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Kansas Meeting Guide: Topeka is packed with surprises

Courtesy Visit Topeka

“Surprised” might be the best way to describe meeting planners who take time to discover Topeka.

“They are always amazed by all we have to offer in terms of attractions, facilities, easy-to-get-to location and level of service,” said Linda Briden, vice president of sales, Visit Topeka.

The advantages to meeting in Kansas’ capital city have long been apparent to the agricultural and religious groups, associations and sports events it hosts; in recent years, Topeka has also become popular with dog show participants who appreciate the city’s extra effort.

“When the economy tanked in 2008, dog shows were an area we had success with, as people still held these events no matter what,” Briden said. “The word spread in this tight-knit group that we are dog-friendly, and the best marketing is word of mouth, so we now host lots of specialty dog shows, from national groups to all-breed shows.

“They come here because unlike many cities where the hotels don’t want to accommodate animals, most of our properties do,” said Briden. “The dog show groups have also found that our Kansas Expocentre works to provide services like RV hookups and fencing for exercise areas.”

As the city’s primary meeting facility, the Kansas Expocentre includes a 44,500-square-foot exhibition hall; two arenas, including the 7,700-seat Landon Arena and the 17,800-square-foot Agriculture Hall.

The adjacent 224-room Capitol Plaza Hotel includes the 21,000-square-foot Maner Convention Center, connected to the Expocentre by covered walkway. The Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, with 32,000 square feet of meeting space, is a five-minute drive from the Expocentre.

Nearby limited-service hotels, including  two recently remodeled properties, the Sleep Inn and Suites and the Courtyard by Marriott, provide overflow housing.

Topeka has a diverse collection of attractions for receptions and tours. The northeastern Kansas city of 128,000 is home to everything from civil rights history and Underground Railroad sites to a nationally recognized drag-racing course and a new arts district.

“We have a strong arts culture here, and groups especially enjoy the Old North Topeka arts community, or NOTO, which has several art studios, as well as a farmers market that includes antiques, crafts and locally produced foods,” said Briden. “Groups of up to 220 can hold receptions at NOTO’s new Serendipity events venue, and there is a year-round First Friday Arts Walk, in which galleries are open in several locations around town.