If you are looking for things to do in Lawrence Kansas, start here. Known as the home of the Jayhawks, Lawrence is a college town you want to keep living in. Located 45 minutes west of Kansas City, Lawrence is full of artists, co-ops and progressive locals.
Lawrence is also home to our favorite Winchester brothers, Free-State history, & Kansas City-style barbecue. Kansas is a very friendly state, so you will have no problem making new friends here. When you are not busy trying to make sure KU keeps your bracket intact, you can have a lot of fun in Lawrence that has nothing to do with sports. Here are 10 things to do during your visit to Lawrence, Kansas:
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1. Learn About the City of Lawrence’s History
Start at the Watkins Museum of History to learn about the history of Lawrence, KS. The city was founded in 1854 to keep the territory free from slavery. Lawrence continued to be a target for pro-slavery guerillas (research Quantrill’s raid). The city was burned down, but many parts of history are still on display at the museum. The Watkins Museum of History is in a former bank, where you can still see teller cages on your visit. Located on the corner of 11th and Massachusetts Streets, this stop will help you have a better understanding of Lawrence history.
2. View Art Exhibitions at Lawrence’s Museums
Next, visit one (or all) of Lawrence’s Art Museums. Stop at KU’s Spencer Museum of Art for exhibits such as Healing Knowing Seeing the Body, where you are invited to celebrate your unique body. The Lied Center of Kansas offers touring performances such as The Hip Hop Nutcracker or Bill Blagg, one of the nation’s top touring illusionists. Visit Theatre Lawrence during their summer series, where you can watch movies under the stars.
Or stop at the Lawrence Arts Center downtown to see art exhibitions & theater performances. When Lawrence steals your heart, you can sign up for Adult Art Classes here too! The Lawrence Arts Center sponsors June’s annual Free State Festival, where locals celebrate film, music, art, and ideas. In 2021, you will be able to view the documentary “End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock” at the festival. Previous festival films include Agave: Spirit of a Nation, and Meow Wolf: Origin Story.
3. Create Your Own Candles at Waxman Candles
A local favorite for 50 years, Waxman Candles is a great place to stop for candles you will only find in Lawrence. Okay, technically they also have a shop in Chicago, but it all started in Lawrence. Grab a themed candle for your next holiday party or as a gift for the Jawhawk alumni in your life. Sign up for Waxman’s candle-making classes ahead of time and you will be able to go home with your very own candle. Or purchase the Lawrence scent with a case to commemorate your time in Lawrence (It smells so good!).
4. Relax at an Outdoor Soaking Spa & Check Out Handmade Soaps
Visiting Lawrence is not just about history and art, it is also your vacation. Visit Body Truth Soap Apothecary for a selection of handmade soaps made right here in Lawrence. They create natural plant-based products with sustainable practices, including refills on shampoo & conditioner and no-packing options. They make soap that smells so good you want to eat it – but don’t because it is still soap. Try their shampoo bars to support sustainable beauty, or purchase soap as souvenirs for your family back home.
Make a reservation for the outdoor soaking tub & sauna at Mud & Lotus. Located inside Lawrence Acupuncture, this spa experience tucked away downtown is a must for your visit. Always start your vacation strong with massage therapy or spa treatments, especially when they support local businesses. Reserve a 60 Min Tub and Sauna for a great afternoon where you forget you are in the city.
5. Attend the Annual Event: Transformations
Every year, the people of Lawrence transform into full drag for charity. This annual event occurs in January and sells out quickly (so plan ahead!). If you cannot make it in person, watch the documentary Transformations, or stop by the city’s Public Library with the little ones for Deja’s Reading Rainbow. Reading with Deja is a great way to share and support an inclusive environment with kids.
6. See Exhibitions at Lawrence’s Final Friday’s Art Walk
Lawrence turns into a celebration of art every last Friday of the month. Local businesses in the Warehouse Arts District and downtown Lawrence transform into various exhibits. Add this year-round event to your list of fun things to do in while visting this fun college town you will never want to leave.
7. Challenge Your Mind with Games
Create Lawrence memories by attending Breakout Lawrence or RPG. Voted as one of the best in Kansas, Breakout Lawrence offers escape rooms for groups of 2-8 players. You can try to stop the theft of the original Rules of Basket Ball, or stop Y2K from ruining the world. The room themes change every so often but escape rooms can be a lot of run with friends or family.
Next, visit Restaurant Pub & Games (RPG) – this is the place to have a game night. RPG is a full restaurant/bar with over 1,000 board games you can rent. Play on-site on their large tables or go back to the hotel for the night. Whatever your choice, RPG is a great way to spend time in Lawrence. Just don’t flip tables like Francis, keep calm and enjoy time with your friends and family.
8. Rehydrate at Mass Street Soda or Free State Brewing Company
Of course, walking around Mass Street in downtown Lawrence may make you a little thirsty. Stop at Mass Street Soda, where they offer over 1,000 different types of craft soda. Schedule a soda tasting with your group or buy a 6 pack. Try the apple pie soda or classic bubble up, and if we’re all lucky, they’ll be back to offering floats in person soon. Keep an eye out for their float specials during Final Fridays.
When you are ready to open a beer, stop at Free State Brewing Company. This was the state’s first legal brewery after prohibition! Sign up for a brewery tour in advance to really get a feel for what they are doing here in Lawrence. If you don’t drink beer, have no fear, they have a full food menu with soft drinks, liquor & wine available to order. Try a pub glass of your favorite beer with a Pretzel Board (Note: They use peanut oil to fry food). Or grab a six-pack to enjoy back home.
9. Directly Support Indigenous Artists at the Haskell Indian Market
Lawrence is also home to Haskell Indian Nations University & its annual market. This 2-day market features Native American artists from around the country every second weekend in September. No dealers here, as this market only hosts Artisans. This market is a great way to challenge your perception of the area’s history and learn about numerous Indigenous cultures.
While Haskell Indian Nations University started as a residential boarding school to “kill the Indian and save the man,” it is now an accredited university for members of Native American tribes recognized by the federal government. Notable alumni include Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez, arguably one of the greatest heroes of World War II. Paintings by Mr. Nez are on display at Haskell’s Cultural Center & Museum. Stop by the museum first to educate yourself. Then attend the annual Haskell Indian Market to support Indigenous artists, enjoy fry bread, and respectfully view traditional dances.
10. Tour the Cradle of Basketball
As you may already know, Lawrence is home to the Jayhawks, who have the privilege to say their college basketball program was founded by the inventor of the game. Get the full Jayhawk experience with a behind-the-scenes tour of KU, which has included locker room tours in the past. Stop by the Debruce Center, where you can find Dr. Naismith’s original “Rules of Basket Ball” and a collection of championship rings that only Jawhawk Alumni can boast. Rock Chalk!
Okay, that last one was about basketball. Surprisingly, there are so many things to do in Lawrence other than a Jawhawk game. Whether you want to learn more about history, create art, see professionals in action, or relax, there are so many things you can do. Stop by this year and see why Lawrence is the best place to live in Kansas!
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