With its past as an Old West cow town and a launchpad for the aviation industry, Wichita—Kansas' largest city—strikes an interesting historical balance. Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech and Lloyd Stearman were among the adventurers who launched the city's aircraft industry in the early 1900s. Visitors can learn more about the area's high-flying heritage at the Kansas Aviation Museum, the former terminal of the Wichita Municipal Airport, built in the Art Deco style of the 1930s.
Of course, before the aviation industry took off in this south-central Kansas community, catte reigned supreme. The Old Cowtown Museum captures the rowdy mood of Wichita's early days, when more than 1 million longhorns were herded to Chisholm Trail railheads.
Visitors searching for local treasures and cuisine find them in Old Town, a converted warehouse district east of downtown.
What to do
Botanica A children’s garden at the city's gardens encourages hands-on learning, while other areas feature flowers, bird walks and sculptures. (316) 264-0448; botanica.org
Crown Uptown Dinner Theatre See engaging shows at the 1928 former vaudeville venue with stars in the ceiling. The 2013 lineup includes Annie Get Your Gun and Hairspray. (316) 612-7696; crownuptown.com
Kansas Aviation Museum A revamped airport terminal houses historic aircraft, a flight simulator and an exhibit on perfect paper airplanes. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays, visitors can watch volunteers restore vintage aircraft. (877) 683-9242; kansasaviationmuseum.org
Old Cowtown Museum A 19th-century living-history town and farm includes a blacksmith’s shop, a newspaper printer and daily gunfight shows. For the best experience, check the online schedule and visit during special events. (316) 219-1871; oldcowtown.org
Riverfest Wichita’s huge annual celebration (May 31–June 8 in 2013) draws crowds for the Sundown Parade, fireworks, concerts, food, sporting events, arts and crafts fair, and more. (877) 934-3378; wichitariverfest.com
Wichita Art Museum Historic and contemporary glassworks make up a big part of the collection. The on-site Muse Cafe offers a light, lovely menu. (316) 268-4921; wichitaartmuseum.org
Where to eat
The Donut Whole It’s part coffee bar, part performance center, but mostly the place for cake doughnuts. More adventurous toppings include Fruity Pebbles, bacon or Hydrox cookies. (316) 262-3700; thedonutwhole.com
Hangar One Steakhouse Eat up the city’s heritage at this restaurant that looks like an airplane hangar. The “award-winning” Bailey’s bread pudding hasn’t actually won awards, but it could. (316) 941-4900; hangaronesteakhouse.com
YaYa’s Euro Bistro It’s hard to complain about a good steak in cattle country, but if you’re in need of a change, try YaYa’s. The menu offers fresh options, including wood-fired pizzas, hummus, Idaho rainbow trout and gnocchi. See reviews and ratings. (316) 634-1000; yayaswichita.com
Where to stay
Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview This beautiful historic property reopened in 2011 under new ownership. You’ll love the granite counters, soft beds, stellar service and tasty hot breakfast. From $109, breakfast included. See reviews and ratings. (316) 262-5000; druryhotels.com
Hotel at Old Town Richly furnished rooms, many with balconies, fill a 1906 downtown building. Suites have full kitchens, and you’re within easy distance of shopping and restaurants. From $119. See reviews and ratings. (877) 265-3869; hotelatoldtown.com
For information: Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau (800) 288-9424; gowichita.com