What to See at Ward Meade Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas

The Ward Meade Historic Site is so much more enjoyable that just a quick stop to see a historic building. The mansion is cool, of course, but the whole grounds and famous Old Prairie Town is a fun experience for families in Topeka, Kansas.

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Here is a guide to visiting this fun attraction and what you need to know. Though the info and pictures, you’ll see why you’ll love this stop!

Dive into history, beautiful gardens, and a town from the past as you walk around the Ward Meade Historic Site and Old Prairie Town in Topeka.

Pinnable image with text "why you'll love Ward Meade Old Prairie Town Topeka Kansas", 4 image collage.  Close up of old house buildings; old white mansion with 4 columns on front porch; a koi pond; two old buildings sitting among green grass and trees

Where is Old Prairie Town Ward-Meade Park?

The Ward Meade Park is located on the northern side of Topeka. It’s a convenient location as it isn’t far from the zoo, Gage Park, or the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park. You’ll be able to see a lot of Topeka on the same trip thanks to the relevant location of its attractions.

The address for the Wark-Meade historic site is 124 NW Fillmore Street. If you plug the address into Google maps, it will take you right there. You can also follow the signs for parking as you get close. There is parking both at the historic site (where Google took us) and on the other side of Prairie Town (where the signs take you). Either parking lot works.

a nice grass area with a small path through the middle, a couple old town buildings in the distance

What is Old Prairie Town / Ward Mead Historic Site?

This place is often referred to as Old Prairie Town, Ward Mead Historic Site, or both together. They are both part of the same park area with the same parking for both sites.

small old buidlings at ward meade historic site and prairie town, a small white building with a green door and a walking path to the left

Old Prairie Town

Old Prairie Town is a cute, mock village of what this area of Topeka once looked like. This replicated village includes an old log cabin that Anthony Meade lived in while building the Ward-Meade Mansion.

You’ll also find many other buildings replicating the village, like the blacksmith shop, general store, a stable, or the Potwin Drugstore (where you can actually purchase some old-time candy or something at the soda fountain counter).

Kids can also peak inside a stick hut with a kettle staged outside or check out how panning for gold worked down the sluices.

two kids in a mock stockade.  Head and arms through holes in a wooden slab, with "ward-meade rule breakers" sign on the stockade

And if they’re not listening, give them a chance in the town square stockade 😉

a large, old, red caboose with 4 children sitting or standing on the porch area.

Santa Fe Caboose

Towards one end of Prairie Town is the large, red Santa Fe caboose that the kids can climb aboard the outside.

This caboose was a waycar where the conductor and brakemen stayed with a bathroom and couches and beds. They would work from within, giving them a chance to inspect the train while in motion.

This train car operated until 1981 and was then sold. It was purchased by Dr. Richard Sutton in 1984 and donated to Prairie Town.

Bonus: right next to the caboose is the chance to get a close-up glance at a Wells Fargo Stagecoach.

a historic white mansion with 4 2-story columns on front porch, windows with black shutters. Wooden benches lined up as if for an even in foreground, with plenty of trees in background around the house

Ward-Meade Mansion

The Ward-Meade mansion was built by Anthony Ward over the space of 4 years, with construction completed in 1874. As one of the first larger, two-story homes in the area, it is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Anthony passed away shortly after completion, leaving his wife and children to reside in the home, followed by his daughter Jennie and her husband John Meade.

The home takes its name after both the original owner, Anthony Ward, and Jennie and her husband, the Meades. The Meades made some positive upgrades and changes to the mansion while they had possession.

The town of Topeka and its Parks and Rec division acquired the mansion and property in 1961.

While the mansion isn’t open all the time, visitors can take one of the tours offered on Thursdays and Fridays during the day. While entrance to the outdoor property is free, the tour is a couple dollars.

a colorful japanese garde. Overlooking a stream with tons of plants to the sides, a small red garden bridge crossing the stream, tall trees in the back

Botanical Gardens at Ward Meade

The botanical gardens was my personal favorite part of the Ward Meade site.

The gardens contain 2.5 acres of gorgeous grounds filled with plants, bridges, gazebos, ponds, and even an intimate event space (I imagine there are quite a few weddings here!)

The gardens were created at the mansion in 1963. Each year, volunteers come out to plant over 15,000 annuals.

two little girls at the edge of a pond dropping fish food.  Pond has a few fish you can see in the distance, a bunch of lily pads, and a brown gazebo behind it

My kids favorite part of the garden was buying some food to feed the fish in the pond (bring a quarter to dispense some food!)

While the garden hosts over 15,000 annuals, it also has plenty of perennials and shrubs, making it a great place for butterflies to call home. The butterfly garden is a Way Station for passing monarchs in the area. You’ll find the monarchs during the month of September as they make their migration.

red sluice that filters water for gold particles, little girl standing in front of it

Is Ward Meade Historic Site Good for Kids?

The Ward Mead Park is especially good for kids. They’ll love hopping on the train, feeding the fish, and pretending they are in their own little historic town. Everything is kid-friendly, making it a great experience for the whole family.

Visiting Old Prairie Town and Ward-Meade Historic Site in Topeka

We went to the Ward-Meade park thinking it would just be a quick, interesting stop on our way to St. Louis. We didn’t realize it would actually be pretty fun and that the kids would enjoy it as much as they did.

So if you are visiting Topeka and looking for something fun (and free!) to do, make sure to stop at the Old Prairie Town Ward Meade site for a fun way to learn a little and enjoy a nice hour or two exploring the area.

Where to Stay in Topeka

We stayed at Homewood Suites in Topeka. I recommend it due to the cleanliness and space, but also because it was a convenient location for all the activities in Topeka we wanted to do. The area of town felt safe, there was a Cracker Barrel within walking distance and well as plenty of other restaurants nearby.

Our Pick
inside a hotel room with two beds, a window in back with purple/gray curtains, brownish flat carpet, a tv on the left.  The close ned has a tablet and headphones sitting on it.

Homewood Suites

Homewood Suites gives you free hot breakfast, an indoor pool, and plenty of room! Rooms have a small kitchen in case you pack your own food to heat up. Rooms are clean and modern!

Pinnable image with text "why you'll love Ward Meade Old Prairie Town Topeka Kansas", 4 image collage. Close up of old house buildings; old white mansion with 4 columns on front porch; a koi pond; two old buildings sitting among green grass and trees

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