12 Fun Things To Do In Lawrence KS

Jen Cullerton Johnson Avatar

Two kids standing in front of Cultural mural in Lawrence Kansas
Cultural mural in Lawrence Kansas. Photo credit: Julie Bigboy

If you’re looking for an unforgettable getaway destination not too far from Kansas City or Topeka, then Lawrence, Kansas, is the place to be! This vibrant city in the Midwest is home to the University of Kansas and entertaining attractions like self-guided tours at museums with Civil War exhibits, galleries, farmer’s markets and famous Mass Street with its live music venues and KU memorabilia.

Nature lovers will be absolutely delighted by walking trails in the numerous parks, like South Park Overland Park, scattered around the area. There are over fifty parks in Lawrence KS! Whether you’re traveling with your family or friends for a fun-filled vacay, there’s always something going on in this small town in Kansas, home of the KU campus and Breakout Lawrence.

Going out for food? Enjoying live music? Visiting art galleries? It’s all here! So why not take a trip to experience one of the most amazing cities in the Midwest?

Lawrence Kansas can be enjoyed by couples, families and solos, like myself. Here are my 12 fun things you can do when you visit Lawrence, KS, that you want to take advantage of—what I loved most was how easy it was to get around to see amazing historic places on the National Register of Historic Places and enjoy Mary’s Lake and wildlife areas.

1. Clinton State Park

Clinton State Park is an incredible 1,500-acre public recreation area located on the north shore of Clinton Lake at the western edge of Lawrence. Known for its beautiful clear water and fantastic fishing opportunities – channel catfish, walleye and crappie are all waiting to be caught and released.

Not a fan of fishing? No worries! An extensive hiking/biking trail system makes this park attractive for nature lovers like hikers, birdwatchers and enthusiastic fans of outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing or mountain biking. Plus, it’s home to various bird species that change each season. While I spent the whole day at Clinton State Park, a couple of hours would be plenty to take in all the beauty.

2. University of Kansas

The main campus of the University of Kansas (KU) is in Lawrence. A major hub for learning and research since 1865, KU has come a long way since its founding 136 years ago. From art to sports, there is something for everyone.

On the KU campus, you will find the Spencer Museum of Art, the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the Allen Fieldhouse and the natural history museum. Don’t forget to cheer for the University of Kansas’s Jayhawks, who compete in NCAA Division I sports with 16 varsity teams plus club-level sports teams like ice hockey, rugby and men’s volleyball. Go get ’em, Jayhawks!

3. Spencer Art Museum

The Spencer Museum of Art is a world-renowned art museum on the University of Kansas campus. The museum houses an impressive collection of over 47,000 works of art, ranging from American and European paintings to Japanese art from the Edo period and medieval pieces.

I was amazed by the beauty of the artwork inside the museum and would highly recommend a self-guided visit to anyone interested in art and history. After touring the museum, I recommend taking a tour of the University of Kansas campus which is equally as beautiful.

4. Massachusetts Street

Hipster alert! Get ready for fun when you visit Lawrence, Kansas and witness the beautiful Massachusetts Street (Mass or Mass Street). Mass Street passes through the downtown Lawrence area, starting at Sixth Street by the Kansas River and running south until it hits Native American Haskell Indian Nations University. The 600-1200 block of Massachusetts is registered on the National Register of Historic Places under Lawrence’s Historic District.

These buildings were built between 1856 and 1953, including Douglas County Courthouse. In the historic District, enjoy Victorian houses like Goodrich House, Edward House residence, Mackie House and Roberts House. You’ll find many historic businesses and fascinating sites along Mass Street – the Granada Movie Theatre, Liberty Hall and Free State Brewing Company (Kansas’ first legal brewery in 100+ years!).

5. Allen Fieldhouse

Home to the amazing Kansas Jayhawks, Allen Fieldhouse is an indoor arena at the University of Kansas and named after beloved former player and head coach Phog Allen.

I learned a fun fact about Allen Fieldhouse: Over 70% of games are won within these walls! In its over 60-year history, it has hosted 37 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament Games—when Jayhawks hit the court, you know that anything can happen!

If you’re lucky, you can catch a game while you’re in town. Don’t forget to grab a souvenir. Nothing embodies the University of Kansas spirit like wearing a Jayhawks jersey.

6. KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum

KU’s Natural History Museum is among the best if you love natural history. Part of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, a center dedicated to researching life on Earth, the museum’s exterior is made from reputed Oread and Cottonwood Limestones.

Also noteworthy is the Victory Eagle statue which marks the museum’s spot as one of only three locations in Kansas. Inside, the museum holds hundreds of exhibits, not least among them being its famous Panorama of North American Wildlife, Comanche – a survivor from the Battle of Little BigHorn side – plesiosaurs, mosasaurs and pterosaur fossils.

With over 10 million specimens of plants, animals, fossils and archaeological artifacts, this institution stands out as an international leader in biodiversity. I recommend taking the guided tour and a quick stop at the gift shop.

7. Booth Family Hall of Athletics

Visiting the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at the KU Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas, is a must for any college basketball fan. The unique facility includes a gift shop that spans 26,000 square feet, stretching into two hallways that display retired jerseys on one side and the iconic “Beware of the Phog” banner on the other.

But even more impressive is Dr. James Naismith’s 13 Original Rules of Basketball, written in 1891 – housed in the DeBruce Center connected to Allen Fieldhouse. You can access it from the second floor of Booth Hall or directly from its own entrance north of the Hall. I made sure not to miss their dimly lit display case with a recording of Dr. Naismith speaking about making them!

8. The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is a vibrant and nonpartisan political institution at the University of Kansas. The remarkable exterior with Polly’s Pond and Kansas State Seal captured my attention, as well as the two commemorative brick pathways leading to its main entrance dedicated in memory of World War II veterans.

Opening on July 22, 2003, Senator Bob Dole’s 80th birthday, the $11.3 million institute facility is a stunning 28,000 square feet, housing Dole’s papers and hosting frequent political events. In addition, Elizabeth Dole graciously donated her career papers to the Dole Institute Archive, which now serves as part of its special collections. I spent a couple of hours but you can easily make this stop in 30-40 minutes with a self guided tour.

9. Watkins Museum of History

It took me more than 10 trips past it before I even realized the Watkins Community Museum of History in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, existed! Nowadays, though, thanks to signs on the museum building, you won’t have to make that same mistake! The Douglas County Historical Society founded this museum, and some genuinely fascinating displays are inside.

From Langston Hughes and Dr. James Naismith’s biographies to the building itself – which was commissioned by Jabez Bunting (J.B.) Watkins between 1885 & 1888 – this place is bursting with history waiting to be explored! Undoubtedly, your visit will be fun and educational – I highly recommend a trip here.

10. The Lied Center

If you love the performing arts, you’ll feel at home in the Lied Center, a multi-venue performing arts facility in Lincoln, Nebraska! From the moment you arrive, you’ll be struck by its inviting atmosphere and vibrant colors.

The main theater is warmly decorated with terracotta walls and red seats – perfect for reflecting the spirit of this great state. And because dressing rooms are located directly on stage, performers can seamlessly transition to their performance. Add to that three other unique performance venues (the Carson Theater, the Lied Commons and Kimball Hall), and you have something special.

So if you’re looking for an unforgettable place to attend a show or event, look no further than the splendid Lied Center! Next time I’m in Lawrence, I plan on attending a performing arts event.

11. Prairie Park Nature Center

The gorgeous Prairie Park Nature Center opened its doors in 1999, proudly bringing 100 acres of wetlands, woodlands and prairie habitats to the east side of Lawrence. Along with a beautiful five-acre lake, this impressive nature preserve teems with birds of prey such as eagles, owls, hawks and falcons––not to mention deer, bobcats and beavers!

Run by the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department and funded by the City of Lawrence sales tax revenue, Prairie Park offers bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts or anyone looking for a peaceful outdoor experience plenty of ways to explore. Visitors can participate in educational programs like natural habitat dioramas or displays, plus live animals that are also open for viewing at their leisure. I had a blast birdwatching!

12. Grinter Family Farm

If you love sunflowers, like I do, then Grinter Farms is your place! I got the ultimate sunflower experience at the Grinter Family’s Sunflower Farm! This stunning sunflower field is unlike anything else you’ll find in Kansas.

Take breathtaking photos and walk the sunflower fields. From August 26th until September 14th, get ready to savor farmer’s market local goods and baking freshly made by the Grinter family! What better way to complete your perfect sunflower experience than with a bite of sunflower memorabilia?

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