Centrally located, the Greater Lansing area is within a 90-minute drive of 90 percent of Michigan’s population. The location makes it an easily accessible weekend getaway, and with 4.8 million visitors annually, the city has a lot to keep its visitors busy.
Things To Do In Lansing
Lansing’s activities focus on the three Cs: the Capitol, cars, and campus. Lansing is Michigan’s capital city and the center of state government. For automotive history buffs, Oldsmobile manufactured over 14 million vehicles in Lansing. East Lansing is the home to Michigan State University, the nation’s pioneer land-grant university. While today the university still focuses on agriculture, you’ll also find a strong emphasis on the arts, art museums, and performing art centers, including the Broad and the Wharton Center.
Visit The Michigan State Capitol Building
Located in downtown Lansing, the Michigan State Capitol is a designated National Historic Landmark and was designed after the Nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. Walking through the doors, you’re stepping back to the Victorian era, when they painted inexpensive materials like cast iron, plaster, and pine to look similar to more expensive materials like walnut and marble. The building offers docent-led tours and self-guided tours are available as well.
Discover Lansing’s Automotive History
The 25,000-square-foot single-story R.E. Olds Transportation Museum is the only Oldsmobile museum in the world. Located on Museum Drive near the center of downtown Lansing, it features over 65 vehicles, from the 1886 Oldsmobile Steam Carriage through some of the last Oldsmobiles to roll off the line.
Speed is an underlying museum theme: The REO Speedwagon, the Rocket Engine, and a 1954 NASCAR race car are on display. The cars from the collection rotate, so not every vehicle is always available for viewing. Call before you visit if you’re interested in seeing a particular vehicle.
Another area favorite for automotive enthusiasts is the Michigan History Center, located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center building downtown. While the museum includes exhibits from a walk through a copper mine to a one-room schoolhouse, car lovers will enjoy the 1957 Detroit Auto Show Exhibit, an early horseless carriage, and manufacturing exhibits.
Investigate Impression 5 Science Center
Sitting next to the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, it’s convenient to visit both venues together. The five in Impression 5 Science Center refers to the five senses, and the science center engages all of them. A unique fact about the science center is that the Impression 5 team designs and develops their exhibits to allow multi-generational families to grow their understanding of science together.
The Impression 5 team believes families of all ages should learn about science together. At the hands-on Throwing Things exhibit, the entire family can explore kinetic energy. While the kiddos perfect their pitching arm, Grandpa can help a younger child build and test paper airplanes. At the same time, Grandma and the three-year-old can practice throwing. And those are just a few of the interactive experiences available!
Enjoy The Eli And Edythe Broad Art Museum
Located on Michigan State University’s campus, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum’s accordion-pleated steel structure sits among more traditional ivy-covered brick buildings. Architect Zaha Hadid designed the museum to be a contemporary art piece as much as the works inside. The exhibits are constantly changing, and admission is free.
Explore The Lansing River Trail
For outdoor enthusiasts, the Lansing River Trail offers 16 miles of paved trails for hiking and biking. It winds through downtown Lansing, Old Town, and the campus area. If you’d like to explore Lansing and some of the stops mentioned, River Town Adventures near downtown Rotary Park rents bikes, canoes, and kayaks.
Art enthusiasts will enjoy the three-and-a-half mile ARTpath along the Lansing River Trail with over 20 art installations.
Sip Through The Makers And Shakers Trail
The Makers and Shakers Trail winds throughout the Greater Lansing area and has stops featuring craft beer, wine, and spirits. Visit over a dozen stops, collecting stamps along the way, and you’ll receive a gift. Some downtown Lansing venues include Lansing Brewing Company, Midtown Brewing Company, American Fifth Spirits, Lansing’s first distillery, and Multigrain Distillery.
Best Restaurants In Lansing
Although Lansing isn’t known for a particular food or cuisine, the city does have a wide variety of offerings, from an Ethiopian restaurant to traditional American comfort food. Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has featured several local restaurants.
Soup Spoon Cafe
Soup Spoon Cafe, located on East Michigan Avenue between downtown and East Lansing, features soup, salads, and sandwiches. However, they also offer a variety of pasta, game, and seafood choices.
The chef makes several soups every day. French onion soup and seafood chowder are always on the menu. On any given day, they have a seasonal soup, a vegan soup, and a broth-based soup as well. If choosing between the various soups is too tricky, don’t. Try the soup flight. Select four soups to create the flight, served with French bread; it makes a great light lunch.
Meat Southern BBQ And Carnivore Cuisine
Located in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, Meat, a Southern-style barbeque joint, is genuinely all about the meat. You won’t find lettuce or desserts on the menu. What you will find is meat that’s been dry-rubbed and slow-smoked in cedar for up to 18 hours, including beef brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, Texas hot links, wings, and turkey. They offer six house-made sauces to complement the meat. I love the slightly fruity cherry bomb sauce with a kick. They also provide a sweet and tangy, somewhat spicy, tomato-centered Jazzy Q sauce and four other sauces.
You’ll find traditional barbeque sides with a twist. Try the Jalapeno Cilantro Slaw or the award-winning, made-to-order mac and cheese.
Located in Lansing’s Old Town neighborhood, The Cosmos makes pizza in a wood-fired oven -- resulting in slightly charred edges on a crispy crust. The crust is kept moist by a brush of olive oil as it’s taken from the oven.
The Cosmos focuses on appetizers, salads, and pizza and does them exceedingly well. Here, it’s about house-made dough, sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta.
The Cosmos features a daily mystery flavor -- the Trust Us. When ordering the Trust Us, expect the chef to make you something extraordinary. What you’re getting is a secret until it arrives at your table, but you can advise your server of any allergies ahead of time.
Deluca’s Pizza, located on Lansing’s west side, is a Lansing institution. While DeLuca’s is a complete Italian restaurant, everyone knows them for the pizza -- a medium-thick crust pizza with generous cheese and toppings.
Add a salad to your meal because DeLuca’s is known for its house-made dressings. You won’t want to miss one of these: Italian, Balsamic Italian, Bleu Cheese, Ranch, or 1000 Island. Other Italian favorites include the manicotti made with house-made crepes and lasagna. Try the house-made chocolate cake and Italian dessert specialties, like spumoni ice cream, a challenge to find elsewhere in Lansing.
Best Places To Stay In Lansing
Lansing has various lodging options. Pick your accommodations based on the sites you plan to visit over your weekend stay.
Radisson Hotel Lansing At The Capitol
The only hotel in downtown Lansing is the Radisson. They have a complimentary shuttle from the Capital Region International Airport (LAN). This full-service hotel has 256 rooms and several suites. If you plan to explore the downtown area for the weekend, the hotel is within walking distance of the Capitol. They have many amenities like free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool with a whirlpool to relax after a long day. The on-site restaurant and lounge, Capital City Grille and Lounge, offers contemporary American cuisine in an upscale atmosphere.
Wild Goose Inn Bed And Breakfast
Located less than 100 yards from Michigan State University’s campus, Wild Goose Inn has six seasonally themed guest rooms. Each includes an in-room jacuzzi and fireplace. They serve a three-course breakfast with table service. Weather permitting, you’ll enjoy breakfast on their courtyard patio.
The English Inn
Located 20 minutes from downtown Lansing, The English Inn in Eaton Rapids sits along the Grand River banks with beautiful park-like grounds. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the charm of the English Inn. Built in 1927 for former general manager and president of the Oldsmobile Corporation Irving Jacob Reuter, the Tudor Revival-style inn has rooms in the main house and recently added cottages. The inn is also a fine dining restaurant, and on the garden level, they offer pub-style service.
Sleepy Hollow State Park
If you prefer camping to hotels, the 2,600-acre Sleepy Hollow State Park is a local favorite for camping. Located in Laingsburg, about a 30-minute drive from Lansing, you’ll find 181 modern campsites, one modern cabin, and one rustic. The 410-acre Lake Ovid offers fishing and boating. A 16-mile hiking trail and a 12.5-mile horseback riding trail all add to the outdoor fun.
Pro Tip: May through September is the best time to visit the Greater Lansing area when the warm weather months will allow you to enjoy the outdoor activities. Lansing’s rich automotive history means you’ll most likely need a car to explore the area thoroughly.
Here are a few of our other Michigan-specific recommendations!
- For a beachy getaway: 9 Quaint Michigan Beach Towns You Must Visit
- For winter fun: 8 Best Experiences At Marquette, Michigan’s Dogsled Races
- For a lake adventure: The Best Things To Do In Saugatuck, MI: Where To Stay, Eat, And Play