Lawrence is situated in northeastern Kansas, about a 50-minute drive from nearby Kansas City. Home to the University of Kansas, the city of Lawrence is known for its progressiveness, fierce loyalty to its town and team, and surprising array of cool activities. Those visiting Lawrence for a weekend or a day might find themselves lost in a busker street festival, getting a dose of history, and enjoying the top-notch international fare. A small city that packs a lot of punch, Lawrence is well worth a visit for travelers of all ages.
10. Follow the Path of History
(image via Watkins Museum of History)
Historically, Lawrence is most known for the Lawrence Massacre. This 1863 raid on Lawrence was led by confederate guerilla leader William Quantrill. Lawrence was a stronghold for anti-slavery forces, and thus became a target for Quantrill’s army as they ravaged the Kansas countryside.
Visitors to Lawrence can follow the historic sites of Quantrill’s raid in a self-guided tour. Along the way, you can learn about the civil war history of the area and see how the people of Lawrence rebuilt over the centuries. History-lovers should not miss the Watkins Museum to fill in the gaps.
9. Drink at John Brown’s Underground
(image via John Brown's Underground)
After a little dose of history, top your day off with a craft cocktail at Lawrence’s favorite speakeasy, John Brown’s Underground. This bar is reminiscent of the Prohibition era, but with much better drinks. The curated cocktail menu will have guests entranced as you peruse ingredients you’ve never even heard of before. But don’t fear!
JB’s bartenders are known for their friendliness and depth of knowledge and will help find just the right spirit for you. With quirky and sometimes comical cocktail names like “Personally Victimized,” “Flight Risk,” and “Grow a Pear.” The menu alone will make you smile, and your Underground experience will be unforgettable.
8. Catch a Game
(image via Kansas Men's Basketball)
Much of the activity in Lawrence centers around the University of Kansas (KU) athletics, which are so popular nationwide that one need not be a sports fan to enjoy a game of any kind. Grab tickets to a football or basketball game, or make your way to a downtown sports bar to join the college crowds and cheer on the Jayhawks.
Home to one of the most victorious men’s college basketball teams in history, KU is a hub for college sports and is considered home for alumni of all ages who have settled in Lawrence because of their love for the area.
7. Sunsets and Strolls
(image via Friends of Lawrence Area Trails)
When you’re ready for some nature on your visit to Lawrence, head west of the city to Clinton State Park. Here you’ll find a lot of boaters and kayakers, but you can also enjoy walking along the lakeside, finding a beautiful camping spot, or just enjoying the glowing Kansas sunset. The area contains 35 square miles of land (and lake) making this a great place to take the kids for some sunshine. Back in town, find access to the new Lawrence Loop, a walk-run-bike trail that circles the city for 22 miles.
6. Art and Ancient Animals
(image via Spencer Museum of Art)
Located on the University of Kansas campus, the Spencer Museum of Art is a center of culture and creativity, with an impressive collection for art lovers and learners alike. With 45,000 items in their collection, visitors can see everything from American artists (such as John Steuart Curry) to robust African, Asian, and Native American art collections.
There are even contemporary artists from Kansas to New York and beyond. Admission to the museum is always free. While on campus, visit the Natural History Museum, too, for an enjoyable romp through the times of dinosaurs and giant mammals.
5. Live Music for All
(image via The Granada Theater)
Lawrence is renowned for its music scene. Kansas Citians often find themselves making the drive over because the best concerts seem to land in Lawrence instead of the big city. Venues such as The Granada, The Bottleneck, and Liberty Hall bring in big-ticket performers. Other spots like Jazzhaus or Replay Lounge are good for some late-night rock-n-roll, karaoke, a drag show, or some neo-soul.
4. Buskers, Zombies, St. Nick…Oh My!
(image via Lawrence Busker Festival)
It’s always a good sign in Lawrence when its main downtown strip is roped off—it means a festival is coming! The Lawrence Busker Festival (in the fall) brings all sorts of wacky sites to downtown and provides blocks of continuous entertainment. The old-fashioned Lawrence Christmas Parade brings horse-drawn carriages, St. Nicholas, and all forms of Christmas cheer downtown.
In the summer months, look for details on the Free State Festival, which has live music, films, and 3D art installations over a thoroughly creative few-day schedule. Spooky-month travelers should absolutely not miss the most unmistakably Lawrence event, the Zombie Walk.
3. Sip on Kansas Suds
(image via The Free State Brewing Co.)
Not surprisingly for a college town, Lawrence is a major beer hub. But it’s not all cheap beer joints for the college kids. Some of the best craft beer in the Midwest is made here! Check out Lawrence’s flagship brewery, Free State Brewing Company, to once again mix a little history in with your beer tastings.
Lawrence Beer Company is a newer spot located in the up-and-coming Warehouse Arts District and offers a full food menu and a huge patio. Fields & Ivy, 23rd Street Brewery, and Black Stag Brewery & Pub are all great options for more local beer and fare.
2. Get Your Eat On
(image via 715 Restaurant)
Lawrence food is another draw that pulls Kansas Citians onto the highway just to eat out in their smaller neighbor city down the road. On Massachusetts Street and beyond, the Lawrence dining scene is vibrant and full of options. Working our way down Mass, recommendations include 715 (higher-end American fare), RPG (games and bar food), Merchant’s (historic building with a bistro-style menu), Limestone Pizza (brick oven pizzas and more), The Mad Greek (Greek and Mediterranean), and Ramen Bowls (the best ramen in a very cool setting. Lastly, top it off with ice cream from Sylas & Maddy’s. Those are only a taste—pun intended—of the incredible culinary scene around Lawrence.
1. Go to Mass
(image via City of Lawrence, Kansas-Municipal Government)
In addition to all that you can eat and drink in Lawrence, its well-known Massachusetts Street neighborhood, known as Mass Street, is full of shops, cafes, sports bars, and live music venues. Grab a parking spot and plan to spend a few hours simply wandering—from locally made ceramics to used clothing, toys, antiques, and record shops, Mass Street provides ample options to find the perfect souvenir. Be sure to wander off Mass Street itself, as the entire area is full of vibrant local flavor. Looking for a place to stay? Check out the Oread Hotel or the Eldridge.
As you can see, Lawrence has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Lawrence, Kansas.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.