Topeka is at the center of Kansas, America’s heartland of prairies and wheat fields, but there’s more to the laidback city than rolling countryside. The capital of Kansas fascinates with its museums, activities, retail settings and decisive part in the battle for civil rights.
Go to the Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site. This interactive museum inside Monroe Elementary School commemorates the 1954 ruling that ended segregation in public schools in the USA. See Civil War battle flags and an 1868 locomotive at the Kansas Museum of History. Tour Great Overland Station for insights into Topeka’s railroad heritage.
Visit some of the city’s historic neighborhoods. Appreciate the Victorian-style homes at Potwin Place. Admire the 1920s and 1930s Italian Renaissance-style properties in Westboro. For a look at some of the city’s oldest residences, take a look throught Holiday Park, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century.
Topeka’s flat plains and farmlands provide the setting for numerous outdoor pursuits. Go walking, hiking and biking along the forested trails of the Kaw River State Park. Sail across Lake Shawnee and camp out in the park that surrounds it.
Experience the life of a prairie pioneer at Old Prairie Town, a collection of 19th-century buildings at Ward-Meade Park. This 5.5 acre (2.2 hectare) pioneer village has a restored 1870 Victorian Mansion, an 1854 replica log cabin, town square and an 1891 school house. Visit the town’s two-story reproduction of a drug store and enjoy a cold drink from its working soda fountain. Jump back into the modern world with some 21st-century shopping at the 1.1 million-square-foot (102,000-square meter) West Ridge Mall.
Take the family on a day of activities at Gage Park. The 160-acre (64-hectare) park is home to numerous attractions. Travel on the mini-train, ride the vintage 1908 carousel, see apes, jungle cats and alligators at its zoo, and enjoy the sights and smells of about 400 rose varieties at Reinisch Rose Garden. Let the children press buttons, pull levers and play games at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.
Topeka is located 64.5 miles (104 kilometers) west of Kansas City on the Interstate 70. Get around the relatively small center by bus or taxi. Rent a car to see the countryside that Kansas is known for.