Today’s Lawrence, KS City Guide comes to us from graphic designer Lauren Grieb. Originally from New Jersey, with a two year stint in Europe, Lauren now lives with her fiance right outside of Lawrence, KS. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas and continues to love, appreciate and frequent the bustling, culture-rich city of Lawrence. Today she shares with us some of the many things to see, do and dine at in this University town. Thanks Lauren for this great guide! —Stephanie
Read the full city guide after the jump…
Hello Design*Sponge Readers! I’m excited to share with you today my city guide to the greatest place in the Midwest: Lawrence, Kansas. I’m originally from New Jersey and lived for two years in Luxembourg as a teenager, so I’ve always said, “If you have to live in Kansas, live in Lawrence.”
Lawrence is a well known live music town and home to one of the top public colleges in the country, the University of Kansas, Lawrence also has a lot of rich history. We’re the site of a major battle in the Civil War, known as the “Boarder War” (the impetus for the massive KU-MU rivalry) and the birthplace of basketball! As a lover of live music, history and basketball, I’m in good company – and you can be too!
There’s a lot to do here, so you might tailor your trip to your tastes. For example, if you’d like a European excursion, shop at Au Marche & Brits, take a self-guided winery tour, pop in to Genovese for dinner, then finish the night at the Red Lyon tavern for a Guinness. Perhaps you like the sun and surf: shop at Shark’s Surf Shop, hit up Clinton Lake Beach and Marina, enjoy delicious crab-legs at Anglers, and grab a Hurricane at the Sandbar for a nightcap.
Lawrence can be broken down into three districts: History downtown, the KU Campus and our surrounding area. Check out this Google Map of all the locations mentioned below!
Historic Downtown Lawrence
The Live Music Scene
This town is known for great live music. All three venues are famous for launching the careers of up-and-coming artists, plus, many established acts stop in Lawrence during their tours. Check out concert schedules at the websites above.
If you can manage to go here on a night when there’s not a bachelorette party – you’re in for a great night: A dueling piano bar with mixed drinks and an eclectic crowd.
Downtown Farmer’s Market (Saturdays mid-April through mid-November)
Between 10th & 11th on Vermont Street. Head on down for fresh vegetables, flowers, jams, breads, pies – everything a farmer’s market should be.
This gallery specializes in functional pottery, blown glass, woodwork and much more – hand crafted goods by local and national artisans.
Exhibition space within the art center houses some surprising gems. The collection is always rotating new talent, so don’t miss this stop – you might discover your new favorite artist.
Located downtown, enjoy Watkins Museum’s historical displays recounting Lawrence as the birthplace of the Civil War. See other items such as a horse-drawn buggy from 1900 and an electric car from the 1920s. Just outside, you can stroll through the Japanese Friendship Garden at any time.
Skip the terminal, customs and avoid the jetlag by heading over to Europe, Kansas. Located right next door to each other, you can lose yourself for hours in these two places. Au March is part market and part interactive gallery, depending on how you shop. Often the staff will have something delicious cooking for you to try. We are fans of the Italian papers, foreign foods and soaps. This is the best place to buy a unique gift for those back home. Brits is an authentic little English shop with a plethora of stiff-upper-lip collectables and intrigues. We love the football scarves, the English teas and the ability to purchase BBC items on the spot.
From retro gifts, wind-up toys, and terrible advice books to a massive beehive blowup wig; this store is chock-full of the most random and cool merchandise. It’s memory lane with a modern and wacky twist.
No place to surf in Kansas? No problem! The fine folks at this land-locked oasis managed to create a surf shop that feels like any boardwalk store. Surf shoes, sandals, gnarly sunglasses, and beach clothes – there’s even a tanning booth for your inner surf dude!
Featuring reproductions of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dard Hunter, of the Arts and Crafts movement. They also offer hand-made jewelry by European and American artists.
Nothing like the big chain bookstores – thank goodness – this little bookshop features mystery novels, intimate bookreadings, and literary gifts. Check out the PBS Mystery posters capping the ceilings and strike up a conversation with one of its interesting staff.
EAT + DRINK
While seafood probably isn’t your first thought when you think of Kansas, Angler’s rivals any coastal establishment. Our advice? Sit in the bar section and get to know the bartender or the manager – you can ask them to handpick the best crab legs for your dinner. The mussels are very delicious too.
Consistently offers authentic Italian dinners from all regions of Italy. I recommend the Gnocchi with slow roasted pork shoulder ragu, chili flakes & shaved pecorino cheese – or enjoy the Family Style Sharing Pizza, Pasta & Salad on Sundays.
Kansas isn’t known only for its great steak – but for its BBQ too. Buffalo Bob’s has been a long time staple for great BBQ and great atmosphere in Lawrence. Bob’s Favorite Special #4 can easily be shared. (We like to sit in the Dynamite Saloon area).
If your palate is in search of something out of the ordinary, then you’ll enjoy this “Asian restaurant with cuisines from Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam & Japan.” We recommend a cup of Tom Yam soup to start – then go with Phad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles), and finish with the green tea ice cream.
This place is the top brewery in the Midwest. Seasonal brews and old-standbys adorn the fantastic menu. Grab a beer and head out to the patio with friends to enjoy the evening. Order a Cyclist during the summer months: a refreshing mix of lemonade and Wheat State Golden
World Cup soccer, world-class bartenders and world-class beer. This euro-style (English/Irish) pub sells the most Guinness in the Midwest. Real darts and free popcorn with friendly patrons and friendly attitudes. Take time to take in the sign above the bar: “Please don’t tell anyone about the Lyon. We have no time for strangers. Remember it’s your seat.”
Escape the plains and welcome to Key West, Kansas. “Home of the indoor hurricane.” Jimmy Buffett on the juke, a huge aquarium, tropical drinks, and the occasional glimpse of a live mermaid.
A pub crawl that you pedal with up to 16 of your friends!
Rich in history, the Eldridge hotel was burned down during Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence. Today it is a traditional hotel with two restaurants and a bar, right in the heart of downtown.
Perfectly placed between downtown Lawrence and the KU campus, this B&B is anything but typical. If you want an extra special stay, request the carriage house – your very own private cottage.
Staying a little longer than usual? The Extended allows for all the comforts of home, with a kitchenette, flat screen TV and quite ambiance.
Hail to Old KU (Campus Area)
Welcome to the birthplace of basketball – “Pay Heed, all who enter: Beware of the Phog.” Named after famed KU coach Forrest C. “Phog” Allen, a game at the Fieldhouse will give you the best feeling in the world. Grown men tear up during the opening video shown before each game – you are guaranteed to get chills. Granted, there’s only about 20 home-games a season, so if you can get tickets – just go! Arrive early to take part in the opening traditions and stay late for the Rock-Chalk Chant, and the waving of the wheat. If you’re not a Jayhawk when you arrive, you’ll be one by the time you leave.
KU’s Museum district
At the Natural History Museum, see the famous panorama of North American mammals which debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair to the amazement of all of Chicago; a working beehive; dinosaurs and a live bug town – and that’s just the first stop. From there – walk throughout the Kansas Union (right next door) to view over 20 museum panels on the history of the university and its students – plus take in the world’s largest collection of Jayhawks, numbering over 1,000. After you’ve found your new favorite sweatshirt at the KU Bookstore on level 2, head on over to the Spencer Museum. Four stories of paintings, sculptures, prints and photography from almost every continent – European, American, East Asian, Medieval, Japanese Edo-period painting and prints and 20th-century Chinese painting. Also check out the ethnographic collection, which includes about 10,000 Native American, African, Latin American and Australian works. Peruse the sculptures on Spencer’s lawn before you head out.
An institute for politics, this architectural stunner holds several exhibits, two stain glass windows and hosts fireside chats with today’s important political figures.
Two campus loctions
EAT + DRINK
If you’re looking for an authentic KU drinking establishment, then you’ve met your match. As the closest bar to campus, even KU Alumni in their 80s still frequent this watering hole – a student tradition since the 1950s. (Try the pizza too!)
Lawrence’s newest hotel experience, the Oread boasts 360-degree views of Lawrence and KU. Just one block from campus and three blocks from downtown, the Oread was raised inside and out with all-over limestone, each room is designed for comfort with traditional touches and aesthetically pleasing design. The Bird Dog bar is a great place to take in a football game – or head on down to the Lemon Bliss Spa for a massage. The Oread also houses “The Cave” – a huge nightclub with three bars: the Shot Bar, the Martini Bar and the Wine Bar. Because of this, however, make sure you request a room that is not above the dance club.
Enjoy the beach on the far side of the lake, or rent a pontoon and join the crowd at party cove. You can also take advantage of the hike/bike trails.
Winery tastings & tours
All three wineries are located just to the southeast of the city. With over 45 wines between the three, which winery will win your heart?
Maple Leaf Festival (Third Full Weekend in October)
In Baldwin City,12 miles South of Lawrence. Over 150 booths of crafts, artisans, and culinary delights, the MLF has been a local tradition for more than 50 years.
If you happen to be in Lawrence around Christmas time, check out the Old Fashioned Christmas Parade with horse-drawn carriages.
Pendleton’s Country Market (End of March through December)
A family farm in the country. Pick-your-own vegetables or purchase fresh cut flowers, bedding plants, and housewares.
Schaake Pumpkin Patch (End of September through October 31st)
Pick-your-own pumpkin, enjoy a hayride through the crisp fall air, sip hot apple cider and enjoy the country flair.
EAT + DRINK
Johnny’s Tavern (The Original)
Since 1953, Johnny’s has been the “other” Lawrence institution – maybe even tradition – with the longest running’ tap in town. The original red arrow and giant beer mug sign still grace the entrance.
Randomly located inside a Phillips 66 gas station (don’t judge, they’re avoiding the high rent of downtown until they can get more established), this is absolutely Lawrence’s best restaurant. Gourmet and on-the-go – drive thru or dine-in – you get a ton of food for very low cost. Just read the description for their BBQ Spaghettini: saute of peppers, onions, smoked ham, andouille, chicken, sweet corn & tomato in a mesquite smoked tomato sauce, topped with cheddar, bacon, & fried baked beans. If you’re not sold by now, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Just a little north of downtown, this country B&B has 10 guest rooms and a large wrap-around veranda.
Land Artist Stan Herd
Blues musician Brody Buster
Indi-rock group Mates of State