Christmas 2016: Wichita celebrates with ‘Illuminations,’ Victorian theme

Flowers in lights at Illuminations at Botanica

Editor’s Note: This holiday season, we are taking a look around the country at events and attractions that celebrate the holiday season. Today, we look at our visit to two major Wichita events – Illuminations and a Victorian Christmas at Old Cow Town…

Wichita loves itself some Christmas spirit. “Humbug” doesn’t fly this time of the year.

As the sun sets on the Kansas plains each night through Dec.31 (except Dec. 24-25), people will flock to the botanical gardens for “Illuminations.” The holiday light show displays about a million lights over 17 acres.

Lights at Botanica.

Walking the path of the botanical gardens in the dark, surrounded by the multiple colors and music, should be enough to get even the Grinch’s heart pumping with the holiday spirit without having to steal from all of Whoville.


We loved the lights display during our visit in 2014. The pathways were lit with luminaries. They were even set up as attractions.

A popular display involved lights on a tree and the ground, choreographed to seasonal songs, including “Let it Go” and “Carol of the Bells.”

Choreographed light display at Illuminations Botanica.

We stopped and grabbed some hot cider to continue our walk through the gardens. Hot chocolate, hot dogs and popcorn were also available throughout the park.

Flocked trees highlight the Candy Land. The trees are decorated in an overhang. Wrapped present boxes enticed me. Lisa had to pull me away to keep me from unwrapping them.

Illuminations at Botanica.

Giant cupcakes and lollipops greet visitors to the area. A gingerbread house and people also reside in Candy Land.

Candyland at Illuminations Botanica.

Santa Claus made a quick trip to the Botanica to hear what kids wanted this year for the holiday.


The 17-acre gardens feature so many lights. About 120 trees feature lights. We spent about an hour at the gardens. It’s easy to spend 1-2 hours taking in the sights and sounds at the Botanica.

Illuminations at Botanica

The children’s garden has a tree house decorated with festive lights. There are lights inside the face of a tree, too.

My favorite display was a tree near the end of the walk. The trunk and a few branches were decorated with lights. Then, colorful decorations were added – Santa and a snowman sit at the top of the trunk. A “flying” pig hangs from one branch. Several other decorations light up the area.

Lights at Botanica.

I also loved a set of five Christmas tree light displays.

Five decorated light trees.

Gum drops dotted the landscape at one part of the Botanica.

Santa at Illuminations Botanica
More decorations at Botanica.

“Illuminations” runs through Dec. 31. For more information, please visit

Old Cowtown Museum hosts its Victorian Christmas celebration Dec. 2-3 and 9-10. The buildings are home to exhibits and crafts. The museum is a living history attraction.

The saloon hosted holiday entertainment at the Old Cowtown museum.

Carolers walk along the boardwalk, sharing the holiday season in song.


Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus greet visitors at a small log cabin that subs as the visitors center during the day.

Mrs. and Mrs. Claus at Cowtown.

You can take in the smells of gingerbread and cinnamon as you walk along the street.

Stop in at the local saloon for a Sarsaparilla and a show. Visitors are entertained by characters, such as Roscoe the Magician and the Snitzler’s Saloon dance hall girls.

Holiday entertainment.

During our visit, Roscoe entertained the full house with song and magic tricks. We stood a few feet from him and couldn’t see him doing any side moves during his tricks. One trick started with a golf ball inside a red solo cup. Later, a baseball and then an apple were inside the cup. It was all amazing.

Kicking up some holiday cheer.

The dance hall girls were a throwback to the Wild West days. They danced the Can-Can and other commonly known dances. They had a western take on the “Twelve days of Christmas” which involved getting a cactus, whiney women, two types of turkey (a game bird and a bottle), and five “goldish” rings. The entertainers did a fantastic job singing and dancing.

As the evening came to an end, the saloon dancers wished everyone a happy holiday through the song “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” You know, I’ve had people wish me happy holidays, but I don’t recall anyone ever raising their skirt dancing.

More dancing at the saloon.

Other exhibits and performances are available for visitors to take in.

As we were departing the museum, Victorian Santa Claus wished everyone a happy holiday.

A Victorian Santa.

The Victorian Christmas celebration runs 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3 and 9-10. For more information, please visit

We had a wonderful time taking in the sights and sounds of Wichita’s Christmas season.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the Wichita Visitors Bureau for the complimentary tickets to the Botanica Wichita and Old Cowtown Museum. However, all opinions and views are ours.