The capital of the Great Lakes state of Michigan, the city of Lansing is filled with unique things to see and do.
Going under the radar of many tourists, Lansing brims with hidden gems and attractions – many of which are known to locals but otherwise receive modest attention. Home to Michigan State University, the city is a hotbed of art, culture and sport, driven by its student population, while a a winding river trail makes for scenic nature walks. Little wonder that so many notable residents have called the city home down the years, including the likes of Malcolm X, Stevie Wonder (who attended Michigan’s School for the Blind), Magic Johnson and Burt Reynolds. Here are 14 unique ways to spend your time in Lansing.
Play a board game
Hang out with family and friends or make new friends at Grand Ledges’ Homebrew Tabletop Game Lounge. Bring your own board game or rent one of the hundreds of games available at the lounge and play on the custom-made gaming tables. The staff will help set up and teach games. They serve snacks and drinks and host happy hours and date night packages. Throughout the week, they host tournaments, tutorial sessions and role-playing game campaigns. Three different colors of 6-inch people-shaped pawns are available for each table to announce whether they are looking for more players, are in the middle of a game but willing to teach or don’t want to be interrupted. Types of games range from “adult swim” to classics to family friendly to complex strategy and war games. But they don’t have Monopoly.
Homebrew Tabletop Game Lounge 219 ½ North Bridge Street, Grand Ledge / Tues-Thurs 4pm-11 pm Fri-Sat 12pm-12am Sun 12pm-8pm
Hike the Ledges
If you’re looking to do something at a place that’s been around longer than the lounge, travel to the 300-million-year-old 60-foot, sandstone sedimentary rock outcroppings known as the Ledges. These breathtaking geographic formations hug the shores of the Grand River and you can observe them on 2.5-mile boardwalk hikes through the 78-acre Fitzgerald Park. A place that migrant Indian tribes used to travel through to tap sugar maples in early spring, it later became home to the Grand Ledge Spiritualist Camp Association in 1894. IN 1919, the land became a public park. In addition to the ledges, there are basketball and baseball courts, cross-country ski trails, disc golf, fishing, playgrounds, pavilions and a summer theater. While you are doing the park scene in Grand Ledge, nearby Jaycee Park has a Sound Garden where you can play music on the Flowerbells and the Slap-Pipes sculptures.
The Ledges at Fitzgerald Park 100 Fitzgerald Park Drive, Grand Ledge / All-year-round sunrise to sunset
Pet a Cat
There are lots of great places to get coffee in the Greater Lansing area, but at the Constellation Cat Café, you can also play with cats while you do so. Designed to be a safe and inclusive environment for felines and humans to hang out together. There is a large cat room with windows from the coffee shop for those who just want to watch the cats, or you can rent time in the room to play with the cats. They host trivia, craft sessions and other events. Don’t worry if you fall in love with one of the six to 20 cats in the room. The café partners with local animal rescue shelters and you can adopt nearly any of the cats.
3320 East Lake Lansing Road, Suite F, East Lansing / Mon-Thurs 12pm-8pm Fri-Sat 9am-8pm Sun 9am-6pm
Throw an axe
Sure, most cities have shooting ranges or putt-putt golfing, but in Lansing, you can spend your afternoon throwing battle axes and knives. Bull’s Eye Axe Throwing (B.E.A.T.) welcomes both professional enthusiasts—yes, it is an official, legitimate sport—or newbies to spend an afternoon or even to throw a divorce party. They’re committed to welcoming everyone, and they designed their space to be wheelchair accessible. Their lanes and rules align with the World Axe Throwing League and are filled with safety features to make sure everyone has a good time and no one dies. Professional Axe Masters work with both individual and groups. You must be at least 8 years old, high heels aren’t allowed and you can bring your own axe as long as it is inspected and approved.
3232 South Washington Avenue / By appointment only
Catch a ballgame
While there are many opportunities for sports enthusiasts to participate and watch just about any sport, especially at the nearby Big Ten university of Michigan State, there is nothing quite like the experience of a minor-league baseball game where the focus is on fun and access is still more affordable than some of the professional and college options. The Lansing Lugnuts, affiliates of the Oakland As, have become an iconic downtown fixture. You can even live in townhomes that surround the field. Home games draw fans from all over and regular fireworks from the stadium light up the summer sky. Throughout the year they host, Scout campouts on the field, golf tournaments and meetings and special events in their stadium-view suites.
Lugnuts Jackson Field, 505 East Michigan Avenue / Spring through early fall
Absorb some art
Lansing has an incomparable art scene from independent galleries to multiple theaters to world-renowned jazz players. You can catch a carillon concert on campus or see national touring shows at the Wharton Center. There are more than 20 theaters performing throughout Greater Lansing from the resident Equity house Williamston Theatre to community theaters such as Riverwalk Theatre, Starlight Theatre and Evolve Theatrics. There is so much demand that a local church recently cut ribbons on a community performing arts center, Stage One, which will host Ixion Ensemble and Peppermint Creek Theatre and Hope Central Urban Arts as permanent residents. It will open its 100-200 seat space to other organizations seeking an affordable space.
2200 Lake Lansing Road / Hours vary based on performances
Grab a Scoop
In 1867, the first cow arrived at the country’s first land-grand institution, what is now Michigan State University. In 1913, it built a plant dedicated to dairy manufacturing and in 1955, Anthony Hall, home to the MSU Dairy was built. Given the history, it should surprise no one that MSU students have mad dairy skills and know how to make and serve the best ice cream and cheese for miles around. There’s always a line at the MSU Dairy, a place where you can get large scoops of ice cream in a rotating 13 flavors both traditional and themed, all made on campus in state-of-the-art facilities. As of 2022, they no longer accept cash. Depending on the day you go, you might be able to head to the observation deck and catch a demonstration of the dairy manufacturing. The cows are all south of campus and you won’t find them at the Dairy Store.
474 S. Shaw Lane, Room 1140, Michigan State University / Tues-Sun 12pm-9pm Closed Mon
Shop fresh food
Horrocks Farm Market is more than a grocery store, it’s a local attraction. Part nursery, part tavern, part florist, part candy shop, part beer garden, part concert venue, part bakery and part—well, almost anything you can dream of. The ever-expanding market has been in Lansing for more than 60 years and sells fresh produce, herbs, honey, meat, cheeses, international wines, groceries, specialty foods, freshly popped popcorn, gourmet ice cream and baked goods. There is an oil and vinegar bar, a place to buy hot meals or sushi and a lengthy salad and soup bar. While the lists of their offerings could go on and on, it’s the ultimate Lansing experience when it comes to food, casting such national brands as Costco or Whole Foods into the shadow.
Horrocks Farm Market, 7420 West Saginaw Highway/ Mon-Sun 7am-10pm
Build community while imbibing coffee
Lansing loves its local coffee shops. They’re so popular that for a while Starbucks could only be found near campus because the city was home to the Michigan chain of Biggby’s and had such local favorites as Strange Matter Coffee and Blue Owl Coffee. They also love their bookstores as is seen in such independent hot spots as Everybody Reads, Curious Book Shop, Triple Goddess Bookstore and Deadtime Stories. So perhaps it was only a matter of time before someone put those concepts together in a new and intriguing way. Hooked is a coffee shop, bookstore and wine bar. Their goal is to foster community, to encourage people to come in and read, socialize or work. They have a shelf of games you can borrow that get pulled out on their game nights. If you can’t decide among their many choices for coffee, tea or wine, not to worry—they have flights of each available. They host numerous events including a double-pronged weekly event in which children enjoy storytime and their parents get to sip on wine flights in another part of the store.
3142 East Michigan Avenue / Sun-Tues 9am-7pm Weds-Thurs 9am-9pm Fri-Sat 9am-11pm
After many attempts at a city farm market, the City of Lansing redid this downtown space and opened one of the newest and trendiest of Lansing food offerings: the Lansing Shuffle. Located on the riverfront, the food hall and social club is a 15,000-square-foot space that includes shuffleboard courts, a large patio and several restaurants. Partnering with five local chefs in 2023 to install what they call “elevated street food,” options include recipes from the Himalayans, Italian subcultures, the Caribbean, and southeast Asia. When you’re ready for desert you can indulge in small-batch ice cream of creative flavors or a boozy shake. Along one wall is the Grand Bar where they serve up craft cocktails, mocktails, wine and beer. Planned during the pandemic, it was designed to be a place for people to go when it was once again safe to gather.
325 Riverfront Drive / Tues-Thurs and Sun 11am-11pm. Fri-Sat 11am-12am
Visit Somewhere Special
Play in a garden. Lansing is filled with parks and botanical gardens, but tucked away in the middle of the campus is a particularly special one, one that opened in 1993, the 4-H Children’s Garden was the first garden focused on youth to be built on a university campus. With both an outdoor and indoor element, it offers hands-on science learning and nature appreciation to children of all ages who visit. It is filled with nearly 100 themed gardens designed to connect kids with plants and plenty of interactive activities from climbing to making music to wandering a hedge maze. One example of a themed garden is the 6-foot Pizza Garden shaped like a pizza with a piece cut out of it. In it are grown pizza ingredients including wheat, tomato, pepper, basil, oregano and chives. Other themes are drawn from art, teddy bears, the kitchen, storybooks, rainbows and countries around the world.
1066 Bogue Street / Sunup to sundown April-October
Spoil your animal friend
More than your run-of-the-mill pet store, Preuss Pets is a place with a purpose. A landmark in Old Town, Preuss Pets prides itself on building connections between animals and humans, helping creatures find homes where they will become a part of the family and be properly cared for. It starts with having a veterinarian on staff and working hard to make sure each animal adoption is the right fit. They have an extensive menagerie that includes reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, mice, bunnies, the occasional exotic breed and, yes, cats and dogs. They’re known for helping to set up and maintain aquariums throughout the Lansing area in commercial and residential settings. They’re also the go-to place for anyone looking to set up a pond or water garden as they have all the tools, chemicals and aquatic life. Nor are they a transactional store. Once a person adopts from Preuss Pets, the staff offers lifetime support and advice.
1127 North Cedar Street / Mon-Fri 12pm-7pm Sat 11am-7pm Sun 12pm-6pm
Watch jumping fish
A marvel of civil engineering, the Brenke Fish Ladder was built in 1981, a way for fish swimming up stream to complete their journey without getting mangled in the dam. It was designed to be both visually appealing and to provide a way for trout and salmon to make their 184-mile trek from Lake Michigan to the South Lansing Dam. Set just north of Old Town on the Grand River, it’s a contemplative spot to visit and take in nature while being lulled by the sounds of water flowing over the nearby dam. Set on the River Trail, there are fishing spots nearby – though fishing from the ladder is strictly forbidden – and there are hiking and biking trails and the occasional outdoor concert.
The Brenke Fish Ladder, 216 East Grand River Avenue / Open all-year-round
Celebrate history and architecture
Considered one of the first large residential structures in what would become Michigan’s capital city, the Turner-Dodge House was built in 1858 by James and Marion Turner, a pioneer family that had arrived in 1834 and first lived in a tent. They and their descendants are credited with helping to establish Lansing. Later, the home would be leased by The Great Lakes Bible College before returning to city hands in 1972. The home, an example of Classical Revival architecture, It is now open to the public for tours, tea parties and special events. The three-story mansion sits outside Old Town and is a National Historic Registered Place.
100 East North Street / Tues-Thurs 1pm-7pm Closed Fri-Mon