Lawrence, Kansas: More Than Flyover Country (Part 1, Mass St.)

[Erin Schramm (along with her trusty side-dog, Clara) is an elementary school Library Media Specialist (read: school librarian) currently living in Lawrence, KS. She enjoys books, Lays Dill Pickle potato chips, and that trusty side-dog mentioned above.]

“Oh really? A post about Kansas? Awesome…” Go ahead: admit it. I know that’s what you’re thinking. But give me a few minutes. I may just change your mind. You see, there’s a fabulous little place in northeast Kansas called Lawrence, the town where I currently live, and I challenge anyone to visit and not come away feeling a bit more appreciative of our little piece of the Sunflower State. [Ed. note: There is actually so much awesomeness in Lawrence that we’re breaking this up into three installments. Check back next week for more!] 

A fairly large college town, Lawrence is pretty much the polar opposite of what most people think of when they envision Kansas. It’s very liberal politically–no need to fear offending large swaths of the population with your Obama 2012 bumper sticker. It’s very artsy. Tons of bands and musicians come through every year, both locally and internationally known (just a few weeks ago I saw Glen Hansard, all the way from Ireland, at one of my favorite venues). We have a great performance hall for large scale musical productions, an arts center that offers classes in everything from pottery to dance, and an art house movie theater that I frequent, well, frequently. It has tons of amazing independent restaurants, boutiques, and grocery stores. What it is most known for…er, besides KU… is its well-established and much-loved downtown district, located on Massachusetts Street, which everyone fondly refers to as “Mass. St.” or just “Mass” (as in “Have you been to that new record store? It just opened up on Mass!”). There are several beautiful parks, filled in the summertime with four different farmer’s markets, free classical and jazz concerts at the big gazebo, and lots of picnickers. There are numerous eclectic events happening at any given time (the Zombie Walk around Halloween, the Busker Festival in the summer, gallery walks every Friday night). If I could create a city to fit my personality, I couldn’t get much better than this. So, with that in mind, I’d like to take you on a photographic tour of my town in the hopes that it may inspire you to come learn more about it in person some day.

Let’s start with the heart of the city: Massachusetts Street. Once you’re on this street, you’ll know. Colors abound.

Two of Lawrence’s oldest and most beloved institutions: Free State Brewery (on the left) and Liberty Hall (on the right), which is an art house movie theater, a concert hall, and an old-school video rental place all rolled into one. It was at Liberty Hall that I saw my first concert when I was 15 (Matthew Sweet), Ben Folds Five’s first tour, and countless other shows. There is a small movie theater on the second floor (with tiny lights put in the ceiling that look like stars), and a larger theater that can be used either for concerts or for fancy movie-watching in the balcony. Beer, wine, coffee, and tea are always available, served in real glasses and mugs that you can take in to the movie with you. You can even get an Orangina if you’re feeling slightly European.

There are so many eclectic, independent places to shop on Mass. that you can easily lose a whole day just wandering up and down the street. A few of my favorites:

Love Garden Music Store (mostly used… read: cheap!)

ACME t-shirt shop where you can buy a t-shirt from the Wall o’ Shirts or create one of your own

Arizona Trading Company thrift store

Creation Station, a store that is consistently wafting with patchouli and where we would go in high school if we wanted to feel “cool”

Hobbs, a funky gift shop with all kinds of interesting and funny merchandise

No day spent wandering around downtown Lawrence would be complete without spending a few minutes (or, in my case, hours) in The Dusty Bookshelf, the city’s most well-known independent used bookstore. Books are organized fairly well, you can buy t-shirts with famous book covers emblazoned across them, and don’t forget to say hi and give a scritch to the Bookshelf’s resident kitty/mascot, Alice.

[Remember, come back next week to learn about some of the great restaurants in Lawrence and other quirky highlights!]


7 thoughts on “Lawrence, Kansas: More Than Flyover Country (Part 1, Mass St.)

  1. Pingback: The Happy Hipsters of Lawrence, Kansas | Go Go Go

  2. You must have spent some time in Boston before moving to Lawrence. Lawrence has Mass Street, Boston has Mass Ave. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on both grand thoroughfares and I think you’ve captured the some crucial tidbits of Mass St. awesomeness quite well.

  3. Yes I was going to also say – Mass STREET! Was just telling all my friends just yesterday about how amazing LFK is, and how much I miss it – great recap of Mass St. Can’t wait to read the rest! ANDPLUSALSO: a wee bit sad to see 715 didn’t get love in this, but then again so many things to put in a Mass St. post it’s hard to only select a few 😉

  4. When I lived in Lawrence in the ’80s, anytime someone said “on Mass,” I heard “en masse.”

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