Topeka downtown to-do

Kodee Christensen

If you’re new to Topeka, chances are you’ve asked the question, “What is there to do around here?” I know I did several times as a freshman here at Washburn. However, if you do any amount of searching, the answer will soon come to you. Topeka is a city with many hidden, and some not-so-hidden, gems. More specifically, the downtown area is buzzing with things to do, places to eat and things to see. 

First and foremost, I think many people don’t take advantage of the history lacing the streets of downtown Topeka. After all, this is our state capitol. Free guided tours are offered Monday through Friday at the Capitol Building. While many of us may have field-tripped to the Capitol Building in elementary school, taking a tour as a college student might inspire you in new ways. Topeka is also home to the historic Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site, where you can learn all about the landmark case that desegregated schools in America for the first time ever. Hours for the National Historic Site are 9-5, seven days a week.

When considering places to dine, have fun and hang out with friends, you can find all three at The Pennant. With a sports bar, bowling alley and vintage arcade games, this restaurant is a guaranteed good time.

“While The Pennant in downtown Topeka attracts people of all ages, our environment is especially suited for those who are looking for a unique and entertaining experience while enjoying good eats and drinks,” said Director of Marketing Teryl Studebaker. “Our guests enjoy two stories of fun, including four lanes of bowling, a full vintage arcade, and a sports bar to catch all the best games.”

Hours for The Pennant lend themselves to fun times extending well into the night, as they are open until midnight Sunday through Thursday, and until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“The vision behind The Pennant has always been to build community within community – we believe in supporting local business, whether that be through goods and ingredients we purchase, or vendors who service our facilities,” said Studebaker. “It’s an amazing time to be a part of growing Topeka, and we’re proud of the footprint we’re making!”

For the study-minded and caffeine crazed student looking for a place to crack the books, visit Juli’s Coffee and Bistro on 8th. Their large food menu boasts soups, sandwiches, breakfast dishes, pastries and more. 

“The people at Juli’s are like family,” said junior Steven Cornwell who works at Juli’s. “We are downtown so we get a lot of foot traffic from the nearby businesses and law offices, meaning, we get a lot of regulars. The building itself is also incredibly beautiful and it’s on the historical register. And you can almost always hear laughter from behind the counter, and that to me is a very important thing that makes Juli’s home.”

Last but not least, your list of things to do in downtown Topeka wouldn’t be complete without First Fridays. Every first Friday of the month, NOTO art galleries, shops and more stay open late into the evening, sometimes offering specials or samples, and a musical performance is not unheard of. It’s a perfect time for you and your friends to walk the streets to see all that the downtown area has to offer.

“One of my favorite things to do in Topeka when the weather gets warmer during the afternoons is to head to NOTO on the first Friday of every month,” said senior Erasmo Nunez. “The whole street is buzzing with hundreds of people visiting the antique shops and art galleries. My favorite restaurant to visit is always The Wheel Barrel.”

Besides these must-sees, downtown Topeka is full of more restaurants, coffee shops, activities and the list goes on. If you haven’t explored the area yet, I would highly recommend you do. I guarantee you’ll find something that appeals to you if you look. For a complete list of things to do and places to eat in downtown Topeka, visit

Edited by Adam White, Jada Johnson, Jason Morrison