Michigan’s Capital City, Lansing and neighbor, East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, are filled with year-round free attractions. Annual festivals add even more free things to do.
Lansing also has a special one day event, costing $1, June 4. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town, www.lansing.org/batyot for residents and tourists, offers museums, attractions and one-day-only tours of some of the Greater Lansings’s coolest places. Local dare-devils go “Over the Edge” and rappel 23 stories down the Boji Tower.
Learn about local history from prehistoric times through the late twentieth century at the Michigan Historical Museum www.michigan.gov/museum. Exhibits include a three-story Michigan relief map, a copper mine, one-room schoolhouse and 26 galleries. Research your family tree at The Library of Michigan, www.michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan, one of the top ten genealogical collections in the country. The library houses a rare book collection.
The hands-on gallery at the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center helps visitors of all ages understand the judicial branch of state government.
The over 100-year-old Ingham County Courthouse, www.ingham.org on the National Register of Historic Places, is open weekdays for tours.
Reflect on local heroes at the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial, www.michigan.gov/veterans dedicated to the 2,651 Michigan residents who died serving during the Vietnam War. The steel arc memorial, in front of the Hall of Justice in downtown Lansing, is open daily.
Step back into the Victorian era with a visit to Michigan’s award-winning Capitol Building www.michigan.gov. Designed by Elijah E. Myers, one of the foremost architects of public buildings during the Gilded Age (1865–1914), construction of the Capitol Building took six years and contains over nine acres of hand-painted surfaces. Tours of the public areas and the House and Senate galleries are available every half hour, weekdays.
At Michigan State University:
W. J. Beal Botanical Garden www.cpa.msu.edu/beal/, founded in 1873, is the oldest continuously operated garden of this type in the United States. It includes over 2,700 species.
Beaumont Tower www.music.msu.edu/carillon.php, sits where Old College Hall (the first building erected for study of scientific agriculture) was built. When carillonneurs play noontime recitals on the 49-bell carillon, the tower is often open for visitors. Each July guest carillonneurs play 6 p.m. Wednesday recitals. Bring a picnic and enjoy the music.
Kresge Art Museum www.artmuseum.msu.edu, home to over 7,500 works of art., offers tours, talks, films, events, special programs and a gift shop. Closed Mondays and the month of August.
Learn fascinating facts at the MSU Bug House www.ent.msu.edu, see colorful displays of bugs and get up close and personal with a whole room of creepy crawlers.
Animal lovers should head to MSU Farms, where you can see beef and dairy cattle, horse, poultry, and sheep. Self-guided tours Mon–Fri 9am–4 pm (sheep farm is open daily, including weekends).
The MSU Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, has three floors of exhibits exploring natural history and culture.
May 21 &22 Michigan State University Spring Arts and Crafts Show: The 47th annual show, held on the MSU Union grounds, is one of the largest spring arts and crafts shows in the state.
May 21 & 22 East Lansing Art Festival: Fine artists from Michigan and beyond line downtown East Lansing’s streets to exhibit and sell original works of fine art and fine crafts. Free live music, children’s performances and hands-on arts activities.
June 17-18 Summer Solstice Jazz Festival: in downtown East Lansing with two evenings of live jazz, from local and national jazz performers.
June 17-19 12th Annual Riverbank Traditional Indian Pow Wow: Experience the Woodland Indian culture of Michigan at Louis Adado Riverfront Park with programs that highlight dancing, drumming, singing, arts and crafts, food and more.
June 25 Delta Rocks! Family Festival: featuring clowns, pony rides, inflatable attractions, games, kids’ make-it and take-it crafts, music, live animals, super slingshot, face painting, turtle races, trackless train and concessions. (517) 323-8555
August 5-6 Lansing JazzFest: features regional and national jazz acts. Held in Lansing’s historic Old Town, offering galleries, shops and vendors of ethnic food, arts and crafts.
August 12-14 MSU Museum’s Great Lakes Folk Festival: Music, dance, food and more with the roots, the rhythms and the richness of cultures across America and around the world.
August 12–14 St. Johns Mint Festival: Mint farming is celebrated with art and crafts, a flea market, food concessions, a parade, sports tournaments, free entertainment, a quilt show, a car show and activities for kids.
September 16-17 Old Town BluesFest: Over 20 regional and national blues acts.
November 18 Silver Bells in the City: Celebrate the season in downtown with the annual electric light parade, Christmas tree lighting and fireworks display cascading over the Capitol dome.
December 3 Old Town Dickens Village: Start the holiday season by celebrating Old Town’s Victorian heritage. Enjoy family-friendly activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides, puppet shows, a holiday market and carolers.