Wichita celebrates Christmas season with ‘Illuminations’ and a Victorian Christmas

Flowers in lights at Illuminations at Botanica

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

We participated in three holiday-related activities in one day over the weekend. From kicking off the holiday season with a parade to stepping back in time for an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas, Wichita gave us a great look into the Christmas season.

The Downtown Christmas parade kicked off our day of reveling. The parade took place near the WaterWalk mall. WaterWalk is a multi-use facility, consisting of retail shops, offices and apartments.

Christmas parade

The parade started with a couple of horse-drawn wagons. Children along the parade route loved getting the candy being tossed out from the wagons.

The parade was a short one, but had a few interesting participants. Stretch limousines drew some “ah’s” as they drove along the route. Miss Teen Kansas waved and displayed her small puppy to the people.

Miss Teen Kansas

The parade’s final main float had the man everyone was excited to see – Santa Claus! Santa waved and smiled as kids of all ages cheered him on. Following the parade, children had the opportunity to meet with Santa.

Santa Claus

As the sun set on the Kansas plains, we made our way to the botanical gardens for “Illuminations at Botanica.” The holiday light show displayed about a million lights over 17 acres.

Illuminations 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.

Luminaries lit at Illuminations at Botanica

We loved the lights display. 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.

Santa at Illuminations Botanica

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.


The children’s garden has a treehouse 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.


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


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


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

After we finished our visit at the Botanica, we headed down the street to Old Cowtown Museum for its Victorian Christmas celebration. The buildings were home to exhibits and crafts. The museum is a living history attraction.


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


A cowboy and his buddy enjoyed a holiday hot meal over a fire pit.


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


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

We stopped in at the local saloon for a Sarsaparilla and a show. Visitors were entertained by Roscoe the Magician and the Snitzler’s Saloon dance hall girls.


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.


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.


A young boy – about 2 1/2- stole the show. The emcee said hi to him and that’s all it took to get him engaged. The dancers visited with him between songs, and they even included the encounter in a skit between two of the dancers getting angry at each other over him. He danced on the main floor and even played with the dancers’ tamborines lying at the edge of the stage. He was adorable.

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.


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.


The Victorian Christmas celebration runs 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, please visit www.oldcowtown.org.

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.