Most people know Lansing is Michigan’s capital city and has an automotive heritage. But here are some fun details about Lansing that are sure to make you want to visit. In the meantime, these fun facts will come in handy at your next cocktail party, Trivial Pursuit game or Jeopardy challenge. If you live in Lansing, you may even be surprised by some of these.
1. Centrally Located in Lansing, Michigan
Lansing is centrally located and within 90 minutes of 90% of the state’s population, so Lansing is not only a great place to explore on its own, but it’s also a fantastic base for day trips throughout the southern half of the lower peninsula. You can make a day trip to Grand Rapids or many west coast beach towns for a fun day at the beach. Detroit is another place to explore with museums and restaurants. The Saginaw, Bay City area is another excellent day trip. Get out your Michigan map and draw a circle of all the places within 90 minutes of Lansing, and you’ll be surprised all of Michigan you can explore with Lansing as a home base.
2. Speed Demons
The 1980s band REO Speedwagon got its name and logo from the truck built in Lansing. You can check out a couple of versions of this truck at the RE Olds Transportation Museum, located in downtown Lansing. Another fun fact is it is the only Oldsmobile museum in the world.
Behind yellow “CAUTION” tape, the museum’s rear wall features a tribute to Lansing’s First Responders. The shiny red 1938 REO Speedwagon fire truck is on display. Other REO Speedwagons at the museum include the 1923 REO Speedwagon Flat Bed.
3. Capitol Building
Michigan’s state capitol building, located in Lansing, is the only state capitol building designated as a National Historic Landmark. Michigan is also the only state in the union that has a capital that’s not the county seat. Michigan’s capital is Lansing; however, the county seat is in Mason.
While officially Michigan’s Victorian-era capitol building is for government, it is as much an art installment as any art museum. With nine acres of hand-painted ceilings, walls, columns, and woodwork, artistic talents were at work in the construction. Look closely at the walnut woodwork and marble columns; most likely, you won’t be able to notice it’s painted pine and cast iron. Guided tours leave regularly from the Information Desk or request the booklet and take a self-guided tour.
4. Tallest Building
Boji Tower, the tallest building in Lansing, Michigan is 345 feet tall and 23 stories. Oldsmobile founder R.E. Olds financed the construction, initially called Olds Tower, completed in 1931. The building became the Michigan National Tower and has since been renamed Boji Tower for the building’s current owners.
5. Rare Black Rhinos
When it opened in 1920 as the Potter Park Zoological Garden, it was the first zoo in Michigan. Today, one of Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo’s primary goals is conservation. You don’t need to travel the world to see endangered species; you can find them at the zoo.
Helping Rhinos, an international rhino charity, estimates that today’s black rhinos population is approximately 5,630. Lansing’s Potter Park Zoo has two of these critically endangered black rhinos. The mother, Doppsee, a 12-year-old, and a male calf born in 2019, named Jaali.
6. Famous Women from Lansing, Michigan
Rosie, the Riveter on the “We Can Do It” poster, promoted women working in manufacturing during World War II. The woman on that poster was Lansing resident Geraldine Doyle. To find out more about Geraldine and other women in Michigan history, visit the Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame. In 1983 the Michigan Women’s Studies Association created the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1987 they opened the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame. It was the first U. S. museum to focus on women’s achievements, commonly referred to as “Herstory.” Admission is free.
7. Hands-On Science
The five, in Impression 5 Science Center, refers to the five senses and engages families with children from birth to age twelve with active elements accessible to various heights, abilities, and language comprehension. Hold the wand, wave it, and hear the bubble POP! at the Bubble exhibit. Explore the human mouth’s workings and our sense of taste at the Chew on This exhibit. Create a life-size light mosaic and see the color spectrum.
Impression 5 engages the whole family to stay together during their visit. In the hands-on Throwing Things exhibit, the entire family explores kinetic and potential energy. While pre-teens perfect their pitching arm, Dad helps the six-year-old build and experiment with paper airplanes. Mom and the three-year-old practice throwing in the Play Space.
8. Ancestral Travel
The Archives of Michigan, located inside the Michigan Library and Historical Center, contains one of the nation’s ten largest genealogy collections. The Michigan Historical Center also has a museum dedicated to Michigan’s history. While you’re at the archives, be sure to check out the museum where you can’t have a Michigan historical museum without an exhibit about cars. The Michigan History Museum’s exhibition depicts the 1957 Detroit Auto Show, featuring a shiny red Corvette convertible and a beige and white Plymouth Fury.
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9. Radisson Hotel Lansing at the Capitol
Until recently the Radisson Hotel Lansing at the Capitol was the only hotel in downtown Lansing. If you’re planning on visiting the Capitol Building, the RE Olds Transportation Museum, or Impression 5, this Lansing hotel is the perfect location, as these venues are all within walking distance.
10. Contemporary Art
The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum contains no right angles. The accordion-pleated steel and glass of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is a contemporary art museum; the building itself is much a work of art as the exhibits inside. The displays regularly rotate, so every visit offers something new. The Broad shows a variety of art forms, including video, film, and live performances. Outdoor sculptures allow you to enjoy the art even when the museum isn’t open. The first Saturday each month is Family Day, where makers can create their art projects. Admission is free.
11. Botanical Garden
Located on Michigan State University’s campus, W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest continuously operating botanical garden. Situated on the five-acre grounds, you’ll find more than 5,000 plant species that you can explore for free.
12. Wild Goose Inn
If your visit takes you closer to East Lansing, you’ll want to stay at the Wild Goose Inn. The fun fact here is that Travel + Leisure named the Wild Goose Inn, one of America’s Top College Hotels. This inn has two buildings, one of which they built in the late 1800s, and is one of the oldest buildings in East Lansing.
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