Topeka, KS: More than a Capital City
In 1854, Kansas became the 34th state in the Union and Topeka, founded in 1857, became her capital. The city of Topeka is just over an hour's drive from Kansas City, making it a perfect family day trip. With a charming local zoo, several historic sites and museums, terrific family-friendly lunch fare, and outdoor fun... there is something for everyone in Topeka!
Day Trip Diary:
Topeka Zoological Park:Details: 635 SW Gage, 785.368.9180. Open Daily 9am-5pm. Admission $3-5/person (varies by age). Half Price Admission for Kansas City Friends of the Zoo Members!
Why I recommend it: The Topeka Zoo is a "just the right size" for young children. You won't be overwhelmed with too much walking and you'll be able to see the animals "up close." The exhibits are small and traditional, but the animals are numerous. Our favorite exhibits were Black Bear Woods where we watched a family of bears play and climb, the Rain Forest exhibit where Pink Flamingos roamed, and the Ape exhibit where we watched Gorillas, Orangutans, and learned more about monkeys. In just a few hours, we comfortably saw the entire zoo and still had time for more fun in our day!
Topeka Capitol:Details: 10th and Jackson, 785.296.3966 Self guided tours:8 AM to 5 PM 7 days a week, Free Capitol Building Tours: Monday - Friday on the hour from 9am-3pm.
Why I recommend it: A visit to the Capitol is an opportunity to witness a state legislature at work firsthand and learn Kansas History right "where it all happened." The tour guides share the history of Kansas through historic exhibits, artwork, the architecture of the Capitol, stories and anecdotes. See the John Steuart Curry Murals portraying the history of Kansas and the story of abolitionist John Brown, learn about famous Kansans from Dwight Eisenhower to Amelia Earhart. You will also learn the story of the capitol building architecture including the construction process which left the center of the building for last, connecting the east and west wings originally by a covered walkway known as the Cave of the Winds. Currently, the building is undergoing a restoration process, with the goal of completion by 2012.
Old Prairie Town: Details: 1st & Clay St., 785.368.3888.
Why I recommend it: Old Prairie Town comprises seven historic buildings each with a story to tell. Learn about Charles Sheldon, author of "In His Steps," and other early Kansans as you tour pioneer homes, an 1870s Mansion, livery stable, barber shop, and depot. The highlight of Prairie Town for our family was the visit to the Powtin Drug Store, a wonderfully restored 1880s pharmacy and soda fountain. We enjoyed chocolate phosphates and old-fashioned nickle candy.
Marion Lane Candles:Details: 715 S. Kansas Ave, 785.357.4500.
Why I recommend it: On the outside, the Marion Lane Candle Co. appears to simply be a home-decor and candle shop... not particularly appealing to kids.... but there is a treasure inside! Step inside and enjoy the beautiful smell of candles, then make your own! My girls selected their own wax and candle holder as they created candles of their very own. They provide a variety of colors and scents, children plop the cubes into glass holders with wicks, then they pour melted wax over the top watching the colors blend as their candle forms right before their eyes! The shop also provides a dipping station to dip your own tapered candles periodically... call ahead to verify if they are dipping on any given day.
Gage Park:Details: 6th & Gage Blvd., 785.368.3700
Why I recommend it: Gage Park, a 160 acre park in the heart of Topeka, is home to the Topeka Zoo, a beautiful rose garden, Carousel in the Park, a mini-train children can ride, and Animal Land. Train rides are $1.25/person and the Carousel is $1/person, both operate April-October (call to verify days and times). Animal Land is an animal themed playground with an octopus jungle gym, elephant statues, Noah's Ark, and a colorful cottage perfect for parties. The Reinisch Rose Garden is in bloom from May-October with over 400 varieties of roses and thousands of plants.
Kansas Museum of History:Details: 6425 SW 6th Avenue, 785.272.8681 Hours: 9am-5pm Tues-Sat, 1-5pm Sun. Admission $1-5 (varies by age)
Why I recommend it: The Kansas Museum of History tells the story of Kansas through life-sized exhibits and displays. Kids love the real steam engine, the 1950s diner, and the hands-on exhibits they are invited to explore... including a Cheyenne tepee and a covered wagon! The exhibits feature famous Kansans and historic events. Learn about westward expansion, the Civil War and Kansas, and early settlers.
Other Topeka Attractions:
Great Overland Station:Details: 701 N. Kansas. 785.232.5533. Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 am - 4 pm, Sunday 1 pm - 4 pm. Admission $2-4/person (varies by age).
Model trains, historic exhibits, and traveling exhibits are housed in this former train station.
Family-Friendly Dining in Topeka: Spangles: Four Topeka Locations: 1130 SW Wanamaker, 2037 SW Gage Blvd, 635 NW Hwy 24, & 440 SW 29th. Spangles is a delicious 50s style fastfood restaurant. This Kansas restaurant chain serves delicious burgers, patty melts, homemade onion rings, fries, and a variety of delicious Ice Cream treats... including the Cyclone and the Tornado (aptly named for a restaurant founded in the Land of Oz).
Hanover Pancake House: 1034 S. Kansas Ave. 785.232.1111. Breakfast is served all day long in this Topeka landmark. Since 1969, the Hanover Pancake House has been known for its home cookin'. Known not only for their traditional pancakes, waffles, and breakfast items, this restaurant also serves fried chicken, delicious soups, fish, and oven baked mac 'n cheese. The kids love it!
SHOPPING for Toys in Topeka!
The Toy Store: 5300 Southwest 21st Street Topeka, KS. 785.273.0561 (with a Lawrence location as well at 936 Massachusetts Street). Looks can be deceiving... as we pulled into the parking lot of the The Toy Store with its bright green exterior, I wasn't sure what to expect, but one step inside and I was impressed! Walk into The Toy Store where you are greeted by "Toyologists" who will help you find the perfect toy. The large store sells many of the best brands in Toys from Melissa & Doug to eeBoo and Klutz, Playmobile, and Radio Flyer. Discover puppets, imaginative toys, art supplies, and a fantastic children's book section.The store is well organized by age and interest where every child is sure to find a treasure!
Kristina Light enjoys learning new things on Day Trips with her family.
More MoKan Day Trips & Vacations!
- 20-30 Min. East: Independence: Log Cabins & Trails West
- 45 Min. Northeast: Sibley: Lewis & Clark Country
- 45-60 Min. North: Weston: Autumn Splendor
- 1 Hour North: St. Joseph: Wild West in our Backyard
- 1 Hour Northeast: Lexington: Civil War in Missouri
- 1-2 Hours North: Jamesport: Amish Country
- 2- 3 Hours South: Carthage: Classic Rt. 66 Road Trip
- 2 1/2 - 3 Hours Southeast: Springfield: Ozark Country
- 4-5 Hours South: Branson: Vacation Capital of the Midwest
- 4-5 Hours East: St. Louis: Gateway to the West Kansas
- 20-30 Min. West: Bonner Springs: Be a Kid for a Day
- 30-45 Min. South: Louisburg: Apples, Autumn, and Astronomy
- 30-45 Min. West: Lawrence: Eclectic College Town & Family Fun
- 45-60 Min. Northwest: Atchison: History & Mystery
- 60-90 Min. South: Fort Scott: National Historic Site
- 3 1/2-4 Hours Southwest: Hutchinson: Soar to Outer Space