Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Lansing, MI

  • Published 2022/11/13

The city of Lansing in Ingham County, Michigan, is home to the historic State Capitol Building and Michigan State University.

Named after Lansing, New York, the population as of the 2020 census was 112,644, making it the sixth largest city in the Great Lake State.

After being chosen as the state capital of Michigan, the township had three individual settlements called the Village of Michigan and was incorporated as a city in 1859.

Today, tourism is one of the major factors attributed to the city’s progressive economy, with historic and beautiful tourist attractions in the area.

If you’re planning a trip, here are the best free things to do in Lansing, Michigan:

Tour around the Michigan State Capitol

Exterior of the Michigan State Capitol

Sean Pavone /

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the Michigan State Capitol houses the Michigan Legislature’s chambers and offices.

The building was constructed in 1873 and is the third state capitol to house the Michigan government.

It’s also a repository for American Civil War artifacts, such as battle flags and public galleries on the third floor.

The cornerstone in the northeast part of the building seals the documents and other items that depict the history of Michigan and its people.

Unique glass floor in the Michigan State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Michigan State Capitol will amaze you with the building’s Renaissance Revival architectural style and beautiful grounds.

Guided tours are also available, but if you can do it alone, you can’t go wrong!

The Michigan State Capitol is located on North Capitol Avenue.

Senate chamber in the Michigan State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Drop by the Malcolm X Homesite Historical Marker

Critically acclaimed civil rights leader Malcolm X lived a challenging life fighting against racism and black oppression.

The Malcolm X Homesite Historical Marker is a registered historical landmark in Lansing, where Malcolm X lived in the 1930s.

Born Malcolm Little, his mother tried to hold the family together after his father’s violent death on Michigan Avenue.

However, foster services started breaking up his family, which made him leave for Boston and New York, where he got involved in petty crimes and was arrested.

Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965.

The Malcolm X Homesite Historical Marker is on South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Get Closer to Nature and Wildlife at Fenner Nature Center

It’s easy to get lost in the beautiful green space of Fenner Nature Center, which features more than four miles of well-maintained walking trails.

While exploring the area, you’ll see towering maple groves, pretty winding eskers, meadows, dense woods, wildflowers, and different kinds of wildlife.

There are also butterflies, wild turkeys, deer, birds, and other animals that would get you even closer to nature.

If you visit Lansing during the fall season, the fall colors around the nature center are unbelievably stunning!

Try not to miss their annual fall season Apple Butter Festival and spring season Maple Syrup Festival.

They feature paved and unpaved walking trails, making your nature walks even more fun yet relaxing.

Fenner Nature Center had its humble beginnings in 1959 with its founder Carl G. Fenner, who was Lansing’s longtime Forestry Department manager.

Formerly named Arboretum Park, you can find Fenner Nature Center on East Mt. Hope Avenue.

Appreciate the Unique Art and Sculptures at the Downtown Sculpture Walk

Lansing Community College offers a fun activity called the downtown sculpture walk, showcasing art and sculptures by teachers, students, and school alumni.

You’ll see their masterpieces, from the towering Elementary display to the 30-foot-tall Red Ribbon in the Sky.

It also features Dueling Guitarists at the school’s student outdoor seating area and the Inspiration Sculpture at the Lansing City Market by the Grand River.

Many art and sculptures are inside the school campus and the neighboring areas, including the Michigan Capitol grounds and Washington Court Mall.

Don’t miss the murals in the Old Town neighborhood!

The downtown sculpture walk showcases 27 art pieces installed inside the LCC school campus.

Lansing Community College was founded in 1957 on North Grand Avenue.

Let the Kids Try Interactive Activities at Delta Township District Library

Founded in 2008, Delta Township District Library hosts free children’s hands-on activities, including storytime, playtime, and more.

Kids can also enjoy creating crafts, Grab & Go meal kits and learn how to make a scrapbook.

The library also conducts summer programs, reading challenges, and other educational activities for kids and the youth.

Adults and the youth can also join the library’s community discussions.

You must apply for a library card if you need to borrow library materials.

You can find Delta Township District Library on Davenport Drive.

See the Resting Place of Lansing’s Historical Figures at Mt. Hope Cemetery

Many of Lansing’s prominent figures and leaders are laid to rest at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

General John Logan, Ransom Eli Olds, Dr. George Ranney, and many other notable public figures remain here.

Founded in 1874, the cemetery has great rolling hills, flora and fauna, and other scenic views.

It may sound creepy initially, but it’s a great stop to learn local history.

You can find Mt. Hope Cemetery on East Mt. Hope Avenue.

Explore the Lansing River Trail

A bicycle at Lansing River Trail

T-I /

Whether you’re up for strolling, hiking, roller skating, or biking, Lansing River Trail has one of the best scenic trails in town.

If you choose to trail north, you’ll experience fun hills with a great view of the historic Turner-Dodge House.

If you trail west, you’ll go through LCC, the state capitol, and Michigan Justice Building; meanwhile, the east leads you to a few parks and the REO town.

Going south will also bring you to other parks, such as Frances Park and Moores Park, with a mile of beautiful paved trails.

Paved part of the Lansing River Trail

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Lansing River Trail stretches along the Grand River and the Red Cedar River.

Its first trail officially opened in 1975.

In 1981, the multiple-use trail was designated a National Recreation Trail.

Take note: while admission is free, there is a fee if you choose to park at Hawk Island.

Daytime view of the Lansing River Trail

Dj1997, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Watch Fish Climb through the Brenke Fish Ladder

If you’ve never seen a salmon, trout, or sturgeon, the Brenke Fish Ladder offers this exciting activity in Burchard Park in Old Town Lansing.

September is the best time to see migratory fish travel upstream through the ladder to reproduce without hurting themselves.

Watch them climb or jump step by step; others will even leap in the air.

Fishing is strictly prohibited in the ladder area as this is a protected spot for the fish to reproduce freely without harm.

Brenke Fish Ladder was built in 1981 to allow fish to pass through the man-made flow from the dam without being hurt.

It was named after William Brenke, who made efforts to bring trout and salmon to Lansing.

You can find the ladder on East Grand River Avenue.

Skate Your Way to Ranney Skatepark

Ranney Skatepark is a perfect place for rollerblading and skateboarding enthusiasts.

Spend a nice afternoon with your skateboard and play at the skate park inside George E. Ranney Park.

This 20,000-square-foot skate facility is open to all enthusiasts of this sport; whether you’re a player or a spectator, it’s totally free!

Skatepark experts Team Pain designed and built the facility in the park.

There’s also a softball field adjacent to the skatepark, tennis courts, and a sledding run.

Ranney Skatepark is on East Michigan Avenue.

Go Kayaking at Ralph W. Crego Park

Another gem in town is Ralph W. Crego Park, which offers kayaking and canoeing on its small lake.

It’s also great for fishing, with river trail access for those who want to get closer to nature.

You can take scenic walks and enjoy the beauty of nature in this peaceful and beautiful park.

It doesn’t get crowded all the time, so it’s a perfect spot for some quiet time while in Lansing.

Ralph W. Crego Park was established in 1970 on Fidelity Road.

Browse through Interesting Murals in Old Town Lansing

In the city’s northern end sits Old Town Lansing, overlooking the Grand River, featuring a meandering bike trail.

Also known as the North Lansing Historic Commercial District, this eclectic neighborhood features many unique and interesting street art.

Many artists painted murals that tell the story of the city, the neighborhood, festivals, music, and more.

These unique murals add a nice touch to the neighborhood as you stroll through boutiques, coffee shops, or restaurants.

The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It also hosts annual events such as the Old Town BluesFest, Lansing JazzFest, Scrapfest, and Mighty Uke Day.

Old Town Lansing was founded in the mid-19th century on East Grand River Avenue and Turner Street.

Go Hiking at Granger Meadows Park

From taking nature walks, hiking, or biking, there’s no scarcity of activities in Granger Meadows Park.

The park features many amenities, including pavilions, a pond, sports fields, and well-lit paved trails.

The trails are available for hiking and provide scenic views with its natural meadow grasses, an orchard, and many sports activities.

In the winter season, it’s also a go-to place for those who do cross-country skiing and sledding.

Granger Meadows Park is a 76-acre spot on Granger Meadows Lane near State and Wood Roads.

It has great access to Valley Farms Park through a lit paved trail.

The recycling company Granger III and Associates constructed and donated the park in 2005.

Other Free Things to Do Nearby

Only a few minutes from Lansing, these free attractions offer fun activities beyond the city.

Explore the farms, sit at a park, and watch people wander in the following places:

Get a Glimpse of the 19th-Century Lifestyle at the Meridian Historical Village

View of Meridian Historical Village from across a lake

T-I /

See a piece of history and discover how the 19th-century settlers lived in Michigan at the Meridian Historical Village.

Inside the village are different historical buildings depicting the first settlers’ lives.

You’ll see a schoolhouse, an inn, a log cabin, a barn, a farmhouse, a general store, and a plank road tollgate house.

A house at Meridian Historical Village

kennethaw88, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Friends of Historic Meridian, a non-profit organization, established Meridian Historical Village in 1973.

It’s on Marsh Road in Okemos, only 19 minutes from Lansing.

Watch Cider Making at Uncle John’s Cider Mill

Have you ever watched cider being made?

At Uncle John’s Cider Mill, you can discover the process of cider making for free during weekdays and buy one to enjoy with their delicious Uncle John’s donuts.

You can also try their hayrides when the weather is fine, check out the bounce houses and bouncing pillows, or walk around their orchards.

Their barns are now a taproom, a gift shop, a cider mill, and a pie barn.

The cider mill is where you can watch them make their cider, homemade pies, jams and jellies, honey and syrup, and donuts.

John and Carolyn Beck founded Uncle John’s Cider Mill in the early 1970s.

It’s on Highway 127 in St. Johns, less than 30 minutes from Lansing.

Check Out the Gorgeous MSU Horticulture Gardens

Vibrant flowers at MSU Horticulture Gardens

EQRoy /

Located on the Michigan State University-East Lansing campus, the beautiful MSU Horticulture Gardens are among the most-visited spots in the neighborhood.

The gardens feature a landscape arboretum consisting of perennials, shrubs, trees, and new annuals.

It’s a great destination for plant lovers, gardeners, and all nature lovers!

A statue at MSU Horticulture Gardens

SweetCanadianMullet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The horticulture gardens offer a relaxing ambiance for every guest who walks through the beautiful spaces without spending a dime.

It was founded in 1982 when the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum was established for landscape students.

The MSU Horticulture Gardens in East Lansing is only 11 minutes away from Lansing.

The grounds of MSU Horticulture Gardens

SweetCanadianMullet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

The beautiful city of Lansing offers historical sites and amazing tourist spots for you to enjoy.

Learn about the city’s history, see interesting art, and try free activities.

Check out these free things to do in Lansing, Michigan, on your trip!

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