Lansing is the capital city of the U.S. state of Michigan. Located in the center of the Lower Peninsula, it has a population of around 116,000 residents. Lansing is a great place to visit if you want to experience Michigan politics and culture.
Here is an overview of where Lansing is, what it’s known for, and the top things to do when you visit this Midwest capital city.
Where is Lansing?
Lansing is located in the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, about 90 miles west of Detroit. It sits along the banks of the Grand and Red Cedar Rivers and covers an area of over 35 square miles.
You can drive to Lansing in about 1.5 hours from Detroit or Grand Rapids. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Chicago.
For travelers coming from other states, you can fly into Capital Region International Airport in Lansing or arrive via Greyhound bus.
What is Lansing Known For?
As Michigan’s capital city, Lansing is the hub of the state’s politics. The Michigan State Capitol building and other government offices are located here. Lansing is also home to Michigan State University, a major public research university.
Outside of politics and academia, Lansing has a thriving arts and culture scene. The city has several museums, theaters, music venues and annual festivals that attract visitors. Auto manufacturing is also a major industry in the region.
Top Things to Do in Lansing
Here are some of the top attractions and activities to enjoy during your time in Lansing:
Michigan State Capitol
Tour the Michigan State Capitol – Completed in 1879, you can take a free 45-minute tour of this impressive building Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm.
Marvel at the architecture like the sparkling glass and steel dome, Italian marble floors, and curved grand staircases.
Sit in on House and Senate sessions in the public galleries if they are in session to see state politics in action.
The Capitol building is located downtown at 100 N Capitol Ave.
Michigan History Center
This large museum complex contains over 25 exhibits on Michigan’s past. Highlights include the 30,000 sq ft Michigan History Museum covering topics like Native American culture, fur trading, and the auto industry.
The Archives display historical documents like maps, photos, and manuscripts. The 1950s working farm is a favorite for families, with interpreters in period clothing and authentic activities like milking cows.
The History Center is open 9am-4:30pm and located at 702 W Kalamazoo St.
Cheer on the Lansing Lugnuts
Located in: Jackson Field
Address: 505 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912, United States
This Class-A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays plays at Cooley Law School Stadium in downtown Lansing.
Catch an affordable game during the April-September baseball season. Family packages and concessions are available.
The stadium also hosts concerts, festivals, and fireworks shows.
Browse the RE Olds Transportation Museum
Automotive history buffs will love this museum’s collection of over 100 antique cars produced in Lansing over the years, like Oldsmobiles from 1897-2004.
See a 1923 Model T, a 1949 Futuramic Olds concept car, and a 1963 Olds Jetstar I.
The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm.
Address: 240 Museum Dr, Lansing, MI 48933, United States
See a play at Wharton Center
This premier performing arts venue on the MSU campus offers touring Broadway musicals, dramas, children’s shows, concerts from artists like Willie Nelson, and more.
Check their event calendar before visiting. Take a backstage tour on select dates. Located at 750 E Shaw Ln.
Tour Michigan State University
Address: 426 Auditorium Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824, United States
Founded in 1855, MSU’s campus in East Lansing spans over 5,000 acres. Walk or bike around the scenic campus to see top sites like:
- Broad Art Museum: This modern art museum designed by Zaha Hadid features an impressive collection of contemporary works.
- Beaumont Tower: This university landmark stands 275 ft tall and chimes on the hour. Ride to the top for panoramic views.
- National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory: Take a tour of this nuclear particle accelerator used for scientific research.
- Spartan Stadium: Home to MSU football, this massive stadium seats 75,000 and offers tours.
- Horticulture Gardens: Stroll through these scenic gardens with diverse flowers and plants.
Explore the River Trail
Walk or cycle along these paved recreational trails that follow the winding Grand River through Lansing. The River Trail connects various parks and attractions downtown. Highlights include:
- Michigan Avenue Bridge: Cross the Grand River on this iconic blue truss bridge.
- Lansing River Trail: 10+ mile trail with river views, playgrounds, and fishing access points.
- Frances Park: Downtown riverfront park with an amphitheater, gardens, and picnic spots.
Shop at the Lansing City Market
Open year-round, this indoor market features Michigan-made food, crafts and more. Open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Address: 600 E Michigan Ave Suite 100, Lansing, MI 48912, United States
Attend Common Ground Music Festival
This large annual music festival takes place downtown in late July. It spans 5 days and offers 80+ musical acts across 4 stages.
Past performers include artists like The Flaming Lips, Wilco, and Vampire Weekend. Enjoy food trucks, craft beer, and carnival rides. Buy single or multi-day tickets.
Try Michigan-inspired cuisine
Lansing boasts great restaurants, breweries, and cafes highlighting food and drink made with fresh local ingredients:
- Golden Harvest: Charming breakfast and lunch cafe serving Michigan-sourced dishes. Try the BLT with Temperance bacon.
- Meat: Trendy barbecue joint smokes brisket and ribs with Michigan white oak. Extensive whiskey selection.
- Ellison Brewery and Spirits: Microbrewery producing unique craft beers like their Tart Cherry Sour. Also distills spirits on-site.
- Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern: Popular pub known for their house macaroni & cheese with Great Lakes whitefish. Outdoor patio seating.
No matter your interests, Lansing has something for everyone. With its manageable size and many cultural offerings, Michigan’s capital is a great Midwestern city to add to your travel itinerary.