Not quite ready to bid farewell to summer? Fall into Lansing, where you and your family can extend the season in beautiful Michigan settings. The best part? They’re super easy to access and explore.
“There are so many family-friendly activities here in the Lansing area,” says Lori Lanspeary, manager of social media and leisure marketing at the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau, whose website has tons of great travel ideas. “And there is nothing better than the fall.”
Here are some capital ideas for exploring the Lansing area:
Glide along the city’s Grand or Red Cedar rivers to soak in the beauty of the changing leaves. Conveniently located downtown, River Town Adventures rents single and tandem kayaks, canoes and — the latest fun in paddling — standup paddleboards. You can rent by the hour or choose one of their “adventures” tailored to every skill level, including rank beginners. “The fall colors are just beautiful and when you’re on the river, you would never know you’re actually in downtown Lansing,” says Lanspeary.
Lansing’s River Trail, which traces the riverbanks of the Grand and Red Cedar, is among the nation’s largest at more than 17 miles. It connects parks, historic sites and activity centers. If you visit in September, check out the Brenke Fish Ladder, which was built 40 years ago to help spawning steelhead and salmon pass the dam without injury. You can stroll the trail at your leisure (parking is available at regular intervals) or rent a bike.
One of the favorite stops along the River Trail is the historic Potter Park Zoo, which is celebrating its 101st year. “Fall is a great time to come because the animals are more active and out and about when the weather is cooler,” Lanspeary notes. Among the highlight residents are a pair of endangered black rhinos, baby North American river otters, Megallanic penguins and what Lanspeary calls “the freakiest-looking animal I have ever seen,” a giant anteater named Wayne. “He is my favorite.”
Celebrate the season with apple or pumpkin picking at numerous spots. Uncle John’s Cider Mill, to the north in St. Johns, offers this plus pick-your-own sunflowers, a five-acre corn maze, hayrides, apple canons and, for adults, hard cider and a winery. In Charlotte to the southwest, Country Mill Farms has 200 acres of attractions, including a wonderful retail market.
Little Hawk, a par-54, bent grass putting course, elevates the putting green to a whole new level with 18 scenic holes. “It appeals to the seasoned golfer who wants to brush up on their skills as well as the youngest golfer just starting out,” says Lanspeary. “This is not your typical putt-putt course and it’s just great for families.”
Nothing screams fall more than football, so root for the home team by cheering on the Spartans, Michigan State University’s Big Ten Conference team. They are once again welcoming fans after the pandemic. The regular home season kicks off on September 11 (Youngstown State) and runs until November 27 (Penn State).
Makers & Shakers is the area’s beer, wine and spirits trail. In addition to craft beer and local wine, Greater Lansing also has four distilleries producing whiskey, gin, brandy and vodka.
Don’t let it rain on your parade; there are lots of things to do and see even if the weather isn’t cooperating during your visit. Named for the five senses, the Impression 5 Science Center encourages children to play (and learn) through inventive hands-on exhibits. (Note that it’s currently closed Mondays through Wednesdays, and masks are required for all guests ages 3 and up.)
In addition to more than 100 shops, the Meridian Mall in Okemos has two wonderful family facilities: Launch Trampoline Park and High Caliber Karting & Entertainment. At Launch, you’ll find more than 15,000 square feet of connected trampolines, a laser-tag arena and a gaming arcade. Over at High Caliber, two indoor go-kart tracks feature European racers and there’s also ax throwing and a giant arcade. Are the kids (or your spouse) getting on your nerves? Head to the Rage Room, where you can wreak havoc on china, glassware and electronics with a sledgehammer (after safely suiting up, of course).
Make the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau your first stop for planning a fun family adventure this fall. Visit lansing.org.