Some of the nation's happiest workers live in Wichita, according to a 2012 study by careerbliss.com, which ranked Wichita No. 6 on its list of Happiest Cities to Work In.
Such is the case for Cathy McClain, a former wing commander at McConnell Air Force Base and director of program management for Spirit AeroSystems' Center of Excellence.
“Some communities don't welcome military personnel and their families because they know we are transient, but that certainly is not the case in Wichita and the surrounding communities of Andover and Derby,” McClain says.
When McClain retired from the Air Force in 2007 after 25 years of service, she could have lived anywhere, but she chose to stay in Wichita.
“The community has always been there for us, no matter what,” she says.“For example, Friends of McConnell is a volunteer group of a couple hundred folks who support the airmen and their families, and whenever the base might need anything, Friends of McConnell is there. Those people add to an already robust quality of life here in Wichita.”
Affordable Homes, Good Schools
Along with a welcoming atmosphere, that quality of life includes affordability. Real estate industry watchdog Inman News ranked Wichita No. 2 on its list of 10 Real Estate Markets to Watch in 2012, due to home affordability, above-average price appreciation, and low foreclosure and vacancy rates.
Home construction is on the rise thoughout the area, and loft apartments and condos are continually being built in trendy downtown spots like Commerce Street and WaterWalk.
Wichita also has highly ranked schools with several International Baccalaureate programs, and a handful of area school districts are operating virtual schools where students in any grade can enroll in classes online.
At the Art of It All
Wichita's metropolitan area has gained acclaim for its world-class arts and culture that give people dozens of entertainment options. That includes 35 museums, such as Wichita Art Museum, Ulrich Art Museum and the Museum of World Treasures, as well as diverse restaurants, retail shops, galleries and nightlife.
“There is also Kansas Aviation Museum that chronicles Wichita's rise to aviation prominence, and Old Cowtown Museum that relives the 1870s, complete with re-enactors,” says Ken Vandruff, director of communications for Go Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau. “People can also enjoy world-class traveling exhibits at Exploration Place science discovery center, while The Kansas African American Museum tells the story of the local African-American experience and the people who helped shape it.”
The city's Old Town district serves as the focal point for monthly events such as the First Friday music crawl and Final Friday art gallery crawl, and the annual Tallgrass Film Festival brings independent film buffs to Wichita each October. Wichita also hosts several year-round cultural festivals including the Wichita Riverfest, Asian Festival, Black Arts Festival and Cinco de Mayo celebration.
“Each summer, we self-produce five Broadway-scale musical productions using a mixture of top-flight professionals from Broadway and Hollywood working hand in hand with talented Midwesterners,” says Wayne Bryan, artistic director with Music Theatre of Wichita. “The productions have received praise from critics in New York, Los Angeles, Canada and Europe, and we have been described as one of the nation’s top 10 summer theaters.”
Room to Roam
Outdoor lovers will find a trove of recreational attractions in Wichita including golf courses, hiking and biking trails, pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, thousands of acres of parks and green space, and sporting events ranging from baseball to hockey.
“Wichita, the largest city in Kansas, is a destination where you can expect the unexpected,” Vandruff says. “We even have Sedgwick County Zoo, the seventh largest zoo in the United States. Its newest wild exhibit is the Slawson Family Tiger Trek that features Amur and Malayan tigers in their natural habitat.”