Museum of Natural History in Lawrence, Kansas
Photo: Kaushik Raha/Fotolia

Lawrence, Kansas, has many exciting things to see and do, including art galleries, entertainment, a famous main street, many restaurants, great shopping, breweries and coffee shops. It is also known for its many live music venues. Lawrence is home to two universities and is an outdoor activity-focused city with more than 50 public parks. Visit the Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas, tour the Dole Institute and see a performance at the Lied Center of Kansas. Families can head to the Prairie Park Nature Center, Clinton State Park and the Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum. Here are the best things to do in Lawrence, KS.

»Massachusetts Street

Massachusetts Street

Located in the central business district of downtown Lawrence, Massachusetts Street, also known as Mass Street, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lawrence, Kansas. It is a historic district that begins south of the Kansas River at Sixth Street and runs south to Haskell Indian Nations University. The name comes from the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company which founded the city by bringing in anti-slavery settlers.

The district is full of interesting examples of Neoclassical architecture and Victorian architecture built between 1856 and 1953. A section of the district has been listed on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. The district is home to many shops, restaurants and a brewery.

833-1/2 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-842-3883

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»Museum of Natural History

Museum of Natural History

The Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas is located on Jayhawk Boulevard on the campus of the university. It is a part of the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute that is devoted to studying the diversity of life on Earth. The galleries are housed in the historic Dyche Hall, a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was the impetus for building the museum - it was constructed between 1901 and 1903 in the Romanesque style of architecture. The museum houses over 350 exhibits, the most famous of which is the “Panorama of North American Wildlife.” It has over 10 million species and artifacts and is one of the best things to do in Lawrence KS.

1345 Jayhawk Boulevard, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-4450 Photo: Earl Richardson / Lawrence CVB

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»Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics

Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics

The Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics is a political institution located on Petefish Drive on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Often referred to as the Dole Institute, it was founded by Bob Dole, the U.S. Senator from Kansas and the 1996 Republican presidential candidate.

Opened in 2003, the institute is a 28,000 square foot facility that not only houses Dole’s papers but is an important venue for political events because it is a non-partisan institute. Some of the speakers at the institute have included Bill Clinton, Tom Brokaw, Bob Woodward, and Bob and his wife, Elizabeth Dole. The institute offers tours, various programs, and can be rented.

2350 Petefish Drive, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-4900

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»Things to do in Lawrence KS: Watkins Museum of History

Things to do in Lawrence KS: Watkins Museum of History

The Watkins Museum of History is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the history of Douglas County, Kansas. Established in 1933, the Douglas County Historical Society has been operating the museum since 1975. Housed in the historic 1888 Watkins Land Mortgage and National Bank Building, the museum displays its permanent exhibit as well as temporary exhibits.

The permanent exhibit tells the story of Douglas County’s role during important events like the Civil War, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and much more. Some of the temporary exhibits include “The Early Settlement of Douglas County,” “Watkins: The Couple, the Building, the Legacy,” and “More than a Game: Basketball and Community Spirit.”

1047 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-841-4109

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»Lied Center of Kansas

Lied Center of Kansas

The Lied Center of Kansas is a performing arts center on the campus of the University of Kansas. Opened in 1993, it was built with the help of the Lied Foundation and the community of Lawrence. The center is named after Ernst M. and Ida K. Lied, the parents of Ernst F. Lied, an alumnus of the University of Kansas. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Lawrence, watch a performance at the Lied Center of Kansas.

The center consists of two performance spaces, the main auditorium that seats about 2,000 people, and and the Pavilion which seats about 200 people. The center has several education outreach programs including school performances, study guides, and “School Ambassadors” who provide information about the center to local area schools.

1600 Stewart Drive, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-2787

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»Prairie Park Nature Center, Lawrence, Kansas

Prairie Park Nature Center, Lawrence, Kansas

The Prairie Park Nature Center is a nature reserve located on Harper Street on the east side of the city of Lawrence. Opened in 1999, it consists of 100 acres of several kinds of habitats such as prairie, wetlands and woodlands. There is also a five acre lake within a nature center. It is called Mary’s Lake and is a popular fishing spot, stocked with fish throughout the spring and summer by the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks.

There are walking trails for nature lovers and bird watchers. Some of the wildlife that lives in the nature center include birds of prey, beavers, bobcats and deer. The education building includes live animals and natural habitat dioramas.

2730 Harper Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-832-7980 Photo: Prairie Park Nature Center

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»Washington Creek Lavender

Washington Creek Lavender

Just outside Lawrence is a little corner of Provence. A rolling purple hill is covered in more than 6000 fragrant lavender plants of many varieties. Washington Creek Lavender is a lavender farm owned and operated by Kathy and Jack Wilson. All their lavenders are organic and they tend and take care of them without the use of chemicals, meaning more backbreaking work and more hands-on care, but the result is a high-quality plant that heals and relaxes.

Kathy and Jack open their farm to visitors, and they are registered as a Kansas official agri-tour site. Walk among the fragrant rows of lavender bushes before harvest time – even the view is relaxing. Visit their store where they sell sachets, long-lasting dryer sheets, and a variety of lavender-related products such as hand-made pottery with lavender designs.

Jack and Kathy can be seen at many local and regional farmers markets and festivals where they sell lavender and promote growing and using this unique plant.

858 E 800 Rd., Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-748-0678 Photo: Washington Creek Lavender

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»Booth Family Hall of Athletics

Booth Family Hall of Athletics

Opened in January 2006, the Booth Family Hall of Athletics is a museum honoring Kansas University athletic programs, present and past coaches, and student athletes. The 19,335 square foot facility is located next to the Allen Fieldhouse and underwent significant expansions in 2009.

Booth Family Hall is open year-round, making it possible for Jayhawk fans to learn about the tradition and history of Kansas Athletics. The hall got its name from the original donation from the family of the late Gilbert and Betty Booth, Lawrence residents and life-long Jayhawk fans.

The Story of Sport gallery showcases the history of Kansas Athletics from 1879, featuring two Olympians cases and one case honoring Wilt Chamberlain. The Game and Gear gallery highlights all current 18 KU athletic teams, and the KANSAS Experience Wall gallery includes the teams’ traditions such as crimson and blue, cheerleading, the marching band, and others.

1651 Naismith Dr, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-7050 Photo: Booth Family Hall of Athletics

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»Spencer Museum of Art

Spencer Museum of Art

The museum is currently being renovated and will reopen in mid-2016. Look for special events and offsite programs, including artist talks, performances and other activities.

The Spencer Museum of Art opened its doors in 1928 with a core collection of 7,500 art objects donated to the University of Kansas by Kansas City art collector Sallie Casey Thayer. She hoped that her gift would promote study and appreciation of fine arts in the area.

The eclectic collection contained paintings, prints, sculpture, drawings, rugs, furniture, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, glass, and many other pieces of decorative arts. Since then, the collection has grown, and in 1978, it moved to its present larger location, a magnificent neo-classical building made from Indiana limestone.

One of the biggest recent additions to the museum collection occurred in 2007 when 9,500 ethnographic objects were transferred from the former Museum of Anthropology. The museum organizes frequent educational and informative events related to the current exhibitions such as gallery talks, lectures, and film showings.

1301 Mississippi Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-4710

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»The Roost, Lawrence, Kansas

The Roost, Lawrence, Kansas

The Roost is a spacious, down-to-Earth eatery on Massachusetts Street that serves breakfast, lunch, coffee, and pastries. The bar is one of the most popular parts of the Roost, mostly due to their imaginative Bloody Maries – there are six variations - and great coffee drinks.

Food at the Roost is simple: they have a lot of egg dishes, salads, sandwiches and soups, and the inevitable mac and cheese. Everything is fresh, cooked to perfection, and the portions are generous. Their bakery makes fabulous pies, cookies, brownies, and cakes, reason enough to visit this pleasant place for a morning treat.

No. 920 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-843-1110 Photo: The Roost

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»Cafe Beautiful

Cafe Beautiful

Café Beautiful is a one-person show, and what a show it is. Melinda Roeder is the owner, chef, and the only employee. She is also resident artist, since what she serves is true art, both in a culinary and visual sense. Melinda serves only one table at a time, by reservation only, with a maximum of 20 people.

Everyone gets served at the same time, the menu and price are fixed, and the chef staggers up to nine courses throughout two to four hours, allowing the guest to really enjoy the food. All ingredients except fish are local and seasonal. The cuisine is Asian fusion, and the Asian influence is evident in the understated, Zen-like and beautiful décor.

What will you be eating? Let yourself be surprised, but expect little jewels like snow crab cake, shellfish custard, or tuna sushi with salmon, avocado and sorbet.

730 Massachusetts St., Suite B, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-843-7423 Photo: Cafe Beautiful

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»Clinton State Park

Clinton State Park

Clinton State Park is located about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) west of Lawrence. Made up of 1,500 acres of land lying on the north shore of Clinton Lake, the park is popular for its wide range of outdoor activities. Cross-country skiers, birdwatchers, wildlife observers, nature photographers, and others enjoy the park.

There is a biking and hiking trail that connects to the adjacent 9,200 acre wildlife area. There are many kinds of wildlife in the park, including bald eagles, songbirds, waterfowl, and wild turkey as well as white-tailed deer. The lake is popular because of its clear water and its abundance of fish.

798 North 1415 Road, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-842-8562

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»University of Kansas

University of Kansas

Located on Jayhawk Boulevard, the University of Kansas is the largest university in the state with branch campuses in Kansas City, Overland Park, Salina, and Wichita. The main campus sits on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence. Founded in 1865, the university is a public research university and is known for its Medical Center and University Hospital, both of which are located in Kansas City.

The schools on the main Lawrence campus include the School of Architecture, Business, Law, Engineering, Journalism and Medicine. There are several tours available including the Admitted Senior Jayhawk Days, Jayhawk Days, Senior Days, and Junior Days.

1450 Jayhawk Boulevard, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-864-2700

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»Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence, KS

Free State Brewing Company, Lawrence, KS

Free State Brewing Company was the first post-prohibition legal brewery in Kansas. It started production in 1989, and it is now a 14-barrel brew house using only the best small brewers’ equipment available to produce excellent authentic and original beers.

They do not follow the rules of beer styles to the letter, so let your taste guide you. Start with their flagship brews such as Oatmeal Stout or Wheat State Golden.

The best way to sample their beers is at their fun and comfortable brewpub, where there is always something new on tap and where they serve great black bean quesadillas, the ubiquitous fish and chips, and a daily special, with a beer suggestion for each dish.

You can also find Free State beer at any beer fest and in popular bars and liquor stores all over Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

636 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-843-4555 Photo: Free State Brewing Company

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»715, Lawrence, Kansas

715, Lawrence, Kansas

715 is a Tuscan restaurant located in the heart of Lawrence in a magnificently restored historic building featuring stone walls, reclaimed wood, and discrete low lighting. The open kitchen takes center stage, allowing guests to watch the magic happen, and the food is Italian at its best.

They use fresh local produce and meats from nearby farms. The menu is extensive, and their in-house made pasta dishes are especially delicious. You might want to try the rabbit ravioli with rabbit confit, rare hare, parsnip, pureed goat cheese, and olive oil. They have a nice wine list with affordable selections.

715 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-856-7150 Photo: 715

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»Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum

Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum

The Wakarusa River Valley Heritage Museum exhibits explain the history of the making of Clinton Lake and how it impacted the people who lived in the area. The U.S. Corps of Engineers planned to dam the Wakarusa River to create Clinton Lake, but this meant the displacement of residents whose families had worked the land for generations.

They formed the Clinton Lake Landowners Association and tried to save some of the historic old houses that were set for demolition. Eventually a new museum was built with the express purpose of telling the story of the families whose lives were changed by the creation of Clinton Lake.

County Road 6, Lawrence, Kansas, Phone: 785-783-4420

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16 Best Things to Do in Lawrence, KS