Honest Pros and Cons of Living in Wichita, KS

living in wichita kansas pros cons

So, you’re thinking about moving to Wichita, Kansas, home of the Shockers. Good for you!

There’s not a whole lot of information about Wichita out there, slightly unknown as we are. Even though the U.S. aerospace industry was basically founded in Wichita, many remain unaware of this great midwestern city.

I have moved in and out of Wichita for practically my whole life, so it’s fair to say I’m a resident expert. After traveling and living across the continental U.S., I realized most people truly know nothing about Kansas. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked if I rode my tractor (or horse) to school or work every day.

It’s time to dispel the myths and rumors surrounding Wichita and get right down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s the truth from an honest and unbiased Kansan who has lived in three different states.

The Pros of Living in Wichita

Here are some of the major pros of living in Wichita, Kansas.

1. Great Schools

With plenty of private and public schools, Wichita is known for its great school system. There are experimental schools, religious institutions, and state-funded schools that all offer a varied curriculum.

There are currently 149 preschools, 109 elementary schools, 52 middle schools, 29 high schools, and 100 public district schools in Wichita alone. There are also 37 private schools in Wichita, most of which are either Catholic or Christian.

If you’re planning on starting a family or already have kids, you will have plenty of options in Wichita, so finding the perfect fit should be a breeze. And, for those who have already graduated or may be seeking higher education, there’s Wichita State University, Newman University, and Friends University. Go Shockers!

2. Lively craft beer scene

In my lifetime alone, Wichita has expanded its craft beer selection tremendously. There are so many breweries in Wichita now, including Central Standard Brewing, Bricktown Brewery, Hopping Gnome Brewing Company, River City Brewing Co., and Third Place Brewing, just to name a few.

Wichita is officially on the map for those traveling the U.S. in search of the best beer! We also host Brew Wagon Tours, which showcase three or more local breweries and are always a blast. Not to mention the Wicked Brew Tour, which boasts all local beer and coffee brewers here in Doo-Dah City. Plus, there are bar crawls practically every weekend.

For those who prefer something a little harder, the Monarch has the largest bourbon selection in Kansas. I think it’s fair to say that you’ll never be thirsty here.

3. Tons of restaurants

There are currently over 1200 restaurants in the up-and-coming food haven of Wichita. Now, some of them are chains that you can find just about anywhere else. But a large majority of that 1200 are locally owned, delicious restaurants that are simply the best.

Whether you’re into sushi, burgers and fries, or Thai cuisine, Wichita has a place for you. Actually, they’ll have several places for you to try. So, it’s pretty hard to get bored when it comes to food in good ol’ Doo-Dah City.

4. Large city, but without the hustle and bustle

This is largely based on my own personal experiences, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

One of the greatest things about Wichita is that it has a lot of the attractions of a major city without the hustle and bustle. We have Century II Performing Arts Center, a local improv group, and choirs galore if you’re artistically motivated. There are first Friday art shows, galleries, and museums spread out across town. We have restaurants that range from fancy French bistro (George’s!) to hole-in-the-wall, grease-tastic Mexican food (El Gordo’s, my first love). We have a baseball team, a basketball team, a hockey team, and we’re close to Lawrence and Manhattan for any Jayhawk/Wildcat fans.

There’s truly something for everyone here. Even better, there’s virtually no traffic, sirens, or lines to go places. We’re still just a midwestern town at our heart and soul. Combine that midwestern laziness and excessive space with big-city attractions, and you’ve got Wichita.

5. Family-friendly fun

Don’t be dismayed by the endless array of breweries and bars here; we’ve got plenty for the younger crowds too. My childhood favorite was Exploration Place, located between downtown and the west side of town. A self-defined science discovery center, this nonprofit is dedicated to making STEM fun and accessible for kiddos all around.

Head down West Museum Boulevard to hit the Old Cowtown Museum, better known around town as simply Cowtown. There you can churn your own butter, experience life in the late 1800s, and watch reenactors hold duels in the streets.

Last but not least, the Sedgwick County Zoo has 3,000 animals that make up an amazing 400 species. Needless to say, our zoo is huge, beautiful, and an afternoon of fun. My personal favorite? The endlessly confusing yet so adorable red panda. Is it a bear? A raccoon? We may never know.

6. Friendly, welcoming people

Sure, the South is most well-known for its hospitality, but the great state of Kansas should be mentioned as well. The Heartland is chock-full of overly polite and sweet people. You can bet they will ask you how you’re doing as you walk down the street. The gal who bags your groceries? She’ll probably become your new best friend.

Kansas is a great place to meet new people and make lifelong friends. Wichitans aren’t cold or crazy efficient, like our neighbors to the East. I swear they’ll be just as excited to meet you as you are them.

7. Major aerospace industry

Unknown to many, Wichita is actually one of the nation’s leaders in high-tech manufacturing! We are called the Air Capital of the World for a reason. Many of the great aerospace companies like Beech, Cessna, and Boeing, were all founded right here in Doo-Dah City. Fun fact: Bombardier Aerospace Learjet, Raytheon, and Cessna (all based in Wichita) supply over half of all the aviation and military aircraft equipment in the world. Spirit AeroSystems, previously known as Boeing, produces, “two-thirds of the world’s commercial airliners.” (1)

Spirit AeroSystems employs a significant amount of the Wichita population, including some of my own family. Spirit, Textron Aviation, and McConnell Air Force Base are the three top employers in Wichita, KS. Together, they employ close to 30,000 Wichitans full-time.

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, consider looking in Wichita. Whether you’re an engineer, assembly worker, or accountant, they’ll have a position for you.

8. Cost of living

The cost of living in Wichita is significantly lower than other major, metropolitan cities, and it’s 12.1% lower than the national average. That’s pretty significant if you ask me.

Although we do have sales tax (looking at you, New Hampshire!), the cost of living is generally far less expensive than other states. In my mind, it balances out. Wichita is truly an affordable city. With a median monthly rent of $697 (utilities included), there’s space for just about everyone here

The Cons of Living in Wichita

We can’t all be perfect, you know. So, here are some negatives to consider before crossing state lines.

1. Not a lot of parks or easy access to nature

Let’s face it. If you’re moving to Kansas, it’s probably not for the scenery. Although there are some extremely beautiful prairies in Kansas—the Flint Hills, anyone?—Wichita is not where it’s at.

The park system we do have is mostly focused on playgrounds and sport courts, not trees or trails. There is the Great Nature Center which provides a walking/biking/running trail and educational content for younger generations. But if you’re an avid hiker, biker, or nature lover, you are going to be a little disappointed in Wichita’s selection.

2. Lack of reliable public transportation

The United States is not known for its public transportation, and Wichita is no exception. There is a bus system, but with an average 19-minute commute, many Wichitans require their own car. Since most buses come to each stop every 45-60 minutes, the wait time is a risk to consider when choosing public transit.

Unfortunately, Wichita was not designed with pedestrians in mind. Or cyclists for that matter. Wichita is a sprawling city, so most shops or locations are miles apart, making it almost impossible to walk wherever you need to go.

On the bright side, Wichita is slowly becoming a bikeable city. Several activists and cyclists in Wichita have been making great strides in getting bike lanes on every street and spreading awareness about safety concerns.

3. Wichita is not designed for younger crowds, perfect for 35+

As a young(ish) person, I can safely say that Wichita was not designed for ages 18-30. Sure, there are great colleges and bars and whatnot, but it’s certainly not a young town. From personal experience, I’d say Wichita is split pretty evenly between older generations (around 65 and up) and Gen X/older millennials (35+).

The median age in Wichita is 34.4 years old. Since Wichita has such a strong school system, it mostly attracts families who want to provide a great education for their kiddos. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

However, if you’re in your early-mid 20s, you might feel a little out of place in Wichita.

Pros/Cons:

Some of these could be pros for you and some of them may be cons. But that’s up to you to decide!

1. Politics

Depending on your stances, Wichita may or may not be your cup of tea. Kansas is a red state, due to the large, rural swaths. However, with liberal cities like Lawrence and Wichita, many recent governors and mayors have been democrats.

Sedgwick County as a whole leans conservative, but it’s a pretty close call. Needless to say, there are people with whom you will probably agree with and those with whom you may not. Either way, it certainly makes for an interesting election season.

2. Religion

Kansas, although in the Midwest, is pretty dang close to the Bible Belt. 52.3% of Wichitans self-identify as religious. And of those, 51.1% identify as Christians. There is a temple and a mosque, but Christians significantly outweigh any other religious groups.

Because of this, a lot of the best schools in Wichita are Catholic or Christian schools. It’s something to keep in mind depending on your religious orientation.

Conclusion

So, is Wichita a good place to live? To be honest, yes and no.

It’s got all the urban niceties that people crave: a great art scene, theatre, sporting events, and delicious food. But it still retains a cozy midwestern atmosphere, mostly thanks to its sweet and welcoming people. To summarize, it’s an urban environment filled with small-town folks. Everyone knows everything about everyone, but there’s fun to be had.

But, like I said above, no place is perfect. Depending on your age, family, and beliefs, it might be hard to find your community here. Or, if you feel best when in nature like me, you’ll struggle with the concrete jungle-feel of the city.

Weigh your pros and cons and discover what matters most to you. Is it affordable housing? Low cost of living? Easy access to nature? A thriving local and small business scene?

If you’re starting a family, love craft beer, or want to continue your education at a fraction of the price, Wichita is probably a perfect place for you. Just make sure and do your research first. Take it from me; I’d never lead you wrong. 🙂