The Sunset Zoo is a hidden oasis of wildlife and family-fun in the small town of Manhattan, Kansas, around one hour west of the capitol of Topeka. Three main things make this zoo stand out: first, it’s a relatively small zoo so you can see all of the exhibits in one or two hours depending on your pace. Second, it’s located in a smaller town so you won’t be mobbed with crowds if you go (this is especially true during the week) and can enjoy the peaceful setting and exhibits at your leisure. Finally, despite its location and size, the Sunset Zoo has some pretty amazing animals. There are big cats like bobcats, leopards, and cheetahs as well as some truly exotic species like giant anteaters, wallabies, and zebus, an odd species of bison. There is, of course, also sections covering reptiles, fish, and a stunning selection of birds. Oh, and they just added a new exhibit of playful gibbons that’s a hit!
So, it’s a zoo that offers great animal exhibits, intimacy, and a peaceful setting…what else could you ask for? How about that it’s totally affordable! Yup, the zoo only costs $4 for adults and half that for kids, so the entire family can spend the day enjoying the zoo without going broke in the process. It’s a must if you’re in Topeka!
The Konza Prairie is a large and untouched stretch of pristine Kansas tallgrass prairie. The 13-square-mile park is mainly a scientific preserve but there are three specially-designed trails that let visitors explore the interior of the park and come in contact with the beautiful landscapes and majestic creatures that call the park home. The first trail is the Nature Loop which, at only 2.5 miles, is the shortest trail at the park. There are two longer trails which I’d recommend: the King’s Creek Loop and the Godwin Hill Loop, coming in at 4.5 and 6.5 miles respectively. The trails take you through the spectacular grasslands, across trickling creeks, and up on the limestone bluffs so you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the river valley and the Flint Hills in the distance. The trails are for all abilities and are generally easy save a few short stretches that go over rocks or up hills.
If you really want to experience the Great Plains in their most natural state, the Konza Prairie is one of the best options in nation. Who knows, you might see a white-tail deer or wild turkey while you’re there!