101 Guides

Lawrence, KS City Guide

by Stephanie

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

The Granada, The BottleneckLiberty Hall

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.

The Barrel House

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.

The Jazzhaus

Phoenix Gallery

This gallery specializes in functional pottery, blown glass, woodwork and much more – hand crafted goods by local and national artisans.

Lawrence Arts Center

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.

Watkins Museum & Zen Garden

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.


Au  Marche & Brits

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.

Shark’s Surf Shop

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!

The Etc. Shop

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.

Raven Bookstore

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.

Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop


Angler’s Seafood House

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.

Buffalo Bob’s BBQ Smokehouse

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).

Zen  Zero

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.

Free State Brewery

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

Red Lyon Tavern

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.”

The Sandbar

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.

The Burger Stand at The Casbah

Lawrence Pedal Hopper.

A pub crawl that you pedal with up to 16 of your friends!


The Eldridge Hotel

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.

Halcyon House B&B

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.

The Eldridge Extended

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)


Allen Fieldhouse

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

Spencer Museum of Art, KU Natural History Museum, KU History Galleries in the   Kansas Union

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.

Dole Institute of Politics

An institute for politics, this architectural stunner holds several exhibits, two stain glass windows and hosts fireside chats with today’s important political figures.


KU Bookstores

Two campus loctions


The Wheel

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!)


The Oread Hotel

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.


The Outskirts


Clinton Lake Beach

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

Davenport Winery, BlueJacket Winery, Kugler’s Vineyard

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.


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.

The Basil Leaf Cafe

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.


Victorian Veranda Country Inn

Just a little north of downtown, this country B&B has 10 guest rooms and a large wrap-around veranda.


Notable Locals:

Land Artist Stan Herd

Blues musician Brody Buster

Indi-rock group Mates of State


Suggested For You


  • Oh Lauren, thank you!! Lawrence is what I call “My Happy Place” It’s funny to read all these comments. There are so many great places in Lawrence, and everyone has their different tastes. Lawrence just had their farm tour, and we hit up several of them. We loved the Karlan Family Farm, because the guys are so young and trying to be more sustainable. They’re so friendly to the public and really want to teach others how to grow. They have pizza parties open to the public where they cook the pizzas in their cobb oven that they built from recycled materials. Check them out!

  • This list is off on several points, especially the live music. The Bottleneck and Granada started going downhill in 2006. And some of the restaurants choices are laughable. Here’s my take…


    Great Harvest Bread

    Rudy’s Pizzaria
    Yello Sub

    Free State Brewery
    Burger Stand at the Casbah


    Live Music:
    Jackpot Music Hall
    Replay Lounge (also free pinball every Friday from 3-6 pm)

    Liberty Hall – movie theater and video rental, and occasional music venue
    Love Garden Records
    Lawrence Riverfront Trails along the Kaw (Kansas) River

    Or simply check out the best bets on http://www.lawrence.com/events/

  • ditto the comment about the bourgeois pig. outdoor drinking on the heated porch, delicious old-fashioned cocktails, and the best bartenders in the central timezone.

  • Yea, Lawrence!! I’m so happy to see all the comments on how many more places there are to visit, shop and eat. So many more than you touched on and a lot better places! I love going back and have trouble picking where to eat. For a ‘small’ town, there are a ton of great restaurants and stores. The people are great too :)

  • Yes, a second (or sixth? seventh?) on Milton’s for breakfast. But I also feel the need to mention Wheat State Pizza as another item for the “Eat” list. It’s not downtown, but their wheat crust is amazing and the toppings are varied and unique. Esquina is also pretty great for fusion tacos – and it’s right on Mass Street where Round Corner Drug used to be.

    And thanks for featuring Kansas! It makes me sad that people miss out on all the great things we have here!

  • My .02 – Teller’s, always fresh & uses many local ingredients, plus the atmosphere is great. Pachama’s restaurant is also very good. I agree that Wheatfield’s is a must, the bread & other baked goods are so good, the prices are fair. In all my travels, I have yet to find a bakery as good as this. Mass St. offers a bit of everything, I love the clothing & home stores. A new shoe store to check out is Foxtrot. Lawrence is a fun, quirky, beautiful town that offers something for everyone. The campus also has museums, including a world class art museum. The area surrounding Lawrence reminds me of Hudson valley, very scenic.

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