Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Topeka, KS

  • Published 2022/08/06

Topeka is the capital city of Kansas and is also known as the Golden City.

It is the fifth-largest city in Kansas and has more to it than you would think.

This city played a major part in the Civil War.

Topeka is also famous for the United States Supreme court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, where it declared separation in public schools based on race unconstitutional.

Fun fact: the city temporarily changed its name to Google in 2010, just for fun.

The city is magnificent in its own way.

Topeka is the windiest city in the United States.

The climate is mild but intercontinental.

Warm sunshine pours down on the city’s hills, valleys, and soil; snow, wind, and rains are customary throughout the year.

The center of the country is home to lots of vibrant art, sports, outdoor entertainment, and delicious food.

Here are the best things to do in Topeka, Kansas:

Visit the Historic Great Overland Station

Exterior of Great Overland Station

Ron Reiring, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Great Overland Station on Kansas Avenue is one of the places you cannot afford to miss on your visit to the city.

It used to be a Pacific Railroad Station and was transformed into a museum that displays Topeka’s history and railroad information.

It is a people’s place with lots of interactive exhibits to learn from.

Visitors and tourists that come here can learn about the city’s railroad and stations that operate in the city.

Doorway of Great Overland Station

Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There is a kids’ section and an operative locomotive train junction.

Weddings and events take place here occasionally.

Gilbert Stanley Underwood designed Great Overland Station in 1925, and it was fully functional from 1927.

However, passengers declined from the 1950s, and the station was later converted into a railroad heritage museum.

Interior of Great Overland Station

Chuckmor, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stroll around the Ward-Meade Historic Site

Also known as Old Prairie Town, Ward-Meade Historic Site on Fillmore Street is an ancient historical site with lots of activities to do.

They showcase what life here was like in the 1800s and let you experience the past in the present.

It is located on six acres of land and includes the Ward-Meade Botanical Garden, which preserves the family history of Kansas City’s earliest settlers.

It takes two hours to visit the park, and there are various ancient drugstores inside where you can purchase a sweet treat or a snack.

You can stroll through the botanical garden; it has a path for walking with flowers and green grass on both sides.

The perfect time to visit the site would be during the spring, as this is when you get to see the tulips blossoming in the garden.

Be Dazzled by the Kansas State Capitol

Exterior of Kansas State Capitol Building

Gino Santa Maria /

The Kansas State Capitol is the only Capitol building in the United States where tourists can go to the top of the dome and stroll around the outside area, which makes it a must-visit when you come to Topeka.

This place presents visitors with a wonderful opportunity to explore the city and revisit the state’s history.

The bronze statue of the Kansas warrior is situated at the top of the dome.

Inner dome of Kansas State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

The Capitol building’s eye-catching architecture and interiors are intricately designed.

Its inner dome is filled with glass panels, while the outer dome is made of copper.

John Steuart Curry’s famous mural Tragic Prelude can be found inside the museum.

You’ll find a state library in the northern part of the State Capitol.

House of representatives chamber in Kansas State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

There is a stairway that leads you to the top of the building.

Moreover, there is a visitor area with exhibits on display.

It took millions of dollars to design the tombs and the structure of the building.

Murals in Kansas State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Enjoy a Sunny Day at Lake Shawnee

The waters of Lake Shawnee

Jody Pellerin /

Lake Shawnee is an artificial lake in Topeka with an old amusement park alongside it.

There is a sufficient man-made waterfall and beach as well.

Lake Shawnee is one of the most beautiful secluded areas in the city.

There are large outdoor seating areas near the lake for families to visit, cook, and enjoy.

Shelter houses are also available for rent.

The place has lots of playgrounds, tennis courts, and sand volleyball nets.

There are many attractions and things to do here, including fishing, swimming, skiing, camping, boat rafting, and sailing on private yachts.

There is a garden area in case you want to go for a stroll.

The artificial lake is filled with various breeds of indigenous fishes, such as yellow perch, northern pike, and pickerel.

Stop and Smell the Flowers at Gage Park

Daytime view of Gage Park Topeka

Faina Gurevich /

Gage Park is a city park on Gage Boulevard.

It is one of the prettiest, largest, and most visited parks in the city.

A mini-train gives visitors a tour around the park; there’s a merry-go-round inside the park for kids.

There’s also a zoo inside the park where you can meet wild animals.

Waterfall in Gage Park's zoo

Wirestock Creators /

In addition, the park has a garden that dates back to 1930 and is home to different types of roses.

A two-mile trail goes around the park, which is perfect if you want to take a hike.

Gage Park also has a water theme park and a children’s discovery center.

It’s an ideal venue for events, family outings, and kids’ birthday parties.

The playground of Gage Park

APN Photography /

Learn History at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

Exterior of Brown v. Board of education National Historic Site

APN Photography /

Topeka is one of the first places to abolish segregation based on race in school.

The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site is the former Monroe Elementary School, where the parents of six students filed a lawsuit that would later abolish generations of injustice and rewrite history.

Here, you can walk through the ugly part of history where children were separated based on race.

The school is still functional and plays a cosmic role in the history of Kanas.

Signage of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site

APN Photography /

There is a huge graffiti wall on the field with drawings of various prominent figures, including Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

There is an auditorium that plays historical movies about African Americans.

There are plenty of paintings and exhibits made by children representing freedom and equality.

Side view of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site's exterior

APN Photography /

Go Back in Time at the Kansas Museum of History

Vehicles displayed in Kansas Museum of History

Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When you visit someplace new, you must attempt to learn about their culture, traditions, and past.

One easy and exciting way to do so is by visiting the museums in that place.

The Kansas Museum of History on 6th Avenue features Kansas’ past, from prehistoric to medieval to modern times.

It is one of the most famous attractions in the city.

There are images, posters, paintings, and artifacts on display, and the collection keeps growing every day.

There are prominent African American military unit flags on display that are rare to find.

There are lots of exhibits of the Civil War.

An on-site museum store sells Kansas-made products like pottery, candles, and lots of gift items such as showpieces.

There are also dozens of books written on Kansas’ history, pillows, keychains, and plenty of other souvenirs.

Surround Yourself with Nature at the Ted Ensley Gardens

The Ted Ensley Gardens is a vast botanical garden in the southeastern part of the city.

The garden is famous for the tulips that blossom every year and make it look even more beautiful.

The garden oversees Lake Shawnee, and a natural creek runs through it.

You can go cycling around the path on a fresh summer morning.

There are shaded seating areas for visitors to sit and admire the beauty of the lake.

There are tall trees, green grass, and blooming flowers all around the garden.

Admire Stunning Works of Art at the Mulvane Art Museum

Topeka is a city with a very vibrant past.

Hence, there is no doubt it has dozens of museums with tons of exhibits to view.

The Mulvane Art Museum on Jewell Avenue boasts some of the most eye-catching works of art.

It has prominent Civil Rights exhibits on display.

The museum shows visual images and pieces that represent the human rights struggle of the past.

It opened in 1924 and is one of the oldest museums in the city.

The museum features the works of famous Kansas artists.

Tour the Luxurious Cedar Crest

Exterior of Cedar Crest

25or6to4, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cedar Crest in Topeka is home to the governors of Kansas.

It is open during certain hours of the day for tourists and visitors.

The French Normandy-style architecture is the most crucial aspect of the manor.

The 244-acre manor overlooks the Kansas River and screams all kinds of luxury.

Close view of Cedar Crest's exterior

R. D. Rodriguez, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The renovated estate includes several gardens, hiking trails, and ponds open for public visits.

You can also tour the library in the mansion.

There are portraits of the ancient manor and past governors inside the mansion.

The library has a collection of over 1,500 books.

Watch a Heart-Racing Game at Heartland Motorsports Park

Motorcycle race at Heartland Motor Sports Park

Grindstone Media Group /

Located on Southwest Topeka Boulevard, Heartland Motorsports Park is practically every car racing fanatic’s dream come true.

Plenty of top-notch car racing events take place here, such as the Drag Strip, Road Course, Dirt Track, Autocross, and Moto X.

People from all over the world come here to see the race and cheer for the players.

Drag racing at Heartland Motorsports Park

Marion Doss from Scranton, Kansas, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Heartland Motorsports Park is one of the world’s best and most famous motorsport facilities that can be used for many purposes.

It is spread across 65 acres and has enormous facilities for motor cars and maintenance.

There is a huge seating area for fans to watch the race.

Have a Fun Day with the Kids at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

If you are looking for places in Topeka where your kids can have fun, the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center on 10th Avenue is the place you are looking for.

It is a children’s museum that allows your kids to create, discover, learn, and have fun all at the same time.

There are practical exhibits that kids can use to solve problems, create structures, and build items.

They conduct special events throughout the year to help children with programming and learning.

There is a model hospital for children to act like doctors and examine their toy animals and dolls.

There are model garages, libraries, and various other public areas to help children learn and grow.

Experience Aviation Learning at the Combat Air Museum

The Combat Air Museum is a non-profit specialty museum located in Topeka Regional Airport.

If you plan to travel to this city by plane, this could be your first tourist spot to visit.

It is a very special museum because the visitors get to see military airplanes operating right before their eyes,

There are 43 different airplanes on display at the museum and two additional hangars.

The museum also comprises a tremendous variety of World War I and World War II planes.

Since the museum is located in the airport, you can see the runway just outside.

It takes around two hours to see all the planes displayed at the museum.

You can try the flight simulator and fly some planes yourself!

Meet the Animals at the Topeka Zoo

An elephant in Topeka Zoo

Wirestock Creators /

The Topeka Zoo on Gage Boulevard is a must for your Topeka itinerary.

It showcases an enormous variety of wild animals.

The zoo usually adds new animals frequently.

A monkey in Topeka Zoo

Wirestock Creators /

You can have a look at the giraffes, llamas, goats, and a magnificent black bear on display.

The zoo is also home to hippos, bats, tigers, elephants, crocodiles and many other animals.

There is an artificial water area with benches around, where visitors can sit and have lunch.

A bird in Topeka Zoo

KCZooFan from Olathe, KS, U.S.A, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch an Awe-Inspiring Show at the Topeka Performing Arts Center

Welcome sign of Topeka Performing Arts Center

APN Photography /

If you want to end your trip with an experience to remember, you must visit the Topeka Performing Arts Center on 8th Avenue.

This non-profit organization is known for its live entertainment events, like musical performances, dance concerts, and comedy shows.

Exterior of Topeka Performing Arts Center

APN Photography /

It has enough space to seat about 2,400 people.

The Topeka Performing Arts Center also holds various educational programs for the youth.

Check the Exhibits at Evel Knievel Museum

Evel Knievel Museum has a lot of displays featuring Evel Knievel’s history and genuine artifacts, which holds the record for enduring the most broken bones in a lifetime.

If you’ve thought about why the Museum chose Topeka as its location, part of the reason is that his well-known Mack truck, “Big Red,” was restored here.

Around 1,000 items are shown in the exhibitions, many of which have crash damage.

An interactive X-ray exhibit lets visitors examine the enormous physical toll Evel Knievel took on his body.

Discover his collection of motorcycles, including his very first Harley-Davidson, his Mack truck and trailer, his specialty leathers, and even a few of his worn-out helmets.

Reenergize and Have a Delicious Dinner at Norsemen Brewing Company & Restaurant

Norsemen Brewing Company & Restaurant has developed a distinctive dining experience with American cuisine with a Norse influence as outstanding as their beers.

It debuted in 2016 and has won several accolades, namely Small Business of the Year and “Best of Topeka.”

You may savor delicious craft beers, specialty drinks, and delectable meals at this establishment in Topeka’s NOTO Arts & Entertainment District.

In the elegant luxury of their taproom, taste freshly brewed beer while dining on American cuisine with Norse inspirations.

Indulge in life’s simple pleasures, such as the mouthwatering cuisine presented at Norsemen Brewing Company & Restaurant.

See a Performance at Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy

Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy, established in 1936, is the nation’s first community dinner theater.

It is also the oldest continually operating community dinner theater in the country.

It comprises three stages: The Helen Hocker Theatre, the Oldfather Theatre, and the Mainstage Theatre.

Little Mermaid, Last of the Dragons, and Skippyjon Jones are just a few of the kid-friendly productions shown at the theater.

Topeka Civic Theatre & Academy provides a range of classes in addition to performances that include musicals, plays, comedies, and presentations by different performing organizations.

Admire the Artworks at NOTO Arts and Entertainment District

NOTO Arts and Entertainment District is the buzzing center of North Topeka.

Public art is showcased throughout NOTO in the form of striking murals and a collection of constantly-changing sculptures.

Performance art is frequently presented at Redbud Park, among the more than 40 public outdoor artwork murals and sculptures that NOTO offers.

You can find everything you might want, including fine art, distinctive shops, entertainment opportunities, and delectable cuisine.

It is a must-see destination for the neighborhood’s center for arts and entertainment!

Take a Look at the Various Displays at the Museum of the Kansas National Guard

Exterior of Museum of the Kansas National Guard

APN Photography /

The Museum is committed to preserving the history of the Kansas National Guard and paying tribute to the soldiers and airmen who have represented Kansas for more than 160 years.

The Museum of the Kansas National Guard, established in 1997, showcases memorabilia from the 145-year history of the Kansas National Guard.

Aircraft on the grounds of Museum of the Kansas National Guard

APN Photography /

Objects from the American Civil War through the Persian Gulf War are exhibited.

Arms and equipment on display include tanks, a howitzer, and various helicopter models.

The Museum conducts unique activities throughout the year.

Tank on the grounds of Museum of the Kansas National Guard

APN Photography /

Final Thoughts

Some major historical events occurred in Kansas City, the state’s capital.

Topeka, filled with a rich history, is certainly a fantastic weekend getaway with a wide range of things to do.

Tourists can tour the city, explore historical sites, view exhibits in museums, wander through scenic locations, and admire the artwork in art galleries.

Use the list of the best things to do in Topeka to make your vacation worthwhile!

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