A Colorful Past and Present in Lawrence, Kansas
Nestled among rolling hills in what many consider a “flyover State”, lies a small, bustling metropolitan. The university town of Lawrence, KS, has a rich history and a vibrant present. Dating back to the Civil War, residents of the area have prided themselves in being called Jayhawk(er)s. In the 1850s, the term was used by anti-slavery “free-staters” fighting the Bleeding Kansas border conflict with Missouri. Today, Lawrence and the University of Kansas Jayhawks ride the exhilarating wave of this year’s NCAA basketball title. Lawrence is a fun, friendly town that has a great sense of humor. But it also takes pride in its history and college sports.
Welcome, Lawrence! Lawrence is the ultimate destination for Midwest Americana lovers this fall and winter. Lawrence is home to two universities, the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nation University. Lawrence is home to Massachusetts Street, also known as “Mass”, a vibrant downtown area that has been repeatedly named the best tourist destination in the state. Lawrence also has a rich culture and a unique community. Both locals and students are proud to call Lawrence home and embrace the changing seasons with a shared enthusiasm that is rare elsewhere.
A classic fall weekend in Lawrence showcases the best of the Midwest: perfect walking weather and farmers’ markets. Enjoy the season by taking a walk on the campus of KU, admiring the fall colors, and then going to the stadium to catch a game. Lawrence is no stranger in agritourism. You might consider a trip Schaake’s Pumpkin Patch or one of the nine wineries. Head to one of six city’s breweries if craft beer is your preferred modus operandi. Free State Brewing Co. will gladly serve you a pint of their award winning Octoberfest Lager while you browse their elevated version of the pub menu. You can also wander down Mass Street to see what else is available. The bustling downtown has many restaurants that are staffed with talented and creative chefs who are eager to share their latest creations. Stop by some local shops if you feel chilly. The Raven Bookstore, recently named America’s Best Bookstore by Publishers Weekly, will welcome you with open arms. They even have a cute shop cat! Waxman Candles will delight you with their unique seasonal scents and beautifully crafted morel mushroom candles. Kids will enjoy all 15,000 square feet of The Toy Store. Enjoy a John Brown’s Underground cocktail and then retire to The Eldridge Hotel. This charming hotel was rebuilt in the same lot it was on during the Civil War. You will feel the season’s changing colors and taste buds, as well as the crisp, wintery air, and you’ll see why both locals and tourists are eager to embrace it.
As autumn turns into winter, Lawrence focuses on its most cozy celebrations. It’s like going back in time to your childhood, when winter was more magical. You might be lucky enough to see Santa “crash” into the third-story roof of a downtown building. The fire department will then rescue Santa. After that, the festive lights that have been strung diligently on every tree along Mass Street will be lit ceremoniously. The Old-Fashioned Christmas parade will be held a few weeks later. There will be horse-drawn carriages, string of jingle bells and lots of participants. Lawrence is the best at basketball, so don’t worry if you missed football season. It’s important to catch a game, especially with the University of Kansas’ basketball team being founded by the inventor of modern basketball. Allen Field house’s stands are always full, as are all bars and restaurants with TVs. But the locals will gladly make room. On game days, make sure to grab some barbecue; Kansas City is known for its barbecue, but Lawrence is just a stone’s throwing away. You can grab a cup of coffee and warm bread from a semifinalist in the James Beard Award at Barker and Cafe on cold winter mornings before you head to one of Lawrence’s many museums. Watkins Museum of History at 11th and Mass will more than satisfy those history buffs intrigued by the city’s story.
One thing is certain: Lawrence is a vibrant town with a lot to offer. This is the city you don’t want to fly over.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.