Ah, summer in Lawrence. At times, I'll admit, the midwestern summer heat can be intense. There are ways to beat the heat during the day, from spending time inside air-conditioned museums to splashing at the public pool to grabbing a snow cone. But a thought occurred to me recently, which I'm happy to share because I'm convinced I'm not the only one who feels this way: pretty much every genuinely wonderful and nostalgia-inducing summer memory I have happened in the evening or at night. Even if you're as heat-intolerant as I am, you can't deny that there's something truly special to be found in a midwestern town in July after the sun sets. It's almost magical, the fun that can happen when folks emerge into the balmy night air after a long day spent inside their air-conditioned homes. That pent-up, almost childlike, enthusiasm for the opportunities that await, along with the arrival of cooler weather and a clear sky above, is the perfect recipe for making memories worth cherishing.

So, I'm inviting you to join us. See what Lawrence, Kansas has to offer this summer.

Douglas County Fair

The Lawrence Final Fridays Art Walk returns Friday, July 28, from 5-9 PM. This is shaping up to be a fun one with a lot to offer. There are 2D artists with so much creativity, hard-earned talent, and drive that it would be intimidating if not for the innate kindness that folks around these parts have to offer. There are musicians set up on street corners and in shops. There are wine tastings and charcuterie boards. There is a collaborative show featuring functional art like woodwork, blacksmithing, pottery, home goods, and more. Heck, there's even a tenth-anniversary party at J. Lynn Bridal that dogs are invited to. How often do you get to attend a party with both dogs and wedding gowns?

Final Fridays Phoenix Gallery

If this sounds like fun to you, then start making plans to join us on July 28 for Final Fridays. Here's the full lineup:

July Final Friday

Friday (& Saturday) Nights: Creativity to Destruction

Demolition Derby Douglas County Fair

After you finish exploring the world of the arts to your heart's content, it's time for some "good old-fashioned fun!" The last full week of July in Lawrence heralds the return of another time-honored summer tradition: the Douglas County Fair.

Douglas County Fair

This is an interesting event because it draws locals and visitors alike. Here's a snippet from their website:

"See it all at the Douglas County Free Fair, where everyone comes for good old-fashioned fun! It’s a chance to celebrate the local community and experience all that Douglas County has to offer. From live music and carnival rides to educational exhibits and competitive events, there’s something for everyone at the fair. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to support local businesses and organizations. If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to spend a summer day, the Douglas County Free Fair in Lawrence, Kansas, is definitely worth checking out!"

Douglas County Fair

From what I've gathered over the years, most events on the fair's rather lengthy schedule are free to attend, with the exception of some of the biggest events and some of the carnival games and rides. It's always a lot of fun whether you're on a budget or not, even if you're more of a spectator than an active participant. For me and many of my friends, the Demolition Derby* is non-negotiable, so I'm recommending it to you, too. What, you think those attending Final Fridays and those attending the Demolition Derby are completely different demographics? Don't be silly. For one, they've at least got a little alliteration in common. Additionally, it's always been my belief that an interest in seeing things created is not so different from an interest in seeing things destroyed. Both take a creative and curious mind. Still don't believe me? I challenge you to go to both events this year. We'll see if you have fun at both. I always do.

*There are two opportunities to see the Demolition Derby: Friday at 7:30 PM and Saturday at 8 PM.

Demolition Derby


Saturday & Sunday: Explore & Win Prizes

Remember that little snippet from my introduction about beating the heat with a trip to an air-conditioned museum, the public pool, or a snow cone? Did you think it was random? It was actually pretty specific. We've currently got two really cool free, gamified passes running to help you explore Lawrence and have fun.

Tad's snow cone shaved ice

The first is the Summer of Fun pass, which runs through August, and is family-oriented (though anyone and everyone are welcome to participate). Basically, you sign up for a free pass and start visiting the participating locations. When you go, be sure to "check in" using your pass, and you'll quickly rack up points that you can exchange at the Visitors Center (another participating location at 812 Massachusetts St) for cool prizes like buttons, sticker sheets, coloring books, and the TIE-DYE Unmistakably Lawrence bucket hat. The kids are really big fans of this one, and they're also available in summery blue and orange in larger sizes for those of us with big ol' noggins.

bucket hat tie dye

The second pass we're running at the moment is the Kaw Valley Craft Pass. This one's more catered for adults. Or, I should say that it's COMPLETELY catered to adults because the point is to drink craft beverages at Lawrence's breweries and wineries. For this pass, grab your designated-est* driver friend and go on a brewpub crawl or winery tour.

Free State Kaw Valley Craft Pass

It's a lot of fun, and you'll once again earn points when you check in at the various locations, which you can turn in for prizes like the aforementioned bucket hat or a really nice, high-quality Kaw Valley Craft Pass bottle opener or wine-stopper. 

*As an increasingly designated driver, I am claiming the right to make up ludicrous words for the position. Adds to the fun.

Summer of Fun

Have a blast with the fam without breaking the bank with the Lawrence Summer of Fun Pass! This free pass grants you access to exclusive discounts and prizes by exploring family-friendly activities, attractions, treats, and shopping! Sign up...

Kaw Valley Craft Pass

We’re proud of our craft beers and local-grown wines! Enjoy sampling some of the region’s best offerings through the Kaw Valley Craft Pass. Our local and industry experts have ensured we’re pouring out...

Sunday Night Lights

Friday night is a little full this weekend, and I think "Friday Night Lights" is typically reserved for fall football, so let's make Sunday our designated outing to the ball games. Pick your poison: the youthful drive of Lawrence's professional soccer team, Sporting KC II, at Rock Chalk Park, or the quirky weekly summer gathering of the local townies: the Kaw Valley Kickball League's Game of the Week at Hobbs Park. Wait, no need to choose! SKCII plays at 6 PM, and the kickball fun kicks off at 9:15. Let's go to both. For the former, there are all the regular, delicious concessions available. Pack a picnic basket or cooler with libations of your choice for the latter.

Game of the Week at Hobbs Park - credit Drone Lawrence

Photo: Hobbs Park Kickball by Drone Lawrence

Seems like another fun final weekend if you ask me. I promise you'll form some new summer memories if you visit. Come on, add a little summer magic to your life.

Douglas County Fair

No blog can cover everything happening in this fun little city, so 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!