The long Memorial weekend marks the official transition in most folks' minds between spring and summer, school and vacation. Even us "boring" adults with full-time jobs can feel the change in the air, whether it's physical change (warmer temps, fewer cars on the road, a sighting of actual children on the streets between the hours of 8 AM - 3 PM on a weekday) or mental (feeling a wave of nostalgia for summers of our own youth). Lawrence is kicking off the summer season with a party for the ages, with Final Fridays, the Lawrence Busker Festival, the Art Tougeau parade, and a whole lot more on the schedule. Here are some recs on how to make the most of this weekend.
FRIDAY: QUITE A LOT GOING ON AT THE MOMENT
The second you clock out, literally or proverbially, on Friday evening, go ahead and make for the streets of Downtown Lawrence and the East Lawrence Warehouse Arts District. Why? Because it's time for the Final Fridays Art Walk, and this month is sure to be one for the ages. For one, we've got an awesome lineup of beautiful, diverse, and thought-provoking shows on the calendar. Next month, Lawrence is celebrating both LGBTQ+ Pride Month and Juneteenth, and the art shows this weekend reflect that. Check out everything there is to see here:
You never know what you might see or experience on a Final Fridays Art Walk. In March, I discovered a regular outdoor porch concert series at the intersection of 9th and Pennsylvania Street. In April, I said "awwwww" a lot. No, really. For whatever reason, last month had a surplus of cute families with cute kids. As a Very Cool Aunt of two niblings under 6, I am well-practiced in the art of entering a room, having a pleasant interaction with the kids, snapping a cute picture or two, and leaving before any exhaustion-induced hysteria sets in. Here's a collage of photos I took during last month's Final Friday:
Cute, right? My point is, Final Fridays are for everyone. They're fun for the whole family. Even if you don't feel like your kids can keep quiet in a regular art gallery, Lawrence's Friday evening art walk spills out into the streets with music, entertainment, games, and laughter. And the only thing better than a regular Final Friday? One that coincides with the opening day of the UNMISTAKABLE Lawrence Busker Festival.
Friday evening kicks off #lawrencebuskerfest, a four-day street performer festival. Artists line the streets of Downtown Lawrence, performing everything from jaw-dropping magic tricks to seemingly death-defying stunts atop a pogo stick. Over 25 different acts are scheduled, and it's always a blast to witness. This is an event unlike any other, and it's completely free to attend - only you decide how much to tip the performers.
To end the night, there's a street party on the block of 10th St. adjacent to Replay Lounge to celebrate the Art Tougeau Parade (more on that in a bit). HANG12 will incorporate community art making, interactive art experiences, and a small exhibition inside the Lawrence Arts Center’s 10th & Mass Studio from 4 - 7:30 PM, then folks can move to the street for live musical performances from 95 Sweetbird and The Kansas City Bear Fighters at the Art Tougeau Pre-Parade Mass Spectacular. Grab a beer and get a sneak peak at some of the ArtCars that will be driving the parade the next day. The cars will be on display until 9:30 PM.
Saturday: Coffee, Parade, Busker, Balloons
I am ashamed to admit that I only recently made it to Uplift Coffee Shop. With the original in North Lawrence and a newer drive-thru location in West Lawrence, the folks at Uplift have perfectly positioned themselves as *the* stop for those coming to Lawrence from outside the city limits. The North Lawrence location also has a beautiful patio surrounded by trees and even a little miniature waterfall feature where they frequently host musicians during the day. I visited for breakfast on last week's rainy Monday and ordered one of their tasty croissant breakfast sandwiches (according to their social media, they can make them gluten-free!). I usually drink black coffee because it wakes me up, but since it was my first time there and it was raining outside and I had made it out of my bed that morning, I decided I deserved a little treat. I asked the very nice barista for a recommendation with the following guidelines: caffeinated and ever so slightly sweet. She conjured up an iced latte with a pump of their signature "Kickin' Kansas" syrup, which is made with cinnamon and chili pepper flakes. I'm big on adding chili peppers to pretty much anything, so this suggestion was a dream come true. However, if you are cringing at the idea of spicy pepper coffee and don't believe me when I say it was delicious and surprisingly subtle, I'm sure they've got a lot of other tasty options. You'll just have to go and find out.
After breakfast and coffee, it's time to head back downtown. The Lawrence Farmers Market at 824 New Hampshire St is always a fun way to pass the time, and you can even bring your dog as long as they're decently well-behaved and you're willing to follow the general courtesy rules about letting them relieve themselves in the right spot and picking up after them. The market goes from 7:30 until 11:30 AM, which is the perfect time to stroll one block over to Mass Street and position yourself for one of Lawrence's most unique parades, the Art Tougeau Parade. It starts at noon sharp and goes from 11th and Mass to 7th and Mass before looping around back to the Lawrence Arts Center on New Hampshire Street. This is one of those delightfully wacky events that you have to see to fully appreciate. Basically, anything on wheels that's been decorated is good to go. This ranges from the Bowser-on-a-bike that's pictured in the cover photo above, to a 20-foot-tall robot car, to the parade's logosake (I just made that word up), the perfectly round & metallic UFO car.
The Lawrence Busker Festival starts back up at 1:30 PM with a full afternoon and evening of events. There are several stages throughout Downtown, and this year the 800 block of Massachusetts St has been closed to traffic to make way for pedestrians and the #UnmistakablyLawrence stage. Check out the schedule and plan ahead, or go with the flow and walk around and see what catches your interest. Something is bound to.
If you really want to make this weekend unforgettable, head out to Z&M Twisted Vines Winery & Vineyard. They're hosting their incredible Twisted Flying Festival on both Friday and Saturday. The big star of this show is the hot air balloons stationed next to and reflecting over the water, glowing and lighting up the sky from dusk into the night. Talk about a photo-op. There will also be an inflatable obstacle course from 12-9 PM, helicopter tours for an affordable fee, shaved ice & cotton candy, live music, aerial arts performances, and, naturally, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options from Z&M. Check out their Facebook page for more info!
While you're at the winery, be sure to check in with the Kaw Valley Craft Pass. It's a great way to earn prizes just for trying local craft beverages, and the best part is - it's totally free!
Sunday: More festive fun and a kickball nightcap
Sunday and Memorial Day are the last two days of the Lawrence Busker Festival, and there are still amazing acts to be seen. My recommendation for Sunday is to come to the Lawrence Visitors Center (812 Massachusetts St) after 1 PM and get some instruction in the art of hula-hooping from our Visitors Center Manager (and certified hula instructor), Calley. After you've picked up a few tricks, or at least realized how challenging hula is, visit the Massachusetts Pitch at 3 or 6 PM to see Lisa Lottie, a professional of hula-hooping & contortion. She can keep a dozen hoops circling her body, which you'll appreciate even more after your visit to the Visitors Center.
Grab a dinner of your choice at one of the MANY amazing restaurants Lawrence has to offer. Check out our Restaurants page and sort by category based on what sounds good.
Photo: Hobbs Park Kickball by Drone Lawrence
At 9:15 PM, it's time to make your way to Hobbs Park to observe the summer pastime of the Lawrence townie: the Kaw Valley Kickball League Game of the Week. This is a really fun event. KVKL is a not-for-profit intramural kickball league that plays on Sundays throughout the summer, and the teams are mostly comprised of employees at various restaurants and other businesses throughout the city. The league is known for hosting charity kickball events. The big event occurs at 9:15 every Sunday for the Game of the Week, which features two hotshot teams and gathers a pretty sizable crowd of locals and visitors alike. This Sunday, it's AsteroidHEAD vs. Red Legs. Pack a picnic basket or cooler with libations of your choice. There are often food vendors on site, and freebies ranging from jello shots to t-shirts thrown into the crowd at certain points of the game. Much like a baseball game, the seventh-inning stretch is marked by a boisterous rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It's about as Lawrence as it gets.
Seems like another fun final weekend, if you ask me. Of course, no one blog can cover everything going on in this fun little city, so be sure to check out our full events calendar here. If you see me or any of the eXplore Lawrence crew out and about, be sure to say hi or give us a wave. We love to see you!