10 Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

Greater Lansing, Michigan

Centrally located in Michigan, Lansing is 90 minutes from 90% of the state’s population, making it an excellent destination for a Michigander’s weekend getaway. And with all the things to do the city has to offer, those from outside of Michigan will find plenty to keep busy for a more extended stay. Greater Lansing is famous for the three Cs, cars, the capital, and the campus at Michigan State University. Although almost half a million people call the Greater Lansing area home, Lansing offers a small-town atmosphere while featuring ample city comforts.

While the book 100 Things to Do in Lansing Before You Die offers ten times this number, here is an excerpt of ten things to do in Lansing, Michigan, to get you started.

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Food and Drink

Saddleback Barbeque in Okemos

Saddleback BBQ

Saddleback BBQ (#17) is a hand-crafted, Southern BBQ shop specializing in four types of meat—back ribs, brisket, pulled pork shoulder, and chicken quarters. With this BBQ you could add a fourth C, culinary to the list of things to do in Lansing. The BBQ is personalized; a sign tells you which employee stayed on-site all night to watch over the reverse-flow smoker, nicknamed “the Beast.” It ensures that they tend the meat throughout the four- to 12-hour cooking process. The wood ranges from mesquite and hickory to Michigan fruit-tree woods such as cherry and apple. Food Network named Saddleback’s Rib Sandwich one of the best sandwiches in America. They smoke the pound-and-a-half half-rack of ribs until the meat falls off the bones. It is one of the best, added to a sub-style bun, coated with the house sweet-and-savory BBQ sauce, then topped with purple onions and house-made pickles.

Lansing Brewing Company

Lansing’s beer story began in 1898 when Lawrence Price, a local businessman and police chief, opened Lansing Brewing Company (#27). They made their mark with the Amber Cream Ale, a favorite with local laborers wanting a cold one after a hard day’s work. Unfortunately, growing public support for Prohibition led to the brewery’s closing in 1914. Time-travel forward 100 years to 2015, when they reopened as the only full-scale production brewery in Lansing. While they still offer the signature Amber Cream Ale, you’ll also find their other signature brews on draft: the Angry Mayor, an American IPA; the Union Golden Lager, an American Light; the Peninsula Pils, a Pilsner; and the Velvet Villain, a Porter. The brewery’s extensive menu includes dishes made with beer. The Great White North Poutine starts with crispy fries, they layer on smoked pork, white cheddar cheese curds, and a gravy made with their signature Amber Cream Ale. They top it all off with a sunny-side-up egg.

Music and Entertainment

High Caliber Karting and Entertainment

Jump into the middle of the action at High Caliber Karting and Entertainment (#36). The indoor space offers a good time, no matter the weather. The electric race karts imported from Italy offer 50-mile-per-hour speeds—without fumes. These aren’t bumper cars; they’re racing karts. High Caliber offers two tracks: one longer with a straighter track for the maximum speeds, and a slightly shorter track with more turns, to improve your technical know-how. The virtual-reality racing simulator is another way to try out your racing skills. Grab a flannel shirt and channel your inner lumberjack to try your hand at ax throwing, where each session includes instructions from their “Axperts.” Did you lose? Let loose of your frustration and smash stuff in the Rage Room. Top off the experience with arcade games, a drink at the bar, some appetizers, and pizza.

Concerts Around Town

Plan your weeks throughout the summer to include almost-daily free concerts throughout the Greater Lansing area (#47). Bring a blanket, a lawn chair, and a picnic meal to listen to the music. Each of these concerts has free admission. Shows at the Eastwood Town Center and Lake Lansing Park South have the most effortless free parking. Lake Lansing Park South opens to free access beginning at 6:00 p.m. For the kids, entry to play on inflatables is free. For Lansing Parks and Recreation concert series, in case of rain, concerts will take place at the exact location and time the next day. The rainout line is 517-483-6019.

Sports and Recreation

Players at Lansing Lugnuts Game

Lansing Lugnuts at Jackson® Field™

Jackson® Field™ (#50) is home to the Lansing Lugnuts, Lansing’s Minor League baseball team, a High-A Central League Eastern Division affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. 2021 celebrates the Lugnuts’ 25th season. Over the years, the team has won two Midwest League championships and supplied the Major League with 154 players, like Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette. In addition to baseball, a lot’s going on during the game, and themed days add to the fun. Every Sunday is Kids Day, where kids run the bases and play catch on the field. In addition, they offer the Dog Days of summer on Wednesdays, when you can bring your dog to enjoy the game. You’ll find hot dog and T-shirt cannons at every game, inflatables in the Kid Zone, and competitions where spectators participate between innings. The Lugnuts frequently feature post-game fireworks, and a Lugnuts game is the place to be on the Fourth of July.

Lansing River Trail

With 17 miles of trails, the Lansing River Trail (#58) offers a path to Lansing’s artsy neighborhoods, like Old Town and Reo Town. The course outlines the banks of the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers and is perfect for running, biking, and inline skating. In addition, it will lead you to Michigan State University and Lansing’s historic venues. For sustenance along the way, you’ll find restaurants throughout the trek and breweries and distilleries in the Stadium District. The trail goes through marshlands and fields, providing opportunities for viewing wildlife like deer and turkeys. Parks, including Rotary Park, Hawk Island Park, and Potter Park, offer pleasant places to rest throughout the Route.

History and Culture

R. E. Olds Transportation Museum

Lansing was the hub of an Oldsmobile car culture that produced over 14 million automobiles. In its 107-year history, the company made more than 35 million Oldsmobiles—but there’s only one Oldsmobile Museum in the world: the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum (#70). Located in downtown Lansing, the 25,000 square-foot, single-story museum features over 60 vehicles, from the 1886 Oldsmobile Steam Carriage, the first Oldsmobile ever produced, to some of the last Oldsmobiles to roll off the line. You’ll also find an extensive collection of Oldsmobile memorabilia, like furniture from the Olds family home, early industrial gas and steam engines, and lawnmowers, as Olds was always tinkering with machines. The museum rotates cars on display; call before visiting if you are interested in a specific vehicle.

Michigan State Capitol Building

Michigan State Capitol Building

While Michigan’s Victorian-era capitol (#72) is a government building, it could be mistaken for an art museum. With nine acres of hand-painted ceilings, columns, walls, and woodwork, artistic talents are definitely on display. Examine the marble columns and walnut woodwork. You probably won’t notice that the elements are painted pine and cast iron. The door hinges and doorknobs display the Michigan coat of arms, and the chandeliers include its elk and shield.

Architect Elijah E. Myers won the commission for the building because he stayed within the $1.2 million budget while designing a fireproof building and still majestic enough to be Michigan’s state capitol. Hour-long guided tours leave from the Information Desk, or you can request the booklet and take a self-guided tour

Shopping and Fashion

Old Town General Store

Old Town General Store

Before you head home, you’ll want to grab some official Michigan products to remember some flavors you’ve enjoyed in the Mitten State. Or maybe you’re a local who wants to buy products made in Michigan. In either case, you’ll want to stop in at the Old Town General Store (#94), where they specialize in locally sourced specialty foods, Michigan-themed gifts, and custom gift baskets. They also offer wine from the Great Lakes State. The Old Town General Store has the warmth of a traditional general store, while its progressive approach to foods emphasizes organic and sustainable products sourced from Michigan suppliers.

MSU Dairy Store

Among the features of Michigan State University (MSU), a world-renowned agricultural college is the MSU Dairy Store (#91). The store uses milk produced from on-campus farms to make ice cream and cheese. The choices vary; an ice cream featuring Michigan cherries was on the menu the night we stopped in. Chocolate-covered Michigan cherries swirled throughout pure vanilla ice cream was the perfect way to cool down on a warm summer night. MSU Dagano makes an ideal choice for the cheese plate. Reminiscent of Gouda and Edam’s Dutch cheeses, the MSU dairy plant invented MSU Dagano. It’s a brined, semi-soft cheese with a mild flavor. Like a Swiss, it ages for eight weeks and forms round holes or eyes during aging, contributing to Dagano’s look.

Buy this book from Amazon 100 Things to Do in Lansing Before You Die.

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    7 Comments

    1. Michelle

      Lansing looks like such a charming town. I would love to shop at the boutique shops and check out the brewery!

      Reply
    2. Kelly

      I’ve been to many cities in Michigan but not Lansing. I didn’t even know it was the state capital. I would have thought Detroit was. I will have to visit one day. I would love to tour the government buildings

      Reply
    3. Agnes

      I haven’t been to Lansing yet, but I plan a road trip to Michigan. So I will add this city to my list. Great attractions. I would like to visit R. E. Olds Transportation Museum and Old Town General Store. And I would love to use the restaurant’s recommendations like Saddleback BBQ and Lansing Brewing Company.

      Reply
    4. Kavita Favelle

      I’m still yet to visit Michigan so now I know to include Lansing in our itinerary when we do. We are suckers for a city with great food and local beer, and after that, I’m on to the historical sights. I think the transportation museum would interest both of us!

      Reply
      • Shelly

        I live in Michigan and I have NEVER heard of the Dairy at MSU. I can’t wait to check it out.

        Reply
    5. Sage Scott

      Lansing sounds like a beautiful place to visit. I’ve really only spent time (and then mostly for work) in the suburbs of Detroit. Your capitol is GORGEOUS!

      Reply
    6. Stephen Winquist

      The Peanut Shop is on my list to not be missed.

      Reply

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    Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

    Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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