Family Road Trip Guide: Michigan’s State Capital, Lansing

Lansing is a perfect mix of family fun and learning, so pack the family up and hit the road for a quick day trip everyone will enjoy.

If you and your merry bunch are looking for an urban excursion to a place smaller than what you’re used to in metro Detroit, downtown Lansing has exactly what you’re looking for. Home to the state capital, Lansing and the surrounding area are brimming with activities for the entire family. The Greater Lansing area is a great destination for a day trip or for a weekend getaway where you are guaranteed to find something for everyone.

Getting to Lansing

In the heart of the Mitten State, you’ll find the Greater Lansing area. Made up of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties, it’s only 1 ½  to two hours west of metro Detroit. Easy access to highways makes travel among activities 15-20 minutes in the Tri-County area.

What Families Love About Lansing

Whether you have sports nuts, fun seekers or nature lovers, Lansing has great options to try.

If you head out during the weekday, plan to tour the historic State Capitol building downtown. It’s like a step back in time. Tours take about 45 minutes and make sure to look up from the first floor to the soaring dome. It currently only offers tours Monday-Friday, but if you head out on a weekend, the beautiful Capitol Square around the building is always available for self-guided tours of the monuments, markers, trees and flower beds.

Jackson Field, also in the heart of downtown, is the home of minor league baseball team the Lansing Lugnuts. It also offers community concerts and nighttime movies for affordable prices. The stadium is a great place for everyone to GO NUTS!

Fireworks over Jackson Field. Photo credit: James Lenon/Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

My kids are comic book fans (not sure where they got it). A stop by Summit Comics is a must to find new releases of Dog Man, Walking Dead or Spider-Man and great new pieces of local art provided by many of the great visual specialists the area has to offer.

To sneak in some learning while having fun, visit Impression 5 Science Center. The newest exhibit is sure to be a hit — FLOW offers two stories of activities, including a flywheel that shoots a tall geyser, water jets for lots of wet play and sailboats. Kids will also love getting inside a human-size bubble in the Pop exhibit and good luck getting them out of the science center’s popular Build Zone.

Potter Park Zoo shows off more than 500 animals from around the globe and is open year round. Some of its popular interactive activities — camel rides! — will reopen as the weather gets better. Don’t miss the popular nature play area near the duck pond to burn some of the kids’ energy before or after lunch.

Potter Park Zoo. Photo credit: Tom Genarra/Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

R.E. Olds Transportation Museum shows off Lansing’s long automotive history with a collection of more than 80 vehicles and nostalgic memorabilia, including a 1953 NASCAR race car. Kids under 12 are free, making this an affordable stop.

To take in some outside time, head to Michigan State University, located in East Lansing, to wander the beautiful campus. Also, while there, check out the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, which is free; the Beaumont Tower Carillon; the W.J. Beal Botanical Gardens; Abrams Planetarium (shows are Friday-Sunday and tickets must be purchased in advance); and the Michigan State University Museum (kids will love the Habitat Hall). If you are really lucky, you may even run into Sparty.

If your trip falls on a day of fickle Michigan weather, don’t fear. Launch at the Meridian Mall in nearby Okemos, offers a great jump space, arcade and a personal favorite of ours, laser tag. Or head to High Caliber Karting and Entertainment, also in the mall, to race up to 50 mph in electric indoor go-karts, hit the arcade for your gaming needs or rage room.

For nature lovers, make your way to Woldumar Nature Preserve. With more than 180 acres of woodland, wetlands, prairie and over a mile of shoreline on the Grand River, your family can create your own wilderness expedition. In warm weather, Dimondale Canoe & Kayak offers tours down the Grand River.

Places to eat in Lansing

Downtown’s Washington Square offers some of the best eats the area has to offer, many of which are within walking distance to local shops and attractions. Try a delicious, authentic Cuban dish from La Cocina Cubana or a slice of delight from the Grand Traverse Pie Company, where they believe chocolate makes everything better, on the corner.

Among my family’s other favorite stops is Village Ice Cream in nearby Dimondale, which was voted one of Michigan’s top 10 ice cream shops four years running. The kids can get a candy clown face on their cones. If you bring the fur babies, make sure to get them a pup cup! Everyone is treated like family and gets a treat.

Photo credit: MorningLory Cafe & Bakery

Also in Dimondale, we love MorningLory Café & Bakery for the best grilled cinnamon rolls in the land. It also caters to more hearty breakfast, brunch and lunch needs.

Places for Families to Stay in Lansing

Lansing is the perfect day trip, but it also has so much to do that families could make it a fun weekend getaway.

And luckily for families, Lansing has some great new places to stay. Check out Courtyard Lansing Downtown as one option. The new hotel is just across the street from Jackson Field, making it super easy to get caught up in spring baseball fever.

Another new option is Graduate East Lansing, which sits across the street from Michigan State University and overlooks Spartan Stadium.

Another spot to consider is Quality Inn University. Not only is it near Spartan Stadium, but it is within walking distance of family fun spot Spare Time Entertainment Center so you and your family can end the day with smiles through bowling, arcade and bumper cars.

Content sponsored by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers.

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