.
A collection of interconnected lakes, you can have as relaxing or active of a getaway as you want. You want to waterslide into the lake at a waterfront bar? You can find it there. Want to sit on a beach by a firepit watching the sunset? There's a place for it.
Our favorite activities we did at Okoboji included a trip to historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, a bike ride, kayaking, and playing at Dickinson Country Nature Center.
Tip: The Arnolds Park Funhouse Museum is home to the large wooden slide that used to be in the amusement park. You can take all the rides down you want if you have the day pass or just pay per ride.
Clear Lake is best known for the Surf Ballroom, the last place Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens performed. Once you explore the music history of the ballroom, now a museum, you've got to hit the lake and one of several sandy beaches around it.
Time your visit for the Fourth of July for a small-town celebration you won't forget.
Tip: Want a lakeside dining option? Try PM Park. We had a delicious breakfast indoors and then returned later during our trip to have lunch at the outdoor tiki bar. Yes, tiki bar.
Located along the Mississippi River and split between Iowa and Illinois, the Quad Cities are a getaway for families. We visited on a particularly rainy weekend, so we spent a fun weekend indoors at Putnam Museum and Science Center, the Family Museum, the John Deere Pavilion, and Figge Art Museum, which has a wonderful space for hands-on art activities for kids.
Tip: There’s a surprising amount of hands-on opportunities at the hidden gem, Fryxell Geology Museum, in Rock Island, Ill. And, bonus, it's free.
As much as I want to tell you all to go to Decorah for the outdoor experiences, the awesome dining there almost trumps the outdoors. I know!
OK, first the outdoors. Bike, climb a little waterfall, or kayak down one of the most scenic rivers in the Midwest. For food, get a taste of the Norwegian cuisine the city is known for at Ruby's or have delicious wood-fired pizza on a farm where the ingredients were grown and raised (experience it at called Luna Valley Farm).
Tip: Decorah is home to microbreweries that bring in beer aficionados from around the Midwest, including Toppling Goliath. I particularly enjoyed having a beer after a long bike ride at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co.
If all my destinations could be as bike-friendly as the Twin Cities, I'd be a happy mama. One memorable place to bike around the park at Minnehaha Falls. Indoor fun includes Can Can Wonderland, Science Museum of Minnesota, and the hidden gem, the Bakken Museum.
Oh, and there's a little place called Mall of America. Perhaps you've heard of it.
Tip: One of my all-time favorite brewery experiences was at Surly Brewing Co, where we had dinner and beer with friends. The large brewery is surprisingly family-friendly and if the weather is nice, you can enjoy the immense patio and green space.
Perhaps you remember old family trips to Mount Rushmore, with a stop at Evans Plunge, the indoor water park that uses mineral water from nearby thermal springs. It's still open after all those years (with several updates) in Hot Springs!
Hot Springs is a less touristy stop in the southern Black Hills. Nearby, visit Mammoth Site is a must-visit.
Tip: Hot Springs is a short drive from two beautiful parks, Wind Cave National Park (10 miles away) and Custer State Park (20 miles away). Don't skip Sylvan Lake and the begging burros at Custer!
It's the quintessential summer experience: Road trip to Mount Rushmore. Head straight there or make stops along the way, as we did on our exciting western Nebraska and South Dakota road trip.
We explored everything from the fascinating Toadstool Geological Park in Nebraska to Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Other stops on this road trip included Wall Drug, Badlands National Park, Mammoth Site, Chadron State Park, and Fort Robinson. It's a long trip and the distance below doesn't factor in the extra stops.
Tip: Everyone has to stop at Wall Drug, if only for the photo ops, right? While you're there, don't forget to order one of their fresh donuts.
Distance: 545 miles to Mount Rushmore
Find more inspiration for road trips
Sky’s the limit on these bucket list for Midwest destinations:
A while back, my family visited Wichita and had a great weekend. It surpassed expectations. Along the way, we stopped in Lindsborg for lunch and to see, well, a castle. And again, that quick stop exceeded expectations. So, given this trend, I figure, there’s quite a bit in Kansas that’s waiting to be discovered. I’ve begun a Kansas Bucket List in order to collect my thoughts and start making plans to get to know the state better.
If this list inspires you to travel, let me know!
Hike in the Flint Hills
The Flint Hills in eastern Kansas is an expansive, hilly region with rocky soil. It’s a unique region because it contains the densest coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America.
You won’t find a lot of farms due to the soil. There are several places to hike in the Flint Hills, including Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge, and Konza Prairie Biological Station.
Make it to Svensk Hyllningsfest
The biennial festival Svensk Hyllningsfest in Lindsborg celebrates the town’s Swedish heritage. My dad’s side of the family is proud of their Swedish ancestry so that’s right up my alley. There’s folk dancing, ethnic music, smorgasbord, and entertainment.
I took the kids to a Tulip Festival in Iowa one spring, and they enjoyed it, so I could see this festival also being good for them.
Add To Your Bucket List: While you’re in Lindsborg, there’s a nearby “castle” that should be on your bucket list! We stopped at the Coronado Heights Park, and my young kids were amazed at the picnic structure there that looks like a small, medieval castle.
Hutchinson is home to Cosmosphere, a museum with displays and interactive exhibits like the Liberty Bell 7, the Apollo 13 command module Odyssey, and a version of Mission Control desk kids (and I) can sit at. So maybe I’m less astronaut than Mission Control, but who’s counting?
Hang with cowpokes
Old Cowtown Museum has been on my wish list to visit ever since I was planning my Wichita vacation. I still haven’t made it, so my dream of having a chuckwagon dinner or watching the 1880s reenacted remains. I’ll find some similar action at Boot Hill Museum and Front Street in Dodge City.
Experience a cattle drive
There are places in Kansas where you don’t just watch actors re-enact the cowboy experience – you can live it. Some ranches like the Flying W Ranch in Cedar Point let guests experience the cowboy lifestyle with horseback rides, cattle drives, wagon rides and more.
Add To Your Bucket List: Love all kinds of close encounters with animals. Tanganyika Wildlife Park isn’t on my list because I’ve been there, but it’s definitely a worthy bucket list addition for you! Why? Wildlife encounters there include feeding an okapi, lemur or giraffe!
See the out-of-this-world rocks
Mushroom Rock State Park has some of the oddest rock formations I’ve seen in pictures. Guess what it looks like. I just want to see it in person now. Two others I want to see, located in Gove County in Western Kansas, are the Monument Rocks and Castle Rock.
Selfie in front of the book mural
Book lovers heads up. There’s a beautiful, huge mural on the side of a doctor’s office in Tonganoxie.
Explore Kansas’ Badlands
Yep, Kansas has a Badlands region. In the state’s northwestern corner, a scenic drive, called the Arikaree Breaks Wildlife Drive, takes you through landscape flecked with yuca and prickly pear cactus among the shortgrass prairie.
And a new state park, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, has even more picturesque views. Little Jerusalem is slated to open sometime in the summer of 2019. Neither place is what I imagine to be Kansas.
Try unique eats in Kansas
Kansas has plenty of unique food and unique places to eat, I’ve discovered. On my list includes the hidden gem in Beaver, called Mo’s. Pretty much, it’s a microbrewery with a lot of loyal fans (it has a hard-to-come-by 4.9 Google review rating). One newspaper headline called it a piece of “Cheers” on the prairie.
Then there’s Wheatfields in Lawrence, a bakery that gets a lot of attention. It’s made a USA Today list for 10 great US bakeries, and it has been featured on the Food Network and History Channel.
The Stearman Field Bar and Grill at the little Benton Airport made my Wichita Bucket List, but since I didn’t get to visit it when I was in the area last time, I’m including it on this list too so I don’t forget. Why? Where else can you dine that close to planes taking off and landing?
Go to the beer playground
In Overland Park, there’s this place called the Brew Lab, and it’s been nicknamed KC’s playground for craft beer lovers. Since this is a bucket list where time and money don’t matter, I’d go here to learn how to brew beer and then brew myself a big ‘ol batch of it.
If I’m short on time, I’ll just go and have a pint of someone else’s fabulous concoction and a bite to eat while I’m at it.
See pueblo ruins
The northernmost Indian pueblo in the U.S. is found in Kansas. El Cuartelejo Pueblo near Scott City dates back to 1650 to 1750 A.D., and the ruins of the site can still be seen today. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
See a sunflower field
It’s not the Sunflower State for nothing. Word is that peak viewing of sunflowers is in late summer, and a great place to find them is at Grinter’s Sunflower Farm near Lawrence.
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The most memorable afternoon in Wichita for us was spent at Tanganyika Wildlife Park (which is technically not in Wichita, but close enough). Tanganyika is more than a zoo; it specializes encounters that create lasting connections for people to the animals they see.
Disclosure: Our fun adventure at Tanganyika was part of our Great Wichita Weekend. Our trip was hosted by Visit Wichita. I received complimentary admission to Tanganyika Wildlife Park so that I could tell you about it. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.
There are traditional zoo-like exhibits of animals like otter and penguins, as well as 10 encounters on the map to seek out. Encounters meant interaction of some sort with an animal. On the day we visited, there were also pop-up opportunities to meet and learn about animals as varied as a Burmese python, ferret, and rat.
Tanganyika Wildlife Park is not a zoo; it’s a privately-run business. It helps knowing this so you’re not expecting an experience like a zoo (especially if you’re used to the Omaha zoo). No doubt the owners love animals and care deeply about educating people about them. The idea is that if people connect with these rare animals, they will make the effort to help ensure their survival.
Fun fact: Tanganyika was once an African country. The nation of Tanganyika joined with Zanzibar to form Tanzania in 1964.
Animal encounters at Tanganyika
When you purchase your admission pass, you can opt for one of three levels of animal encounters. The general admission pass gets you one animal encounter of your choice. The next level allows five encounters. Then there’s the all-access pass, which means 10 animal encounters.
There’s also the option of purchasing coins to use for more encounters.
I tell you this so you can plan ahead to see if you want do all or some of the encounters. Honestly, getting the band with five encounters would have worked for my family, but that’s because we lingered with bunnies for ages. The single encounter would not have cut it, though. The all-access would be great if you had kids that aren’t nervous about huge creatures.
When we arrived, all my daughter wanted to do was ride a camel. It may have been what she was looking forward to, but it didn’t turn out to be her favorite experience. It wasn’t a bad one, but it just couldn’t compete with some other unique opportunities.
By far, the most memorable encounter for me was the behind-the-scenes tour of the okapi area. The wildlife park just started these tours, and we were among the first. It was so so cool. The okapi keeper, Alexi, told us about the species plight in the wild and how they are quite rare to find in captivity in the United States due to some of their habitat requirements.
During our tour, we got to greet the friendly resident okapi, who didn’t mind nibbling on lettuce we fed him. He wasn’t so enthusiastic about us petting him, but he tolerated it for his reward of crispy lettuce. We got to ask questions, and learned a ton.
I enjoyed feeding other exotic wildlife, including a giraffe and some greedy little lemurs.
My kids felt the most comfortable feeding the less exotic rabbits and guinea pigs. There, they could crouch among the fuzzy creatures for as long as they wanted, petting them for as long as the animal tolerated.
The chance to pet animals ended up being what my kids enjoyed most. They were able to pet resting kangaroos, for instance. Unexpected was the opportunity to help one kangaroo paint. I wasn’t really interested in paying extra for the artwork but I think the kids will get a lot of mileage sharing that story with their friends back home.
The least successful encounter, for us, was feeding the tortoises, who are faster and pushier than you’d expect. The lorikeet feeding ended in tears for one of my kids, who got nipped by one of the birds.
Photo opportunities at the park
You’ll want to bring your camera on your visit. There’s a lot to see and so many cute photo opportunities.
There were two times that you couldn’t take your own pictures: The okapi encounter and the ring-tailed lemur feeding. The staff member at the encounter took those pictures.
If you had an all-access pass, one photo was included, so that was good. I definitely wanted photos to remember the experience. My quibbles about photo service though: I think the wildlife park could benefit from professional photographers on hand snapping the pictures and a better process in place when you go to pick up your pictures.
If you go
Tanganyika Wildlife Park
Where: 1000 S. Hawkins Lane, Goddard, Kan.
When: Park hours vary, but it’s open generally Mid-March to Mid-November. Check hours here.
Cost: For children (ages 3-11), expect to pay $14.99 for 1 encounter on up to the all-access pass (10 encounters) for $34.99. Children younger than 2 are admitted FREE. Adults pay between $19.99 and $39.99. This is also a senior discount.
How could we skip a three-story castle, an aviation room and the only place I’ve ever visited that had a dedicated game for poop (more on that in a second)?
Disclosure: My family received complimentary passes to the science center so I can tell you about it. Our whole weekend was hosted by Visit Wichita. Visit the Visit Wichita website to get some great ideas for a trip (or keep reading to find out more about the cool things we did there!).
What’s at Exploration Place
This science center is going to appeal more to grade schoolers and older kids (and adults), than really little ones, though there was plenty to do for my 5-year-old. There’s even a dedicated space for preschoolers.
There is a mix of permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits. We were there when the temporary exhibits involved dinosaurs in one space and Vietnam in another. One of the current traveling exhibits is called Hall of Heroes and a new one coming up in 2018 is called The Science of Saving.
The whole museum/science center is geared toward youth, but adults are not discouraged from trying things out too.
There are 13 permanent exhibits at Exploration Place! Some of the ones we found particularly memorable include Creator Space and Exploring Flight & Design. I particularly liked playing with a plane propeller, making a shimmering design in on a wall of shiny discs in the flight exhibit. My son liked the flight Wright Brothers’ flight simulator. I didn’t get a good shot of it (it’s not what’s pictured below).
The Explore Kansas room is newly renovated and such a neat space to visit. We liked playing with the fossil scanner.
Nearby, you’ll find that poop game I mentioned. You have to guess which animal pooped what. It’s gross.
Kids love it.
I can’t think of a room kids won’t like there. My daughter spent more than half our time playing in the castle space called Where Kids Rule. It’s an impressive and immersive space, and I don’t blame her for wanting to stay there. It’s a permanent exhibit, so you will get to check it out if you plan on visiting!
My son enjoyed building in the KEVA wooden plank space and stepping into a tornado in the new Explore Kansas exhibit.
I also recommend checking out the miniature train room – it’s crazy huge.
Timing your visit
– Check out the schedule of traveling exhibits to see what will be open when you visit.
– You can easily spend a couple hours here. I’d expect to spend about two hours here if you didn’t allow your child to linger in a spot for too long (good luck with that).
We were a little rushed trying to see it all before my kids got tired for a nap. We had to skip the mini golf area, which is included with admission.
If you go
Where: 300 N. McLean Blvd., Wichita, Kan.
Cost: $9;50, adults; $8, seniors; $6, youth (3-11), and FREE for children younger than 2. You can pay a little bit more to “Do It All.”
Hours: Until Labor Day 2017: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Mondays in the winter), and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Check the times if you plan on visiting after Labor Day. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We needed a place to stay that was between the Wichita attractions I had wanted to visit, especially Tanganyika Wildlife Park (which is actually outside of Wichita pretty much near nothing else) and all the great stuff in downtown Wichita. So, with the smart thinking of the folks at Visit Wichita (who hosted this trip), we were set up at one of the newest hotels in the city, Hampton Inn & Suites Wichita Airport.
Where To Stay In Wichita
This Wichita Hampton Inn checks most things off my family travel checklist for hotels: Pool, free hot breakfast, comfy beds (plus, the obvious, unspoken requirements like safe, clean, up-to-date). All there.
Let’s talk about the rooms.
The beds in this Hampton Inn are incredibly comfortable. Hampton Inns are under the Hilton brand, and I’ve never stayed at a Hilton brand hotel that had terrible beds. Their beds are like pillowy clouds. After full days of activities, these beds were a welcomed sight.
The rest of the room is pretty hotel typical with a cool, modern look: Small fridge (very helpful for families), desk, large TV, and a nice bathroom with hotel toiletries included.
The view isn’t much, but I wasn’t expecting one being near an airport.
The hotel pool is a rectangle pool that isn’t too deep. While the kids played, I was able to watch comfortably from a pool chair. The seating in the pool area was surprisingly comfy.
The lobby is modern and stylish, and off to the side there is a small snack shop with drinks available for purchase. If you ask nicely, the front desk staff will give you a free bottle of water, so try that before purchasing one in the snack shop.
In the dining area, you can find free hot water for tea and coffee. If you plan on running around as much as I did, that free caffeine boost is handy in the afternoon.
The breakfast at the Hampton Inn is better than average when it comes to complimentary breakfasts. There are hot food options, fresh fruit, a waffle maker, and various pastries and breads to choose from.
Things To Do Near Hampton Inn
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of must-see things super near this hotel. There is a complimentary shuttle that will drive you anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel, which includes places like:
Could you find a Wichita hotel closer to these attractions? Of course, especially downtown.
Restaurants Near This Wichita Hotel
To be honest, the kind of restaurants I was looking for — locally-owned restaurants — were not by our hotel. That meant, a lot of our dining was in downtown Wichita. I recommend making that 10-mile drive for tasty eats. The closest restaurant we dined at to this hotel was Delano Barbeque Co., which is about 5 miles away.
But, if you’re looking for nearby good eats, there are plenty of chains to choose from. Within about a mile of the hotel, you’ll find an Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, and an abundance of fast food options.
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Want to start planning your own Great Wichita Weekend?
My family recently took an incredible weekend trip to Wichita, Kan. It was a lot of fun, and in between all our stops, we visited fantastic, kid-friendly Wichita restaurants. If you’re looking for a list of some of the best restaurants in Wichita, this is the list (it’s just a bonus that they’re good restaurants for families, too)!
Update: This post was first written in 2017 and was updated in October 2019.
Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Visit Wichita, and they helped us select some great spots to try. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Where is Wichita, Kansas?
Wichita is located in south central Kansas and sits on the Arksansas River. Population-wise, it’s comparable to Omaha, with 389,255 people (in 2018).
Two well-known, fast-food chains started in Wichita: Pizza Hut and White Castle. Now, the city has more than 1,200 restaurants. How to choose which ones to visit?!
My plan for this trip was to visit Wichita restaurants that were locally-owned. The key was that they had to be kid-friendly, not kiddie… I wanted good food.
Best breakfast in Wichita
For breakfast to give your day a turbo charge of sugar, go to The Donut Whole. We were among several families there the morning we went.
You can go as vanilla or as rainbow as you want when choosing a donut here. The popular flavor is maple bacon, which you gotta try. All donuts are made from scratch daily.
There’s a wide assortment to choose from, and it is a tough choice. Cookie, candy, cereal…they’re all toppings here.
They once had a Breaking Bad donut with blue rock candy on top.
The coffee’s pretty good here, plus free refills. If you want a more substantial breakfast, you can get a breakfast sandwich (made with donuts).
Tip: If, for whatever reason, you’re up late, the drive-thru window is open 24 hours a day.
Doo Dah Diner is a dining hot spot in Wichita, and it has mastered the laid-back vibe. Everyone nods in approval if you tell them you plan to eat there. It’s good stuff.
We went on a Sunday, which turns out is buffet-only, which may or may not be great for your family. If you go Wednesday through Saturday for breakfast, expect a wait. But at least you get to have free monkey bread in line (while it lasts…which is about ’til noon).
I tried one of the buffet staples: Pork Belly and Grits, which got the thumbs up. You’ll also always find hashbrown casserole and smoked salmon on the buffet table every Sunday.
You can also get some food made-to-order, including some benedicts and omelets.
Going during the week? Timirie, co-owner of Doo Dah Diner, said the most popular things to order are Crab Cake Benedict, Chicken Fried Steak, Smothered Breakfast Burrito, Banana Bread French Toast (gluten free) and Corned Beef Hash.
The exterior of the diner doesn’t really hint to the fun decor inside. Think lots of colors and a mishmash of art on the walls.
Wichita restaurants for lunch or dinner
For lunch, try The Kitchen. When we visited, the restaurant was still pretty new to the Wichita scene. The focus is on seasonal and clean food (so no nitrates in lunch meat and the burger is 100% beef).
That’s not to say it’s health food. We dug into straight up comfort food here. Try the disco fries, a New Jersey take on poutine.
The owner, Natasha, described it as New American, adding “We like to say you can be as good or naughty as you like.”
The menu is seasonally inspired, so I can’t quite guarantee what you’ll be able to order. I can tell you that Natasha’s crew serves up a mean panini.
For drinks, they keep some Kansas craft brews on tap. I opted for a raspberry ice tea, which was made just right (not too sweet, thankyouverymuch). It’s a great summer drink.
Moms and dads who like local beer with good food, go earlier in the day to The Anchor. They’re known for a good lineup of 50+ craft beers on tap and this amazing thing called The Haystack.
It’s a pub, no getting around it. But, they have a kid’s menu, so they won’t snub families. And not just any thrown-together kiddie menu, but a solid burger served with fries, a fruit cup, and a Rice Krispie Treat.
If you’re really hungry go to the historic Delano District for some barbecue at Delano Barbeque Co. It’s huge servings, even on the kid’s menu. And messy, because, well, barbecue.
It’s on the quirky side for its Christmas lights.
Tip: Delano Barbecue is closed on Sundays.
Where to get a snack or dessert in Wichita
For lunch spot or a great place for a treat, is Old Mill Tasty Shop in downtown Wichita. This is a Wichita institution, which opened in the 1930s (the current owners bought it in the 1980s).
Everyone – and I mean everyone – you ask will tell you to get the chicken salad, and I sampled it and it lives up to the hype. If you like chili, try the green chili there.
I went there and got a chocolate shake, made the old-fashioned way behind their old-fashioned soda fountain counter, and loved every drop…that my daughter hadn’t swiped from me while I wasn’t looking.
By the way, it’s right by Intrust Bank Arena, so if you have tickets to a show, it’s a great spot for before-show food. Old Mill is open for lunches during the week, and until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Tip: Old Mill Tasty Shop is closed on Sundays.
Nifty Nut House is the snack place to end all snack places. It got its start in 1937, and over time, it’s evolved into a wholesaler of nuts, dried fruit, snack mixes, gourmet chocolate, sugar-free items, and homemade fudge.
But wait, there’s more.
You can find just about any candy brand you can dream of there, too.
It’s a huge store, and one my food hero, Alton Brown, called “a national treasure.”
Tip: Nifty Nut House is also closed on Sundays.
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Want to start planning your own Great Wichita Weekend?