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 and culture. 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 night spots.
Kansas City International Airport (MCI), located 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 DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Convention Center offers 15,000 square feet of function space in 31 rooms and can accommodate a meeting for up to 1,000 people. Another 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 240 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 is located on the Kansas River and offers 5,000 square feet of meeting space, and the brand-new, 112-room Best Western Plus in West Lawrence, which has two meeting rooms that can handle up to 50 people.
Lawrence provides planners with a number of alternatives for offsite functions. A historic venue popular with groups is the 48-room Eldridge Hotel, which has commanded the exact same location downtown since the Kansas Territorial Days. The Eldridge offers nearly 7,000 square feet of event space, with the largest space accommodating up to 250. 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 unique spaces include the Lawrence Arts Center, which can accommodate up to 660 people; Maceli's Banquet Hall, 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 that can host a gathering for up to 275 people.
The University of Kansas campus has plenty of opportunities for interesting event and meeting space as well. The new experience-centric Frank R. Burge Student Union offers more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a Forum with room for 1,000 guests. The KU Memorial Union has dozens of event spaces designed to accommodate a wide away of events, from large conferences to small gatherings. The largest space can seat up to 600 people theater-style. The stunning Dole Institute of Politics on the West Campus can hold up to 300 people. Also on West Campus, the Lied Center of Kansas offers six unique meeting spaces, including a theater with room for up to 2,000 guests.
The dining experience in Lawrence is the best in Kansas! In fact, 10 Lawrence restaurants earned their spots on the Top 20 Local Kansas Restaurants in the 2018 Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association survey. Options include 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. 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.