Things to Do in Lansing: The Ultimate Pure Michigan Guide

By Pure Michigan September 27, 2023
Gilded roof of the Michigan capitol building.

Under the dome of Michigan capitol building in Lansing.

Michigan’s capital city is home to museums and sports arenas, bike paths and trendy restaurants. Stroll through a copper mine and look up at the stars, make some slime and remind yourself that REO Speedwagon was more than just a rock band. You’ll find it all in Lansing, the “Middle of the Mitten.”

1. Tour the State Capitol Building

Step back into the Victorian era with a visit to Michigan’s Capitol Building, set in the heart of downtown Lansing. Designed by acclaimed architect Elijah E. Myers during the Gilded Age (1865-1914), the Capitol Building incorporated more than nine acres of hand-painted surfaces in its construction, which took six years to complete and was dedicated to the citizens of Michigan in 1879. Join a guided tour or pick up a tour booklet at Information Services for a self-guided visit at your own pace.

2. Explore the Michigan History Museum

Explore Michigan’s rich history, from the days of its earliest human settlement to the Motown era, at the comprehensive 3-story Michigan History Museum. Prehistoric Native American tools, automobiles from the 1950s, a replica Upper Peninsula Copper Mine and exhibits recounting Michigan’s role in the nation’s manufacturing boom sit on display here, at the flagship of the Michigan History Museum System. Afterward, check out the Museum Store for great Michigan-made gift items.

3. Discover the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center

Discover the engaging Michigan Supreme Learning Center at the Hall of Justice. Pose with Lady Justice. Decide a case in the model courtroom with interactive A Day in Court games.  Then, go up to see the Michigan Supreme Court courtroom and get the city’s best view of the State Capitol.

4. Walk Amongst Public Art and Murals

Lansing claims four distinct arts districts, with galleries and sculpture walks ranging from the classic to the edgy. Downtown Lansing, just steps away from the Capitol Building, Lansing Community College’s Sculpture Walk features more than 600 works of art. A few blocks away, Old Town marks Lansing origins. The neighborhood seamlessly mixes the new and the old. Its historic buildings are adorned with brilliant contemporary murals; its shops sell new and vintage clothing;  and new and vintage stringed instruments are sold at Elderly Instruments. Up-and-coming REO Town, once the home of the R.E. Olds Motor Company, attracts a young crowd with its eclectic art and vibrant cafes and restaurants that spill out onto the sidewalks in summer. And in East Lansing, the astoundingly contemporary Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum building offers rotating contemporary art exhibitions in the heart of Michigan State University’s ivy-clad buildings.

5. Learn Through Hands-On Activities at Impression 5 Science Center

Play, create and challenge your understanding of science at Impression 5 Science Center, a hands-on museum encouraging visitors and families to be curious and learn together. Exhibits are geared to children and young people, beginning with the infant- and toddler-oriented First Impression Room. But even adults find themselves fascinated by the museum’s demonstrations of the physics of throwing things, electromagnetism and nanoscale science.

6. Cruise Back in Time at R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

Artifacts and documents trace the history of Lansing’s transportation industry from 1883 to the final production Oldsmobile from 2005. On display are a large collection of antique vehicles, including replicas of the original Oldsmobile steam carriage and electric vehicles, the REO Speedwagon, 2004 and 2005 Aleros, the last of the Oldsmobile line, and a host of vehicles in between. Also on exhibit are automotive accessories, aircraft and even a line of REO lawnmowers.

7. Enjoy the Festival City

Lansing may well be the Festival Capital of Michigan, with more than 60 events taking place across the city all year long. Highlights include the family-friendly Michigan Nordic Fire Festival in February, complete with a Viking ship-burning, spear-throwing competitions, fire dancers and a mead hall; Mighty Uke Day in May, a celebration of the ukulele with workshops and singalongs; and Michigan BluesFest in September, featuring free music from stages throughout Old Town.

8. Cheer on The Lansing Lugnuts

“Go Nuts!” with the Lugnuts, Lansing’s minor league baseball team. The Lugnuts offer an evening of affordable family fun in their home stadium, Cooley Law School Arena. Each April, the team kicks off the season with their Opening Day Celebration, a free street party for those with tickets and those without.

9. Trek the Lansing River Trail

Stroll, bicycle or run through the urban centers, prairies, wetlands or industrial area of Lansing and East Lansing. The 16 mile-long Lansing River Trail follows the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers from the Michigan State University campus to Potter Park Zoo, Lansing’s Old Town and beyond.

10. Celebrate Autism Awareness

Lansing’s citywide focus on neuro sensitivity has made the capital especially welcoming to visitors on the autism spectrum. Activities across the city include sensory-friendly astronomical shows at the Abrams Planetarium, concerts at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts and movies on the big screen at Celebration! Cinema.