Things to do In Lawrence
In addition to sites commemorating its abolitionist history, Lawrence has a variety of restaurants, art museums, live music venues, nature trails, and other attractions to explore during your time at Beyond Discourse. The list below features some of these options. Both the City of Lawrence and the Visitor's Bureau also maintain comprehensive lists of local events, including concerts, public lectures, and film screenings.
On the KU Campus
Booth Family Hall of Athletics: The history of athletics at the University of Kansas is long and rich. Booth Hall documents this past with several exhibits, a Hall of Fame and Student-Athlete database, and an Interactive Fun Zone. All tours are self-guided unless advance reservations are made. More information can be found on their website.
Dole Institute of Politics: The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics celebrates public service, promotes civil discourse, and recognizes the legacy of Senator Bob Dole with public programming, research and educational opportunities, and a museum gallery. It is home to the Robert J. Dole Archive & Special Collections, which includes over 35 years of congressional papers. Please check their website for a calendar of events.
Kenneth Spencer Research Library: The Kenneth Spencer Research Library houses the University’s rare books, manuscripts, letters, and other texts. Their collections include the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, which archives materials on civil rights, race relations, and women’s rights; the Kansas Collection, which highlights the African American experience in the region; and texts relating to the history of KU.
KU Natural History Museum: KU’s Natural History Museum, a short walk from the Kansas Union, was recently named the top natural history museum among public universities by Best College Reviews. Admission is free, with a suggested contribution of $7 for adults. More information, including current exhibitions, can be found on their website.
KU Powwow & Indigenous Cultures Festival: This is free, daylong event with traditional powwow activities, as well as educational workshops, speakers, indigenous films and children's programs focused on indigenous cultures and history on Saturday, April 6. Regional indigenous and craftspeople will have items for sale and indigenous food will be available for purchase. This event is presented by the KU First Nations Student Association in partnership with the Lied Center of Kansas, Haskell Cultural Center and Museum, Spencer Museum of Art, KU Office of Diversity and Equity and KU Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Nest on Ninth at the Oread Hotel: Located on the roof of the Oread Hotel, the Nest on Ninth offers stunning views of the KU campus and the city of Lawrence. The Nest often features live music.
Spencer Museum of Art: The newly renovated Spencer Museum of Art, located behind the Kansas Union, has over 45,000 objects spanning the history of European and American art from ancient to contemporary. Additionally, the museum has broad and significant holdings of East Asian art. Admission is free. For more information, including current exhibitions, please consult their website.
In Downtown Lawrence
Downtown Lawrence is home to several great restaurants, shops, and other attractions, many of which are located on Massachusetts Street. A directory of downtown businesses is available on the Downtown Lawrence website.
Farmers Market: Lawrence will hold an outdoor farmers market on Saturday, September 20, at 824 New Hampshire Street from 8am-12pm. A variety of local farmers and vendors will sell produce, baked goods, arts and crafts, and other items.
Lawrence Arts Center: The Lawrence Arts Center is a regional hub for visual and performing arts, contemporary exhibitions, film, and lectures. The Arts Center employs over 120 teaching artists whose courses observe Kennedy Center standards for visual and performing arts, and it greets over 200,000 visitors each year. For information regarding their current projects and upcoming happenings, please consult their website.
Lawrence Public Library: The Lawrence Public Library, which Tech Insider recently named one of the “seven most beautiful new libraries in North America,” hosts a variety of events that are free and open to the public, including classes, film screenings, and discussion groups. A calendar of events is available on their website.
Liberty Hall: Located at 644 Massachusetts Street, Liberty Hall stands at the site of Kansas’s first abolitionist newspaper The Herald of Freedom. It was also a venue for early twentieth-century black performers, such as Bert Williams and George Walker (the latter was born and died in Lawrence). Today Liberty Hall shows a variety of independent, classic, and cult classic films, and it hosts live music, comedy performances, and other events. Consult their website for screen times and a list of scheduled events.
Live Music: Downtown Lawrence is home to a vibrant live music scene, with several venues in and around Massachusetts Street. For more information on live music venues, such as The Granada and Jazzhaus, consult their websites.
Watkins Museum of History: The Watkins Museum and Book Shop is located in a historic bank building at 1047 Massachusetts Street. The museum focuses on Kansas’s history, particularly during the American Civil War. Its core exhibit highlights William Quantrill’s 1863 raid of Lawrence. Also, it houses James Patti’s statue of Lawrence’s native son, Langston Hughes, which depicts the poet as a young boy delivering newspapers and carrying a book by W. E. B. DuBois. The museum hosts a variety of changing and travelling exhibits as well.
In Greater Lawrence
Home of Langston Hughes: Although born in Joplin, Missouri, Langston Hughes moved to Lawrence as an infant to live with his grandmother until he was thirteen years old. His grandmother’s house, which was located on 732 Alabama Street, has since been converted into a duplex apartment. A marker commemorates the writer’s childhood home while a neighboring house, located at 736 Alabama Street, resembles how his grandmother’s home might have looked. Hughes lived in several places throughout the Midwest during his youth, but he always considered Kansas home.
Lawrence Visitor Center: The Visitor Center, set in the historic Union Pacific train depot, has information on dining options, self-guided tours, and outdoor recreation. The train depot’s architecture is a blend of a French Vernacular silhouette and Richardsonian Romanesque masonry, and it exhibits a history display and railroad memorabilia.
St. Luke’s African Methodist Episcopal Church: In the nineteenth century, the church’s membership consisted of ex-slaves and escaped slaves, many of whom used the Underground Railroad operating on the banks of the Missouri River. St. Luke’s late Gothic Revival building, located at 900 New York Street, was constructed in 1910. Langston Hughes wrote about his experiences at the church during his youth in his work The Big Sea. In a time of racial discrimination and segregation, the church had an essential role in the surrounding black community, and it continues to serve as a community place of worship. The church is now a U.S. Parks Service historic building.
Clinton Lake: Clinton Lake is located approximately four miles southwest of Lawrence. This scenic state park includes a 25-mile hiking trail, a 1-mile self-guided nature trail, a swim beach, and a golf course, among other amenities. Please consult the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism website for more information.
Levee Trail: The Lawrence Levee Trail is a 9.3-mile walking, running, and biking trail located in north Lawrence. The trail offers views of the Kansas River as well as nearby farmland and downtown Lawrence. It is a 10-15-minute walk from downtown Lawrence hotels.
Baker Wetlands: Considered one of the most beautiful locations in Kansas, the Baker Wetlands is located in south Lawrence. It offers hiking in diverse ecosystems, with good chances to see wildlife of various kinds. It is reachable by car and by bus.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site: Visit this national historic site to learn more about the history of segregation and the legacy of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka U.S. Supreme court decision not only in Kansas, but also the country. The site has galleries, temporary exhibits, and tours of the Monroe School Building. Please consult their website for more information about exhibits and tour times. The National Parks Service location is in downtown Topeka, which is a 30-minute drive from Lawrence.