Things to do in Lawrence

Lawrence has a variety of museums, live music venues, nature trails, and other attractions to explore during your time at the SHEL conference. In addition to the options listed below, the City of Lawrence maintains a comprehensive list of local events, including concerts, public lectures, and film screenings.

On the KU Campus

Kenneth Spencer Research LibraryThe Kenneth Spencer Research Library houses the University’s rare books, manuscripts, letters, and other texts. The collections include ancient and medieval manuscripts, an impressive collection of Irish literature, special collections relating to the history of science and education, and texts relating to the history of Kansas and KU. There will be an exhibition relating to the history of the English language during the conference, described below.

Histories of the English Language
From the Old English of Beowulf to the Middle English of Chaucer to the many dialects that make up our modern tongue, the history of English is a history of change. Featuring materials from KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library, this exhibition explores English as embodied in the writings of its practitioners, whether celebrated authors, such as John Milton and Toni Morrison, or scholars, lexicographers, and  grammarians, such as Elizabeth Elstob, Samuel Johnson, Robert Lowth, and Noah Webster, or anonymous and little-known writers of “everyday” English. In manuscripts and books dating from 1000 CE to the present, we encounter varied forces at work growing, codifying, standardizing, governing, reforming, describing, and reinventing English.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Two Old English leaves glossed by the Tremulous Hand of Worcester and a third containing perhaps the only surviving instance of an Old English word
  • Registrum brevium, comprising a register of legal writs in Latin, and supplemented by material in law French and Middle English, a reflection of the multi-lingual culture of late medieval Britain
  • Dictionaries, from Edward Philip’s The New World of Words, to Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, to John Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms
  • Examples of English in its many varieties: from treatises defending London English, to word lists for Kansas dialect, to the world English of the Ontisha Market Literature of Nigeria
  • Attempts to reform the language, including an 1850 copy of the Cincinnati-based Fonetic Advocat, once owned and annotated by George Bernard Shaw

KU Natural History Museum: KU’s Natural History Museum, a short walk from the Kansas Union, was recently named the top natural history museum among public universities by Best College Reviews. Admission is free, with a suggested contribution of $7 for adults. More information, including current exhibitions, can be found on their website.

Nest on Ninth at the Oread Hotel: Located on the roof of the Oread Hotel (where the conference dinner will be held on Saturday June 3), the Nest on Ninth offers stunning views of the KU campus and the city of Lawrence. The Nest often features live music.

Spencer Museum of Art: The newly renovated Spencer Museum of Art, behind the Kansas Union, has a permanent collection of over 37,000 pieces spanning the history of European, North American, and East Asian art. Admission is free. For more information, including current exhibitions, please consult their website.

Downtown Lawrence

Downtown Lawrence is home to many great restaurants, shops, and other attractions, many of which are located on Massachusetts Street. A directory of downtown businesses is available on the Downtown Lawrence website. 

Farmers Market: Lawrence will hold an outdoor farmers market on Saturday, June 3, at 824 New Hampshire Street from 7-11 am. A variety of local farmers and vendors will be selling produce, baked goods, arts and crafts, and other items.

Lawrence Public Library: The Lawrence Public Library, which Tech Insider recently named one of the “seven most beautiful new libraries in North America,” hosts a variety of events that are free and open to the public, including classes, film screenings, and discussion groups. A calendar of events is available on their website.

Liberty Hall: Located at 644 Massachusetts Street, Liberty Hall shows a variety of independent, classic, and cult classic films. The venue also hosts live music, comedy performances, and other events. Consult their website for screen times and a list of scheduled events.

Live Music: Downtown Lawrence is home to a vibrant live music scene, with several venues in and around Massachusetts Street. For more information, including scheduled concerts, consult the venues’ websites: Liberty Hall, The Granada, Jackpot Music Hall & Saloon, Jazzhaus, and The Bottleneck.

Watkins Museum of History: The Watkins Museum and Book Shop is located in a historic bank building at 1047 Massachusetts Street. The museum focuses on Kansas’s history, particularly during the American Civil War. The core exhibit highlights William Quantrill’s 1863 raid of Lawrence, and the museum hosts a variety of changing and travelling exhibits as well.

Outdoor Activities

Clinton Lake: Clinton Lake is located approximately four miles southwest of Lawrence. This scenic state park includes a 25-mile hiking trail, a 1-mile self-guided nature trail, a swim beach, and a golf course, among other amenities.  Please consult the Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism website (linked above) for more information.

Levee Trail: The Lawrence Levee Trail is a 9.3-mile walking, running, and biking trail located in north Lawrence. The trail offers views of the Kansas River, as well as nearby farmland and downtown Lawrence. It is a 10-15-minute walk from downtown Lawrence hotels.

Baker Wetlands: Considered one of the most beautiful locations in Kansas, the Baker Wetlands is located in south Lawrence. It offers hiking in diverse ecosystems, with good chances to see wildlife of various kinds. It is reachable by car and by bus.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
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