If you have kids and you’re spending time in Lawrence this summer, this list is my gift to you. Everything on it is something our family has tried or something we’re dying to try. From ice cream tasting sprees to pop-up playgrounds, there’s something for everyone.
It’s summer time and the living is easy. Or at least, it will be with this Lawrence Summer Bucket List in your back pocket.
1. Jump off the high dive at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center.
Do you remember the thrill of the first time you jumped off the high dive? Standing with your toes on the ledge, taking a deep breath, bending your knees, and going for it? Recreate that thrill by taking a turn on the high dive at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center. While you’re there, enjoy the slides and awesome zero depth area, too.
2. Go on an ice cream tasting spree.
You can’t really go wrong with ice cream in Lawrence. Sylas and Maddys is the sweetest little classic ice cream shop you’ll find anywhere. Terrebonne, The Burger Stand, and Ladybird Diner will all set you up with an amazing milkshake. Freezing Moo is a fun novelty for the kids.
I can’t even tell you which is my favorite—you’ll just have to try them all yourself and see!
3. See a play at the Lawrence Arts Center or Theatre Lawrence.
Lawrence Arts Center does youth theater during the summer, and the offerings this year include The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, and Chicago. In July, the LAC kids will also be doing two Greek myths (Perseus and The Odyssey). We love to take our kiddos to a “fancy” dinner downtown and a show as a summer date night.
For a more grown-up or older kids option, Theatre Lawrence is doing Mamma Mia! throughout the month of June. If listening to ABBA and dreaming of a Greek island doesn’t get you feeling summer-y, I don’t know what will.
4. Learn some local history with the Watkins Museum Kids Club.
Earlier this year, the Watkins Museum began hosting a “Kids Club” and, so far, their activities have been spot-on. For summer, they’re doing a free kids history camp at Clinton Lake on June 1st, and a special family-friendly activity about climate change on June 15th.
They also plan to have a regular “Summer Games” event every Wednesday morning in June and July from 10 a.m. to 12. p.m.
5. “Hike the Night” at Baker Wetlands.
Summer hikes during the day can be scorchers, but hiking at night is cool and magical! Baker Wetlands is planning four “Hike the Night” events over the summer for a chance to beat the heat and enjoy the mystery of the wetlands at night. The hikes are free, but they are asking that would-be participants register in advance. And don’t forget to take a flashlight!
6. Join the Lawrence Public Library for a “Pop Up Adventure Playground”.
Billed as “a new way to play in an old fashioned way”, this series of four “Pop Up Adventure Playground” events promise exploration, creativity, and play in “a giant land of cardboard boxes, tires, tubes, crates, spools, rope, fabric, wood, and duct tape!”
Certified play workers will be on hand to oversee, but grown-ups are only allowed in by invitation of their child. (It sounds so fun that I’m thinking of bribing my kiddos with ice cream in exchange for an invite!)
7. Tap your feet and clap along at a Lawrence City Band concert in South Park.
From May 29th to July 17th, the Lawrence City Band puts on a free concert every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in South Park. We like to pack up a cooler with some popsicles—along with a blanket and/or some fold-up chairs—and listen to the music while the kids run amok.
While all the concerts are always good, if you can only hit one, make it the “Young People Concert” on June 26th.
8. Learn to skip rocks at Clinton Lake.
If you want to take part in this classic summer pastime, pack up a picnic and head west of Lawrence to Clinton Lake. Our family record is my husband’s seven skips, but we’ve always got a challenger or two trying to beat it.
If you go, be sure to load up on bug spray. The lake shore itself isn’t bad, but the trails to get there can have ticks.
9. Paint a summer memory plate (or cup or bowl) at Sunfire Ceramics.
The long days of summer make a perfect time to dabble in an art project, and making an event of it by painting your own pottery is a nice cure for one of those “I’m bored!” days. If you need some inspiration, paint a big plate or a coffee mug with a picture of your favorite summer memory.
10. Too hot to play outside? Take the kids to Laugh Out Loud to run off some energy.
With its indoor climbing structure, bounce pillow, dress-up stage, and art room—just to name a few things—Laugh Out Loud is guaranteed to keep your kiddos happy for a few hours on the days its just too darned hot to play outside.
Take a bit of work (they have free wifi) or a good summer book (because you deserve it) and enjoy a breather while the kids have fun.
A proud Lawrence transplant, Meryl Carver-Allmond lives in a hundred-year-old house with her sweet husband, two darling kiddos, one puppy, one gecko, and an ever rotating flock of poultry. By day, she’s a public defender. By night, she writes, takes photos, knits, and cooks up a storm. She chronicles her adventures on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth.