Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in East Lansing, MI

  • Published 2022/03/11

East Lansing is a residential and university city that mostly lies within Ingham County, with a smaller portion extending into Clinton County.

It is located just three miles east of Lansing, the dynamic capital of Michigan.

East Lansing is well known as the home of Michigan State University, or MSU, a coeducational institution of higher learning, a noted institution for research, and a pioneer of land-grant universities.

Through its colleges, MSU provides detailed undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs for residents of the city and beyond.

In East Lansing, you will find college town neighborhoods clustered vibrantly around the downtown and close to MSU’s lovely park-like campus.

The downtown area has a little bit of everything from the spark of university pride to the small-town intimacy of retail shops, bookstores, cafes, marketplaces, and more.

East Lansing offers endless experiences for residents and visitors, from parks, gardens, and trails, to restaurants, gardens, and galleries.

One does not have to go too far from East Lansing to experience the metropolitan life, sandy beaches, and ski slopes that characterize Michigan.

If you want to make discoveries in East Lansing, here is a list of the best things to do while you’re in the city.

View Contemporary Works at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

Exterior of the unique building of Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, also known as the MSU Broad, is a museum for contemporary art, engaging public institution in Michigan State University.

It has a permanent collection of over 10,000 works ranging from the Greek and Roman eras to the Renaissance modern art.

It is devoted to exhibiting and exploring important works from all over the globe, encouraging engagement with issues of worldwide significance and local relevance.

A girl art at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

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This 46,000-square-foot museum features a striking façade of pleated stainless steel and glass.

It was designed by Zaha Hadid, winner of the Pritzker Prize, and named after Eli and Edythe Broad, longtime university patrons and advocates of art.

A piece of art at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

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Invite Your Friends to Challenges East Lansing Adventure and Escape Rooms

Challenges East Lansing is a live adventure room wherein teams of 2-10 people are locked for an hour and must accomplish tasks, solve puzzles, and discover clues to find the key to escape.

It offers four different and fun adventures, and once you’ve played in one, you’ll want to play them all!

Pharaoh’s Revenge is an Egyptian-themed room where you and your companions must escape a tomb and a mummy’s curse.

Tin Star Saloon puts you in the Wild West, where you have to find a secret recipe before bandits arrive in town.

In Special Agent: Cold War, you have an hour to find if a secret agent is a traitor and working for the Soviet Union.

And in The Naughty List, find the list in Santa’s workshop before your name ends up in the naughty section.

Have a Drink at Ellison Brewery + Spirits

There are many ways to relax while out on the town, and a drink at a laidback brewery might be what you need.

At Ellison Brewery, they take pride in their handcrafted beer, wine, and spirits and have made creating them into a science, always testing out new formulas and tinkering with the craft of brewing.

The Clubhouse is their brewpub in East Lansing, and they invite everybody here to see how beer is created.

Ellison Brewery was formed in 2015 from humble beginnings when Lansing still didn’t have a large enough brewery to sell beer outside its taproom.

The brewery made it its mission to experiment, and now there are 700 different locations all across Michigan to purchase their products.

Their delicious core beers are Amber Ale, American Lager, Crescent Fresh India Pale Ale, Dawn Street Pale Ale, and Tiramisu Ale.

See the Conservation Efforts at Potter Park Zoo

A small red panda at Potter Park Zoo.

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Potter Park Zoo is a 102-acre zoo and the oldest public one in Michigan, housing more than 160 species of animals.

Its East Lansing Zoo is ideal for educational purposes and family-friendly events such as cookouts, live concerts, and exclusive after-hours events.

The zoo’s mission is to inspire people to conserve the natural world and the animals that dwell in it, and it does its part to save species through education, research, breeding and release programs, and more.

An eagle spreading its wings at Potter Park Zoo.

Gordon Satoh /

It has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1986 and participates in its Species Survival Plan, which is designed to conserve and manage threatened and endangered species.

Some of the animals in the wild that the zoo helps conserve are the rhinoceros, peregrine falcon, Puerto Rican crested toad, American pine marten, Michigan least shrew, and Great Lakes Piping Plover.

An albino peacock at Potter Park Zoo.

John Rockstad /

See the Wonders of Space at Abrams Planetarium

The Talbert and Leota Abrams Planetarium, simply known as the Abrams Planetarium, is located on the lovely Michigan State University Campus, functioning as a space science and astronomy education resource center for central Michigan.

It is managed by the school’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, supports astronomy teaching to the masses, and offers a variety of planetarium shows.

At these shows, visitors sit underneath a dome-shaped ceiling and undergo a ‘live star talk’ where they learn about the planets, constellations, stars, and various other celestial bodies.

After this, the audience can look at the night sky through the planetarium’s 24-inch telescope and other smaller telescopes.

Here they view selected astronomical objects, while MSU astronomers stand by to answer questions.

The planetarium also has a lecture series free of charge called Astronomical Horizons, which surveys all the latest developments in astronomy.

Listen to Quality Jazz at the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival

The Summer Solstice Jazz Festival is a free yearly festival in the heart of downtown East Lansing that celebrates the summer season with the finest in local, regional, and national jazz.

This lively event salutes jazz as a truly American art form and features a host of jazz artists and community and youth education for the tourists and residents of East Lansing.

For more than 20 years, it has offered a multiple-stage, live outdoor music venue for everybody in Greater Lansing.

Its Founders Stage, named after the founders Al and Beth Cafagna, features a range of artists from locally loved names to Grammy-nominated experts.

It also features musicians on the Michigan State University Outreach and Engagement Education stage, which allows the local high school and youthful up-and-coming jazz musicians to show their talents.

At the festival, you will bask in intimate performances, appreciate unstoppable new artists, dance to energetic pieces, and glimpse the future of jazz showcased by these dazzling talents.

Bring Your Kids to 4-H Children’s Garden

Name sign of the 4-H Children's Garden.

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4-H Children’s Garden is an outdoor garden complex inside Michigan State University.

It first opened in 1993 and was the first garden in the United States developed to educate young children on a university campus.

A green footbridge at 4-H Children's Garden.

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It draws in over 100,000 visitors per year and is nationally renowned for its technological innovations.

The garden is a great place for children to learn about botany and science; it also offers interactive activities to help students develop their green thumb.

Colorful archway at 4-H Children's Garden.

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Its mission is to promote understanding of plants and the roles they play in our lives, nurture the wonder, imagination, and curiosity of a child, and provide a spot of delight and enrichment in children of any age.

Your kids can visit their themed gardens with names like Sunburst Entrance or Imagination Arbor and take their Butterfly Tours to study butterflies and make related crafts.

A butterfly shaped bench at 4-H Children's Garden.

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Appreciate Quality Artworks at Saper Galleries and Custom Framing

Saper Galleries is a top-tier, bricks-and-mortar, an award-winning gallery in East Lansing that has thrived for 44 years, being a leader in providing friendly, reliable, and professional service to thousands of art collectors worldwide.

Saper Galleries owns and inventories 1500 original artworks – by 150 artists from 15 countries – that one can view and acquire from their gallery, reminiscent of a museum.

Saper Galleries prides itself in introducing to the people the type of art that one may not see anywhere else.

It recognizes that art reflects the different tastes of individuals, respects collectors’ interests, and shows a range of imagery, from impressionist and traditional styles to nonrepresentational and contemporary imagery.

All media types are represented in the Saper Galleries inventory: drawings, paintings, Polages, raku, hand-blown glass, sculpture, limited edition prints, bas-reliefs, kinetic light sculptures, wooden boxes, mobiles, ceramics, and many others.

Celebrate Creativity at the East Lansing Art Festival

Since 1964, the East Lansing Art Festival has been proud to continue its tradition of taking top-quality artworks to the streets of East Lansing.

This highly anticipated festival attracts over 70,000 art patrons from around the region.

Its mission is to increase the feeling of community and the appreciation for culture, art, and creativity both in East Lansing and the greater Lansing region.

You will find a lively and bustling art bazaar with artist booths, food trucks, musicians playing tunes, and people relaxing in the creative ambiance.

It is an ever-evolving outdoor celebration of fine craft and fine art, including poetry readings, live music, an artist demonstration area, and children’s art education activities.

Many art forms are covered here, including glassware, woodworking, drawing, precious jewelry, sculpture, and different digital art and photography forms.

Get Educated at the MSU Museum

Exterior and entrance of the MSU Museum.

Paul R. Burley , CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan State University Museum was launched on campus in 1857 and is one of the earliest established museums in the country.

It is a member of the American Alliance of Museums and was first in the state to be a Smithsonian Affiliate, bestowed by the Smithsonian institution.

The museum has natural science collections covering mammalogy, ornithology, ichthyology, herpetology, and vertebrate paleontology, all with a worldwide scope and providing a biodiversity record hailing back to the 1840s.

A spartan mask exhibit inside the MSU Museum.

Rachael Zylstra from East Lansing, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It has cultural and historical collections centered around anthropology, history, folklife, and cultural heritage, encompassing the diversity of nature and human cultures over time.

The museum is highly committed to interpreting, understanding, and respecting natural and cultural diversity.

It meets its commitments to society via research, exhibitions, education, and the stewardship and building of collections focusing on Michigan, the Great Lakes, and the rest of the world.

Spend a Day in Patriarche Park

If you’re looking for a place in East Lansing to bring your family for a fun day out, Patriarche Park is here for your needs.

Named after a former East Lansing manager, Patriarche Park spans 1.2 acres and has many outdoor amenities and recreational attractions.

Patriarche Park has a large playground with an eco-friendly modern design perfect for youth fitness.

The playgrounds include a poured-in-place playground surface, a brick entry plaza, a rain garden, colorful play equipment, walkways, and a lot more.

If you want to grind your athletic gears, the park also has tennis, pickleball, volleyball, baseball, softball, and basketball.

And for anyone who wants more lowkey activities, there are picnic areas and pavilions, benches, grills, and a footpath.

Note that anyone who wants to reserve a picnic pavilion or table is also responsible for cleaning up the areas they use, including the grills.

Watch Movies at the East Lansing Film Festival

The East Lansing Film Festival is Michigan’s largest and second oldest film festival.

It is a year-round, multi-pronged, nonprofit organization created in 1997 to take independent films to the mid-Michigan area and encourage filmmaking in the region.

It showcases films from around the world, independent and foreign features, documentaries, shorts, and student films.

All festival films are eligible for audience awards, and prizes are given for best documentary, feature, and short film.

It holds the Lake Michigan Film Festival in the early winter, awarding prizes to films made in the four states surrounding Lake Michigan: Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

It likewise has the Indie Film Series in which 3 or 4 independent, first-run movies are run for four weeks, 10 months of the year.

The festival also hosts parties and a seminar wherein directors attend and hold question and answer panels with audiences.

See the Beauty of WJ Beal Botanical Garden

A duck on the pond of WJ Beal Botanical Garden.

Jon Bilous /

Located within the lush and thriving campus of Michigan State University, WJ Beal Botanical Garden is an outdoor laboratory for the study and appreciation of plants.

It is 5 acres wide, was started in 1873 by Professor William James Beal, and is free to the public.

His dearest hope was that students would become discerning investigators and observers through the garden instead of simple reservoirs of accumulated knowledge.

Landscape at WJ Beal Botanical Garden.

Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The garden is involved in teaching, research, conservation, collection, development, and public service.

These activities center around a theme of economic botany, plant diversity, plant conservation, and ecology.

The garden has 1800 plant taxa on display, placed in systematic, landscape, ecological and economic groupings.

Among its collections and divisions are endangered species, forest communities, landscape plants, nonflowering vascular plants, plant families, useful plants, and wetlands.

Colorful flowers on the ground at WJ Beal Botanical Garden.

Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chill and Hang Out at Pinball Pete’s

Pinball Pete’s is one of the few remaining arcades in the region, with a 10000 square foot facility, offering a huge arcade area with a vast selection of pinball machines.

The place has awesome offers for people who rent it out to celebrate birthday parties and other private events.

Pinball Pete’s almost closed in 2020, but its loyal fanbase managed to raise enough money to fund their beloved mid-Michigan hangout.

With the donations came contributors leaving messages of hope and stories of childhood memories and first dates that took place at Pinball Pete’s.

Here you can play tons of machines from Star Trek, The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, Game of Thrones, South Park, Metallica, Austin Powers, and others.

Other arcade games include Space Invaders, Tetris, the Simpsons, Ice Ball Alley Roller, Dance Dance Revolution, driving and shooting games, and air hockey.

Watch a Game at Spartan Stadium

Exterior of the Spartan Stadium.


Spartan Stadium has been a wonderful contribution to the world of Michigan Sports since it opened in 1923.

Nicknamed “the Woodshed,” it is primarily for football events and is home to the Michigan State University Spartans.

Since its opening, Michigan State has won almost 70 percent of its games played in the stadium.

A spartan helmet board at Spartan Stadium.


Spartan Stadium is just one of four collegiate football fields in the United States to win the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) Field of the Year award two times.

It always has a wonderful crowd and band that stirs up the audience, singing songs and carrying the tradition of cheering on the home team during the game.

The stadium is representative of Michigan’s football past and a vote of confidence in the future of collegiate sports.

It continues to break records and climb to national football prominence as time passes.

A ticket booth at Spartan Stadium.


Final Thoughts

East Lansing has many intellectual pursuits, artistic showcases, and educational opportunities for anyone who visits.

If you’re curious about what else this city holds, take along this list to know the best things you can do here.

For a helping of knowledge and culture to stimulate discoveries, make East Lansing your next vacation destination.

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