Updated March 27, 2023
Disclosure: The City of Derby sponsored this post; however, all opinions are my own. All of the photos were taken by me.
It’s time you found your happy place this summer in Derby, Kansas! A 20-minute drive from Wichita, the town has many options for keeping the family entertained. I suggest adding it to your summer day trip bucket list.
I’m taking the guesswork out of travel planning for you and breaking down a full day of exciting things to do during your visit. From visiting area attractions to shopping and dining, I’ve created a list of must-have experiences for visitors of all ages.
Nothing makes my heart pitter-patter more than a stroll through a farmers market on a Saturday morning. At the Derby Farmers Market (512 E. Madison Ave.), you will find seasonal produce, tables stacked with honey and salsa jars, Kansas-raised meat, and hand-crafted gifts. The market operates from April through October on Saturdays from 8 am-12 pm.
Like me, I know you’ll appreciate the variety of vendors and the acoustic live music as the backdrop at the market. I introduced myself to the owner of Sargeant’s Berry Farm and chatted about the seasonal vegetables for sale. He was just the person I needed to talk to about zucchini. As a gardener, I learn the best tips about tending plants simply from conversing with farmers at the market.
Once you’ve stocked your reusable bag with Kansas-made products, I recommend taking a walk around Madison Avenue Central Park and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. If you’re a parent with kids in tow, visiting the like-new playground is a must.
Watch them as they gleefully cross a suspension bridge and crawl through jungle gym equipment. Before packing up the car with the kids, make sure they see the two-story waterfall and life-sized chess set located adjacent to the play area.
DERBY HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM
Let’s continue the fun! Our next stop is the town’s historical museum, a treasure of finds. Wait until you see what lies inside one of Derby’s oldest buildings, a school built in 1924 that is now listed on the National Historical Registrar! The Derby Historical Society Museum (710 E. Market) invites visitors to travel through time by touring classrooms converted into thematic exhibits. Fifteen rooms are stocked with contributed artifacts, and the hallways display special collections.
Even though school may be out for kids during the summer, they will get a kick out of rooms devoted to education (be sure to check out the report card in the case!). Adults will appreciate the historical value of the curated items in rooms celebrating 19th Century history, the military, and ancient artifacts.
Everyone will gain a new appreciation for how their ancestors lived from one of the finest collections of artifacts in the state.
What makes this museum special? It has more unique and hard-to-curate items than I’ve seen in a Kansas museum. For example, they don’t just have one antique typewriter or camera – dozens of all sizes and colors. I told everyone I’ve met since I visited the museum about its impact on me. And I must admit, the more I learned about the town’s history, the more I wished I had gone to school in Derby. “Go, Panthers!” I’ll return to the museum with friends and family in tow.
Open April through October on Saturdays from 10 am-2 pm, admission to the Derby Historical Society Museum is FREE. You better carve out at least an hour of your afternoon to tour it. The friendly volunteers (many of whom grew up in Derby) are more than willing to take you on an impromptu tour, or you can enjoy the museum at your own pace on a self-guided tour.
It doesn’t truly feel like summer until you spend time exploring one of Derby’s picturesque parks. The town has more than 403 acres of parkland, 20 developed parks, and 14 green spaces. Their newest addition, Decarsky Park (1600 Line Drive), is worth the short drive to the edge of town.
The dog park and ballpark are in pristine condition featuring four playing fields, concessions, a dog agility course, a dock launch (watch dogs jump for toys into the pond!), and shade structures. Find out more about what you can expect at the park here.
During my visit, the park hosted youth softball and baseball tournaments. With every crack of a bat and roar of the crowd, the atmosphere erupted with a competitive spirit. It was a good day to visit the park for the first time. The energy was infectious, and it was certainly a place to enjoy the sounds of summer.
If you’d rather stay closer to town, a visit to Warren Riverview Park (321 W. Market) promises a good time. Opened in 2018 on the banks of the Arkansas River, it defies your expectations. The four-acre park features kayak/canoe access to the river, covered shelters, a 15-foot ropes course, rentable event space, and public art. View park details here.
By now, you’ve probably worked up quite an appetite. Locals know that Madrocks Restaurant & Sports Bar (1821 E. Madison Ave. #100) is a smart choice for lunch or dinner-goers searching for a tasty meal. They serve housemade steaks and burgers using Yoder Meats, fresh salads, deli sandwiches, and mouthwatering pizza.
I devoured tangy BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls served with perfectly crispy tater tots. Seated in the cool air conditioning while enjoying a scrumptious meal was just what I needed to escape the summer heat.
An excellent place for groups to gather, play sports bar games or partake in karaoke on Thursday-Saturday, Madrocks is also known to host live music occasionally. Multiple TVs make watching the game easy, and the sports bar includes a pool table, Golden Tee, and pinball.
The restaurant and bar are locally owned and veteran-operated. Check their Facebook page for details.
FIELD STATION: DINOSAURS
With a new energy boost, you’ll be ready to jump in the car and drive to Field Station: Dinosaurs (2999 N. Rock Road). The adventure park is a world-class family attraction with limitless possibilities for fun. After purchasing tickets, visitors enter via basecamp to start the expedition. Upon check-in, you will receive a trail map and expedition schedule (shows), and each child in your group will be gifted a passport to have stamped at six stations.
You can expect to see over 40 full-size, animatronic dinosaurs on 10 acres of walking trails. You get access to 30 theatrical shows, games, and activities for one admission – no extra charge! Admission to the park also includes a round of Jurassic Golf on the 18-whole course, which is also sold separately if you’d rather only golf during a visit to the park.
Touring the park is an immersive experience. Where else can you walk amongst life-sized prehistoric creators and hear their natural sounds? Don’t miss visiting all of the activity stations. Each one keeps novice paleontologists learning and engaged.
Kids will love the Fossil Dig Site, where they can unearth prehistoric fossils and dinosaur skeletons. Bigger kids and adults will find the T-Rex Feeding Frenzy interesting as they learn about the Scientific Method to study the eating habits of the creature. Tip: Pick up a Scavenger Hunt at Dino-Bites and return it to Dino-Bites for a prize.
I was impressed by each employee’s enthusiasm for teaching others about science, and the employees that led the shows were highly engaging. Seeing families singing and dancing along at the Dinosaur Dance Party was refreshing.
DERBY PUBLIC LIBRARY GATHERING SPACE GALLERY
Let’s escape the summer sun and head indoors! Art lovers will appreciate the volume of talented work on exhibition at the Derby Public Library (1600 E. Walnut Grove). As you walk into the building, you immediately see prints and paintings.
During my visit, I admired abstract artwork, photography, and drawings by local artists of all ages. While all of the pieces were remarkable, I appreciated one, in particular, tucked away in the back of the library of the musician Beck. All of the artwork was for sale and modestly priced.
ROCK RIVER RAPIDS
Just when you think you’ve experienced the best of summer fun in Derby, there’s one more place that promises excitement – Rock River Rapids Aquatic Park (1900 E. James)! More fun awaits just around the corner and down the street from the library. Families can dip in the Zero Depth Pool, relax on the Lazy River, or test their endurance in the Lap Pool.
Can you say it’s summer until you’ve launched yourself down a water slide? The aquatic center has multiple slides to select, and the newest one, the Green Slide, has twists and turns that get your heart racing.
Although outside food and drink are not allowed, attendees can purchase tasty treats from Ollie Snack Shack. If you want a place to store your belongings, you can use one of the lockers if you provide your lock. You don’t have to worry about bringing a chair, as the park has rows of available lounge chairs. You can also sun yourself on a towel on the grassy lawn like others I saw enjoying the space.I visited the pool on one of the hottest days on record in Derby. It was the best place to wind down and relax in the shade near the water. It made for great people-watching, too! Everyone was smiling and enjoying the day. If you want to learn more about Rock River Rapids Aquatic Center, the premier water park in South-Central Kansas, view their hours and events via their Facebook page.
Derby offers countless places to enjoy the summer. Whether you’re walking amongst dinosaurs, splashing in the pool, or enjoying a delicious meal indoors, it’s certainly worth the short commute from Wichita.
I’d love to hear if you’ve visited other places in Derby that promise a good time during the summer. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.