Situated a half-hour's drive west of Kansas City and a 20-minute drive east of Topeka, Lawrence is a town with distinctive history. Founded in 1854, Lawrence is home to two universities, the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University. Both the city’s past and its vigorous college town attitude are obvious in the historic downtown, which is packed with Lawrence event venues, boutiques, art galleries, interesting eateries, and nightspots.
Kansas City International Airport (MCI), a 45-minute drive from Lawrence, is serviced by most major airlines. Lawrence Municipal Airport is equipped for corporate jets, with four runways as well as an instrument landing system.
Chief among meeting venues in Lawrence, the 192-room Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center offers 22,716 square feet of function space in 12 rooms that can accommodate a meeting for up to 1,000 people. The other hotel that caters to meetings is The Oread, which sits on top of Mount Oread at the north gate of the University of Kansas campus. The hotel offers 99 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of function space, including the Hancock Ballroom, which can seat 225 classroom-style and 312 for a banquet. For events with a view, The Oread has multiple outdoor terrace bars and observation decks overlooking the KU campus and Kaw River Valley.
Other hotel venues in Lawrence include the 105-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which has 4,250 square feet of meeting space, and the 78-room Holiday Inn Express, which has three meeting rooms, the two largest handling 80 people each.
Lawrence provides planners with a number of alternatives for off-site functions. Two historic venues popular with groups of up to 150 people are The Castle Tea Room, which is set in an elegant Victorian Romanesque Revival home built in 1894, and the 48-room Eldridge Hotel, which has commanded the exact same location downtown since the Kansas Territorial Days. Larger-scale events of up to 1,000 people can be staged at Liberty Hall, which has served as a community meeting house since 1856.
Other options include the The Dole Institute on KU campus, which can handle up to 350 people; the Lawrence Arts Center, which can accommodate up to 660 people; Maceli’s Banquet Hall and Bistro Room, which can host a private event for up to 400 people; and Van-Go, an arts-based social service agency with a stylish modern facility able to host a gathering for up to 275 people.
The dining experience in Lawrence provides plenty of tasty choices for meeting attendees, from award-winning beers at Free State Brewing Company, handcrafted artisan bread for the sandwiches at WheatField’s Bakery & Cafe, and steak served in an historic bank building at Merchants Pub and Plate, to family-run establishments like La Tropicana, run by four generations of the Del Campo family and famous throughout town for its fresh guacamole and margaritas. For top-shelf burgers served with interesting sides, such as sweet potato or truffle fries, locals head to The Burger Stand at the Casbah, and for pizza with a friendly neighborhood attitude, the local hangout is Johnny’s Tavern.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons user: Jeremy Gates