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Life in Middle America: Lawrence, Kansas

February 17, 2011
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The University of Kansas (photo credit

This past weekend I spent 3 days in Kansas. Yes, it was a vacation. My boyfriend Chris flew me to meet his family in the small city of Lawrence, about 45 minutes southwest of Kansas City, MO. Until I met Chris, I couldn’t even locate Kansas on a map (sad I know), let alone think I would ever visit.

To most coastal residents (I’m a New Jersey native living in Los Angeles), the Midwest is a barren terrain full of tumbleweeds and rednecks who ignorantly support conservative views. Progressive, innovative and liberal are usually not the descriptive adjectives that come to mind. My friends and family were all curious about what life is like in Middle America and couldn’t wait for me to report back. I was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered.

Lawrence, Kansas is a charming city popularly described as an “oasis” in the state due to its unique, liberal and creative vibe.As a predominately Republican State, Lawrence is reliably and refreshingly Democratic. Its home to the University of Kansas, an excellent and diverse academic institution with one of the best college basketball teams in the nation. The KU Jayhawks have a die-hard basketball following, making it near impossible to get tickets to a home game.

Lawrence’s downtown has a thriving music and arts scene with lots of locally owned coffee shops, breweries and shops located mostly on city’s main drag, Massachusetts Street, nicknamed Mass Street. I was ecstatic to find plenty of delicious, organic vegetarian food and my new favorite beer, Boulevard Wheat. There’s a warm, hometown feeling about Lawrence that has me eager to return.

If your travels land you in Lawrence, grab breakfast at the Mirth, take a stroll on Mass Street, grab a beer at Free State Brewing Company and see a concert at Liberty HallJackpot Music Hall or Replay Lounge. You just might be pleasantly surprised too!

By Jenna Markowick

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