Located on the Arkansas River, Wichita, Kansas is the largest city in the state with a population of just over 340,000 people as of 2008. The city was named after the Wichita Indians who were the original inhabitants of the land. Americans looking to strike it rich in the frontier from trade, hunting, and trapping, headed westward and arrived in the area that is now called Kansas in the mid 1850s. The new settlers found the Wichita Indians living in grass huts in the present day Wichita region. These Indians had moved north from Oklahoma after the onset of the American Civil War in order to have the protection from the Union. The new American settlers under the leadership of J.R. Mead initiated trade and commerce with the natives and establish a profitable trading station. The city of Wichita was officially incorporated in 1870 and experienced tremendous growth after the Civil War. The city continued to grow in spurts, attributed mostly to the aviation industry and the United States Air Force which opened Wichita Air Force Base in the 1950s. To this day, Wichita remains a hub of aerospace manufacturing and business and is home to Learjet, Boeing, Airbus, and Hawker Beechcraft.
Being the largest city in the state of Kansas, Wichita has become its cultural center. Small art museums and galleries exist throughout the city and a local film festival draws many entertainment enthusiasts to the city each year. Wichita is also home to several libraries as well as institutes of higher education including several universities and colleges.
The streets of Wichita are organized in a grid system which leads to easy navigation of the city’s main areas. The city’s downtown area and main business district lies on the eastern side of the Arkansas River. It contains many attractions and envelopes the neighborhood called Old Town, which in recent years has undergone a successful urban renewal project, turning old warehouses into night clubs, restaurants, shops, and urban housing.
Wichita is one of the sunniest spots in the United States with over 225 days of sunlight per year. The climate in Wichita spans a wide range as summers are hot and humid, while winters can be harsh and cold. Wichita also lies in the heart of an area referred to as Tornado Alley, a large corridor that spans a region of the central United States from Mexico to Canada, where the probability of deadly tornado formation is the highest on earth.