From motorcycles and airplanes to murals and parks, here are 8 must-see sites in Topeka

Brianna Childers
Topeka Capital-Journal
Otto, NOTO's official mascot, peaks out from this mural painted on a building off N.W. Laurent Street.

Whether traveling from near or far, the Topeka community has sights for all to see.

Do you like motorcycles? Check out the Evel Knievel Museum. Are you a history buff? Head over to the Kansas Museum of History.

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors and exploring the city? Head to Kaw River State Park or the NOTO Arts and Entertainment District.

Topeka's tourism industry is always changing and growing, and as the city steps out of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are looking to get out of their homes and explore.

But exploration doesn't always have to take place outside of your hometown. In fact, being a tourist in Topeka can help community members learn more about their city, its history and culture.

Tourism isn't only beneficial in helping people gain knowledge. It is also vital to Topeka's economy.

"In a city like Topeka that may not think of itself as a tourist destination, once they realize what the overall financial impact and the economic and employment picture is for this community, it shocks a lot of people," said Sean Dixon, Visit Topeka's president.

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In a year not plagued by a pandemic, Topeka can sell between 500,000 and 600,000 hotel rooms, Dixon said.

"Just the hotel rooms sales in 2019 pre-pandemic for Topeka is $45 million in revenue," Dixon said.

Lately, Visit Topeka has seen an increase in tourism with 2021's numbers reaching the same heights as those in 2019.

"We went from zero to hero," Dixon said.

In 2019, Topeka sold more than 55,000 hotels rooms during June. This past June, 52,000 hotels room were purchased.

Dixon said Topeka's tourism economy is mixed, and a lot of visitors are those here to see friends and family.

"The No. 1 tourist attraction in Topeka isn't any one place or event," Dixon said. "It's the people of Topeka. People by and large come and visit Topeka to come see us."

Topeka can be explored by all ages, and everyone is sure to find at least one spot they call their favorite.

We have compiled a list of eight places and museums we think are a must-see whether you live in Topeka, are driving through or visiting for the weekend. The sites on this list will inform you of who Topeka is and all it has to offer.

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Evel Knievel Museum

Evel Knievel Museum is one of several Topeka businesses and attractions that will participate in Travel Together, a partnership program designed to promote tourism in the capital city and Lawrence.

This might be one of the most unique museums in Kansas, and it certainly can be thought of as underrated. The Evel Knievel Museum isn't just for motorcycle lovers and thrill-seekers.

Visitors have the opportunity to dive into Knievel's life and many of his death-defying shows. A collection of Knievel's bikes are on display, and there is an entire room dedicated to the daredevil's Snake River Canyon jump.

You can also partake in a 4-D jump experience.

Where: 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Price: $7-$15.

Informationhttps://www.evelknievelmuseum.com.

Brown v. Board National Historic Site

Brown v. Board Historic Site is located at the former Monroe Elementary School. Several exhibits located inside allow visitors to learn about the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision along with what it was like to attend school that year.

The "Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education" exhibit leads visitors through the years following the court decision and how lives have been shaped since.

Where: 1515 S.E. Monroe St.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Price: Admission is free, but donations are welcomed.

Informationhttps://www.nps.gov/brvb/index.htm.

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Kansas State Capitol

With field trips on pause since March 2020, few children have gone through the Kansas Statehouse's hallways, said Capitol Visitor Center coordinator Joe Brentano.

Visitors have the opportunity for a self-guided or guided tour. Either way, you'll get to take in all of the architecture, historical artifacts and paintings.

Some tour guides will even share their own personal anecdotes about their experiences and knowledge about the building making each tour unique. Although dome tours aren't open right now, if you happen to be at the Capitol when they resume, you can walk to the top and stand on the outside balcony and take in the city.

Where: 300 S.W. 10th Ave.

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Price: Free.

Informationhttps://www.kshs.org/capitol.

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Kansas Museum of History

This museum is the best place to get your fix of Kansas history. Visitors can spend hours looking at the exhibits that detail the early days in Kansas up to the present time. Guests can walk through the 1880 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe locomotive and see a 1914 Longren biplane.

The museum has a rotating gallery that frequently houses a new exhibit. The current exhibit is "Upward to Equality: Kansas Women Fight to Vote."

Where: 6425 S.W. 6th Ave.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Price: $3-$12.

Informationhttps://www.kshs.org/p/kansas-museum-of-history/.

Combat Air Museum

The Combat Air Museum at Topeka Regional Airport, shown here, will hold a virtual run/walk event to raise money between Sept. 26 and Oct. 10.

If you are interested in planes, this is the museum for you. The Combat Air Museum is a sight to behold as the facility houses 45 aircraft from the early to present days of aviation, historic aircraft engines and a collection of World War I artifacts.

Visitors can walk through the museum alone or join a tour. A few guests can go inside planes.

Where: 7016 SE Forbes Ave.

Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday - Saturday; noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Price: $5-$7.

Informationhttp://www.combatairmuseum.org.

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Cedar Crest/Kaw River State Park

A crowd of Kaw River supporters and community members welcome the Friends of the Kaw kayak group at Kaw River State Park about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. The group reached the halfway point in its 173-mile journey that will take them to Kansas City, Kan.

Cedar Crest, known as the Kansas governor's home, sits on a large plot of land that features trails, ponds and gardens. While the house is currently closed to public tours, visitors can still roam the surrounding grounds.

The MacLennan Park trails are accessible here. There are six trails that vary in difficulty and scenery. Guests can also visit Kaw River State Park and walk its trails.

The Kansas River is also accessible here, and guests can bring their canoes or kayaks and paddle down the river.

Where: MacLennan Park and the Kaw River State Park can both be accessed using entrances located off of S.W. 6th Ave just west of Fairlawn Road.

Price: Free.

Informationhttps://ksoutdoors.com/State-Parks/Locations/Kaw-River.

Old Prairie Town at Ward-Meade Botanical Garden

Ward-Meade Botanical Garden is in full bloom and will serve as the backdrop for the first ever Garden Glow, set to take place Oct. 2-11.

Walking into Old Prairie-Town at Ward-Meade is like stepping back into history, and it is one of the more unique experiences in Topeka.

Visitors will have a better understanding of life in the 1800s when they stroll through the historic site or follow a guided tour.

The town square, Mulvane General Store, the Potwin Drug Store, schoolhouse, the Ward cabin and train station are among the sights to see.

A trip to Old Prairie Town wouldn't be complete without a walk through the gardens and if you are visiting during Tulip Time, it is magical and colorful.

Where: 124 N.W. Fillmore St.

Hours: 8 a.m.- dusk.

Price: Guided tours are available 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $3-$5.

Informationhttps://parks.snco.us/Facilities/Facility/Details/28.

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NOTO Arts and Entertainment District

A large sculpture of a giraffe stands over the colorful Veterans Memorial Walkway within Noto Arts and Entertainment District.

NOTO is a destination in and of itself. You can spend a day walking the district, visiting the local shops and restaurants and looking at all of the murals. You could even find time to sit in Redbud Park. If you are lucky, you might catch some live music.

The activities in NOTO are endless. There are murals at every turn, First Friday Artwalks bring a large crowd to the district and live music and weekend markets are a must.

If you are searching for murals and art shops, this guide created by ArtsConnect will lead you where you need to go: https://artstopeka.org/artguide.

Where: 800 and 900 block of N. Kansas Ave.

Informationhttps://explorenoto.org.