Things to Do in Michigan and East Lansing

Fun Facts about Michigan

Michigan is made up of two peninsulas, the Lower Peninsula, which is shaped like a mitten and the Upper Peninsula (the “U.P.”) which is contiguous with Wisconsin.  The state has shorelines on four of the five Great Lakes, Huron, Michigan, Superior and Erie, giving it the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision in the world (according to Wikipedia), but more importantly, the coast is always fairly close-by.

Michigan is most famous for its auto industry, but it is the second most diverse agricultural state in the US, just behind California. Different regions of the state are ideal for growing diverse crops.  The western shore of the Lower Peninsula is the fruit-growing region (blueberries, cherries, apples, peaches, pears and plums).  The northern edge of this region has a thriving wine region.  Wheat, corn and soy is grown in Central Michigan and supports industries such as Kellogg, headquartered in Battle Creek. The “Thumb” area of the mitten contains very fertile land that produces corn, sugar beets, and dry beans.  Michigan is also a prime producer of chipping potatoes, grown in Northern Michigan.

Below is a list of places that you might enjoy in Michigan.  The list is by no means comprehensive, and we have not even touched on the natural wonders of the U.P.  Please look up for additional ideas.

On Campus

The Broad Museum

Located on the north end of MSU’s campus, the Broad Museum was designed by Priitzker Prize winning architect Aha Hadid, and opened in 2012.  The museum houses rotating art exhibits, but the building itself is the main attraction.

The MSU Museum

The MSU Museum houses the science and culture exhibits at MSU and is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. A variety of rotating and traveling exhibits can be viewed.  Check the webpage for current exhibits.

Campus Gardens

MSU houses numerous gardens and natural areas throughout campus.  These include the Beal Botanical Garden, near the Kellogg Center.  At the southern end of campus, near the Plant Sciences Buildings are the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens, the Perenial Gardens and the 4H Children’s Gardens.  The Sanford Natural area and Baker Woodlot are both preserves that are managed for low impact usage and are great places to walk. For a map of the campus Natural Areas follow this link.

Local Attractions

The Capital Building

Lansing is the state capital of Michigan. Tour the Capital Building sited at the end of Michigan Avenue.  Dedicated in 1879, the capital building contains over nine acres of hand-painted surfaces.

Old Town

Located at the site of Lansing’s original settlement, this thriving area has interesting shops, art galleries, ethnic restaurants, and antique and specialty shops.  Also located in the area is Elderly Instruments, a world-reknowned music store specializing in folk and string instruments and music.  Elderly’s has a thriving mail-order business, but here is your chance to visit it in person!

Impressions 5 Hands-on Science Center

An interactive science museum for kids, but great fun for the whole family. The bubble room is a personal favorite!

R. E. Olds Museum

Named for the founder of Oldsmobile, this museum displays over 50 vehicles dating back to 1886.

Michigan Historical Museum

A museum of the natural and cultural history of Michigan. Many interactive exhibits.

Farther Afield

Grand Traverse Region

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Boasts miles of sandy beach and huge dunes, providing views of Lake Michigan. A gem of the Lower Peninsula.

Leelanau Pennisula Wine Trail

Grand Traverse Bay boasts more than 25 wineries. Even better, they are located in one of the most picturesque areas of Michigan.

Old Mission Peninsula

Beautiful views of Lake Michigan, dotted with bed and breakfasts, inns, and antique stores, the Old Mission Peninsula has great charm in a relaxed atmosphere.

Traverse City

Traverse City is the heart of the sour cherry growing area of the US and hosts the Cherry Festival in early July.  The picturesque city on Lake Michigan caters to tourists with good places to eat and interesting shopping.

Northeastern Lower Peninsula

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas and with a full view of the Mackinac bridge.  The island has a long history during the European colonization of this area. The only access to the island is by boat and horses and bicycles are the only modes of transportation on this picturesque island (no cars allowed).

Western Michigan

Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland area

Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan. The city has a very strong arts component, and both the Art museum and the Public museum are both great places to take in art and culture.  The Meijer Gardens has art exhibits intermingled with gardens.

Saugatuck Region on Lake Michigan

Saugatuck is located on the western edge of Michigan.  This area has many small, picturesque towns, with good food and beautiful scenery.

Southeastern Michigan

Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is home of the University of Michigan, but it is also a beautiful and interesting city, housing several museums, a vibrant music  and arts scene and it is a great place to walk.

Detroit Area

Detroit Institute of Arts

Founded in 1885, the DIA houses one of the top six art collections in the country. Perhaps most important and unique are the frescos by Diego Rivera which portray his opinions about Henry Ford’s auto manufacturing industry.  This is a must see! 

Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village and the Rouge River plant tour (near the Detroit Airport)

The Henry Ford museum houses a collection of important American artifacts including historical furniture, Presidential limosines, the Rosa Parks bus, steam engines, several “new age” modular homes and an exhibit on inventions, among other exhibits. Greenfield Village was started by Henry Ford as a collection of historical buildings and includes Thomas Edison’s laboratory, Noah Webster’s house, a working 1880’2 farm.  Tour the Rouge River auto plant to learn about auto manufacturing and design, past and present.