Lawrence is a magical place all year long-mythical birds reign supreme in collegiate realms and history blooms from the very bricks of the sidewalks. But when the frost starts creeping in and the holiday lights start twinkling across the rooftops, something special happens. It’s as if the town turns into a life-size snow globe. The magic of Lawrence met with the magic of the holiday season is something to behold. Decorations fill storefront windows, lights twinkle in every tree along Mass. St., and if you’re lucky, you may catch a wondrous snowfall. Winter is a time to settle in and feed the things that give you warmth. Lawrence has so many lovely ways to enjoy the holidays, all you have to do is take part and let the warmth of the season fill you.
One of my favorite parts about Lawrence in the wintertime is the holiday lights that get strung up in the trees and on the buildings along Mass. St. There’s something so wonderfully wintery about the colored bulbs lighting the way, reminding you how beautiful each winter night is. If you’d like to experience the first night the lights are on, head down to Mass. St. on November 23rd for the Holiday Lighting Ceremony & Santa Rescue. The entertainment begins at 5:30pm and includes our friend Santa taking the night off from preparing for Christmas-although how he ends up on the roof of Weaver’s Department store, we may never know. It is as if by magic. Luckily, Lawrence Fire and Medical has a long enough ladder to rescue Santa. You won’t want to miss the spectacular moment of the lights turning on that night.
The following weekend will bring even more holiday cheer with the 26th Annual Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade on December 1st at 11:00am. The parade is an impressive turnout of authentic horse-drawn carriages decorated in their holiday best prancing down Massachusetts Street. Grab a blanket and some cocoa to watch one of Lawrence’s most unique parades. Stop by the Watkins Museum of History while you’re waiting for the parade to start or once it’s over-from 9:00am-2:00pm, Watkins will be hosting the free Tails and Traditions Holiday Festival. There will be crafts, activities and musical performances for the whole family.
Lawrence offers plenty of ways to get into the holiday spirit. The 32nd Annual Lawrence Festival of Trees will be held at Liberty Hall with viewing hours from Monday, November 26th through Saturday, December 2nd. The Festival of Trees is a fundraiser for The Children’s Shelter, and the Gala Auction Party will be held on November 30th at 7:00pm.
If you’d like to recreate a National Lampoon Christmas Vacation scene and cut down your own tree, the Strawberry Hill Christmas Tree Farm is open November 17th through December 23rd, or until they are sold out. They even have special hours for Thanksgiving and Black Friday, in case you want to create a new tradition or avoid shopping crowds. The farm is just one mile west of Lawrence and offers three different kinds of trees to choose from. Did you know, if you find a bird’s nest in your Christmas tree, it’s considered good luck? If your tree comes with a nest, the farm will attempt to remove it for you so you can put it back when you arrive home. Just another magical bit of winter wonderland for you to enjoy!
It wouldn’t be a holiday in Lawrence without a bit of the fine arts thrown in. The Lawrence Arts Center’s production of The Nutcracker: A Kansas Ballet, set in Kansas during the Civil War, will be showing the second and third weekends of December. The Lied Center and KU Music will be hosting a matinee and evening performance of the Holiday Vespers. And if you love a holiday classic, Liberty Hall always shows It’s A Wonderful Life.
Holiday spirit abounds in the town of Lawrence. Between the garlands and wreaths, lights and winter activities, it’s hard not to feel like there is a magic in the air. Take my word for it-you don’t want to miss the holidays in Lawrence. And when you’re here, and you’ve just left your delicious, warming dinner at a local restaurant, and you’re crossing the street with family and friends in tow, take a moment to look, really look, at the trees sparkling with lights against the night sky. Breathe in the magic of a good meal, of Lawrence, and of the holiday season.
A few more ideas…
- Christmas in Lecompton: October 15 – January 1
- Holiday Open House at Historic Taylor Barn: November 2-4
- Polar Express Train Ride at Midland Railway: November 17 – December 30
- Bizarre Bazaar at Lawrence Arts Center: November 23
- Lawrence Holiday Arts Weekend Package: December 7-9
Kate is a recent KU graduate and perpetual lover of words, details, and Jayhawk basketball. She is using her English degree to write both creatively and strategically. You can find more of her work on her blog, A Story By Me.