Since arriving at Fort Leavenworth, Clay’s schedule has been fairly low-key and will remain so until the official start of the school year. Because of this, we’ve been taking advantage of his limited schedule and exploring the various towns in the area. So far, we’ve hit up Weston, Missouri, Atchison, Kansas, and of course, Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri. Although to be honest, we haven’t really even touched upon the soul of Kansas City, unless one counts eating at the world-famous Oklahoma Joe’s as doing so. Countless trips have been made to retail meccas such as Legends, Zona Rosa, and Overland Park but their suburban flare hardly seems worthy of a blog post (Target? Check. Trader Joes? Check. Whole Foods? Check. Nebraska Furniture Mart? Oh my goodness – does a furniture store really need to be that big? Yes. Yes, it does. Home Goods? Check. And so on.). But this post isn’t about our desire to experience Kansas City beyond suburbia – it is about Lawrence, Kansas, a cute little city that is home to University of Kansas and bleeds college town charm.
The other day, the four of us headed about an hour west with no plan other to take country roads to Lawrence and see where the day takes us. A quick stop at a donut shop on the way out of town ended with me exiting the bakery empty handed because the man in line ahead of me purchased 47 donuts, which happened to be the only remaining donuts. Womp womp. Apparently locals take their donut consumption very seriously. But we didn’t let lack of sugar deter us from enjoying the blue skies and green fields as we continued toward Jayhawk territory.
As far as numbers go, Lawrence was founded in 1854 and home to about 90,000 people, making it the 6th most populated city in Kansas. Approximately 28,000 students attend University of Kansas, which is located on Mount Oread, the highest point in Lawrence (only about 1000 feet above sea level). Not surprisingly, there are not a lot of high points in Kansas.
We drove through the tree-lined streets downtown and around the campus, commenting on how we’d both love to work in the collegiate world someday – something about the college environment is so intoxicating. Perhaps it is the smell of cheap beer and burnt microwavable mac & cheese. Pictured is The Campanile, a memorial that honors University of Kansas students killed in World War II. It houses a carillon – 53 bells that chime every fifteen minutes from 7am – 9pm.
We ate lunch at Free State Brewing Company, which in 1989 was the first legal brewery to open in Kansas in over 100 years. The beer was great (Clay had the Copperhead Pale Ale and I had the Wheat State Golden), as was the food. And the kids report that their lemonade was top notch.
After lunch, we walked around the town for a bit but the kids began to stage a mutiny so we weren’t able to pop into any shops, with the exception of an antique store that boasted a $200 metal pedal car that Weston fell in love with and unsuccessfully campaigned for.
Afterwards, we consulted our smartphones to find a playground for optimal energy depletion and decided on Clinton State Park, about 4 miles west of Lawrence.
Despite one Yelp review referring to Clinton Lake as a nuclear wasteland, Clinton State Park met our needs by offering decent views, a playground, and clean bathrooms. Clinton Lake is a reservoir formed during the late 1970s that allows boating, fishing, and other water sports.
Trees like the one above pepper the eastern Kansas landscape.
Our little day trip to Lawrence whet our appetite and cemented our desire to return during our time in Kansas. If you ever find yourself stationed at Fort Leavenworth, be sure to check out Lawrence – you won’t be disappointed!