Attendees welcome the opportunity to get out and explore new destinations. The charming downtowns of Kansas are full of walkable attractions and friendly locals. Your group can tour a store where custom stringed instruments are made, meet renowned artists, shop at one-of-a-kind boutiques, compete in a downtown Olympics and enjoy live music in these charming Kansas towns.
Swedish appeal blends with sophisticated culture in Lindsborg. Known as “Little Sweden, USA,” this town boasts red-brick streets, European-style storefronts, working artist studios, museums, galleries and shops filled with Scandinavian imports. And there’s not one drive-through in town; instead, downtown’s Farley’s Bar and Grill uses a walk-up window so that locals can connect and chat. Throughout the community, 47 pieces of original artwork decorate street corners, neighborhoods and building facades.
“We encourage people to rent a quadracycle and bike around town to find those pieces of artwork,” said Holly Lofton, director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The cycles are imported from Europe and have four wheels, a sunshade, and two or four seats with pedals for everyone.”
Locally owned galleries and shops continue to open on Lindsborg’s vibrant Main Street. The Red Barn Studio features the eclectic craftsmanship of Lester Raymer, a finalist in “Eight Wonders of Kansas Art,” who took discarded or mundane objects and transformed them into beautiful works. Small World Gallery showcases the work of National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. Hemslöjd gift shop, an “Adventure in Swedish Tradition,” sells unusual and practical Swedish gifts, crafts, housewares and more. Visitors can check out their workshop and visit with folk artists or craftspeople as they make Dala horse signs and other specialties. Downtown accommodations include the 19-room Swedish Country Inn, reminiscent of small inns found throughout Sweden with its imported Swedish furniture and Swedish breakfast buffet.
Also on Main Street, the new J.O. Sundstrom Conference Center’s flexible meeting space accommodates groups of four to 350 people. The center’s banquet provides seating in multiple configurations for up to 300 people, with Wi-Fi and a state-of-the-art audiovisual system. Its “dansstalle,” or dance floor, accommodates up to 400 guests. A boardroom offers videoconferencing capabilities, and the club room overlooks lovely downtown.
Historic downtown Lawrence is filled with independent retailers and restaurants. The local farm-to-table restaurant scene is quite active as well. Live music plays at the Granada Theater, the BottleNeck Lounge, the Jackpot Saloon and Music Hall, and historic Liberty Hall, where nationally known acts and Grammy-winning artists appear almost weekly. On the last Friday of every month, hundreds of people stream in and out of galleries, restaurants, bars and coffee shops in pursuit of art and music.
“We’re the No. 1 tourist destination in Kansas, according to Trip Advisor, and the second-best place to find great local gifts, according to Yelp,” said Sally Zogry, executive director of Downtown Lawrence Inc.
At Abe and Jake’s Landing on the river, Downtown Lawrence Inc. and Explore Lawrence can coordinate an indoor street festival with food truck catering; buskers, or street performers; and beer. According to Zogry, “it gives groups a taste of Lawrence’s energy during festival weekends.” Additional group options include pub crawls, downtown scavenger hunts based on a conference theme and off-site hospitality suites at the historic Eldridge Hotel with buskers, drinks and appetizers.
Merchant’s Pub and Plate, a locally owned craft beer mecca that features more than 30 beers on tap, offers a private room with live entertainment for up to 30 people. Other venues include the Watkins Museum of History, the Carnegie Building, the Lawrence Arts Center and the new $18 million Lawrence Public Library. Available at the Eldridge Hotel are a ballroom, private dining that seats 40 and another space for 70 people.