Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Douglas County, KS

  • Published 2022/11/09

The Midwest’s Douglas County is a well-kept secret.

The county got its name after Stephen Arnold Douglas, a United States Senator from Illinois and a supporter of the moderate popular sovereignty position in the Kansas enslavement dispute.

This county is composed of Lawrence, Eudora, Baldwin City, and Lecompton cities where you can find different unique destinations.

Many locals take great pleasure in the community and heritage of Douglas County.

This county provides a variety of activities and attractions that appeal to all ages.

Its historic downtown area has various stores, lovely parks, and leisure areas that are ideal for a picnic or a day of hiking.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Douglas County, Kansas:

See the Dioramas at KU Natural History Museum

Exterior of the KU Natural History Museum

Matt Fowler KC /

The KU Natural History Museum in Lawrence is one of the best natural history museums in the world.

It preserves the natural history and displays it for all visitors.

The KU Natural History Museum has various exhibits, from dinosaurs and prehistoric animals to modern mammals and birds.

It has four floors of public exhibits showcasing a historical panorama that will let you visualize the past.

Entrance to the KU Natural History Museum

Matt Fowler KC /

The museum has perfectly preserved the snakes and insects that are on display.

You will see different fossils, microbes, and parasites discovered in Kansas and the rest of the world.

Visitors can also learn about the plants and animals of the Great Plains.

Check out their amazing displays and learn about this museum’s interesting species.

Explore the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center

The Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center combines all the fun and excitement of a top-notch water park with the classic feel of a local pool.

The Outdoor Aquatic Center in Lawrence was fully restored in 1995 and now features two water slides, a zero-depth kids’ area, and a diving well.

It also houses interactive play features like fountains and spray mushrooms, as well as a 50-meter competition pool.

There are plenty of shady lounging areas, deck space, an adjacent grass playground, and a full-line café concessions area.

The Outdoor Aquatic Center also offers numerous aquatic camps and swimming lesson programs.

Whether you like water sports or on-land recreational activities, you’ll find something to love at this center!

Visit the Constitution Hall State Historic Site

The Kansas Historical Society manages the Constitution Hall State Historic Site.

If you want to visit a historical palace in the county, the Lecompton Constitution Hall, also known as the Constitutional Hall, is a must-visit.

The city of Lecompton significantly impacted the protracted Bleeding Kansas controversy regarding enslavement in the state.

The constitutional conference that produced the state constitution in 1855 met in the hall within its premises.

If you’re a certified history buff, you must visit the Constitution Hall State Historic Site.

This is the perfect place if you want to discover more about the political history of Douglas County.

Hike on the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center Trail

Lace up your hiking shoes and prepare to explore the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center Trail, a nature preserve in the area.

There are 927 acres of diverse, unaltered biodiversity in the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center Trail, waiting to be explored by all outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers!

Its location in Lawrence, accessible to the public, is constantly buzzing with stargazers, bird watchers, and workout aficionados.

A four-mile loop track winds through the marshes on the Baker Wetlands Discovery Trail.

This walking trail is excellent for seeing wildlife and birds.

Whether you want to keep active, spot local wildlife, or take in beautiful scenery, a visit to this trail is something you have to do!

Unleash Your Patriotic Spirit at the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area

The United States Congress has designated National Heritage Areas to advance historic preservation, appreciation, and comprehension.

A 31,000-square-mile area in eastern Kansas and western Missouri was designated as Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area in 2006 after Congress approved the legislation and the President signed it into law.

More than 2,000 sites connected to the history of the American West can be found within the heritage region, which spans 12 counties.

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area in Lawrence is the best location if you want to learn more about the history of Western America.

Numerous historical sites, museums, and informative centers may be found in the heritage area.

Roam around each site and deepen your appreciation and love for the country as you dive deeper into the nation’s history.

Wander around the Watkins Community Museum of History

Exterior of the Watkins Community Museum of History

Bhall87 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Lawrence, there is a small-scale history museum called the Watkins Community Museum of History.

The Watkins Museum of History strives to explore the history of Douglas County and make connections between historical events and contemporary issues.

They have provided programs, public gatherings, educational materials, research assistance, and changing exhibits since 1975.

The Douglas County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Douglas County’s heritage and promoting civic involvement.

Liberty cannon displayed in Watkins Community Museum of History

The original uploader was Americasroof at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They run the Watkins Museum and engage the community by telling stories about the people and events impacting the communities.

The museum is in a stunning Beaux-Arts structure, formerly a bank.

If you’re interested in discovering more about the county’s history and how some past events are still relevant to today’s society, this museum is a must-visit!

Delve into the Local Art Scene at Lawrence Arts Center

A 40,000-square-foot, cutting-edge contemporary facility houses the Lawrence Arts Center, which offers modern exhibitions, concerts, and arts education to people of all ages and backgrounds.

The structure in Lawrence, completed in 2002, houses a 300-seat theater, a black box theater, four show galleries, and two dance studios.

There is also a digital media lab, a graphics and printmaking studio, photography sites, darkrooms, and a ceramics area.

The Lawrence Arts Center also features a writing lab, preschool and kindergarten classrooms, outdoor creative play areas, a painting studio, and two other visual arts studios.

Due to the tremendous demand for activities, the organization expanded in 2018 to Studio 840, a performance space in East Lawrence where it now hosts dance and theater classes, intimate shows, and community events.

Immerse yourself in local arts and witness different art forms come to life by visiting this center!

After seeing all the extraordinary works here, you’ll leave feeling creative and inspired.

Score Fresh Produce at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market

The 1976-founded Lawrence Farmers’ Market (LFM) takes great satisfaction in the caliber of its merchants and the goods they offer for sale.

As a producer-only market, the LFM exclusively sells goods grown, raised, developed, or otherwise created by the vendor at the booth.

As a result, it is easier for customers to inquire about an item’s production process or place of origin with the certainty that they will get an informed response.

Shopping at Lawrence Farmers’ Market helps the local economy and minimizes the carbon footprint of food production because all of its vendors are located within 50 miles of Lawrence.

This is a fantastic place to purchase fresh local items and produce.

Stroll around the market and find some of the freshest products in the city!

Purchase the ingredients you need for your meals or buy handcrafted items you can give to your loved ones at this market.

Sample Local Wine at the Bluejacket Crossing Vineyard & Winery

In 2002, the Bluejacket Crossing Vineyard & Winery planted its first vines of Norton grapes.

St. Vincent, Vignoles, Seyval, Chambourcin, Fredonia, and Traminette followed in subsequent years.

The vineyard, located four miles east of Lawrence in Eudora, debuted its tasting room in May 2008.

It occupies around eight acres and is situated in the northeastern part of the state.

This vineyard is run by a family-based group passionate about wine that loves sharing its knowledge and excitement with others.

They hope to share their wonders and work hard to create award-winning wines that are thoughtfully and locally handcrafted.

Bluejacket Crossing Vineyard & Winery produces red and white wines of various types.

The winery also hosts events throughout the year.

Bring your friends or coworkers and unwind over great wines at this establishment!

Marvel at Creative Works at the Spencer Museum of Art

Exterior of the Spencer Museum of Art

Alan Islas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence is the only comprehensive art museum in Kansas, hosting a varied collection of more than 45,000 artworks and items of cultural significance.

It welcomes more than 100,000 art enthusiasts each year.

The museum’s vision is to display its collection as a living archive that inspires object-centered study and instruction, artistic endeavor, and ground-breaking public discourse.

Spencer Museum of Art seeks to engage the public with art through exhibitions, artist commissions, residencies, conferences, film screenings, musical and dramatic performances, lectures led by artists and scholars, and kid-friendly art projects.

Additionally, the museum strives to bring arts and culture festivals to local neighborhoods.

Marvel at this museum’s various stunningly jaw-dropping artworks by exceptional artists from all over the globe.

The museum also provides numerous tours, educational activities, and events for those who want to dig deeper and learn about the stories and artists behind these artworks.

Catch Some Fish at the Douglas State Fishing Lake

If you’re an avid fan of fishing, Douglas County has a spot for you!

The 180-acre Douglas State Fishing Lake in Baldwin City has many man-made fish habitats spread out over its water.

The 538-acre Wildlife Area encircles the lake, allowing visitors to spot local birds and other animal species.

The lake is home to populations of common carp, channel catfish, and flathead catfish.

White crappie, bluegill, and largemouth bass are also among the other varieties of fish that can be found here.

For visitors, there are fishing piers, two boat ramps with floating docks, rustic camping places, four vault bathrooms, and picnic tables.

Enjoy fishing with your family and friends here at Douglas State Fishing Lake.

Stay Active at the Holcom Park Recreation Center

In Lawrence, there’s a recreation center called the Holcom Park Recreation Center where you can enjoy working out!

A track, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a playground are all available in the recreation complex.

It also has a wellness room with cardio equipment and a game room.

Shower rooms are also available, so you don’t have to worry about feeling all sweaty after your workout.

Break a sweat while having fun with your friends as you play on one of the facility’s sports courts!

If you prefer a peaceful and relaxing workout, you can bring a yoga mat and meditate in the wellness room.

Whether you’re an athlete or a typical gym buff, Holcom Park Recreation Center is a great place to visit.

Bond with Your Kids at Up and Away Indoor Play

Looking for a fun adventure?

Up and Away Indoor Play in Lawrence is a must-visit for you and your kids!

As parents of younger kids, this establishment’s owners understand the importance of having a fun, clean, safe environment for youngsters.

They also sought to design a comfortable space for parents, whether actively playing with their kids or simply relaxing in a plush lounge chair and watching them play.

Up and Indoor Play has attractions such as the 1,500 square feet of Play Structure, Infant and Toddler Zone, Exhibits, and more that your children will enjoy.

They also have other activities and host parties too!

Bring your kids here and spend quality time with them as you run around and play in the different areas of the facility.

You’ll surely have a fun and memorable time visiting this indoor play center!

Get Up Close and Personal with Animals at the Prairie Park Nature Center

On the east side of Lawrence, the 100-acre Prairie Park Nature Center opened its doors in 1999.

The preserve includes marshes, forests, prairie habitats, a five-acre lake, and other natural areas.

The site is home to a diverse range of native Kansas species, such as beavers, deer, bobcats, and raptors.

Prairie Park Nature Center provides educational activities to the general public, schools, and neighborhood groups, in addition to walking pathways for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Dioramas of natural habitats, exhibits, and live animals are available in the teaching building.

A live bird-of-prey collection is also present, including eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons.

The nature center runs numerous environmental and recreational programs for the general public, schools, scouts, adults, and other groups.

If you want to see animals and learn more about taking care of wildlife, stop by this center!

Spot Wildlife as You Walk around Clinton State Park

Scenic view of Clinton State Park

Deanna Laing /

Just four miles from Lawrence, on the north side of the renowned Clinton Reservoir’s beautiful waters, is the 1,425-acre park known as Clinton State Park.

A 9,200-acre wildlife area is filled with local and unique animal species near the park.

The vast route network in Clinton State Park is popular among hikers, animal watchers, mountain bikers, nature photographers, and wildflower aficionados.

The area around the park also has historical value because it formerly served as a key location for the Underground Railroad.

Reservoir at Clinton State Park

freeblue_kostas from Athens, GREECE, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its beautiful surroundings and a place where wildlife lives, the Clinton State Park is a perfect place to hike and relax.

Take a peaceful stroll around the park and enjoy the breathtaking natural sights!

If you’re lucky, you may spot an extraordinary animal or plant life somewhere along your walk!

Final Thoughts

There are many wonderful things to do in Douglas County, whether you’re a history buff looking to deepen your knowledge or an art enthusiast looking to be inspired by marvelous artwork.

Add these best things to do in Douglas County, Kansas, to your itinerary when you visit the area.

Make the most of your trip and start planning your visit today!

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