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Downtown Lawrence, Indiana

Lawrence, Indiana is a small suburb of Indiana state capital Indianapolis, situated on the east side of the Circle City, near Fort Harrison State Park. Lawrence is largely a rural community, filled with open spaces, fun Lawrence parks, and tons of outdoorsy Lawrence things to do. Its location on the outskirts of Indianapolis means that its residents don’t have to go very far to live the big city lifestyle; as a result, Lawrence itself is a pretty sleepy community. Downtown Lawrence isn’t really set up like a lot of other Indiana downtown areas. Most Indiana cities are experiencing a renewal of their downtown sectors, seeing new businesses, attractions, and restaurants come in.

Lawrence, however, isn’t really focused on creating a vibrant tourist destination out of its downtown. Downtown Lawrence mostly consists of historical houses that have since been renovated to serve as Lawrence businesses. Instead of a tightly clustered array of quaint shops, wide open store fronts, benches, and pedestrian areas, downtown Lawrence is spread out over a small area with wide roads and open green spaces between the centers of commerce; a place meant more for driving than leisurely walking. That’s not to say that there are no downtown things to do in Lawrence. There are several Lawrence bars in the area, in addition to the Benjamin Harrison YMCA and other amenities; it just takes a short jaunt to get to any of them.

The city also has an International District as part of downtown Lawrence, something that’s rare among the ethnically homogeneous cities in Indiana. Unlike many Hoosier cities, Lawrence is fairly diverse for its small size. On average, 98% of residents in smaller Indiana cities are white; Lawrence has 20% less white residents than most other cities of its size. As a former Army base (Fort Benjamin Harrison), Lawrence’s diversity is only fitting. In the International District, there are over 14 locally owned Lawrence restaurants with many different ethnic dishes to tantalize your palate in addition to several locally owned groceries where you can find that special ingredient or spice for your next recipe.

On the whole, downtown Lawrence is not the same as other downtown sectors you’ll find scattered throughout Central Indiana. While a lot of other towns are focused on creating self-sufficient, tourist-friendly Indiana attractions with restored historical facades, wide walkways, quaint galleries and shops, and attractive design, the true beauty of Lawrence exists in the great amount of Indiana countryside you can see while you’re there. Lawrence parks and Lawrence sports, not an urbanized downtown area, are the main draw, activity, and focus of Lawrence.

Downtown Lawrence simply exists as a budding center of commerce in the middle of well-designed green spaces like Lawrence Community Park, the Lawrence Soccer Complex, and Fort Harrison State Park, the true centers of Lawrence. The International District in Lawrence provides lots of surprises, the likes of which you won’t see in most other Indiana cities outside of Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, but it doesn’t really have much on any of the Indianapolis cultural districts, nor is it a cause to visit Lawrence in and of itself. Instead, it acts as a compliment to the natural beauty surrounding the town.

Mike Woods