Topeka, Kansas is a nice little town that many people have enjoyed life in over the course of its history. However, it isn’t a city for everyone, so here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to move there.
1. The Weather
Topeka weather exists at both extremes, with winter lows regularly dipping below freezing at night and summer highs reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, not including the humidity. This means that for most of the year the weather is absolutely miserable, and climate controls at home are an absolute must.
On the bright side, spring and fall are both nice in Topeka, but they tend to be the nicest part of the year everywhere, so that isn’t saying much. It also doesn’t snow very much in the winter, which is nice if you’re moving from someplace where you’ve had to deal with a lot of snow.
Since the average peak of winter snow in January is only 3 inches or so, don’t expect to be snowed in regularly. That being said, some years get more snow than others, and it’s never a bad idea to prepare for snow when winter comes around just in case.
Some have said that for a city right in the middle of Tornado alley, Topeka doesn’t have to deal with all that many tornadoes. This is largely just luck. Topeka has been hit quite hard by tornadoes in the past, including the 1966 Topeka Tornado that killed 17 people and injured hundreds more.
Because of Topeka’s location, it could get another big tornado at any time, and this would make sense, as the city has been hit by over 100 tornadoes throughout its history. People who plan on moving to Kansas will need to prepare for this eventuality by making sure their chosen home has a basement or a nearby tornado shelter.
Hail is a phenomenon experienced across the United States, but many people may not realize that the hail experienced in the mid-west of the country is of a totally different caliber. Hailstones can get to be over an inch in diameter and can do serious damage to people, pets, and property on impact.
While it isn’t quite bad enough to qualify as a natural disaster, hail can certainly be the start of a personal disaster if it hits a car window or another important and fragile object, especially if you aren’t prepared for it to happen. Because of this, it’s important to have an indoor space such as a garage to store vehicles and other expensive things that might usually be stored outside should the weather take a turn for the worst.
It’s also important to never go outside in a hailstorm, as if something can damage a car’s windshield, it can also probably damage a human head.
4. Many People are Conservative
Now, this isn’t really a problem per se, as many people would love to live in a majority-conservative city in Kansas. However, there’s no denying that some aspects of the conservative ideology can be frustrating to people who disagree with it.
Topeka has voted conservative in 5 out of the last 6 national elections, although their officially nonpartisan local government has had a solid mix of Republicans and Democrats for years. While this makes for a fairly moderate climate within the city, Kansas’s government is very conservative, and liberals who are used to less right-wing governments may have some adjusting to do before they can feel comfortable in the state.
In particular, this manifests through the frequent right-wing demonstrations that take place in the city, as Topeka is the capital of the state. While the demonstrators are certainly well within their rights to hold protests, they are tough to avoid if you need to go through that part of town, and they are loud.
If that seems like the kind of thing that will turn you completely away from a city, then you should definitely consider moving somewhere else.
5. The Westboro Baptist Church
It’s critical to distinguish between normal conservatives and the Westboro Baptist Church. Conservatives are normal people with political opinions, and while not everyone agrees with those opinions, they have every right to express them and to try and see them realized in the law. The Westboro Baptist Church is recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-Semitic hate group.
They’re also a very small group of people, consisting mostly of Fred Phelp, his family, and their close friends. While the vast, vast majority of Topekans find the actions of these people to be awful, they are still in the city, and they are still actively advertising their homophobia to anyone unfortunate enough to drive past their chosen place of demonstration.
If you’re worried about being able to handle conservative protestors, then these guys should be an absolute deal-breaker.
6. Eucalyptus Real Estate
Lew McGinnis is a serial landlord who owns over 35 apartment complexes within Topeka. As a landlord, he is infamous for not fixing problems such as broken air conditioning, mold, and outdated locks, leading to outright dangerous situations for his tenants.
While not everyone in the city is likely to directly suffer at the hands of McGinnis’s negligence of his own property, most people who live in town probably know someone who will be affected at some point by the terrible living conditions he has imposed upon them.
Not only is he a menace to the people who live in his apartment complexes, but he also seems to have been behind on his taxes for a couple of years now. And he doesn’t even live in Topeka! Imagine how much trouble he must cause in Oklahoma City, where his real estate company is based.
Basically, if you plan on renting a home or apartment in Topeka, make sure the property that you plan on moving into isn’t owned by Eucalyptus Real Estate.
Topeka is over 1,000 miles away from the ocean. If you’re used to being able to see the water, smell the water, or even to being able to reach the beach after driving for only an hour or two, this is something that you’ll be giving up to live in Topeka.
This also means that there is limited access to seafood in the city, although modern refrigerated transportation has made it possible to get fish and other coastal foods even in Topeka. Just don’t go looking for sushi, as there aren’t any good sushi places in Kansas.
Kansas is infamous for being almost totally flat, and this is definitely true of Topeka. The city has no real hills to speak of, at least not like those that are found in the mountainous west of the country. This comes with a few advantages, as it means that long walks through town will likely be fairly laid back, and from high up it’s easy to see tornadoes coming in the distance.
However, if you’re from the aforementioned mountainous west the empty horizon can feel pretty boring to look at, and if you’re interested in challenging hiking experiences you will not find them here. For many people, the lack of topographical diversity can be a significant quality of life drop, and if that’s you, Topeka may not be for you.
9. No (Big) Sports
While there is a minor league hockey team as well as an indoor football team, there are no major sports teams within the city. The closest big sports teams are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals, both of which are across the border in Missouri.
While the proximity to Kansas City does mitigate the unfortunate position of not having any major sports in the city, it doesn’t change the fact that in order to access sports you’ll need to plan your whole day around getting to Kansas City and getting back, which may not be something that all sports teams are willing to do frequently.
10. Limited Hiking
The Topeka area has a total of 17 hiking trails listed on Alltrails.com, and this is just about all of the hiking trails available in the region without driving for hours. The longest of these trails, the Shunga trail, is only 18 miles long and is very flat.
While the trails that are present are beautiful, there isn’t much else for hikers to do in Topeka. If you want to have a variety of natural places to explore where you live, this is definitely not the place for you.
11. No Nightlife
There are some evening activities to be done in Topeka. The Topeka Civic Theatre stands out as a great place to experience a show and support the arts. However, when people trying to get you to visit a city are trying to coax you out with an Evel Knievel museum, it seems like they might be doing so because they don’t have many other options.
With all of the aforementioned entertainment lacking in the area around the city, it’s hard to describe Topeka as anything but boring. If you’re good at entertaining yourself, you will likely be able to find enough interesting things to do here, but if you really need to have interesting things to do in order to keep your spirits up, Topeka may not be able to deliver.
13. Not Walkable
Walkability is measured by the presence of public transportation and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. It’s also measured by whether the average person can easily reach their work and the grocery store without needing to use a car. Topeka lacks good public transit and everyone in the city needs to have a car to get around, making it a city with low walkability.
While the walk score is not the end-all-be-all of a city’s walkability, Topeka’s walk score of 37 is absolutely abysmal. A reasonably walkable city, for comparison, has a walk score of 70. All of this means that if you want to live in Topeka, you’ll need to have access to a car, which means you’ll need to budget for car insurance, repairs, and gas.
14. It’s Not a Big City
Topeka’s population of about 140,000 people makes it seem like it should be a big city, but it lacks the density to really feel like a city in the metropolitan sense. Because of this, living in Topeka often feels like living in a smaller town, despite its large population. If you’re looking for a big city with a fast pace and a lot of access to people, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.
15. Limited Job Opportunities
Topeka doesn’t have a lot of industry to support new workers. With the biggest employers being the state government and local hospitals, most people will struggle to find employment in the city if they don’t already have a job lined up. While this is the case in a lot of cities, some are much worse than others, and Topeka’s job market certainly doesn’t look great.
16. Low Pay
Along with the limited job opportunities, residents of Topeka suffer from Kansas’s incredibly low minimum wage and generally bad pay rates. With a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and an average hourly wage of only $17.51 per hour, getting enough money together to pay for essentials and entertainment as well as add to your savings can be a serious struggle in Topeka.
While Topeka has a roadmap to fix its rather poorly maintained roads, the fact remains that the city’s roads are only rated as fair to passable by authorities. Moving to the Topeka area means accepting that you’ll need to drive everywhere and that driving conditions will likely be bad for many years to come.
There are plenty of things to love about Topeka and Kansas as a whole, but there are equally many reasons that neither the city nor the state is for everyone. Many people will want to make a home somewhere else.