If you are looking for free things to do while in Topeka, Kansas, here are 10 ideas that will cost you absolutely nothing!
10 Free Things to Do in Topeka, Kansas
1. Lake Shawnee
Lake Shawnee is one of the most recommended attractions around Topeka. There is truly something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors. You can stay overnight at the campground, or spend the day at the picnic area, playgrounds, gardens, golf course, baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, disc golf course, and trails. Pets are also welcome on the 6.8 mile paved walking trail around the lake.
The lake also offers a variety of water activities including fishing, swimming, and boating. Since it is divided into separate areas for recreational and fishing, there is enough space for everyone. You can also enjoy a stroll through the famous Ted Ensley gardens to take in the beauty of the manicured flower beds and gazebo. Be sure to look for seasonal displays as well around the 4th of July and Christmas. Lake Shawnee is a hub of outdoor entertainment and activities.
2. Downtown Walking Tours
Although there are several free walking tours, a ghost tour offers a funky and unusual walk through Topeka’s history. Even if you are the skeptical type, it is still well worth your time for a tour of the oldest and most prominent areas of the city. You can learn about the historic architecture and the true story behind local legends such as the ‘Woman in White.’ Even locals enjoy the tours of their city’s history and haunts. Although tours are free, you are encouraged to tip your guide for their services.
3. Kansas State Capitol Building
If you are a history lover, you should schedule a free guided tour of the Kansas State Capitol Building. Built in 1861, the statehouse is one of the most beautiful in the Midwest. Your guide will be certain to point out the numerous murals and architectural features as you walk the halls. Every visit to the Capitol Building requires a visit to the top of the cupola for a magnificent view of Topeka. However, you may want to avoid it if you are afraid of heights or in bad health.
4. Gage Park
Named for Guildford Gage whose heirs donated 160 acres of the family farm, Gage Park is now a recreational area for Topeka’s residents to enjoy. After its creation in 1899, the city added the Doran Rock Garden and the Topeka Zoo. It is also a great place for families since it is home to the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. You and your kids can learn about science, engineering, nature, and art together through their interactive displays. Afterwards, you can also visit the children’s playground with concrete animals for them to climb. Other family friendly attractions include the mini-train, theater, and aquatic center. The rose garden is also a popular venue for weddings and other annual events.
5. Museum of Kansas National Guard
This military museum honors and commemorates all the soldiers and airmen who have served Kansas in its 160 year history. There are several permanent displays of photographs, uniforms, weapons, and other artifacts from Kansas’ military history. Additionally, you can view static exhibits of military equipment including a variety of tanks and aircrafts. For those more interested in written history, you can peruse its archives and browse through their extensive library. Be sure to check the city’s calendar of events as well since the museum hosts events for the community throughout the year as well.
6. Kaw River State Park
Kaw River State Park has tons of free things to do in Topeka, Kansas for those who enjoy physical outdoor activities. There are miles of running, hiking, and biking trails that crisscross the 76 acres along the Kansas River. Since there are trails for all skill levels, everyone can enjoy the natural beauty of Kansas’ only state park that offers free admission. If you venture to the more remote corners of the park, you may be lucky enough to spot wildlife or catch glimpses of the Governor’s Mansion at Cedar Crest. The steeper slopes also offer amazing views. Since the park also features a boat ramp, you can access the river with your canoes, kayaks, or other small crafts to explore the river banks.
7. First Presbyterian Church
If you are looking for something off the beaten path, the First Presbyterian Church provides a colorful and breath-taking display of Tiffany stained-glass windows. The shifting sun alters the colors, creating different lighting and hues throughout the day. It is truly a sight to see at any time of day. So, if you have a few moments and are looking for free things to do in Topeka, Kansas, be sure to stop in.
8. Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
Declared a national historic site in 1992, Monroe Elementary School is among the most famous landmarks in the fight for civil rights. Although it is currently closed to tours, there are many markers telling the timeline of events that led to desegregation across the country. Even if you cannot go inside, it is still a beautiful building that defines an important moment in our nation’s history.
Considered the most iconic art installation at the Lessman Farm, Truckhenge is one of many eccentric pieces created by Ron Lessman. The spot gained popularity after he had a very literal response when county officials attempted to have him clean up his land. Instead of removing the vehicles, he followed the order to “pick the trucks up” by mounting one end in concrete, hoisting the front ends into the air. While it was originally seen as an eyesore, it is now considered a piece of the city’s folk art. Lessman added more homemade pieces including “Beer Bottle City” and happily offers personal tours. Visitors observe he is enthusiastic to discuss his work. Since he is known to be quite the storyteller, it is sure to be a memorable experience.
10. Yesterday’s Motorcycle Museum
While this is a more niche interest, this museum is a rare find for gearheads and motor enthusiasts alike. Located in the lower level of the Harley-Davidson dealership, the Patterson family has been restoring and collecting Harleys for over 90 years. You can take a self-guided tour of 30 rare motorcycles and displays of collectibles, tools, and pictures. Admission is free and open to the public during regular operating hours.
Plan Your Weekend in Topeka, Kansas
No matter where your interest lay, there are always free things to do in Topeka, Kansas. Take a look at the city’s event calendar for the latest happenings. You are sure to find something free and fun for you and the entire family.