While I enjoy my time as an expat in South Korea, I often get homesick for Wichita. If I haven’t made it obvious already, Wichita is where I was born and raised. It’s where my family and close friends live, where I met my husband (in high school, can you believe that?), where we got married, and the place we will always call home.
Fun fact – it’s also where my two cats were born.
In recent years Wichita has seen an immense amount of growth – local businesses, people, and pride. It has been worthwhile to come home and see something new with every trip, yet also to see some of my favorite places that haven’t changed a bit.
I will be honest – I get a lot of crap when I say I’m from Kansas.
Oh, how is Toto? What is there to even do? Where is Kansas, isn’t that a flyover state? How can you have so much pride in where you’re from? Have you followed the yellow brick road to see the Wizard? Hey you know you aren’t in Kansas anymore, right?
….trust me, we have heard them ALL. Most of the time people apply these same questions about my hometown, which is why I’m here to show you my favorite things about Wichita – and why I think it’s so badass.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S ALLEN HOUSE
Completed in 1918, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Allen House is named after its first owners (Henry Allen and wife, Elsie) and was the last of the architect’s famous prairie style houses (horizontal lines, earth tones, a juxtaposition of the interior/exterior, etc). Situated on the corner of Roosevelt and 2nd St, this house is truly a gem in Wichita. In order to see it in its entirety, you need to book a tour. My mom and I went on their Twilight Tour which was an early evening 2 hour walk around the outside and inside of the house. We were not disappointed – it was worth every second. The best part about that tour was seeing the passage of light from the early sunset bounce around the nooks, crannies, and stained glass windows. To book a tour and for more information, please see their website here. The tour schedule is limited, so book early!
Famous for their crumbly burgers, Nu Way is a Wichita Classic. It has been serving people since 1930, making it a veteran of its kind. Although my family and I joke about needing to take Bean-o or Imodium before you go (it’s very greasy, to say the least), don’t let that deter you from the deliciousness of an original crumbly burger. It is the finest in all of the Midwest. Pair it with curly fries and a Root Beer Float and you’re in for a genuine treat. Nu Way is a must every time I visit home, and I don’t think that will ever change.
THE DONUT WHOLE
Another one about food? You bet! The Donut Whole, located at 1720 E. Douglas Ave, offers a plethora of creative and delicious donuts – some of the best that I have ever had. In addition to donuts, there are drink items such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and smoothies. Often times there are specials for specific occasions, i.e. “The Eclipse Donut” in honor of the recent Solar Eclipse. The just recently rolled out with “The Wammich” – a breakfast donut sandwich. If I could have one of those teleported to South Korea right now, I would do it in a heartbeat. It opened up while I was in high school, and business has boomed ever since. It’s the perfect place to meet up with a friend, study group, or even do some solo work. Check out their calendar for events and see their specials on their Facebook page.
KEEPER OF THE PLAINS
The Keeper of the Plains is a 44′ weathering steel sculpture by Kiowa Comanche artist Blackbear Bosin. Although it’s been in the city since 1974 it was just recently placed on a pedestal near the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers so it could be seen from a further distance. Throughout the years it has grown as Wichita’s symbol. On a gorgeous summer night one can visit the KotP and watch a modest firework show. Although this statue probably means nothing to the average tourist, it is a symbol of comfort and home to Wichita natives.
WICHITA ART MUSEUM
The Wichita Art Museum, or WAM for short, houses an incredible amount of American art in a beautiful modern-styled building. I majored in Art History, so while it’s natural for me to always check out art museums I can proudly say this is one of the finest collections of American Art in the Midwest. Admiring the Chihuly chandelier and bridge area is a must. Some of their treasures include art by Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, and Jun Kaneko, as well as many other notable artists. There’s a nice children’s area as well. Don’t forget to see their outdoor sculpture garden in the back. Check out their schedule of events and more information here.
While I haven’t seen all of them, murals all over Wichita are rapidly popping up as the culture and love for the city grows. I must say, I am truly loving this trend. Morale and pride in my hometown has indeed grown since I left for college. This specific one in the picture above is by Josh Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis, titled “Greetings From Wichita,” on the side of Reuben Saunders Gallery, 3215 E. Douglas. Others I have seen are variations of the Wichita flag, landscape panos, etc. They certainly add much charm to the city!
THE NIFTY NUT HOUSE
The Nifty Nut House is…..yes, you guessed it, a nut house! It has been around since as long as I can remember. A family-owned local business, the Nifty Nut House is a cornucopia of sweets, treats, and snacks. One could easily spend hours browsing in this giant warehouse of food. I think every child in Wichita gets something from The Nifty Nut House in their Christmas stocking as well. Avoid the weekends as that’s when they are the busiest (the line takes a while to get through), and they are especially crowded during the holidays.
WATERMARK BOOKS & CAFE
Last but absolutely not least, Watermark Books & Cafe is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I may be a tad bit biased since my lovely mother works there, but it is truly an outstanding example of a small local bookstore business doing the right thing. They are the reason why I never buy books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other giant corporation. Comfortable chairs are provided for those who enjoy taking a gander at their inventory, and if you need any assistance a friendly employee will be there to happily help. If they don’t have your book of choice, you can order it from them and receive it within a week. The atmosphere is a paradise for readers and writers. Make an effort to have breakfast or lunch at the cafe; it is one of my favorite lunch spots in all of Wichita.
PS – Only 32 more days until we move back to America! I can’t believe it either!
Kisses & Kimchi,