As Topeka gears up to celebrate Halloween, many parents will choose trunk or treats or other Halloween alternatives over traditional door-to-door trick or treating. Along with the candy and scares, however, Halloween can be a great time to explore different Topeka neighborhoods and interact with the residents who live there.

“I’ve been trick or treating in Potwin my entire life,” said Megan Martin. “I love how the old brick circle streets come alive on Halloween night with people from all over the city. I feel a strong sense of community there.”

The Potwin Place Historic District is located in the heart of the city, just blocks west of downtown Topeka. The neighborhood features Queen Anne Victorian homes from the turn of the 20th century lining wide brick streets.

Martin, who grew up in Potwin, takes her own children back to the neighborhood to trick or treat year after year to continue the tradition.

“The neighborhood puts a lot of thought and effort into decorating their houses and yards," she said. "The house with hundreds of carved pumpkins on Woodlawn attracts people near and far to see what designs they carved each year."

“My favorite thing about trick or treating in Potwin is looking at all the houses decorated for Halloween and being able to see all the great Halloween costumes,” said Martin’s daughter, 13-year-old Marley Rogers.

Keith Barkemeyer lives in the Sherwood Park neighborhood adjacent to Lake Sherwood in southwest Topeka. He appreciates his neighbors’ willing participation and inviting attitudes toward all trick or treaters.

“There is a really robust amount of people who participate,” Barkemeyer said. “Although the streets are not lit by streetlights, most neighbors tend to have their house lights on, and I would say there’s about 75% participation.”

He said two of his neighbors provide age-appropriate haunted house experiences in their garages each year, and kids of all ages from beginning trick-or-treaters to high school students seem to be welcomed.

“It’s a mix of younger and older kids. Everyone seems to get along very well,” Barkemeyer said.

The appropriate ages for trick or treating is a hotly debated topic among parents. Britt Trier, who has four children ranging from elementary school through high school, follows one simple rule.

“Last year my daughter, who was an eighth grader, wanted to trick or treat but not wear a costume,” Trier said. “No. 1 rule for trick or treating: You have to wear a costume! I cut two holes in a white sheet and made her walk around in that. She was mortified, but she did it. That said, I would say seventh or eighth grade is max age for trick-or-treaters.”

Trier’s family celebrates Halloween in Cherry Creek, a large subdivision near N.W. 46th and US-75 highway known for plentiful cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets. Neighbors set up hot cocoa stands and fire pits to allow chilly trick-or-treaters and their parents to warm up as they make their rounds. Some porches display teal pumpkins to indicate houses that are giving away non-candy or allergen-friendly treats.

“This is such a family-friendly neighborhood where everyone knows and looks out for everyone’s kids," Trier said. "This neighborhood does such a great job of decorating and being extra festive for Halloween."

Her 12-year-old son, Ben, says he likes to trick or treat in Cherry Creek because his family doesn’t live in a neighborhood and many of his friends are there.

“We get so much candy there, and mom doesn’t usually buy us candy,” he said. “I also love being in a neighborhood since we don’t usually get that experience. We also love the guy that gives us chocolate milk.”

Halloween hours vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, but Trier said her family usually starts the evening at 5:30 p.m. with dinner at a friend’s house before taking the kids trick or treating, finishing up by about 8 p.m.

“If I were president, first rule would be to change Halloween to a Friday night, as the morning after Halloween is brutal,” Trier said.

For Cherry Creek resident and parent Rachael Lee, Halloween is a nostalgic experience that she strives to give her own children.

“It brings back memories of when I was a kid and got to go trick or treating in my neighborhood,” said Lee. “I love that we all in the area make it fun and safe. It’s tradition, and I truly hope it continues for years to come.”


Shanna Sloyer is a freelance writer from Topeka. She can be reached at