Are you looking for a place to unwind with friends, take in some history, dine on exquisite food and enjoy a weekend of fun with family oriented activities? Well if so then I have a secret to share – Lansing, Michigan has more to offer guests than one might expect. Just take a look at how I experienced all of these things and more during my recent trip to the State Capital of Michigan.
When you tell people that you are taking a trip to Lansing, Michigan they may ask you two questions: Are you visiting someone at the university or going on business? However, on a recent tourism trip to the area, I found Lansing to be so much more than just a collegiate town or center for business meetings – I found Lansing to be a place I would want to take my family, a place to hang out with friends and a place to spend the weekend to have some good ol’ fashioned fun.
Old Town Lansing
The first place I checked out during my stay was Old Town Lansing – a historic shopping district (of course). As I walked down the streets past the obviously retro buildings, the buzz of pedestrians and chatter from people sharing a street-side bench surrounded me. I could tell right away that there was a community here and that the people enjoyed coming together in it. In one of the nearby parking lots people gathered to observe an outdoor junk art exhibit, one of the many different community exhibits this city puts together each year.
As I walked along further, following the sound of one of the communities outdoor public piano’s, I came across a gourmet popcorn shop called Cravings. I loved the retro feeling of the outside sign so I proceeded inward to find that I was able to taste test several different exotic and unconventional popcorn flavors right in the lobby – such as dill pickle, salt and pepper and BBQ. To tell you the truth, the dill pickle was my favorite and I liked it much better than traditional buttered popcorn. Who would have guessed?
My final stop in old town Lansing was a carnivorous restaurant appropriately named MEAT. Here patrons are welcome to dine on fabulously BBQ’d brisket, turkey, pork and other types of meats -while those searching for a vegetarian option are ironically handed a drink menu. They do, however, serve a pretty kickin’ mac-n-cheese. Just an FYI. 🙂
State Capitol Tour
Not far from Old Town Lansing, I could see the State Capitol building standing tall. I could remember taking a tour of this Capitol building as a middle school student, but back then I don’t think I appreciated it to it’s fullest – as I am sure my kids wouldn’t appreciate it today. However, during this trip as an adult I found myself mesmerized by the intricate carvings and designs in the architecture, the history behind the Capitol buildings beginnings and the way the government system still worked here today. The best part about this tour – its completely free! Just show up any Monday – Friday , 9 a.m to 4 p.m. and follow along with a guided tour through the hallways and offices of the Michigan State Capitol building.
Michigan Historical Museum
After finding out how Lansing came to be the State Capitol of Michigan, I next headed to the Michigan Historical Museum to browse some of the vintage cars and artifacts from the area’s past. Walking in to this museum was like walking in to the streets and homes of era’s from the prehistoric through the 1950’s and today. In one room I was guided through a dark copper mine where I could hear the clank of the pick axes. Next I was walking through Motown and checking out a retro kitchen. Being a museum lover – I must say that is museum is one of the better ones. Its very well put together and not very busy.
Tip: If you plan to go on a Sunday it is free admission for everyone!
Dine at Red Haven
With the farm to table craze sweeping the area, I was excited to visit Red Haven, a gourmet, small plate restaurant of this sorts located within the greater Lansing area. This place came highly recommended and I must say that I found the recommendation to be spot on. The menu was short and the plate sizes were small, but that was the idea. This restaurant encourages guests to try more than one item from the menu, share with friends and dine in a way that encourages socialization. While I was there I tried the zucchini blossom, the buffalo burger and for dessert a chocolate anglaise. Even though I was a little confused with the tomato foam on the stuffed zucchini blossom, everything was spectacular and I cannot go back again and try more menu items.
Watch a Baseball Game
Lansing, Michigan also happens to be home to the Lansing Lugnuts – the area’s professional baseball team. After dinner we found our seats at the Cooley Law Stadium and got ready for the game. I had forgotten how much I liked to watch baseball – in person that is. I was quickly caught up in the moment of singing the national anthem, drinking beer and watching people drive around the field shooting hot dogs into the stands. Everyone at the game was excited and that vibe rippled through the entire audience. They were here to have a good time and it made the experience just that much better. After the game ended (we lost, boo) the stadium put on one of the most spectacular fireworks displays. I hate to admit it, but they were better than my city’s fourth of July ones. I wont say that too loud.
Take a River Boat Tour with River Town Adventures
To end the weekend in style, we jumped in a riverboat and floated happily along the Grand River which runs through the city. Stepping on to that boat was like stepping into a canoe in the early settler days. The river banks were grown with natural flowers and brush, the fallen logs along the river allowed us to view turtles sunning themselves in the warm morning sun and with every turn of the river bend we were welcomed with more lush and calming views. It was a beautiful sight, not at all what I expected to see when visiting the State Capital of Michigan.
In the beginning as I headed on a road trip in to the city of Lansing, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However after diving in to all of the amazing adventures greater Lansing had to offer all I can say that Lansing will surprise you and leave you wanting to come back time and time again. After all, during this trip I only touched on the surface of what the area has to offer. To find out more about the adventures you can have, visit the Lansing Tourism page.
Where to Stay
For this trip I stayed at the Radisson downtown. Excellent hotel, close to all of the area attractions. Plus, it has a Starbucks in the lobby. Win/Win.