Updated March 2017
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! The entrance is impressive with the atrium featuring a three-story high map of the state.
Photo courtesy Michigan History Center
The Museum is open seven days a week. Note: Sunday admission and 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!
While at The State Capitol visitors have the opportunity to watch the legislature meet for session, they can admire the nine acres of hand-painted decorative art, and learn stories from Michigan’s past. 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! In 2016 the Capitol’s exterior stonework and dome was restored.
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. Note: self-guided tours are not available on Saturdays. Reservations are required for groups of 10 or more visitors. Call (517)373-2353 to make reservations for groups. Also it is a good idea to call ahead to verify guided tour times since they are subject to change. Tours last approximately 45 minutes – 1 hour. You can pick up a free tour guide while at the Capitol, or check it out online.
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. The annual Car Capitol Auto Show will be held July 29,2017.
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. Family shows are offered 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, admission fees 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. Note: There is a G-gauge model train in the garden (part of the ABC KinderGarden) that runs on Thursdays in June, July and August from 10 am to 1 pm, weather permitting.
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. Note: Family Day is held the first Saturday of every month from 11 – 3 p.m. Enjoy hands-on activities and make projects based on community partnerships and works on view.
Sports fans? Check out the MSU Athletics website for a chance to see the Spartans in action.
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! 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 in Anthony Hall is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – until 6:00 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 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 500 animal residents with plenty to see and do! Make sure to check out the website for a detailed list of current/open exhibits. You can take a ride on a Dromedary Camel – rides run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday during the summer and fall seasons and cost $5 per ride. Also, visit the Farmyard EdVentures – with adorable pygmy goats, yaks, burros, toy China pigs to name a few. This exhibit is open seasonally.
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. Impression 5 has a new traveling exhibit through early May 2017, Curious George: Let’s Get Curious!, which will introduce young children to Curious George’s world and lead visitors on a fun, meaningful interactive math, science and engineering-based adventure. 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.
The Ingham County Fair will be held this summer July 31 – August 5, 2017 with a great variety of family-focused fun and entertainment.
Make sure to keep in mind June 3, 2017 where Lansing offers Be a Tourist in Your Own Town event. This day allows event participants to visit over 80 local attractions and one-day only special tours that include: Impression 5 Science Center, Potter Park Zoo, the State Capitol Building, the Michigan Historical Museum and so much more with the purchase of a “Passport”. Passports are $1 each and will be on sale at the Visitor Center in Lansing and East Lansing the day of the event.
Did we miss any of your favorite things to explore in Lansing? Make sure to comment and let us know!