Raise your hand if you think of Lansing as the home of state government. That’s a good start, but Lansing has so much more to offer visitors than lawmakers and that fabulous capitol building. There are tons of fun things to do in Lansing for families — it’s actually a wonderful leisure destination.
“I don’t think most people think of Lansing as a leisure destination, but they are truly mistaken,” says Lori Lanspeary, Manager of Social Media and Leisure Marketing for the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There are so many attractions just in our walkable downtown. You can really make a great weekend getaway here that’s fun, affordable and multigenerational.”
Here are 10 must-see attractions in Lansing:
- Impression 5 Science Center
This dynamic space teaches all about science in a playful, adventurous manner with hands-on exhibits and creative programming that appeal to children of all ages. Of special note is Wild Kratts Creature Power, an interactive exhibit based on the popular PBS kids series that’s here through May 29. The traveling exhibit cultivates STEM skills in children ages 3-9 as they explore animal habitats from around the world.
- Lansing River Trail
The best way to explore Lansing is through its ever-expanding 20-mile River Trail, which extends from Maguire Park on Jolly Road to Old Town, running past Potter Park Zoo and into Michigan State University. You can explore the paved trail (nice for strollers) on foot or bike. Among the highlights are the newish Crego Park, which includes a small lake with a kayak lift and boardwalks to enjoy the water and scenery; the Brenke Fish Ladder, which helps fish swimming up the Grand River pass the dam without injury; and Hawk Island Park which includes a small lake, bathing/swimming beach, splash pad and kayak and paddleboat rental.
- Lansing Lugnuts
Celebrate the boys of summer in an up-close and affordable way with this High-A Oakland Athletic affiliate that plays at Jackson Field, right in the heart of downtown. The minor league team offers a plethora of special events — and dogs are welcome on Wednesdays and kids can run the bases on Sundays. Play ball!
- River Town Adventures
Whether you’re up for a leisurely bike ride, a relaxing river float or a challenging paddleboard excursion, River Town has got you covered with bike, canoe, paddleboard and kayak rentals. They also offer guided kayak excursions for a variety of skill levels.
- Rotary Park’s Urban Beach
Lansing is full of surprises, and that includes an “urban beach” right on the river. This new area includes an ADA kayak launch, a welcoming plaza with lots of seating and a large fireplace, an entrancing “lighted forest,” and The Hub, a new venue for small concerts tucked under the Shiawassee Street bridge.
- R.E. Olds Transportation Museum
Learn all about Lansing’s all-important contributions to transportation at this museum showcasing more than 80 automobiles, engines and other materials that go back as far as 1886. There’s even an exhibit on lawnmowers! On June 4, the Lansing Lugnuts will honor the historic REO Speedwagon, produced in Lansing, with an REO Speedwagon night. Let’s “Take It on the Run” because we “Can’t Fight This Feeling” anymore.
- Michigan History Museum
Starting with the Anishinaabe and going up through the mid-20th century, Michigan’s peoples are the focus at this flagship of the Michigan History Museum System. The facility includes five floors of permanent and changing exhibits that make the past come alive. Here’s a pro tip: Admission is free on Sundays.
- Heritage Hall at the State Capitol Building
This brand-new, underground visitors center, opening in May, is a public space designed to interconnect the old and new. It will be the site of school trip gatherings, museum-like displays, and a movie room screening informational films, all beneath the gorgeous 1879 capitol building, a designated National Historic Landmark.
- Potter Park Zoo
More than 500 animals representing 160 species call this 20-acre park home, which is dedicated to conserving both animals and the natural world. Among the special attractions are Farmyard Edventures, the Feline and Primate House, the Bird and Reptile House and its truly exotic creatures, and the ever-popular camel rides. Look for the zoo’s newest babies including the Cotton Top Tamarin, Red panda cubs and Bongo calf.
- Peanut Shop
This iconic business, the original Planters Store, has been in Lansing since the 1937. Pop in for freshly roasted nuts and peanuts, old-fashioned candy and other tasty snack items offered in bulk.
Another thing that sets Lansing apart is its sensitivity to neurodiverse individuals and their families, with many attractions offering special sensory-friendly hours and performances.
“We have the goal to be the most sensory-friendly community in Michigan,” says Lanspeary. “More than 1,000 people in the tourism community have undergone training to understand, support and welcome those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities and sensory processing disorder.”
With more than 40 hotels — including a dozen with pools — Lansing is an affordable destination for families, and there’s lots happening during the spring and summer. As Lanspeary says, “There is the misconception that we roll up the sidewalks at night, but in the warm weather there is so much going on.” Plan your own family trip now!
Learn more about adventures in Lansing at lansing.org.