Eat, Play, Stay: Topeka

Topeka, along the Kansas River, has a number of great trails (including near Cedar Crest, the Governor’s Mansion), interesting history, and an active arts scene. Check out our recommendations of where to eat, what to see, and where to stay while you’re in the capital city.

Eat

Hanover Pancake House (1034 S. Kansas Ave. Open 6:30am to 3pm Sundays, 6:30am to 2:30pm Monday through Saturday).

In business since 1969, this mainstay diner style restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and it was voted Topeka’s Best Place for Breakfast in 2016.

Order up! The Burger Stand

Burger Stand (1601 SW Lane Street, College Hill. Open 11am to 10pm Sunday and 11am to 2am Monday through Saturday).

It’s impossible to pick one best burger here, but I’m a fan of the Smoke (Applewood smoked bacon, gouda cheese & chipotle-cocoa ketchup) and Black & Blue (Blue cheese & granny smith apple chutney).

The restaurant has a couple of dining areas, and they’ve got a pool table, foosball table, and pinball machines. The service was quick, and the food delicious.

Hazel Hill Chocolate (724 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 7pm. Closed Mondays).

Handmade in small batches on-site, the chocolate treats here are incredible. You can get just one, with truffles costing $2.25, or you can stock up and get them by the box.

Moburt’s (820 S. Kansas Avenue. Open 10am to 6pm. Closed Sundays).

For your own cooking, you can add the gourmet touch with an impressively large range of salts, sugars, and spices — espresso sugar, wild blueberry sugar, Hawaiian black sea salt, gingered Thai sea salt, ground Vietnamese cinnamon, pretty much anything you can think of and many you wouldn’t have thought of before. The staff are great at advising for the best pairings.

Play

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (1515 SE Monroe Street. Open 9am to 5pm daily).

It’s a trailhead for the Landon Nature Trail, and it’s also the place to learn about the historic desegregation decision made in 1954 that helped change schools in America for the better with indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center (4400 SW 10th Ave. Closed Monday, open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, open 1pm to 5pm Sunday. Kids and adults $7.75, seniors $6.75, and under 12 months, free).

In the southwest corner of Gage Park, also home to the Topeka Zoo, is the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center filled with interactive exhibits. The outdoor classroom area has a zipline, music garden, treehouse and more. Inside, there is an art play space, puzzle garden, science gallery, and more with activities for babies, toddlers, and elementary school age kids.

NOTO Arts District (800 and 900 Block of North Kansas Avenue. Keep in mind that many of the shops are closed on Mondays and/or Tuesdays).

The best time to visit is for the First Friday Artwalk, but if you can’t make it then, there’s still plenty to see. A mix of artist studios, antique stores, boutiques and a handful of cafes.

See that statue on top? You can climb practically all the way to it!

Capitol Dome Tour (300 SW 10th Street. Tours are free and run Monday through Friday: 9:15, 10:15, 11:15 a.m., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 p.m. Saturday: 10:15, and 11:15 am., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, and 3:15 pm. Keep in mind, if it’s too hot, tours will be cancelled).

296 steps and you’ll be at the top of the nation’s only state capitol dome where you can walk outside. The tour starts with checking out some of the capitol building’s many murals, and then you head behind the scenes and up, up, up.

It’s a bit intense if you’re scared of heights, but there are protective railings and a tour guide to put you at ease. And the views from the top, especially on a clear day, are impressive You can also turn back at any point. Read more about it here.

Ted Ensley Gardens (3650 SE West Edge Rd. Open 6am to 11pm).

You can boat, fish, sail, and swim at Lake Shawnee, but there’s more to the area than water activities. Along the west side of the lake are the Ted Ensley Gardens. Trails through the arboretum, a meditation garden, and over a thousand types of flowers and trees, it’s a pleasant, pretty spot.

View from a Capitol Plaza Hotel room

Stay

Capitol Plaza Hotel (1717 SW Topeka Boulevard. Rooms from $109).

Next to the Kansas Expocentre, the Capitol Plaza Hotel is a great place to stay. It’s pet-friendly and non-smoking complete with an indoor pool, hot tub whirlpool, and exercise room.

You get free WiFi throughout the hotel, and there are two restaurants — the Falling Water Grille and Water’s Edge Lounge.

There’s plenty of parking, the beds are comfy, and I must admit that even as an adult, I’m always a fan of glass elevators — this one overlooks the garden atrium.

Part of the Great Mural Wall of Topeka near the Capitol Plaza Hotel in summer 2016

It’s also a few minutes walk from the Great Wall of Topeka-Mural along SW Western.

Ramada Inn Downtown (420 SE 6th Avenue. Rooms from $84).

If you want to easily access history, stay at the Ramada Inn Downtown as it has the in-house Holley Museum of Military History. Along with this unexpected amenity, the hotel has three restaurants: Madison Street Diner, Maddie’s Cocktail Lounge, and Uncle Bo’s Bar, which has live bands every Friday and Saturday night.

Along with the seasonal outdoor pool, there’s an indoor pool and hot tub. Each room has a microwave and mini-fridge, and they have a free hot and tasty breakfast. You get free WiFi, and in the fitness center, you can take a yoga class.

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