29 Fun Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

Are you planning to visit Lansing, Michigan?

Lansing is the capital of Michigan and the third-largest city in the state, after Detroit and Grand Rapids. I grew up in the Lansing area and am excited to share the best of the city with you!

If you’ve met someone from Michigan, you’ll know we all use our hands as personal maps. (They don’t call it the Mitten State for nothing.) Try it for yourself: Point at the middle of the palm of your right hand, and that’s where Lansing is! ✋🏼

In this post, I’ll highlight 29 of the best things to do in Lansing, Michigan to make for a memorable visit.


🎓 Visit Michigan State University and its many attractions
🛍 Explore the shops and restaurants in Old Town
🚲 Walk or bike the Lansing River Trail

📍The Graduate

Jolly Pumpkin, Meat BBQ, or Thai Princess

Fun Facts About Lansing, Michigan

  • Oldsmobile Cars was founded here in 1897, which later became General Motors.

  • This was the first city in the U.S. to have an organization dedicated to the history of women: The Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame.

  • Lansing’s sister cities are Akuapim South District, Ghana; Asan, South Korea; Guadalajara, Mexico; Otsu, Japan; Pianezza, Italy; Suchaeva, Romania; and Sanming, China.

  • Before the capital city was given the name Lansing (in honor of the settlers who came here from Lansing, New York), other names that were considered included El Dorado, Pewanogowink, and Swedenborg.

  • Despite being a relatively small city, you’ll find food here from all around the world, thanks to the large international student population at MSU and the local refugee resettlement program.

  • Lansing residents are proud of their three iconic smokestacks, part of the Lansing Board of Water and Light. So proud, that they each have a name: Wyken, Blynken, and Nod.
Beaumont Tower on MSU campus

Beaumont Tower on Michigan State University campus

29 Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

🥁 Without further ado, here is my list of the 29 best things to do in Lansing, Michigan.

I’ve separated these items into the following categories: Historic and cultural attractions, festivals, Michigan State University attractions, and outdoor attractions.

Historic and cultural attractions in Lansing

If you’d like to learn about the history of Lansing and see some of the most influential areas of the city, these places are for you:

1. Michigan State Capitol

Michigan’s capitol building is one of the prettiest structures in Lansing. Built in 1878, the capitol showcases a blend of Neoclassical and Renaissance Revival architectural styles. The grand dome includes a bronze figure representing Michigan’s abundant resources. 

I think the interior of the building is even more beautiful than the outside, with its ornate decorations, marble staircases, and stained glass windows. I highly recommend taking a free guided tour, which is available at the top of each hour Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

While you don’t have to make a reservation for groups under 10 people, they do recommend calling ahead of time to make sure the tour slot you want isn’t full.

2. R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

This museum is dedicated to Ransom Eli Olds, the Lansing inventor and entrepreneur who founded two local automobile companies, Olds Motor Works (1897) and Reo Motor Car Company (1904). He was also the one to invent the principle of the assembly line in 1901. 

Tour the museum to see an extensive collection of automobiles, engines, and other auto parts showcasing the rich transportation history of the Lansing area. 

General admission is $10 ($7 for seniors and children ages 12-17) and free for children under 12. Note the museum is closed on Mondays.

3. Michigan History Center

​​Discover Michigan’s diverse past from the state’s earliest peoples, the Anishinaabe, until the late 20th century. The Michigan History Center is located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center Building, with five floors of exhibits that will transport you back in time. 

Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for ages 6-17, and free for ages 5 and under.

Note: For most of summer 2024 (June 19-September 2), the museum will be closed on Mondays.

Impression 5 Science Museum in Lansing, Michigan

4. Impression 5 Science Center

If you’re coming to Lansing with kids, consider carving out a few hours to visit

Impression 5 Science Center, a fun space for them to learn about scientific concepts in an interactive way. My daughter loved it here! 

They have special crafts, building activities, machines, water play, and so much more for kids to explore. 

This was actually one of the first hands-on science centers to be built in the country, the brainchild of Marilynne Eichinger, who wanted to create an open and safe environment for children and families to learn together using their hands. 

Admission is $12, and the museum is open every day except Monday.

Old Town, Lansing, Michigan

5. Old Town

One of my favorite places in Lansing is Old Town, a cultural and creative district that dates back to 1842. Old Town has unique shops and art galleries and amazing, locally owned restaurants, including Meat BBQ and New Orleans-inspired The Creole. 

Old Town is also home to several special events and festivals throughout the year, including a Lumberjack Festival, Chalk of the Town chalk art festival, and ArtFeast local artists festival. 

This part of town is nestled along the Grand River and is at the trailhead for the Lansing River Trail, a 20-mile paved trail where you can explore other parts of the city.

6. REO Town

REO Town is Lansing’s oldest neighborhood and former home to REO Motor Car Company. This is where you’ll find those three iconic smokestacks locals hold dear: Wyken, Blinken, and Nod. 

But more importantly, REO Town has become a center of art, culture, and community development, with frequent poetry readings, live music, and comedy shows. 

This is a great place to walk around and admire the murals, find thrifted treasures at REO Town Marketplace, or have a coffee break at Blue Owl Coffee. REO Town is a Lansing gem and a must-see part of the city.

Jackson Field in Lansing, Michigan

7. Jackson Field and the Lansing Lugnuts

Lansing’s Minor League Baseball team, the Lansing Lugnuts, is a source of local pride. Catch a game at Jackson Field when you’re in town. They may not be Major League, but it’s still a fun thing to do on a nice day.

Jackson Field seats more than 10,000 people and is one of the most accessible stadiums in the country. Be sure to also spot the beloved Lugnuts mascot, Big Lug.

8. Turner-Dodge House

Tour one of the oldest residential buildings in Lansing, the Turner-Dodge House. For 100 years, this was the home of several generations of a pioneer family who had a significant impact on local and state history. The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places. 

You can take a guided tour of all three floors of the home for $10. For the same price, they also offer a “Tour & Tea” where you can see the home and then enjoy tea and refreshments. Call 517-483-4220 ahead of time to register for either of these tour options. 

9. Michigan Princess

For a unique dining and cruising experience that will have you feeling transported back in time, book a spot on the Michigan Princess Riverboat. The boat is a replica of a 19th-century steamboat and has become an iconic Lansing attraction on the Grand River. 

You can choose from a traditional dinner cruise or special themed events, like a murder mystery dinner, a salsa dancing cruise, 80s throwback cruise, and more.

🛳 Reserve your cruise tickets here!

Festivals in Lansing

Lansing is known as “Michigan’s festival city,” with more than 60 festivals finding their home in the capital city each year. Here are some of the best ones to check out:

10. Brrs, Beards, and Brews: Lumberjack Festival

In February/March, the Lumberjack Festival takes place in Old Town. Stop by to see Michigan’s Least Professional Beard Competition and feats of strength, as well as food and drink vendors, games, and music — a good time for all!

11. Capital City Film Festival

The Capital City Film Festival curates multimedia experiences that celebrate the work of artists from around the world. This annual festival includes an eclectic mix of indy films, live music, interactive media, and more.

12. The Best of Lansing Festival

In May, visit the Michigan Capitol to see the lawn transformed into a playground for all ages, featuring inflatables and obstacle courses. 

You’ll also get to browse the creations of more than 100 local vendors, including Lansing City Pulse’s Top of the Town winners. Experience the Best of Lansing in one place, from artists and creatives to retail shops and restaurants.

13. East Lansing Art Festival

This is the 61st year of the East Lansing Art Festival, where over 180 jury-selected artists from across the state and country come to share their creations. It’s a fun-filled environment with live performers and interactive experiences.

14. MSU Science Festival

This MSU-sponsored event offers month-long activities geared toward science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) enthusiasts of all ages. There are talks, demonstrations, tours, hands-on activities, and more. 

A few of the 2024 festival highlights include a Statewide Astronomy Night, Nights at the Museums, and Science After Dark. See the full event line-up here.

Michigan State University attractions

MSU boasts many of the attractions in the Lansing area, which merit their own list:

Beaumont Tower in East Lansing, Michigan

15. Beaumont Tower

This John W. Beaumont Tower has been an iconic landmark on MSU’s campus since 1928. The beautiful, collegiate gothic structure was designed to be a monument to teaching. 

Inside the tower is a carillon – a musical instrument consisting of 49 bells that are played from a keyboard. The first 10 bells were installed in 1928 and the remaining 13 bells were added in 1935. Today, you can still hear the bells every 15 minutes as they are activated by a computer.

16. Spartan Stadium

Locals love their MSU Spartans, and during football season, you can always expect campus to be packed with people tailgating on the weekend before a big game at the Spartan Stadium. If you want an energetic and fun way to spend part of your visit to Lansing, purchase tickets for a game.

The Spartan Stadium has more than 75,000 seats, making it the sixth largest stadium in the Big Ten Conference. Since its opening in 1923, MSU has won almost 70% of its games played inside this stadium. Go Green!

17. Breslin Center

If basketball is more your thing, the Breslin Center is where the Spartan men’s and women’s basketball teams play. The stadium holds more than 15,000 people and also hosts other big events like concerts, monster truck shows, graduation ceremonies, and more.

18. Red Cedar River

The Red Cedar River runs through a large portion of MSU campus, and the path along the river is part of Lansing’s 20-mile River Trail, connecting MSU to the rest of the city. As you walk the path, you’ll come across several key parts of the university, including the Botanical Garden, Main Library, and Spartan Stadium.

When I was an MSU student, I always loved spending my breaks between classes by the river, hearing the rush of the water and watching the ducks swim around. It was a welcome break from the busyness of university life.

19. MSU Museum

The MSU Museum is one of the oldest established museums in the country, founded in 1857, and it was the first museum in Michigan to receive Smithsonian Affiliate status.

Stop by the museum to see almost a million objects and specimens in natural science, cultural, and historical collections from around the world.

Admission to the museum is free, but the museum recommends calling 517-432-1472 at least two weeks in advance to schedule your tour to make sure there’s enough space. The usual open hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Note: The MSU Museum will be undergoing an 18-month renovation starting July 2024 and will be closed to the public.

20. Abrams Planetarium

MSU’s Abrams Planetarium contains a 141-seat theater offering both pre-recorded and fully live shows to interest all ages. I always loved coming here as a kid!

The planetarium is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. Check out the latest programs and book your tickets here.

21. Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

The Broad Art Museum is one of the most unique structures on MSU’s campus, its modern architectural style in stark contrast with the storied brick buildings that surround it. You could almost mistake it for a spaceship.

The mission of the museum is to connect people with art by inspiring curiosity and inquiry. The contents of the museum blend modern issues with the past and feature over 10,000 permanent works as well as temporary exhibits.

The museum is especially committed to amplifying the perspectives of underrepresented and oppressed communities through the arts.

The museum is free to the public and is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

MSU 4-H Children's Garden

22. 4-H Children’s Garden

Kids will love exploring the 4-H Children’s Garden on MSU campus. The outdoor part of the garden is open from April 1 through October 31 and features almost 100 different theme gardens, including a Teddy Bear and Animals Garden, a Crayon Color Garden, an Imagination Arbor, a Train Garden, a Storybook Garden, and many more.

For only a few weekends in April, the indoor portion of the 4-H Children’s Garden is also open, featuring a Butterflies in the Garden exhibit where you can see dozens of butterflies flying around. (Some might even land on your fingers!)

23. Beal Botanical Garden

The W.J. Beal Botanical Garden dates back to 1873, making it the oldest continuously operating university botanical garden in the U.S. This outdoor garden is located near the Red Cedar River and features over 2,000 plants from around the globe. 

Whether you’re a plant enthusiast or not, it’s always a calming experience to walk through the garden, which is now listed on the Michigan State Register of Historic Places.

Wharton Center, East Lansing, Michigan

24. Wharton Center

I grew up seeing shows at the Wharton Center, the largest performing arts center in Michigan and home to the Lansing Symphony Orchestra. This venue, which first opened in 1982 with the Chicago Symphony, has attracted hundreds of broadway hits and sold-out shows over the years. 

The Wharton Center is a testament to MSU’s longtime commitment to the arts, offering a place to see both up-and-coming and seasoned artists show off their talents.

Check out the current performance line-up here.

Outdoor attractions in Lansing

25. Hawk Island Park

Hawk Island is one of Lansing’s most popular public parks, located on Cavanaugh Road between Pennsylvania Avenue and Aurelius Road. The park features a swimming beach, picnic areas and shelters, 1.5 miles of paved walkways, a playground, volleyball courts, and more.

Note there is a $5 vehicle entrance fee to enter Hawk Island year-round.

26. Potter Park Zoo

Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo is open 364 days a year and is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, especially with kids. It’s not a large zoo but still has a decent variety of animals, including lions, tigers, foxes, rhinos, red pandas, and leopards.

You can purchase tickets online or on site. During the off season from November-March, admission only costs $5 for adults and $4 for kids ages 3-12 (under 3 are free). From April-October, admission increases to $8 for resident adults and $15 for non-residents ($5 for kids ages 3-12).

River Trail, Lansing, Michigan

27. Lansing River Trail

For a scenic way to explore Lansing, walk or bike along the 20-mile River Trail. You’ll come across many of the attractions mentioned in this post. 

Start the trail from Turner-Dodge House in Old Town in the north. As you travel south, you’ll see the Brenke Fish Ladder, Lansing’s indoor farmers market, the Impression 5 Science Center, and R.E. Olds Transportation Museum before arriving at Potter Park Zoo. 

Eventually you’ll get to the confluence of the Grand River and Red Cedar River. Continue on the main trail along the Red Cedar and you’ll arrive at MSU’s campus. 

Click here to learn more about the Lansing River Trail and see the trail map.

28. Fenner Nature Center

Fenner Nature Center consists of 134 acres of public green space, including four miles of trails through the woods with ponds, overlooks, and special areas like the Monarch House and Story Trail.

Check out the Visitor Center to find collections of live native reptiles and amphibians, watch songbirds, see deer and wild turkeys, and explore other hands-on exhibits.

This park is free to the public and open every day from 8 a.m. until dusk.

29. Granger Park

Granger Meadows Park is one of my favorite recreational areas in Lansing. I grew up sledding down the giant hill here. 

This 76-acre park has something for everyone, including paved trails, a softball diamond, basketball court, koi pond, playground, picnic pavilions with grills, and more. 

It’s the perfect place to have a picnic and enjoy being outdoors. Best of all, this place is completely free.

Delicious food at Jolly Pumpkin in East Lansing, Michigan

Yummy eats at Jolly Pumpkin in East Lansing

Best restaurants in Lansing

You might be surprised by the variety of restaurants Lansing has to offer. Lansing isn’t a giant city, but it has a diverse population, meaning you can find a little bit of everything.

Here are some of the best restaurants to try during your time in Lansing:

Meat BBQ: As the name suggests, this restaurant is a meat lover’s paradise. Located in Old Town, this is a great place to enjoy some barbecue.

Lansing Brewing Company: Enjoy casual food and drinks in a laid-back atmosphere. This is a great place to go if you’re attending a Lugnuts game, as it’s right next to Jackson Field.

The Creole: This is your place to find good southern cooking. Their slogan is “Burgers. Beignets. Bourbon.”

Sansu: This is one of the best sushi places in the area. They have a large selection and good portion sizes.

Jolly Pumpkin: This hotspot is close to MSU campus and has great all-American food with a bit of a twist. Try their South Pacific pizza and truffle fries.

Thai Princess: My favorite Thai place in the Lansing area. Their basil chicken is the best.

Persis: My favorite Indian place in the Lansing area. They serve an incredible lunch buffet.

Blondie’s Barn: This family-owned restaurant is a great place to find comfort food for breakfast or lunch. Their Country Scramble and Belgian Waffles are amazing.

Dusty’s Cellar: I’ve heard rave reviews about this place. I’ve never been here for a meal, but have had several of their cakes and they are to die for.

Soup Spoon Cafe: This is a cute cafe on Michigan Avenue, not far from the Capitol. I always like getting their soup flight when I come here so I can sample more than one of their delicious soups.

The People’s Kitchen: I’ve not been here yet, but my cousin says it’s delicious! It’s more on the swanky side.

Crunchy’s: This is a popular burger joint close to MSU campus.

Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern: I like the rustic, moody vibe of this place. A great spot to grab an evening drink and a selection of food items, including duckfat fries and pizza.

Pablo’s: Also in Old Town, this Mexican restaurant has delicious, authentic eats.

Bravo!: This is my favorite Italian restaurant in the area, located in Eastwood Towne Center, an outlet mall with a nice selection of stores.

Best places to stay in Lansing

Here are some of the top-rated hotels to stay during your time in Lansing:

📍DoubleTree by Hilton: Centrally located and a close walk from the Lansing Capitol.

📍The Graduate: A newer, modern hotel within walking distance of MSU campus.

📍Crowne Plaza: This four-star hotel is a short drive from MSU campus.

📍The English Inn: If you’re looking for something elegant and historic, this charming inn is for you. (Their restaurant is great, too.)

📍Wild Goose Inn: A unique bed and breakfast a short walking distance from MSU campus.


Is Lansing, Michigan worth visiting?

Yes, Lansing is a great place to visit! Whether you’re looking to spend time outdoors, learn history, see a show, try new restaurants, or tour MSU’s campus, there are plenty of things to see and do during your time here.

What is Lansing famous for?

Lansing is probably most famous as the birthplace of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Oldsmobile cars, as well as the home of Michigan State University. 

Many people throughout Michigan and surrounding states also associate Lansing with its festivals throughout the year, such as the Capital City Film Festival and Silver Bells in the City.

Is Lansing a walkable city?

Like most mid-size midwestern cities, it’s recommended to have a car if you want to see different parts of the city, as Lansing doesn’t have an intricate public transportation system like you’d see in larger cities. 

However, once you park, say in downtown Lansing near the Capitol, you can easily walk around and see other nearby attractions. The same thing goes for Michigan State University. Once you arrive there, the campus is very walkable. 

It’s also worth noting that the Lansing River Trail is a great way to see key parts of the city, and it’s biker and pedestrian-friendly.

What food is Lansing known for?

I’m not sure if Lansing is “known” for any particular food. (I say this, having grown up here.) But Lansing does boast a diverse food scene, with all sorts of ethnic and regional varieties to try. Scroll up for a list of some of the best restaurants in the area!

Conclusion: Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

Whether you’re visiting Lansing for work or for pleasure, I hope I’ve convinced you that this city has a lot to offer. It’s no New York or Chicago, but I personally enjoy seeing smaller U.S. cities and becoming pleasantly surprised by what I find there. Lansing is no exception!

Have a great time in the Mitten!

You may also be interested in:

Similar Posts