12 Things to Do with Family in Lansing, Michigan

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nestled in the heart of Michigan, Lansing offers a diverse array of family-friendly attractions and activities that cater to visitors of all ages and interests. From exploring hands-on museums and visiting world-class zoos to enjoying outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, there is something for every member of the family to enjoy in Michigan’s capital city.

ActivityBrief Description
Impression 5 Science CenterInteractive science exhibits for all ages.
Potter Park ZooA diverse range of animals and exhibits.
Michigan Historical MuseumExhibits on Michigan’s history.
Lansing River TrailScenic trail for walking, biking, and running.
Broad Art MuseumContemporary art exhibits and family activities.
State Capitol BuildingTours highlighting architecture and history.
Binder Park ZooExotic animals and immersive habitats.
Wharton Center for Performing ArtsLive performances and shows.
MSU Dairy Store & FarmAgricultural experiences and ice cream.
Scenic Country RoadsBeautiful routes for cycling.
Hawk Island County ParkOutdoor recreation and nature exploration.
Abrams PlanetariumEducational space and astronomy shows.

With its convenient location and wealth of affordable options just waiting to be discovered, Lansing makes for a fantastic family getaway any time of year. Whether you call the city home or you’re visiting from out of town, this guide covers 12 of the top things to do with family in Lansing, Michigan.

1.Discover Science and Nature at Impression 5 Science Center

Name and Location: Impression 5 Science Center

History and Significance: Open since 1995, Impression 5 Science Center offers over 60,000 sq ft of interactive science exhibits and programs to spark wonder and curiosity for visitors of all ages. Its activities make science accessible and engaging for families.

What to Expect: Families enjoy rotating exhibits related to space, health, physics and more alongside daily programs like live science demos, planetarium shows and special events. Tactile exhibits bring science concepts alive through hands-on exploration.

Visitor Information: Located at 200 Museum Dr, Lansing. Open Tuesday-Sunday plus select Mondays. Ticket prices vary by age, memberships available. Parking on-site. Accessibility options.

Promising a fun day of exploration for curious minds of all ages, Impression 5 Science Center features over 60 interactive exhibits related to science, technology, engineering, art, and math. The center is designed to engage visitors through hands-on activities that bring innovative concepts to life in an understandable way.

Popular exhibits allow families to create giant bubbles, turn their bodies into electricity through the power of static, and explore the inner workings of the human body. A seasonal butterfly house provides opportunities to observe the winged-creatures up close as they flutter gracefully through the indoor habitat.

With new rotating exhibits brought in regularly and a full schedule of daily programs included with admission, there are always fresh experiences in store during return visits to Impression 5.

2.Meet Underwater Creatures at Potter Park Zoo

Name and Location: Potter Park Zoo

History and Significance: Home to over 500 animals, the Potter Park Zoo has provided close-up animal encounters and conservation education to visitors for 100 years. As Michigan’s oldest zoo, it contributes to species management initiatives globally.

What to Expect: Visitors of all ages delight in seeing tigers, red pandas, gorillas, rhinos, camels and more. Animal shows, a splash pad, train and carousel rides, and special events further engage families on site. Educational programs offered too.

Visitor Information: Located at 1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing. Open daily. Ticket prices vary by age. Parking on-site. Wheelchair rental and accessibility options available.

Consistently ranking as one of America’s top free zoos, Potter Park Zoo has provided affordable family entertainment in Lansing for over 100 years. Home to over 160 animal species, the welcoming Midwestern zoo offers memorable chances to meet exotic creatures from sensitive amphibians to mighty carnivores.

Facilities like the Feline and Primate House enable safe observations of active apes and big cats in thoughtfully designed habitats. The aquatic creatures of the Herpetarium and Aquarium exhibits intrigue visitors as they investigate tanks filled with fascinating frogs, snakes, fish, and invertebrates native to the Great Lakes region.

Soar with eagles and cheer playful otters as you explore the spacious park-like grounds filled with plenty of picnic spaces and creature comforts. With new baby animal births occurring regularly, you never know what special new arrival might await during your Potter Park visit.

3.Step into the Past at the Michigan Historical Museum

Name and Location: Michigan Historical Museum

History and Significance: Operated by the Michigan Historical Society, the museum has preserved and shared artifacts and stories related to Michigan’s past with visitors from across the state and beyond since its founding in 1958.

What to Expect: Visitors explore exhibits related to Michigan’s early indigenous peoples, the fur trade era, Civil War involvement, Motown music legacy, and more while engaging with artifacts, multimedia displays, and knowledgeable staff. Special events held too.

Visitor Information: Located at 702 W Kalamazoo St, Lansing. Free general admission. Open Wednesday-Saturday. Free parking lot onsite. Guided group tours available by reservation.

From indigenous Native American relics to symbols of the state’s early industrial rise, Lansing’s Michigan Historical Museum provides an illuminating overview of life throughout different eras. As one of the Midwest’s premier history museums, the family-friendly facility utilizes interactive and immersive exhibits to trace defining moments spanning over 300 years.

Key displays transport families back in time to walk the streets of historic Michigan towns, explore a vintage automobile factory, sail the iconic Great Lakes aboard an early merchant ship, and come face-to-face with notable figures who shaped the region. Artifacts, videos, audio accounts, and staged environments engage visitors with stories of invention, struggle, community, and progress.

With regularly updated exhibits and displays, history comes alive at Michigan’s storytelling museum. From past to present, important lessons and little-known insights await discovery on its enlightening pathways through time.

5.Pedal Through Nature on the Lansing River Trail

Name and Location: Lansing River Trail

History and Significance: Spanning over 28 miles of paved pathways along Michigan’s Grand and Red Cedar Rivers, the scenic Lansing River Trail has promoted health, recreation and outdoor beauty as one of the state’s most popular community trails since opening in 1996.

What to Expect: Walkers, joggers, cyclists and skaters flock to the well-maintained riverfront trail that offers great views of Lansing’s downtown skyline. Interpretive signage shares natural, cultural and historical insights en route. Activity levels range from leisurely to athletic.

Visitor Information: Trail open 6 AM to midnight daily. Access from dozens of trailheads across Lansing. Usage fees waived before 8 AM and after 6 PM. Wheelchair-accessible sections available.

For fresh air, exercise, and natural splendor, Lansing’s River Trail takes families on a serene ride along the sweeping Grand and Red Cedar Rivers. Covering over 12 paved miles one-way, the peaceful trail provides a safe space for cyclists, runners, walkers and skaters to take in the capital city’s environment.

Scenic overlooks, riverside parks with playgrounds, and connectors to other regional trails allow for stops to snap photos or let the kids burn energy during the leisurely outing. Nearby riverfront cafes and ice cream shops offer tasty refueling spots when hunger strikes. Interpretive plaques describing native plants and wildlife educate explorers on local ecology.

With over 25 access points scattered throughout the city, the River Trail can accommodate rides of any length. Pedal, stroll, or jog as little or as much as your family desires on this naturally beautiful urban pathway.

5.Explore Hands-On Exhibits at the Broad Art Museum

Name and Location: Broad Art Museum

History and Significance: Designed by Zaha Hadid and opened in 2012, the contemporary Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum houses modern and contemporary art works within its striking stainless steel and glass architecture that stands as a cultural landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors explore the light-filled galleries showcasing avant-garde paints, sculpture, video works and other dynamic creations from both acclaimed and emerging artists that challenge perspectives through conceptual practice. Interpretive iPads provide contextual insights into the works while tours, films and events further engagement.

Visitor Information: Located on Michigan State University’s campus at 547 E Circle Dr, East Lansing. Free general admission and parking. Open Wednesday-Sunday.

With its striking stainless steel facade concealing airy galleries filled with innovative installations, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University thrills art lovers of all ages. As the contemporary and modern art museum affiliated with the esteemed university, the Broad MSU presents an ever-changing array of exhibits that fascinate families through engaging sights, textures, sounds, and formats.

Past multimedia displays have incorporated evocative materials from dirt and fabric to PlantBot genetics while inviting participation through creation stations, glasses to shift perspectives, and rooms to freely explore. From abstract videos to hyper-real sculptures, traditional paintings to interactive light projections, the museum promises rare creative encounters around every turn.

Don’t miss the Family Studio on weekends and select Thursdays. This special hands-on space allows families to appreciate art concepts through DIY printmaking, sculpture building, sketching, and imaginative play.

6.Tour the State Capitol Building

Name and Location: Michigan State Capitol

History and Significance: The Michigan State Capitol has served as an architectural jewel housing the state’s government for over 140 years. Its Beaux-Arts style paired with grand Neoclassical design result in an iconic, inspiring structure recognizing Michigan’s history.

What to Expect: Visitors tour the Capitol to admire soaring domes, Vermont marble, Hungarian oak woodwork, and historical paintings throughout the building along with exhibits. Tours provide insights into governance, art, and architecture within Michigan’s “palace for the public.”

Visitor Information: Located at 100 N Capitol Ave in downtown Lansing. Free guided tours provided weekday mornings year-round. Open for self-guided tours Saturday afternoons.

As the heart of Michigan’s government, Lansing’s majestic State Capitol Building offers free tours providing insider perspectives on the intriguing history and symbolic details incorporated throughout the National Historic Landmark. Guides usher visitors through the bell tower, legislative chambers, and stately corridors while sharing stories behind the beautiful Italian Renaissance-style architecture.

Stand beneath the breathtaking rotunda where laws have been signed for over 100 years. Gaze up at the glittering Saint-Gaudens statue crowning the distinctive dome. Locate the captured British cannon from the War of 1812 battle memorialized in the nearby bronze sculpture. Discover Capitol secrets like whispering arches and hidden chessboards while learning about the meticulous craftsmanship infused in every inch of the grand public structure.

Engaging tours tailored for all ages reveal hidden gems and little-known tales that connect families to the governmental heartbeat of the Great Lake State.

7.See Exotic Species at Binder Park Zoo

Name and Location: Binder Park Zoo

History and Significance: Situated on over 400 wooded acres just outside Battle Creek, non-profit Binder Park Zoo has focused on immersive, naturalistic habitats for its 100+ animal species alongside conservation initiatives for endangered wildlife since opening in 1977.

What to Expect: Visitors delight in the lush habitats seeing giraffes, rhinos, kangaroos, monkeys and more roam while interactive feeding stations provide close encounters with lorikeets, camels, parakeets and wallabies in this expansive yet intimate zoo.

Visitor Information: Located at 7400 Division Dr. in Battle Creek. Open daily late April through October then weekends in winter. Ticket prices vary by age. Onsite lot offers free parking.

Just minutes outside downtown Lansing, the intimate yet worldly Binder Park Zoo transports families from the Midwest to the wild landscapes of Africa, Australia, and beyond through thoughtfully designed habitats showcasing over 600 remarkable animals. Friendly giraffes and zebras greet explorers entering the zoo’s spacious grounds filled with active inhabitants just waiting to delight.

The sprawling Zambia section invites kids to burn energy chasing ostriches and emus inside an open-range enclosure. Brave the zipline soaring above lounging lions and prowling wild dogs for an unforgettable adrenaline rush. Hand-feed gentle budgies and lorikeets in the walk-through Australian aviary before observing the zoo’s playful troupe of koalas snoozing in the trees.

Throughout the year, special events like Zoo Boo, conservation fundraisers, and educational Wee Walkers programs for toddlers promise extra memorable adventures for the whole family herd.

8.Catch a Show at Wharton Center for Performing Arts

Name and Location: Wharton Center for Performing Arts

History and Significance: As one of Michigan’s largest theaters, the Wharton Center brings exceptional space and technical specs supporting major Broadway tours, acclaimed music acts, comedy and more since its construction in 1982.

What to Expect: The four-theater complex seats over 4,700 guests across its stages and orchestra seating hosting 200+ annual productions from classical to contemporary. Flagship Cobb Hall amazes audiences with its sweeping space hosting immense productions.

Visitor Information: Located on Michigan State University’s campus at 750 E Shaw Ln, East Lansing. Show tickets available online or by phone/in-person box office. Paid parking structures nearby.

As one of Michigan’s foremost cultural hubs, the expansive Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University entertains families with an astounding array of musicians, Broadway productions, comedians, speakers, and more gracing its multiple stages.

The elegantly restored 1920s historic theater at the heart of the complex continues to host celebrated performances showcasing every genre from classical symphonies to contemporary pop in an intimate 1928 setting.

Two additional state-of-the-art theaters accommodate larger touring shows straight from New York City alongside educational children’s series tailored for young theater lovers building an appreciation for the arts.

With special student discounts available, opportunities abound for kids to experience spellbinding concerts, hilarious improv troupes, timeless musicals and beyond at mid-Michigan’s exceptional performing arts institution.

9.Explore Hands-On Agriculture at the MSU Dairy Store & Farm

Name and Location: MSU Dairy Store & Farm

History and Significance: Operational since 1898, the working dairy and creamery at Michigan State University’s Farm Lane location provides public tours and access highlighting dairy production practices while selling fresh ice cream onsite.

What to Expect: Families witness cow milking demos then grab scoops of premium ice cream or cheese at the Dairy Store showcasing MSU’s dairy research. Interactive displays educate on science principles while young visitors delight interacting with calves and cows.

Visitor Information: Located at 1550 Anthony Hall off Farm Ln on MSU’s south campus. Open weekdays year-round. Free 45-minute walking tours offered at set times. Free parking at adjacent lot 79.

Established in the 1920s, the working dairy farm operated by Michigan State University’s Department of Animal Science offers families fascinating glimpses into food production while sampling signature ice cream.

Visitors can view the daily operations within the unique urban barn housing over 400 cows and calves that produce around 26,000 pounds of milk daily.

Observe workers prepping feed, transferring milk into the university’s on-site processing plant, and even witness veterinarians assisting with live births when expecting mothers approach their delivery dates. Interactive displays inside the on-site Family Learning Center explain the science behind dairy nutrition and best practices for sustaining healthy herds.

After taking in the sights and smells of real farm life, families deserve a sweet treat from the old-fashioned ice cream counter whipping up scoops, sandwiches, and over 50 flavors of the dairy’s smooth creaminess.

10.Pedal Through Scenic Country Roads

Name and Location: Scenic Country Roads

History and Significance: Winding through idyllic landscapes outside Lansing, scenic rural roads spanning from Sleepy Hollow State Park to rural Grand Ledge delight cyclists and motorists venturing off the highway for picturesque vistas reminiscent of quintessential Americana.

What to Expect: Leisurely cruising along routes like Krepps Road, Okemos Road or Sandhill Road rewards explorers with lush farmland vistas, wildflowers, red barns, and wildlife sightings evoking nostalgic simplicity throughnatural beauty conveyed in the pastoral landscapes.

Visitor Information: Roads accessible to all travelers. Cyclists advised to equip properly and utilize bike lanes where available. Most routes unsuitable for walking along. Road quality varies so check conditions.

For active families yearning for scenic rural cycling treks beyond city limits, the tri-county region surrounding Lansing serves up bountiful rolling routes perfect for group rides. Just south of the capital, Ingham County’s country roads meandering past charming towns, forests, and lakes offer adventurous peddlers of all ages plenty of sights to take in while navigating peaceful pavement.

The relatively flat Chippewa Trail cutting through sleepy villages connects cyclists to the Heart of Michigan Trail’s gently rolling pathway guiding riders through the Irish Hills town of Brooklyn. For hillier terrain, the Portland Area Mountain Biking Association maintains over 20 miles of exhilarating single-track weaving through woodlands ripe for exploration.

From leisurely rides between neighboring rural communities to adrenaline-pumping singletrack terrain, the pastoral landscapes around Lansing indulge any family’s cycling style.

11.Play and Picnic at Hawk Island County Park

Name and Location: Hawk Island County Park

History and Significance: Spanning over 360 acres minutes outside Lansing, Hawk Island County Park has offered scenic trails, diverse recreational facilities and family-friendly amenities across its forests, wetlands and waterfront access since opening in the 1920s.

What to Expect: Visitors hike and cross-country ski over 15 miles of trails winding through woodlands, fish in the lake and river, use the archery range or 18-hole disc golf course, launch boats, enjoy playgrounds and sports areas while picnicking and nature watching across the park’s varied terrain.

Visitor Information: Located at1601 E Cavanaugh Rd. in Lansing. Open 8 AM to 30 minutes past sunset daily. Entry fee per vehicle required. Pet exercise area and wheelchair accessible options onsite.

Encompassing over 250 acres of vibrant wetlands and mature woodlands just minutes from downtown, verdant Hawk Island County Park allows families to mix and match activities from golfing to canoeing, hiking trails to archery ranges. Nature reigns supreme throughout the peaceful parklands quilted with wildflower meadows, bubbling creeks, sandy beaches, and stone outcroppings.

Hawk Island’s Aquatics Center promises splashing fun with winding waterslides, a lazy river, lap lanes, and a children’s splash pad. Light adventure awaits at the park’s treetop canopy tour zip line course as well. Of course, the park’s picnic shelters, playgrounds, and wide-open lawns simply invite families to stake out space for impromptu stick ball games, frisbee tosses, and kite flying.

Offering a perfect blend of facilities and untouched Midwestern nature less than 10 minutes from Michigan State University, Hawk Island Park has everything families need to craft an idyllic tailor-made outing.

12.Explore the planetarium at Abrams Planetarium

Name and Location: Abrams Planetarium

History and Significance: Open since 1960 on Michigan State University’s campus, the Abrams Planetarium has served the public understanding of astronomy and space sciences through immersive theater shows, observation opportunities, and regular special programming for over 60 years.

What to Expect: The planetarium’s original optical-mechanical projector and seating for up to 98 patrons allows dynamic shows guiding viewers across star systems, nebulae, and galaxies visible from Earth while communicating insights from MSU astronomers and students.

Visitor Information: Located at MSU’s Campus Park off Farm Ln. Ticketed shows run weekends plus select Fridays. Monthly stargazing and telescope viewing opportunities offered. Free but timed parking passes required.

For minds eager to explore celestial phenomena lightyears beyond Mid-Michigan, the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University launches informative journeys through the cosmos powered by an advanced Digistar 6 projection system. The high-tech 75-seat theater utilizes precision digital projection to fill its impressive 65-foot dome with vibrant star shows unveiling nebulas, comets, asteroids and neighboring planets in sharp detail.

In addition to awe-inspiring tours of the night sky, engaging educational programs explore topics like black holes, space tourism prospects, sky mapping techniques and more through stunning visualizations and enthusiastic commentary from knowledgable staff. Exciting light shows incorporating music and vibrant laser displays also electrify the soaring theater on select dates.

From homeschool enrichment sessions to weekend family matinees, the Abrams Planetarium sparks inspiration through immersive intergalactic adventures tethered by illuminating science.

Conclusion

With boundless family fun waiting around every corner, Lansing offers an easily accessible Midwestern getaway filled with variety, value, and vibrant attractions guaranteed to entertain visitors of all ages. From hands-on museums and exhilarating outdoor adventures to eye-opening history lessons and cozy creature encounters, Michigan’s capital city overflows with opportunities for families to bond over new shared experiences.

Whether you call Lansing home or you’re visiting to explore college town life at Michigan State University, this guide equips families with insider tips to fill any day or weekend getaway with enriching activities promising laughter, learning, and lifelong memories just waiting to unfold.

Leave a Comment