Lawrence, Kansas, founded in 1854 by abolitionists from Massachusetts, is remembered for its bloody involvement in the debate over slavery. At the historic Union Pacific Depot, now housing the visitor information center, visitors can watch a free film outlining Lawrence's founding and Quantrill's infamous 1863 raid. Today, this small city 28 mi/45 km east of Topeka has stunning 19th-century Italianate and Victorian houses in its Old West Lawrence historic district, a lively downtown and surprisingly good museums for its size.

Head to the University of Kansas, home to the Dole Institute of Politics (which pays tribute to Kansas native and former U.S. Senator Bob Dole); an impressive Natural History Museum with paleontological finds, natural history (including live snakes and a working bee hive) and the history of the American West (such as the horse Comanche, which survived the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn); the Spencer Museum of Art (excellent collection of Renaissance, baroque and regional works); and the Campanile bell tower (World War II memorial with a 53-bell carillon). If there's time, pay a visit to Haskell Cultural Center at the Indian Nations University, which has been operating since 1884 and is the oldest inter-tribal university in the U.S.

The Midland Railway excursion train operates out of Baldwin City, south of Lawrence. Baker University is home to the Quayle Rare Bible Collection and the Clarice L. Osborne Memorial Chapel, an 1864 Gothic church shipped stone by stone from England. Baldwin City also hosts the annual Maple Leaf Festival during the third weekend of September.

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