15+ Unique Things to do in Lansing & East Lansing, Michigan

Rachel HannahAugust 12, 2021

About Lansing and East Lansing

Lansing is Michigan’s capital city and often gets a bad reputation for crime and not having much to offer. If just talking about Lansing alone, I agree, the list of activities and safe areas are limited. That is why I’ve decided to combine East Lansing in this section since they are neighboring cities.

That also makes this guide a more complete list of fun things to do in Lansing. Lansing is centrally located in the state making it a good stopping point if you’re taking a road trip through Michigan. The hotel section in this post is here.

In the last couple of years, there have been more efforts to build up downtown Lansing, so it is getting better. But if you are unfamiliar with Lansing it is best to stay away from the south side.

Things to do in Lansing

Horrocks Farmers Market

Horrocks is more than a market. You can shop around the fresh veggies and produce but make sure to snag some locally made MooVille chocolate milk from the walk-in cooler! Grab a drink from the tavern or wine bar and drink while you shop, there’s also a beer and wine section which is filled with hundreds of local and international selections.

I’ve been able to find a couple of my favorite international brands I fell in love with overseas. Right outside, behind the main shopping area, there are large greenhouses and a designated spot for a food truck which comes daily (schedule here).

My Finding's Tip: Find the coffee station, it's free! Plus, it's Horrock's own high quality brand beans!

7420 W Saginaw Hwy, Lansing, MI 48917

Grand River Riverwalk

rachel hannah standing along the grand river walk in downtown Lansing, michigan

In my opinion, this is the nicest part of downtown Lansing. The newly redone Rotary Park is a popular spot for walking, running, and biking. There are also plenty of picnic tables for eating, a lighted forest, and it’s within walking distance to MP Social, or Lansing Brewing Co.

Visit Michigan’s State Capitol Building

Michigan's State Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan

You can take a tour of the capitol building or look at it from the outside. If you look at it lit up at night it’s really beautiful!

100 N Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI 48933

Lansing Restaurants

Fleetwood Diner

fleetwood diner sign in downtown lansing, michigan

Open 24/7 the retro Fleetwood Diner has a slew of menu options including breakfast, burgers, gyros, sandwiches, and homestyle. It’s a fun experience because you are able to see the griddle from your booth or from seated right at the counter.

Hours are currently reduced to 7 am-11 pm

Meat Southern BBQ

Meat BBQ is definitely one of the best restaurants in Lansing!

It was featured in Diners Drive-in and Dives in 2017. It is any meat lover’s heaven, you will want to try it all! Believe me, I tried an eating competition once with a friend and I didn’t feel the best after working through countless dishes.

The menu has a vegetarian section that lists only the drink options, bonus points for the subtle humor there. The best choices are Hot Mess Sandwich, wings, made-to-order mac and cheese, and the meat plates.

On the menu is also the option to take part in The Carnivore Challenge: Eat the Boss Logg (18 layers) with 1 side & 2-ingredient Mac-N-Cheese. Winners get the meal for free, a t-shirt, beer, and your picture on the wall.

Blue Owl Coffee

Delicious coffee, an amazing atmosphere, and a cozy workspace sum up this cafe! They also have live music in the evening throughout the week! Blue Owl Coffee currently has 3 locations across the Lansing area!

Soup Spoon Cafe

Daily handcrafted soups, and a range of homestyle choices. Plus, local wine and beer lists. I would choose to go to Soup Spoon for lunch because l feel like the dinner menu is a little overpriced for the semi-casual atmosphere however, the taste is worth the price.

Lansing Brewing Co.

Lansing Brewing Company serves craft beer, spirits, and classy bar food this is a fun group hangout spot on the weekends. Sometimes they open up the game room bar (I call ahead to see). It’s close to downtown Lansing so it’s fun to end the night by finding Bird’s and riding on the riverwalk or through downtown.

Nola Bistro

Order the Pho from Nola Bistro, it’s one of the best in town!

Related: Experience Grand Rapids, MI

Things to do in East Lansing

Hawk Hollow Golf Course

girl with golf putter on the green in front of pond

One of the few real green 18-hold putting courses in the country and 1 of 3 in Michigan. It’s truly one of the best hidden gems in Michigan. The courses are much more skill involved than your average mini-putt putt, plus you get to see a lot of different wildlife around the course. In my experience, completing the course with 3 adults takes around 2 1/2 hours on average.

15101 Chandler Rd, Bath Twp, MI 48808

Lewis Landscape Arboretum

One of my favorite places to visit in East Lansing is the Lewis Landscape Arboretum. They are located close to Michigan State University but a car would still be needed to get there. The property has enough acres and sections for me to wander around without getting bored but not so much that I feel rushed to get through it all.

rachel hannah standing during sunset at the michigan state univeristy horticulture gardens

Entry is free to the public and since this place is off of a lot of the local’s radars it is normally quiet. Since I don’t live here anymore, I don’t feel too bad giving away this secret, haha. In the parking lot it says you need to pay for parking, but not once have I and I’ve never gotten a ticket! But try it at your own risk!

1066 Bogue St, East Lansing, MI 48824

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

A modern metallic wonder referred to as the “spaceship”. This building was designed by the award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. My boyfriend studied at MSU and years later his sister landed her dream job working at Zaha Hadid Architecture in London! Cheryl fell in love with the architect of the building so she let me use her images for this post. So a big thanks to her!

The exhibits are always changing and entry is free.

547 E Circle Dr, East Lansing, MI 48824

Walk Michigan State University’s Campus

sparty statue on michigan state university's campus in east lansing, michigan

A lot of the buildings are old historical red brick covered with ivy which has a nice contrast to all the trees on campus. Specifically, check out the riverbanks of the Red Cedar and some of the historical buildings on campus including The Beaumont Tower, Spartan Stadium, and the Sparty Statue right near the stadium.

My Finding's Fact: in the days leading up to the rivaly game between Michigan and Michigan State they will have a student(s) guard Sparty to prevent him from any unwanted vandalism.

Pinball Pete’s

pinball petes pinball machine in east lansing, michigan

Pinball Pete’s in an underground arcade, the best late-night activity to do before bar-hopping on Albert Ave and Grand River Ave. They have several pool tables, air hockey, and classics like ski-ball, pinball, and Mrs. PacMan.

Keep in mind they only accept cash. I think there is an ATM, but I am not 100% sure.

220 Albert St, East Lansing, MI 48823

Bar hopping on Albert Ave and Grand River Ave

There’s a small debate on if Lansing or East Lansing has better bars. I would pick East Lansing any day because the crowd in Lansing can be kind of rough in certain areas. The crowd will be younger since it is a college campus but these are my favorite more “grown-up” spots. Start out the night at Tin Can or The Riv to play games and grab some bar food. As the night goes on check out FieldHouse or Dublin Square for dancing!

My Finding's Tip: these bars are busiest during the school season, otherwise it can be a bit of a ghost town.

Race at High Caliber Karting and Entertainment

couple in racing helmets after indoor go karting in okemos michigan
man axe throwing and male friend watching
throwbowling game arena okemos michigan

High Caliber Karting and Entertainment is one of the newest attractions to pop up in the Lansing area as has been rated as Michigan’s #1 Indoor Entertainment Park by reviewers!

I recently got to spend several hours here with my family and there is SO much to do besides go karting!

We were able to try out so many different activities that the All Day Access Pass gave us access to including Axe Throwing, Throwbowling, Gellyball Blasters, Pocket Soccer, and more. It was a blast!!

However, you can also pay individually for indoor go karting or any of the other activities.

While High Caliber is technically located in Okemos it is right off Grand River Ave inside of the Meridan Mall so it’s only a 10-minute drive from East Lansing!

East Lansing Restaurants


Even though HopCat is a franchise, it is mainly located in Michigan. The only other location outside of Michigan is in Lincoln, Nebraska. The MSU campus HopCat is a popular brunch spot for the hungover college kids on a Sunday.

I guess I can’t speak for all because for some students it would be a continuation of the night before, haha. What I appreciate about HopCat’s menu is the non-traditional take on popular dishes. They also have a wide range of craft beers. I’d recommend the Cosmic Fries, Roasted Red Pepper Gouda Bisque, Madtown Grilled Cheese, and any of their burgers.

Lou and Harry’s Bar & Grill

Great Greek bar food and cocktails with a pool table in the back. The owners are heavily involved and are so friendly!

Fosters Coffee Co.

One of my favorite coffee shops in Lansing and also in the whole state of Michigan. Foster’s is really good at creating amazing seasonal latte flavors. I’m a big fan of the modern industrial interior and well-lit and open concept with plenty of tables and outlets to work at.

cup of white chocolate mint latte at fosters coffee co in east lansing, michigan

Sapporo Ramen

The ramen here has a flavorful broth with the most tender pork belly I’ve had. There is another location in Grand Rapids. I haven’t quite found a ramen place here in Florida that compares yet.

El Azteco

I don’t love El Azteco for the food, (I find the food to be Americanized and on the bland side). However, it’s a fantastic spot to buy affordable margarita pitchers and enjoy one of the only open-air rooftops in EL!

Related: Budget friendly places to visit in Detroit

Hotels in Lansing and East Lansing

Graduate East Lansing

The Graduate is the newest hotel in town! This inside has an old-school collegiate vibe mixed with a modern cabin feel. It seems like it is the best of all worlds because it has a coffee shop called Poindexter and also a rooftop bar, The Rock Bar which has views of campus.

133 Evergreen Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823

Courtyard by Marriott Lansing Downtown

Hotel options in downtown Lansing are quite limited, but this newly built Marriott seems to be one of the best picks.

600 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Lansing at Eastwood

3320 Preyde Blvd, Lansing, MI 48912

Right off the highway and located inside the Eastwood Towne Centre. This is a great choice if you want a variety of restaurants and shopping with lots of parking.

Quality Inn University

3121 E Grand River Rd, Lansing, MI 48912

My boyfriend actually has actually stayed here several times when we were long-distance. The price point was the best for him to be able to stay for weeks at a time. While not the most glam from the outside the inside is surprisingly clean and quiet. There is a complimentary breakfast and an indoor pool. He also found the beds very comfortable!

Marriott East Lansing at University Place

300 M. A. C. Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823

Modern and upscale with Bistro 43 for breakfast and Great Room Restaurant and Lounge for lunch, dinner, and cocktails. Located in the heart of campus, you are within walking distance of everything on MSU’s campus.

Wild Goose Inn

512 Albert St, East Lansing, MI 48823

A historic local B&B with nature-themed rooms. Also, it is conveniently placed in downtown East Lansing.

Final Word on Things to do in East Lansing & Lansing

Thanks for reading my guide to Lansing! Were you surprised by the number of things there are to do over the course of a couple of days? I have a lot more Michigan blogs you can read and I’ve left some of my favorites below to get you started!

Best small towns in Michigan

Unique Michigan hotels and Airbnbs

Romantic Michigan getaways

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