How Safe Is Lawrence for Travel?

Lawrence, United States
Safety Index:
70

Get ready to hoop it up in Lawrence, Kansas, home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team.

The team was founded by the creator of the basketball sport and generations of athletes have hit the hardwood here and brought home four national titles.

Lawrence wasn’t always winning.

In the early days, the city was pretty much burned to the ground when Kansas was founded as a free state.

Even getting statehood ended with a lot of bloodsheds that earned the mantra “Bleeding Kansas.”

Today, Lawrence is a dynamic city with nearly 95,000 people and almost 20,000 of those are students at the university more commonly known as KU.

The university is the largest in the state and shouldn’t be confused with Kansas State University, or K-State as it is known, in Manhattan, Kansas.

Lawrence is rich with art and eclectic vibes around every turn.

This is a town where you can have a lot of fun.

Take it from me – my best friend went to KU and I visited there many times when I went to college in Springfield, Missouri.

There are also plenty of family-friendly attractions.

The downtown area, known as Mass Street (short for Massachusetts Street, but even Mass Street comes up on maps), is lined with stores, cafes, and bars with a little something for everyone.

Outdoor lovers can visit nearby Clinton Lake for fishing, camping, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Kansas City is just an hour east if you are a city slicker.

However, I’d be surprised if you run out of things to do in Lawrence.

Warnings & Dangers in Lawrence

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK : LOW

There's a low risk, but it's bordering on medium. That is to say, there's an average risk here. All crime categories are just at or slightly above national and state levels. There's trouble if you're looking for it, but there's safety if you just use common sense and street smarts.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW

Lawrence Transit, known as "The T", is the public bus system here. KU on Wheels is a transportation service for college students and university staff. You can easily get a rideshare or taxi here. Having your own car is going to allow you to explore the region more, but you can get around on a bike or on foot if you'd like.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM

I looked at the data from both Lawrence Police and KU Police. KU was very detailed in its reporting, with no pickpockets reported in 2020. Lawrence Police only provided summary data, which means only the actual number of thefts was given, but not more specific details. The theft rate here is 34% higher than the national average. To err on the side of caution, I'm giving this a medium risk. It's not just your pocket to protect. Lock your vehicle or bicycle when parking and don't leave your purse, backpack, or fanny pack unattended.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Kansas gets a little something of every kind of weather. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are common starting in spring through summer, with a second tornado season in late fall. Winter can bring snowstorms, ice storms, and sleet. Extreme temperatures can happen in winter and summer. There's a medium risk because the threats can happen throughout the year.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK : LOW

The robbery rate is less than half the national average, which is a positive sign. However, if a robbery had escalated to a violent assault, then it would only be reported as an assault. There were 306 aggravated assaults in 2020, which is slightly higher than the national average. There's a low risk - but again, that means an average risk for Lawrence.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK : LOW

Perhaps if it was NCAA championship time and the town was filled with celebrities and popular politicians - maybe it would have a higher risk. However, nearby Kansas City is a much larger population center and would be at a higher risk. There's a low-risk Lawrence would be a target.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK : LOW

Lawrence is in Douglas County and the District Attorney's website has a list of the most common scams. Most of them are the typical scams you could face anywhere and none directly target tourists. There's a low risk it will happen to you. Just don't buy basketball tickets from a scalper, okay?

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

Lawrence Police reported 55 sexual assaults in 2020 and KU police-reported none. The Lawrence sexual assault rate is 57 per 100,000 people, while the national average is 39 per 100,000. Women should proceed with a medium risk, especially if they are going to hit the bar and nightclub circuit. While technically you can be 18 to go into a bar in Lawrence, there are a lot of bars that only let people 21 and older in. Some bars are strict about taking fake IDs and reporting people, so don't even try to get in underage.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK : LOW

The Lawrence Water Quality Report clearly states, "The City of Lawrence’s water quality consistently meets or exceeds all Federal and State standards for safe drinking water." Upon review of the report, there were no violations for 2021 and you can feel safe that the water is low-risk.

Safest Places to Visit in Lawrence

Downtown Lawrence is the place to see and be seen.

There are shops, diners, art galleries, and street fairs throughout the year and it’s busy here day or night.

Take your time to soak in the unique atmosphere in this historic downtown.

Basketball fans have several locations to visit to learn about the history of the sport and the Jayhawks catapulting to basketball royalty.

The DeBruce Center is home to basketball artifacts, including the original rules written on a piece of paper.

The Booth Family Hall of Athletics is where you can see the superstars from KU’s history and it’s right next door to the Allen Fieldhouse where the games are played.

Even if you aren’t a Jayhawks fan, watching one of their games is akin to a religious experience.

Grinter’s Sunflower Farm is a great place to shoot some Instagram stories.

The farm is open in summer and fall but there’s a short window to see the peak bloom in late summer.

The seeds are planted in early summer.

Some of the sunflower fields grow several feet in height, so you could be walking chest-deep through sunflowers.

Clinton State Park is on the banks of Clinton Lake just outside the city limits on the southwestern side.

This provides activity year-round, whether you are a summer hiker or a winter cross-country skier.

There’s fishing available for adults and children.

There are plenty of campsites and an archery range, disc golf course, and mountain bike course.

Quantrills Raid is the attack that burned down the city of Lawrence in 1863 and there’s a walking tour of the key locations in the attack and attempt to fight back.

The tour starts at Miller House, which was one of the only buildings to survive the raid and was a stop on the underground railroad where slaves were able to sneak their way to freedom.

That raid led to the deaths of 200 people who were buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

There were so many casualties it ended up being a mass grave.

A rash of typhoid fever led to another mass grave.

This cemetery is one of the most historical places in all of Lawrence, but some say it’s haunted.

The Eldredge Hotel is another location allegedly haunted by the original owner who had to rebuild it twice since it kept burning down.

You can get a Haunted Lawrence walking map at the visitors center on 2nd Street.

Places to Avoid in Lawrence

The northeast section of the city that cradles the Kansas River has the highest crime incidents, according to the crime distribution maps.

There’s also a hot spot just south of the university.

There really aren’t places to avoid here, but it’s best to stay on the beaten path and main roads instead of trying to cut through neighborhoods.

There’s a lot of college housing here, which means more pedestrians and bicyclists, so always pay attention when driving.

The main interstate to get to Lawrence is I-70 and it’s a toll road.

Don’t try to leave Kansas City or Topeka (depending on which way you are heading) without at least a quarter tank of gas.

There are stretches of interstate 15 to 25 miles long where you won’t pass an exit to get gas.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Lawrence

  1. Transparency in Kansas is delayed. The state doesn’t release statewide crime data until the third quarter of the year after the crimes happened. For example, full 2021 data should be posted by September. In the meantime, you’re stuck with crime data that is up to two years old. The only hope is that the police departments will release their own data – which Lawrence police did not. However, there’s a section of the website labeled “Call Log” which shows the most recent incidents in the area. At least you can get a feel for the types of crimes happening closer to your visit.
  2. If you have any information about a crime that is non-urgent, call Crime Stoppers at (785)843-8477. You can remain anonymous but still be eligible for a reward.
  3. There is a community police review board, which is where community members can work with the police when it comes to standards and accountability. The contact information for these citizens is listed on the police department’s website, and they could be great resources if you want to ask about the most recent safety tips.
  4. The police department has an officer dedicated to LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. Email them at diversityofficer@lkpd.org to ask any questions you have about alternative lifestyle events, businesses, and safety.
  5. Anglers are going to need a fishing license from the Kansas Department of Wildlife. There are a lot of special permits for certain kinds of fish, so review the details before you make the purchase, which you can do online.
  6. For any outdoor events being held in Lawrence, they are usually dependent on good weather. You can call the Rain Out Hotline at (785) 371-4980 to find out if an event is delayed or canceled. There’s also an app you can download to get information on your mobile device.
  7. Research how to pay tolls on the Kansas Turnpike. If you go in the wrong lane or just blow through a toll payment center, you can be fined at a violation rate and not just the toll amount you didn’t pay. There is a one-time exception for people who haven’t used the toll road before. If you are renting a car from the Kansas City airport, make sure there’s a K-TAG on the car to get through the tolls without getting a violation.
  8. When driving down Mass Street, you might be desperate to find a parking spot. If you see one on the opposite side of the street, do NOT make a U-turn in the road to grab it. This can result in a $150 ticket. The parking meters on Mass Street can be confusing. You should always pay the meter on the driver’s side of the car. There are plenty of $2 parking garages that will allow you a safe place with camera surveillance to park your car.
  9. If you have an emergency that requires contacting 911 but you can’t talk, Douglas County now accepts 911 calls via text. You should always call if you can, but there might be times, like an active shooter situation or domestic situation, where you don’t want to speak. The 911 center cannot receive pictures, so it’s imperative you be as specific as possible when texting.
  10. For those who want to party in Lawrence (Hey, no judgment. I did it!) there’s a new way to stay safer than ever before. Look for bars that have a round sign stating “SafeBar Alliance.” This means the bartenders and staff have been trained to look for signs of domestic abuse or sexual aggression and intervene as needed while deescalating the situation.

So... How Safe Is Lawrence Really?

The reality is there’s an average or slightly above average risk in Lawrence.

If you’re there to enjoy the nightlife, the risks are going to be inherently higher.

In 2017, a mass shooting happened on Mass Street.

This was the same day the Las Vegas 1 October shooting happened, so the Kansas incident didn’t get a lot of national attention.

Three people died in downtown Lawrence.

This started a debate about how responsible people from Topeka are for at least a portion of the night crime that happens here.

Topeka doesn’t have a lot of “fun”, I’m told, so the younger people head to Lawrence for a night of fun.

Topeka is also one of the most dangerous cities in the state, so anyone who visits from there gets a bad rap in Lawrence.

Here’s how the risks break down in Lawrence:

  • Violent Crime: 1 in 239
  • Robbery: 1 in 2,712
  • Theft: 1 in 45

Lawrence goes against the grain when it comes to politics, so this is a liberal city with a lot of art and unique people.

There is so much to explore here and enjoy without feeling like you’re in “boring old Kansas.”

You just need to keep your wits about you and don’t let your guard down, even when parking a car.

How Does Lawrence Compare?

CitySafety Index
Lawrence70
St Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61

Useful Information

  • Visas - You'll need your passport to get into the bars here, but not your visa. You should only need your visa at the airport. Make sure you give yourself several months to go through the visa process or you won't be able to take off without one.
  • Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. There is very little reason to carry cash. Try to avoid leaving a tab open at any bar or restaurant. Your card could be stolen or other people could try to sneak some drinks on your tab. Always check your account the next day to verify purchases.
  • Weather - The weather here is volatile throughout the year. Two things are certain - you need warm clothing in the winter because temperatures can get bitterly cold and you'll be doing a lot of walking. Also, summers are going to be hot and humid. Bring waterproof boots because even places like the sunflower farm get very muddy after rain. You don't want to risk being in sandals when there's nothing but mud in the parking lot or fields.
  • Airports - You'll be just 45 minutes from Kansas City International Airport in Lawrence, but give yourself an hour to get through the KC traffic. That's the most logical airport unless you charter a jet or play for the KU basketball team and take a private plane.
  • Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea in Lawrence where weather risks can shut down interstates or freeze flight paths.
Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Lawrence Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -1° C
Feb 2° C
Mar 8° C
Apr 14° C
May 20° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 26° C
Sep 22° C
Oct 15° C
Nov 8° C
Dec 1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
581420253033322821136
Low
°C
-6-428141921201692-4
High
°F
414657687786919082705543
Low
°F
212536465766706861483625

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