2017 Best of Topeka: Topeka Zoo

Hundreds of animals, insects delight visitors

Seven colorful lorikeets perch on the arms, shoulders and chest of Topeka Zoo director Brendan Wiley after eating nectar from small cups. The birds are among the more than 200 animals at the zoo. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)

Best Family Entertainment


Topeka Zoo


The Topeka Zoo has made several additions and changes over the past few years so it can continue to provide a fun and quality experience for visitors.

Director Brendan Wiley said the zoo, which is home to more than 200 individual animals and more than a dozen colonies of insects, has always had a reputation of being a leader in its field.

“We come from a history that was extremely innovative, leading-edge and routinely accomplished firsts in this industry,” he said. “I think that if there’s been something we’ve accomplished in the last five to seven years, it’s restoring the pride that this community has for its zoo.”

The zoo, 635 S.W. Gage Blvd., is bringing back the docent program to provide educational opportunities throughout the 32-acre park. Guided tours are in the beginning stage and expected to grow.

Brendan Wiley talks about the Topeka Zoo, which was named Best Family Entertainment for 2017.

Coming soon is Camp Cowabunga, a safari camp experience with elephants, African painted dogs, birds and possibly small antelope. A gallery of artifacts brought back from various safaris in Africa also will be installed. The addition is expected to open next summer.

“It’s an incredible compliment,” Wiley said of the “Best of” designation. “But even more than that, I think it shows how important the zoo is to our community.”

First runner-up: Gage Park

Second runner-up: Kansas Children’s Discovery Center