Discover Michigan History in Lansing

Add Lansing to your family's list of getaways this summer — and make the trip educational by visiting these top historical spots.

If you’re busy planning your family’s summer itinerary, save a spot for Lansing on your list. It’s brimming with fun for families — with a side of history.

“Lansing is the capitol of Michigan, so that lends itself to a number of attractions that actually tell the story of Michigan’s past,” says Lori Lanspeary, Manager of Marketing and Community Engagement with the Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau.

To help plan your family’s visit to Lansing, Lanspeary shares the top eight historical spots to take in while you’re in town. 

State Capitol Building

Address: 100 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing

Phone: 517-373-0184

Each year, 150,000 people tour the State Capitol Building, which is free and open to the public Monday-Friday. The State Capitol Building, which is one of the first state capitols constructed with a cast iron dome, is Michigan’s third capitol building. The first one was in Detroit. In the late 1800s, it was moved to Lansing. In the early 1990s, it was restored, and this year the $40 million, 40,000-square-foot Heritage Hall opened.

“It’s the new entrance to the state capitol. It is kind of underground and it is glorious,” Lanspeary says. “They have orientation rooms and history exhibits and artifact conservation.”

You’re welcome to take a self-guided tour or follow along with a docent to hear stories about Michigan’s history, or if you’re there in the fall, winter or spring, you can sit in on the House or Senate to watch the work unfold.

“I love the State Capitol Building. There is always something to learn when I go there and something I hadn’t seen before. So many stories that go along with it,” Lanspeary says. She loves to see kids laying on the glass floor in the Rotunda and looking up at the dome. “It’s the best view in the capitol and it can only be appreciated if you’re laying down on the floor.” 

Michigan History Museum

Address: 702 W. Kalamazoo St., Lansing

Phone: 517-335-2573

The Michigan History Museum is one of three parts of the Michigan History Center. It boasts three floors of Michigan’s history starting with Michigan’s first people and ending in the mid-20th century with Vietnam, Motown and more. Walk through a replica of an Upper Peninsula copper mine, a one-room schoolroom and an old-time theater, to name a few.

“It’s like a stroll through the eras,” Lanspeary says.

The Michigan History Museum is open seven days a week, except for state holidays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for ages 6-17 and free for children up to 5 years old. Sunday admission is usually free, she adds.

Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center

Address: 925 W. Ottawa St., Lansing

Phone: 517-373-7171

Schedule a tour of the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center, which is located on the first floor of the Hall of Justice, in advance (no walk-ins). The hour-long tour of this first-floor learning center give kids and adults a closer look at how the judicial branch of state government works.

Lanspeary suggests bringing older kids — middle schoolers and beyond — on the tour. The Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. 

Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Address: Located east of the Hall of Justice between Ottawa and Allegan streets, Lansing

Phone: 517-241-2713

Located in Memorial Park, which is between the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol, the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a 45-ton steel suspended ark that lists the names of Michiganders who died during the Vietnam War. The names of the casualties are listed by county, Lanspeary notes.  

R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

Address: 240 Museum Drive, Lansing

Phone: 517-372-0529

Before Henry Ford, there was Ransom Eli Olds. Unless you’re a major car enthusiast, you might not know much about Lansing’s rich automotive history, so that’s where a visit to this local museum comes in.

“Lansing was the most prolific auto manufacturer before Henry Ford put his model T’s out,” Lanspeary says. “Ransom Eli Olds started up the Olds Motor Vehicle Company,” and with the company came the first mass-produced vehicles and the first moving assembly line, which was later improved by Henry Ford. After leaving Oldsmobile in 1904, Olds formed REO Motor Car Company and switched his focus to utility trucks. Browse a collection of cars at this museum, which is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Michigan Walk of Fame

Address: 401 S. Washington Square, Suite 101, Lansing

Phone: 517-487-3322

Head to downtown Lansing to visit the Michigan Walk of Fame, which honors the Michigan residents who have made a significant impact on the state. You’ll see bronze plaques embedded with notable Michiganders, such as Motown legend Stevie Wonder, historical icons Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and medical pioneer Jonas Salk.

Meridian Historical Village

Address: 5151 Marsh Road, Okemos

Phone: 517-347-7300

Take a trip back in time to 19th-century settler life with a tour of the Meridian Historical Village. Tours, which are by appointment, run 45 minutes and give families a chance to learn about the historical buildings, including a schoolhouse, general store, farmhouse and more.

“It also houses the only remaining plank road tollgate house,” Lanspeary says of the settler village.

Normal operating hours are 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturdays and tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, so plan this part of your visit in advance.

Michigan State University

Address: 220 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing

Phone: 517-355-1855

Michigan State University is the first land grant university in the country — and it boasts loads of historical and educational family fun.

Visit the MSU Museum, which is a Smithsonian affiliate, to experience three floors of exhibits including life-sized dinosaurs, the wall of butterflies and more. Catch a public show (for a fee) at Abrams Planetarium, which is part of the Department of Psychics and Astronomy on campus.

Step outside to the 4-H Children’s Garden, which is “a teaching opportunity to understand plants and how they work in everyday life,” Lanspeary says.

The 4-H garden boasts 55 themed gardens — from the Pizza Garden to the ABC Garden and Butterfly Garden — along with a treehouse, creation station, amphitheater and more.

A must-do while on campus? A stop at the MSU Dairy Store, Lanspeary suggests. There, you’ll learn how cheese, ice cream and other dairy products are made, and then you can taste one of the delicious ice cream flavors such as Beaumont Brownie Bliss, Buckeye Blitz and Izzo’s Malted Madness.   

To enhance your family’s Lansing experience, the Greater Lansing Experience Pass has launched. This digital check-in allows you to earn points as you visit different attractions, take advantage of discounts and even win prizes.

Visit lansing.org for more information.

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