On The Garden Path

Park in Kansas has been helping families make memories for more than 100 years

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BEAUTY: Signature, a hybrid tea rose, was introduced in 1996 and dedicated in honor of Wilbur and Grace Sprecker, the first couple wed at Reinisch Rose Gardens June 1, 1937.

Neoma Foreman

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When Guilford Gage died in 1899, his heirs donated what had been the family farm - 80 acres of land on Gage Boulevard between Sixth and 10th Streets - to the City of Topeka (Kan.). That gift was the beginning of Gage Park.

The deed stated that the park was for 'the benefit of the health, comfort and recreation of the citizens of Topeka and their friends.' More than 100 years later, it continues to be a place of enjoyment for the public, and has since grown to 160 acres.

Featured attractions

Victorian gardens surround a pond in the Hazel M. Von Rohr Victorian Gardens. In the center of the pond, a galaxy fountain makes a great focal point. It's very relaxing to stroll around the garden paths, looking at the beautiful scenery.

Dedicated to the memory of E.F.A. Reinisch - Topeka's first park superintendent - the Reinisch Rose Garden contains approximately 400 varieties of roses, totaling more than 6,000 plants. The rose garden is a popular location for weddings between May and October, when the roses are in full bloom.

T.F. Doran - a Topeka attorney - headed the fundraising drive for the realization of the Doran Rock Garden through private donations. It was dedicated in 1930, and it, too, is available from May through October for wedding ceremonies.

Some of the best musicians in northeast Kansas take part in the Band Concerts in the Park events on scheduled summer evenings. People bring lawn chairs and sit under the big shade trees to enjoy the rich sounds of the featured band.

A relaxing, 10-minute trip through the park on the Mini-Train lets visitors enjoy the beauty of the gardens.

The Carousel is a unique piece of history, as only 185 carousels remain in the country. The carousel has 36 animals and two benches, which allows kids of all ages to ride and listen to tunes coming from the authentic band organ. A ride on this restored 1908 carousel is a must.

A Children's Party House, which can be booked for children's birthday parties and such, is located not far from the carousel.

The Helen Hocker Center for the Performing Arts provides an outlet for artistic expression, with year-round family entertainment.

As one of the state's leading attractions, the Topeka Zoological Park welcomes more than 150,000 visitors each year. The zoo has a large animal family, including cats, birds, lions, tigers, orangutans, gorillas, hippos, bears, giraffes, elephants, fish and snakes, as well as exhibits for bald and golden eagles, arctic fox, jungle cats and zebras.

The state of the art Blaisdell Family Aquatic Center - in the center of Gage Park - features a 50-meter pool with 1-, 3- and 5-meter diving, zero depth entry, a separate baby pool, four water slides and much more.

Gage Park even has a special park for dogs. Hill's Bark Park is a former softball field that is now surrounded by a 6-foot-tall fence that encloses shade trees, a drinking fountain and benches, where owners can sit and watch their four-legged friends run and play.