This post is sponsored by Visit Topeka. Opinions belong to the writer.
The long days of summer are upon us! Time to pack up the kids and forget your toothbrushes. That’s right, its family road trip time! Recently, my family and I took the 1-hour drive from Kansas City down I-70 to Topeka, Kansas. The capital city of Kansas is the ultimate quick getaway, from walking through American history at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Gage Park and the Topeka Zoo. We had some amazing soul food and had a blast exploring the hot spots. Topeka has so much to offer, and we left ready to go back for more!
What to Do in Topeka
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site
We met so many Topekans that were so warm and very eager to talk about their beautiful city. Most of them asked if we had been to the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2024. When we arrived, it was clear why. We were immediately sent back in time to the 1940s at the site of the fully restored Monroe Elementary school, built in 1927. Walking in, the first thing we saw was two signs — one saying black, the other saying white. It’s eerie. I then remembered what I read outside about the 13 parents that decided to stand up and fight the state law that said it was OK to segregate Topeka elementary schools. What courage that took.
Walking through, I learned and heard about things I had never been taught. I heard things and see things I know all too well. The five cases that make up Brown v. Board of Education suing for equality in schools would eventually lead to attorneys like Thurgood Marshall arguing against segregation in all areas across the nation. There is a room that has been remodeled to look like a 1950’s kindergarten classroom! Our son, Jase, enjoyed sitting in the chairs and playing with the toys in the kitchen.
I started to be thankful for the sacrifices of those before me who had the resiliency to strive for equality in our nation. When you visit take time to see the mural, across the street. I see it as a tribute to the future and to seeing a better world for our children.
Shawnee North Family Aquatic Center
Nothing says summer vacation than a trip to the water park and the Shawnee North Family Aquatic Center one did not disappoint! Jase was very delighted with the slide in the little one’s pool and the snow cones were a great way to help cool off under the shade. If some relaxation is what you’re looking for then the lazy river is just for you!
This was the part of the trip that Jase was looking forward to the most! They are just finishing Dino-Days in Topeka, and Jase loved being able to see dinosaurs in person and tell us the names of the ones he knew. He also was intrigued by climbing up the ramp to see the black bear. The Topeka Zoo has hundreds of animals and encounters but doesn’t feel so big that you get tired halfway through.
Right outside the Zoo is Gage Park. A spectacular park that features the Historic Gage Park Carousel and Train! This 160- acre park is a jewel. There is a rose garden that even the Queen of Hearts would love and just miles of picnic and play space. It really was the perfect place to spend the day with your family. We rode the historic carousel which was built in 1908, and we got a private ride! The train ride takes you around to view the whole park and the conductor let the kids blow the horn after the ride, I think THIS was Jase’s favorite part of the trip!
Kansas Children’s Discovery Center
If you’re little one likes Wonderscope, then they will love the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. This is the ultimate entertainment destination for kids and for parents. Plan on staying for at least two hours as there are dozens of exhibits to explore and learn with each other. Favorites included the mechanic shop, wind machine and building racetracks!
Where to Eat
Nanny’s Soul Food
Wow, the reviews are in about Nanny’s Soul Food, and they are all 10’s! We had one of the best meals ever in this quaint little shop in NOTO (North Topeka). Owner and Chef Shavonne was a joy and so funny plus she can cook! I haven’t had a pork chop that good since my mama made them! I highly recommend you stopping by Nanny’s and tell her Sierra sent you.
Games, beer, and good fries all at The Pennant! There are tons of arcade games for you to get lost in while waiting for your meal or after. Getting my child to sit at the table was never so hard. And the fries — get the garlic parmesan fries!
Where to Stay
The historic downtown location of our hotel The Cyrus with its gorgeous views was central to pretty much everywhere we went in Topeka. The staff was so helpful, and the restaurant/bar was top notch if I don’t say so myself. Already planning our next trip to Top City!