Kansas has long been thought of as a place to simply drive through to get across the country. But there are plenty of things to do in Topeka, the state’s capital city. Visitors may be surprised if they assume that the city is nothing but flat land and full of farms.
During a recent visit to Topeka, I learned lots of interesting things that you may not know about the Kansas Capital city. I also found a handful of amusing things to do in Topeka for your upcoming road trip.
1. Climb All The Way To The Top of the Kansas Capitol Building.
According to our tour guide, we climbed 296 steps up to the dome that sits above the Kansas state capitol building. You begin the climb on the 5th floor and gradually make your way to a 360 degree view of downtown Topeka. Of all the things to do in Topeka, this one isn’t for people that are afraid of heights. However, being up on the very top isn’t really the problem – it’s getting there. The stairs are old and narrow and even become spiral near the top. You’d be well advised not to look down too often.
You’re instructed to make sure your shoes are tied and any loose objects must be tucked away. Hang on to the railing, too. You’ll be seeing the top side of the building’s inner dome with a whole a whole lotta empty space in-between that will make you feel tiny the further up you go.
Don’t forget – you also have to walk back down 296 steps once you’re finished. Be sure to tour the capitol itself, too. It’s actually a beautiful building and the tour only lasts about 45 minutes.
2. The World’s Largest In-Ground Swimming Pool Is Now A Parking Lot At The Topeka Zoo
One of my favorite things to do in Topeka was visiting with the nice folks at the “World Famous” Topeka Zoo. (Once upon a time, someone decided to start answering the phone “World Famous Topeka Zoo” – and the nickname stuck. True story.)
Turns out the parking lot at the Topeka Zoo was at one time a huge pool! According to an archived news clipping, as early as 1920, the pool was actually considered the largest swimming pool in the world.
So while you can’t take a dip in the world’s largest swimming pool anymore – you can definitely visit the Topeka Zoo. It’s a nice family friendly attraction with animal encounters, special events, and a nice variety of animals for a smaller city like Topeka.
3. See A Doll That Changed History
One of the important things to do in Topeka is a stop at the Brown vs Board Of Education historic site in Topeka. Once inside, you’ll notice a small doll in a display case. The baby doll was used in the 1940’s by two psychologists to study the effects of segregation among black children.
Known better as “the doll tests”, children were asked a series of simple questions while looking at a white doll and then a black doll. The children overwhelmingly had negative things to say about the black doll – which represented their own likeness. The tests concluded that segregation was having long lasting, negative effects on children of color.
4. Check Out This Wacky Outdoor Art Museum
It’s called Truckhenge and putting it simply – it’s an artist display of everything Topeka residents through out in the trash.
Of course, that’s not entirely true – though the property is more or less a huge junk yard. The owner, Ron Lessman is an interesting fellow that actually has some really great artistic talent. His paintings, seen all over the property are loud and unusual. He’s collected bones, vehicles, signs, rocks, statues and more. During our visit he was making a wall of old cigarette lighters.
If you’re lucky enough to tour the inside of his home – the elevator will both intrigue you and scare the crap out of you at the same time. Actor William Shatner stopped by once to feature the property in a documentary.
5. The largest assortment of Evel Knievel memorabilia in the world is in Topeka, Kansas
Business owner and Topeka resident Mike Patterson possesses the largest assortment of Evel Knievel stuff in the world. The collection includes everything from jump suits and bikes that the daredevil used in historic jumps to board games with his likeness plastered on the box. The “stuff” is now part of the Evel Knievel Museum.
Mr. Patterson owns a local Harley Davidson dealership and has some great stories of his own – including getting a call to fix a motorcycle that belonged to music legend, Jerry Lee Lewis. The refurbished bike sold for more than $300,000.
For more to see and do while visiting Topeka – check out the local visitor’s website: visittopeka.com