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A fraction of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma are the two geographic components of the Wichita Destination. The namesake, Wichita, is a city that occupies land in Kansas’ southern region in the northeastern corner of the destination. Coursing through the city is the Arkansas River which joins at the confluence of the Little Arkansas River at the center of Wichita. Several attractions and industries have been established around these rivers, such as the Old Cowtown Museum and the Keeper of the Plains, the latter being a Native American sculpture in Veterans Memorial Park. While tourism contributes to the city’s economic development, Wichita is also supported by the aviation and oil industries. The city was the headquarters of what was previously known as the Derby Oil Company, now under the ownership of Coastal Corporation as of 1988. Moreover, Wichita is home to Wichita State University—the third-largest post-secondary institution in Kansas. This university also features the Wichita Art Museum, which is reportedly the largest art museum in the state, with around 7,000 pieces in permanent collections. For those who gravitate more toward outdoor recreation, Cheney State Park can be found about 16 miles west of Wichita. The park’s environment is conducive to recreation that might involve lake activities or land exploration. Such pastimes would include nature photography, fishing, sailing, and windsurfing, among numerous other options.
The Wichita Destination comprises a portion of southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma in the central region of the United States. Wichita, the namesake, is the largest city by area and population in the destination, encompassing a total area of 163.59 square miles. It is additionally rated the most populous city in the state of Kansas, and Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County. As of 2023, the city’s population totals 392,878 residents. Statistics indicate that the population is gradually declining at an annual rate of -0.36%. Since the most recent census in 2020, which reported a total number of 397,117 people, the population has decreased by -1.07%.
Entrepreneurship is a particularly notable element of Wichita, as the city is a hub for numerous businesses. A couple of the more well-known businesses that originally began in Wichita are Pizza Hut—founded by Dan and Frank Carney—and Koch Industries, the latter of which was founded by Fred Koch. The city also has several universities established throughout it, with the most prominent being the Wichita State University. Apart from the development of industries and education in Wichita, the city also serves as a cultural and entertainment center. The city features a variety of restaurants, museums, parks, retail shops, and other sites that may pique the interest of tourists. Downtown Wichita is home to the INTRUST Bank Arena, a venue with a maximum capacity of 15,000 attendees.
One of the most popular attractions in Wichita, which can cater to both an older and a younger demographic, is the Sedgwick County Zoo. Over 3,000 animals occupy the zoo, including elephants, African lions, Amur tigers, and lynx, to name a few. Another leisurely activity that the city provides is the Botanica, The Wichita Gardens. This attraction encompasses 17.6 acres of land that comprises a diverse range of vegetation. The Botanica, The Wichita Gardens also has a few activities for kids to enjoy, namely story time sessions, face painting, and scavenger hunts, among others. History enthusiasts may take an interest in the Museum of World Treasures where visitors can learn more about the history of the Berlin Wall, dinosaurs, and what is said to be “a genuine shrunken head.” For those who want to learn about the history of Kansas, the Old Cowtown Museum is relevant to the state’s historical significance, in the matter of the experience of those who lived in Kansas circa the 1870s.
Situated in the south-central region of Kansas, the city of Wichita is among a few fairly prominent cities, all of which are established outside of the Wichita Destination. The city can be found 157 miles north of Oklahoma City, 181 miles southwest of Kansas City, and 439 miles east-southeast of Denver. Of Wichita’s total area, 4.30 square miles are covered by water, as the Arkansas River courses directly through the city. The Little Arkansas River enters from the north and creates a confluence with the Arkansas River to the west of the city’s downtown area.
Located approximately 16 miles west of Wichita is Cheney State Park, one of the most notable natural areas in the Wichita Destination. The park features a body of water known as Cheney Reservoir, which covers a surface area of roughly 9,500 acres. Cheney Reservoir is often frequented by those who enjoy sailing, windsurfing, and fishing. The average wind speed for those who plan on engaging in windsurfing is around 14 miles per hour. Sailors can visit the West Shore Area where a marina called the Ninnescah Sailing Center can be found. It should be noted that the marina can provide equipment and services for anglers and boaters. Some of the fish that one can expect to catch in the Cheney Reservoir are white bass, channel catfish, wiper, crappie, striped bass, and walleye. A total of 22 boat launching lanes are available at the marina as well, offering boaters direct access to the lake. The Cheney Wildlife Area neighbors the reservoir, and visitors are welcome to undertake nature photography, wildlife viewing, and hunting in this area.
On account of Wichita’s location in a humid subtropical climate zone, the summer season tends to be hot and humid, while the winter season is relatively cold with dry conditions. As a general range, temperatures in the city vary between 25°F and 93°F over the course of the year. Temperatures rest at a high of around 83°F on average from June to September, and July most commonly receives the highest temperatures, with an average high of 92°F. Regarding the cold season from November to February, the average daily high drops below 52°F. January is typically the coldest month of the year in Wichita, during which temperatures average between a low of 25°F and a high of 44°F. Considering these yearly temperatures, Weather Spark’s tourism score recommends future visitors travel to Wichita from mid-May to early October should they plan on pursuing warm-weather activities.
According to archaeological evidence, what is now known as Wichita was previously the setting for a trading center, and it served as such for thousands of years. Throughout the mid-1850s, hunters and trappers were drawn to the area for the region’s wildlife. It wasn’t until 1868 that a trading post was founded by J.R. Mead on the banks of the confluence of the Arkansas River and the Little Arkansas River. Wichita Indians began visiting this trading post, hence the present name of the city. Though it has not been officially confirmed, the name either translates to English as “scattered lodges” or “painted faces” in the Wichita language. During the same year that the trading post was created, Mead and six other people became the original incorporators of a Wichita Town Company. Several years later on July 21, 1870, Wichita was incorporated as a city of the third class.
Following its incorporation, Wichita experienced a significant growth in population primarily due to Texas’ cattle trade. Because of this increase in residents, it took only two years after its first incorporation for it to be incorporated as a city of the second class in 1872. Toward the latter end of the 1870s, the cattle trade began to move westward to take advantage of the railroad’s construction. As 1880 approached, Wichita’s economy rebounded with the introduction of agriculture and manufacturing. These two industries were reportedly fundamental contributors to the city’s economic growth all the way to the 1920s. Eventually, the aircraft industry became present in Wichita, which was made possible through the efforts of Lloyd Stearman, Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, E.M. Laird, George Weaver, and J.M. Mollendick. Each played a role in the overall progression of the industry, with Mollendick as the financial backer and Laird as the constructor of the Swallow airplane. Presently known as Textron Aviation, the Beech and Cessna companies have continued to this day. As a result of Wichita’s history with aviation, the city is often acknowledged as the “Air Capital of the World.”
In the 1950s, Wichita’s population surpassed 250,000 residents, previously at 100,000 people in the 1920s. While aircraft manufacturing aided much of this population growth, the discovery of oil brought a considerable amount of travelers to the region. The city also became a major manufacturing center for the Boeing B-29 bomber during World War II, which played a part in the population increase as well. As previously noted, Pizza Hut was a major company that first began in Wichita in 1958, among other fast food franchises such as White Castle.