But if you think Kansas is all about twisters and dog-nappers, think again. The state has a rich, deep history that most people know nothing about. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes disturbing, the past is very close at hand in Kansas's capital city, Topeka. If you are planning to visit Topeka, KS, think about visiting the following attractions.
Kansas State Capitol Building
10th & Jackson
Topeka, KS 66612
The dramatic, domed capitol building, constructed in the 1800s, marks the spot where the Kansas Senate and House or Representatives meet to this day. As a tourist attraction, it is probably best known for the violent, moody murals of artist John Steuart Curry. The most famous mural depicts a fanatical John Brown clutching a Bible in one hand and a rifle in the other as fires and storms rage in the background and brothers slay brothers all around him. (John Brown was an abolitionist who was hanged in 1859 after attempting to lead a slave uprising in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Before his time in Virginia, Brown was one of the leading abolitionist voices in the Kansas territory.) Besides the amazing artwork, the capitol building also offers window exhibits featuring dramatic moments in Kansas history.
Kansas Museum of History
6425 SW Sixth Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615
Admission: Adults, $5.00; Seniors, $4.00; Students, $3.00; Children, free.
If you're new to Kansas history, this museum is a great place to go for an overview. View Native American artifacts including a Cheyenne tipi, explore a covered wagon fully stocked for travel on the Oregon Trail, take in the Civil War display, or gaze in wonder at the museum's prize exhibit: a locomotive used on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad.
Monroe Elementary School
1515 SE Monroe Street
Topeka, KS 66612
This forbidding brick schoolhouse commemorates the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education lawsuit which led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating the public schools. Prior to the 1954 court decision, Monroe Elementary School was a Black school--in fact, the children of three of the plaintiffs in Brown attended the school. Monroe Elementary School was closed in 1975 and languished in disrepair until it became designated as a national historical landmark in 1991.
Topeka Zoological Park
635 SW Gage Boulevard
Topeka, KS 66606
Admission: Adults, $5.00; Seniors, $4.00; Children 3-11, $3.50; Children 2 & Under, free.
This lovely zoological park whisks you away from the flat plains of Kansas and lets you explore exotic animals from all over the world. The Jungle Cats exhibit, featuring Sumatran tigers (the smallest breed of tiger) and African black leopards is amazing, but if cats aren't your thing, you can still check out Black Bear Woods, Discover Apes, Birds of Prey, and Tropical Rain Forest. A children's zoo allows the young ones some face time with domestic animals.
Ward Meade Park
124 NW Fillmore Street
Topeka, KS 66606
Guided Tours: Adults, $4.50; Seniors, $4.00; Ages 6-12, $2.00
This lovely park features a turn of the century prairie town populated with volunteers in correct historical costume. Attractions include a drug store complete with ice cream parlor, a schoolhouse, a tack store, a train station, and a doctor's office. Ward Meade Park also features 2 ½ acres of botanical gardens where you can spend a lovely day admiring unique plants and flowers.
So, the next time you're in the mood for a road trip, consider a visit to Topeka. You're bound to have a wonderful time exploring the sights in this historic city.