12 Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Lansing, the capital city of Michigan, may often get overlooked for the bustling metropolis of Detroit or the quaint college town of Ann Arbor. But make no mistake – this mid-sized city has no shortage of fun things to see and do. From exploring the state’s history at the Capitol building to getting a bird’s eye view from the top of the Boji Tower, Lansing offers visitors plenty of activities catered to a variety of interests.

#ActivityDescription
1Michigan State CapitolGuided tours of the historic building and its beautiful architecture.
2Impression 5 Science CenterInteractive science experiences for children and families.
3R.E. Olds Transportation MuseumA collection of automobiles and memorabilia tracing the history of the Oldsmobile.
4Lansing River TrailA scenic pathway for biking, walking, and exploring the city’s natural landscapes.
5Potter Park ZooA 100-acre zoo featuring a wide variety of animals and educational programs.
6Eli and Edythe Broad Art MuseumContemporary art museum with a striking design by architect Zaha Hadid.
7Michigan History CenterExhibits on Michigan’s rich history, from pre-statehood to the present day.
8Lansing Brewing CompanyThe city’s first full-scale production brewery, offering craft beers and a pub menu.
9Hawk Island ParkRecreational activities including a swimming beach, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
10Old Town LansingA vibrant arts district with galleries, boutiques, and restaurants.
11Turner-Dodge House & Heritage CenterA restored 19th-century mansion offering insights into local history and culture.
12Fenner Nature CenterAn environmental education center with trails, exhibits, and programs on nature conservation.

The city also acts as an entry point for natural wonders like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and several sections of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, all located a short drive away. Its location adjacent to Michigan State University brings in events and conferences year-round, not to mention a flourishing arts and culture scene.

This article breaks down 12 of the top attractions and activities in Lansing that should not be missed on your next visit. From museums and parks to theater and nightlife, it has something to delight travelers of all ages. Read on for the very best things to do on your Lansing city getaway!

1.Tour the State Capitol Building

Name and Location: The State Capitol Building (100 N Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI 48933) houses Michigan’s state legislature.

History and Significance: Built between 1872-1878, the Capitol has undergone expansion and restoration projects over the years. Its beautiful architecture and historical significance make it an iconic Lansing landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors can join free public tours of the building, view historical architecture and artwork, visit the observation deck on the dome, and watch legislative sessions.

Visitor Information: Open weekdays for self-guided tours. Guided tours offered daily during summer season and on weekends other times of the year.

No trip to Lansing is complete without visiting the Michigan State Capitol building and grounds. The building dates back to the late 19th century and stands as an excellent example of neoclassical architecture.

Guided tours run regularly and provide fascinating insights into the building’s history, art, and architecture. Stroll past the intricately tiled floors, carved stone walls, brass door hinges, and opulent dome ceilings as you learn about Michigan governance.

Tours last approximately one hour and are offered year-round. For a bird’s eye perspective over downtown Lansing, take the staircase up to the public observation deck on the 6th floor.

The Capitol grounds also house several historical monuments like the Michigan Veterans Memorial and the Grand Army of the Republic Sundial. Walking through this National Historic Landmark is undoubtedly one of the top things every visitor should experience when in Lansing.

2.See a Performance at Wharton Center

Name and Location: Wharton Center for Performing Arts (750 E Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824) brings concerts, theater, dance and more to the stage.

History and Significance: Opened in 1982, Wharton Center is Michigan State University’s performing arts venue, hosting Broadway tours and cultural performances seen by over 400,000 each year.

What to Expect: Patrons view jazz, classical, pop performers and theatrical productions in multiple unique theater spaces within the venue complex.

Visitor Information: Show schedules and ticket prices online. Public parking garages nearby. Tours offered Saturdays plus more when school is out.

Known for its excellent acoustics and elegant interior, the Wharton Center on Michigan State University’s campus is the largest theater complex in Michigan. The center hosts over 1,000 events every year across four unique venues. Broadway musicals, ballet, concerts, operas – you name it, Wharton likely has it on their calendar of events!

Catch a touring production of a current Broadway show or a performance by the Lansing Symphony Orchestra in the magnificent Cobb Great Hall. For an intimate theater experience, check out a play at the 585-seat Pasant Theatre. Wharton truly offers cultural and artistic performances to impress all tastes – schedule your Lansing visit to coincide with your favorite act!

3.Visit the RE Olds Transportation Museum

Name and Location: The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum (240 Museum Dr, Lansing, MI 48933) documents the history and innovations of transportation pioneer Ransom E. Olds.

History and Significance: Opened in 1981, this museum celebrates Lansing’s role in transportation history, especially the life and work of automotive inventor and entrepreneur Ransom E. Olds.

What to Expect: Over 170 modes of transportation like carriages, automobiles, and concept cars are on display. Interactive exhibits let visitors view engines and ride in driving simulators.

Visitor Information: Open year-round Tuesday-Saturday. Admission fee. Guided group tours by appointment.

Car lovers visiting Lansing can’t miss this museum dedicated to the city’s automotive history. The RE Olds Transportation Museum holds the world’s most extensive collection of Oldsmobile vehicles from 1897 onwards. See gorgeous cars from the early 20th century like a 1907 Oldsmobile Model R Curved Dash to sleek futuristic concept cars of recent decades.

In addition to the core automotive exhibits, the museum complex houses memorabilia like early auto tools, sale catalogs, photos, and advertisements. These objects provide perspective into Lansing’s pivotal role in the early years of the automotive industry. Of course, the ultimate highlight at this museum is taking one of the classic Oldsmobiles for a spin on a guided test track ride!

4.Explore the R.E. Olds Park

Name and Location: R.E. Olds Park (500 Moores River Dr, Lansing, MI 48910) offers recreation opportunities along the Grand River downtown.

History and Significance: Dedicated in 1991, this riverside park commemorates Ransom E. Olds’ contributions to Lansing spanning 44 acres. It hosts community events like Common Ground Music Festival.

What to Expect: Visitors walk riverside trails, play disc golf or tennis, use the skate park, picnic, and explore memorials honoring Olds nearby stadium and museum sites downtown.

Visitor Information: Park open daily from 6am-10pm. Lighted trails for evening use. Free admission.

After exploring the history of Oldsmobile at the museum, take a stroll through the sprawling R.E. Olds Park located alongside the Grand River. Named after auto pioneer Ransom E. Olds, this green oasis spans over 650 acres across Lansing and East Lansing.

The park contains several facilities for recreational activities like hiking trails, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic shelters, fishing spots along the riverfront, and courts for various sports. Observation decks by the river offer scenic views where you might even spot native wildlife like deer or red foxes! Don’t miss out on this beautiful riverside park during your Lansing trip.

5.Check out the Impression 5 Science Center

Name and Location: Impression 5 Science Center (200 Museum Dr, Lansing, MI 48933) offers interactive science exhibits and activities for learners of all ages.

History and Significance: Founded in 1995, Impression 5 provides inspiring science learning experiences through hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, camps and classes aimed at kids and adults.

What to Expect: Visitors explore various science concepts through displays focused on space, physics, biology and more. Daily live science shows and special events like adults only evenings too.

Visitor Information: Open year-round. Admission fee charged. Science center memberships available.

Fun for all ages, the Impression 5 Science Center runs over 60,000 square feet of interactive science exhibits in downtown Lansing.

It aims to inspire visitors to learn about science through hands-on engagement. Step into their multiple themed galleries focusing on concepts like simple machines, electricity, space, the human body, and much more.

Some highlights at Impression 5 include making giant bubbles in Bubbleology, playing laser tag in Laser Light, and exploring principles of flight by constructing model aircraft.

Their signature exhibit remains the Science on a Sphere room containing a giant illuminated globe displaying atmospheric effects and geographic information. With new traveling exhibits always arriving, Impression 5 promises an educational and entertaining time for families visiting Lansing.

6.Wander Through the Michigan State University Campus

Name and Location: Michigan State University’s campus (E Lansing, MI 48824) spans over 5,000 acres along the Red Cedar River.

History and Significance: Founded in 1855 as the nation’s pioneer land-grant university, today MSU has 50,000+ students on one of America’s largest, greenest campuses, leading research and more.

What to Expect: Visitors explore historic buildings, museums, gardens and performing arts venues across campus. Sights include the Broad Art Museum, Beaumont Tower and Spartan Stadium.

Visitor Information: Daily campus walking tours available. The MSU Visitor Center (552 W Circle Dr) provides maps and guidance.

As Michigan’s pioneer land-grant university, the sprawling Michigan State University campus in East Lansing offers far more than just college buildings. The campus essentially works as an attraction on its own, filled with gorgeous Beaux-Arts inspired architecture, historical landmarks, museums, performing arts centers, and vast green spaces.

Must-see locations on campus include the Abbey Road crosswalk tribute, the Spartan Statue, the Broad Art Museum, and the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.

The campus also houses a Children’s Garden, a 4-H Children’s Garden, and the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum – perfect places to wander through with kids. Time your visit to catch a home football game at the Spartan Stadium for the quintessential MSU experience!

7.Shop at the Lansing City Market

Name and Location: Lansing City Market (325 City Market Dr, Lansing, MI 48912) houses 50+ year-round shops and cafes downtown.

History and Significance: Opened in 1909, the Market is one of America’s oldest continuously operating farmers markets linking consumers with Michigan growers and producers under one historic roof.

What to Expect: Visitors browse butcher and cheese shops, bakeries, garden centers, restaurants, and stalls selling locally grown produce, flowers and foods to take home or enjoy onsite.

Visitor Information: Open year-round, days/hours vary by vendor. Many accept credit cards. Parking garage on site.

For almost 120 years, the Lansing City Market has served as a beloved community fixture in downtown Lansing. The indoor market runs year-round, filled with over 30 vibrant merchant stalls and eateries. Shop for farm-fresh produce, artisanal baked goods, cheeses, coffees, freshly cut flowers, and more while supporting local businesses.

The City Market also hosts a certified farmers market from May to November in the open-air pavilion. Browse seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey products, maple syrups, herbs, and plants directly from regional farmers and producers.

Don’t leave without trying some tasty Lindsay’s Chicken or other international street food options! Beyond shopping, the Lansing City Market regularly organizes community events like Craft Beer Festivals and Jazz Weekends.

8.See Wild Birds at the Fenner Nature Center

Name and Location: Fenner Nature Center (2020 E Mt Hope Ave, Lansing, MI 48910) offers opportunities to discover mid-Michigan plants and wildlife.

History and Significance: Set on 150 acres of preserved burr oak and tamarack forest connected to Lansing’s river trail system, Fenner has provided environmental education since 1966 supporting sustainable ecosystems.

What to Expect: Visitors hike trails to spot birds, trees, flowers plus bee hives and a frog pond. Interpretive programs, classes and seasonal events offered. Rent space for gatherings.

Visitor Information: Trails open daily 8am-10pm. Nature center open weekday afternoons. Free admission but donations encouraged.

Nature lovers visiting Lansing, rejoice! The Fenner Nature Center spans 150 acres of forests, prairies, ponds, and wetlands showcasing Michigan’s natural diversity within city limits.

Follow interpretative trails through bee, butterfly, or perennial gardens and observe local flora and fauna. The center has recorded over 150 bird species living within their grounds, so carry binoculars for ample birdwatching opportunities.

Hands-on educational programs also run throughout the year – join a guided tree identification walk, learn about maple syruping demonstrations, or participate in one of their annual Winterfest or Spring Fling family festivals! With scenic natural scenery and chances for wildlife viewings, the Fenner Nature Center is undoubtedly one of Lansing’s top attractions to appreciate nature at its finest.

9.Watch a Minor League Baseball Match

Name and Location: The Lansing Lugnuts Minor League Baseball team plays at Jackson® Field (505 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912).

History and Significance: The Lugnuts are the Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics bringing family fun, affordably-priced sports action to Lansing since 1996 at the corner of Michigan and Cedar Streets downtown.

What to Expect: Visitors watch Midwest League action while enjoying ballpark food, promotions and entertainment on 50+ game days each season from April through September. Fireworks and events all season.

Visitor Information: Single game, mini plan and group tickets available. Season runs April to September. Team store onsite.

Summer in Lansing brings fast-paced minor league baseball action! Since 1996, the Lansing Lugnuts have played as an A-league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics at Jackson® Field downtown. Enjoy an affordable, fun-filled family outing at “The Nuts” home games happening regularly from April to September.

Arrive early to catch players’ batting practice while the kids run the bases on the field. Settle into the stadium’s blue padded seats with hot dogs, ice cream, peanuts and popcorn in hand, ready to cheer rambunctiously! Extra entertainment like mascot races, in-game competitions, fireworks nights, and theme events ensure non-stop engagement through nine exciting innings. Catching a Lugnuts game during the baseball season stands out as an unmissable quintessential Americana summer activity in Lansing.

10.Scale the Boji Tower for City Views

Name and Location: The Boji Tower (124 W Allegan St, Lansing, MI 48933) offers scenic city views from its observation deck.

History and Significance: At 25 stories high overlooking the Grand River, Boji Tower has been Lansing’s tallest building since its completion in 1931. It’s named for former Lansing mayor and Michigan governor, G. Mennen Williams.

What to Expect: Ride the elevator up and walk outside onto the observation deck circling the top floor for panoramic views of Lansing’s cityscape, including the Capitol dome and campus skylines.

Visitor Information: Outdoor observation deck open weekdays from 8am-5pm when weather permits. Located downtown within the AT&T building.

As Lansing’s tallest building, the Art Deco-style Boji Tower stands at 124.5 meters over the city skyline. Take the elevator up to the 22nd floor indoor observatory for sweeping panoramic views of downtown Lansing, the winding Grand River, and the State Capitol dome shimmering in the distance. On clear days, it’s even possible to see as far as East Lansing!

In addition to open 360-degree vistas, the building’s Observation Deck offers snippets of history about the city’s growth through labelled points of interest. Audio tours provide multi-sensory context about locations you view from such great heights. Time your visit during the day or at sunset for the most stunning urban perspectives – ascending the Boji Tower ranks as one of Lansing’s top attractions for photography enthusiasts.

11.Catch a Show at the Performing Arts Center

Name and Location: The Performing Arts Center at MSU (750 W Shaw Ln, East Lansing, MI 48824) stages theatrical and musical student productions on campus.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1967, this intimate 400-seat proscenium stage venue provides space for Michigan State theater students and faculty to put on classic plays for campus and community audiences year-round.

What to Expect: Theatergoers view comedies, dramas and musicals brought to life by talented college students looking to hone their performance and production skills on and off stage.

Visitor Information: Season runs September to May. Affordable ticket prices. Parking on campus available evenings and weekends.

Located downtown, the Lansing Center has served as the city’s premier performing arts venue for over 80 years. Expansive recent renovations have refreshed the building’s features while retaining its historic character. The multi-level Center holds two spectacular performance spaces today – a 2130-seat auditorium and an intimate 350-seat theater.

An eclectic mix of shows happens at these stages year-round – expect touring Broadway productions, new plays, comedy acts, live music concerts, guest speakers and more.

The Center also plays host to Lansing’s exceptional local performance groups like the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Lansing Concert Band, Michigan Opera Theater and more. For a delightful night taking in performing arts in Lansing, the Center cannot be topped!

12.Party at Midtown

Name and Location: Midtown Lansing refers to the Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue corridor located centrally between downtown and the MSU campus.

History and Significance: Home to some of Lansing’s oldest neighborhoods, today the Midtown area blends historic charm with hip urban living spaces, shops, arts and an eclectic restaurant scene.

What to Expect: Visitors stroll shady side streets lined with Victorian homes or stop into unique boutiques, record stores, gastropubs and some of Lansing’s hottest nightlife venues.

Visitor Information: Location spans Michigan Ave from Capitol to Hagadorn. Metered parking available, though walking recommended to experience different sites.

As Lansing’s creative epicenter, Midtown district sets the pace for the city’s entertainment and nightlife scene. The neighborhood around Michigan State University packs one-of-a-kind bars, brewpubs, live music and comedy clubs within its streets. Kick back with a craft pint at Ozone’s Brewhouse, catch some jazz at the Green Door Club, or laugh out loud watching comedy skits at The Fledge.

Younger crowds flock to Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub which morphs into a huge dance club late-night Wednesday through Saturday. With new hip drinking and dining options constantly popping up here, Midtown easily serves as the heart of culture, food and libations in Lansing. For a true local night out during your visit, make your way to these buzzing venues around Albert Avenue and Michigan Avenue!

Conclusion

And there you have it – 12 fabulous things to fill your Lansing travel itinerary with during every season! Beyond this list, the city offers discovery through museums, galleries, a planetarium, and several historic sites. Take a food tour through downtown’s emerging restaurant scene, or make quick day trips to outdoor adventures just outside city limits.

From history to culture, sports to nature, even after business hours – Michigan’s capital has something for every interest to enjoy. So next time you plan a Michigan getaway, be sure to carve out a few days to uncover Lansing’s diverse charms. Its welcoming Midwestern vibe will keep you charmed throughout your holidays!

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