With only a little over an hour’s drive from the Kalamazoo area, Lansing is a great destination to consider for a family day trip. In addition to the automobile museums, the State Capitol Building, Potter Park Zoo, MSU campus, Lansing offers a multitude of areas to explore that just may make your day trip an overnight one!
Lansing offers some educational spots that are sure to be a hit with the family – tour the State Capitol building, learn about the state’s history at the Michigan Historical Museum, and visit the campus of MSU.
For the history buffs, The Michigan Historical Museum offers a glimpse of Michigan’s past with exhibits that include interactive computers, audio-visual presentations and hands-on elements. I’ll admit, this wasn’t on my top list to see on our visit to Lansing and we only planned on a short time at the museum. However, our entire family loved this Museum! Our children kept begging to go in the next room to check it out. I would love to return sans children and spend more time reading all of the information in the exhibits. As we left, my 6-year old said “that was cool, cool, cool”. The Museum is open seven days a week. TIP: Sunday admission is free for ALL visitors. Check the website for admission pricing and times, along with special events planned. After you visit the museum, plan on a visit to the State Capitol, just a few blocks away!
The State Capitol building was completely restored in 1992 and the glass-floor rotunda and decorated hand-painted surfaces are sure to impress those of all ages. The view of the inner dome from the first floor is spectacular! Guided tours are available from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday and from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more visitors. Call (517)373-2353 to make reservations. Tours last approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour. Self-guided tours are also available & you can download the tour guide from the website or the guide is available at the Information desk. Note: the exterior Capitol dome is being restored and encased in scaffolding. It is expected to be completed by year-end.
The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum offers a collection of cars and memorabilia as a tribute to the automobile industry. The very first Oldsmobile, built in 1897, is on display in the museum. The museum is closed on Monday’s. They offer a family admission rate of $15 for parents and up to three children.
Lansing is Spartan Country! Even if your family bleeds other colors, the campus of MSU is truly a great way to spend an afternoon. Several points of interest on/near the campus include:
The Talbert and Leota Abrams Planetarium serves as an astronomy and space science education resource center for central Michigan. Public planetarium shows, featuring a Digistar 5 projector, are scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 4:00 p.m. There is also a special show designed for families on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Outdoor observing is held after evening shows as sky conditions permit. Telescopes in front of Abrams Planetarium offer views of selected astronomical objects. For a current list of programs, times and upcoming events, contact (517) 355-4672 or visit the website.
The MSU Horticulture Gardens are actually a family of gardens and an excellent way to burn off a little energy walking the paths. The 4-H Children’s Garden is designed especially for children and features over 60 themed gardens including the Pizza Garden, Peter Rabbit Herb Garden, Butterfly Garden and ABC Garden. Located adjacent to the Garden Parking lot, this is a convenient stop for parents with small children! The Gardens are open daily from sunrise to sundown. Make sure to take a copy of this handy map on your visit for parking and bathroom information!
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum offers a rotating series of contemporary exhibitions over the course of each year. Admission is FREE and the museum is open Tuesday-Thursday 10:00 – 5:00 p.m., Friday 12:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 – 5:00 p.m. TIP: Family Day is held the first Saturday of every month from 12 – 4 p.m. Come to the Education Wing of the museum and create colorful projects based on different pieces in the exhibition and plan to enjoy a museum tour designed for families at 1 p.m.
While on the MSU campus, make sure to stop by the MSU Dairy Store for some yummy ice cream or cheese – made right on campus! They are located in Anthony Hall (South Shaw Lane), and also at the MSU Union Building. I recommend visiting the actual dairy store on Anthony Hall – we arrived a few minutes before they opened and there was already a line! I asked the cashier and their two most popular flavors are ‘Buckeye Blitz’ and ‘Sesquicentennial Swirl’ (birthday cake with bright green frosting). If time permits, make sure to take a self-guided tour of the dairy plant observation deck (2nd floor) and learn the basics of milk, cheese and ice cream processing. The Dairy store is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – until 8:00 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from noon – 8:00 p.m. Note: there is limited metered parking nearby and on summer days the store gets very crowded with long lines.
Golden Harvest Restaurant is a small unique café located in Old Town Lansing It is known for its great food; serving breakfast and brunch (open until 2:30 p.m. every day). Note: the restaurant can be loud and the wait long, but this restaurant receives rave reviews for its food.
Deluca’s Restaurant is a hidden gem in Lansing and one I frequented as a child growing up. They are consistently voted ‘the Best of the Best’ for their pizza. The pizzeria originally opened as a bar to attract the local auto factory workers but became so popular they re-named the restaurant and have expanded over the years. Note: Deluca’s is located in an industrial part of Lansing and it will most likely be out of the way from area attractions, but it is so worth it! Also, the restaurant is closed on Sunday’s.
Potter Park Zoo, open year-round, has over 450 animal residents with plenty to see and do! Make sure to check out the website for a detailed list of current/open exhibits. A favorite is a visit to see the black rhino’s. The zoo has one male named Jello and a female named Doppsee. The zoo offers pony rides for $3 (cash only) during the warmer months. Note – pony rides are closed on Mondays. A family-favorite is the Farmyard EdVentures – with adorable pygmy goats, yaks, burros, toy China pigs to name a few. This exhibit is open thru Labor Day. If you happen to visit on a Thursday, they offer “Zoo Play” – children can role-play being a veterinarian or zookeeper and learn what it is like to care for animals. This hands-on experience is available on Thursday’s from 10 a.m. – noon at the VEZU building.
Impression 5 is a great experience for the kids – the first thing we were told at the check-in desk was to touch everything! Impression 5 Science Center is an interactive space for families to play, create, and challenge their understanding of science. “Impression 5” refers to the five senses and the way each sense is engaged during your visit to the Science Center! A favorite area to explore is the “Build Zone” which features large tinker toys, pipes & tubing and giant blocks for little engineers to build towers or structures. We also loved the “Throwing Things” exhibit – since this is one opportunity to tell the kids to go ahead and throw something! They can have fun tracking their results of items they throw. Note: Impression 5 is closed on Monday’s.
Hawk Island Park is located in South Lansing (1601 E. Cavanaugh Road) and boasts a community-built playground, rowboat and pedal boat rental, a swimming beach, Splash Pad, picnic areas and shelters, sand volleyball, horseshoes, paved accessible walkways (1.5 miles), fishing docks and a concession stand. In the winter, the park offers snow tubing, a warming building and snack bar. Visit the website for park hours and admission fees.
Did we miss any of your favorite things to explore in Lansing? Make sure to comment and let us know!