Lansing, located in south central Michigan, is the state capital and a cultural, industrial and educational center, home to West Michigan University and Michigan State University.
Downtown Lansing has plenty to see and do and ensures you're close to the center of the action. While the area has numerous students, it also has a number of regeneration and revitalization projects happening within its boundaries to keep the city alive. The capitol building, however, truly stands out thanks to its glass rotunda.
Restaurants & Nightlife
Many of the restaurants in East Lansing serve American food, with a few international options thrown in for good measure. Prices tend toward low or mid-range to cater to the budget-conscious college crowd. Grand River Avenue serves as the central location for restaurants, bars and clubs in the area.
Locals rave about the sushi at SanSu Sushi & Cocktails on Hagadorn Road, which features a cozy sunken seating area. Try the champagne roll or the fresh oysters, or go with a fully cooked chicken teriyaki bento box. For a more adventurous option, check out Altu's Ethiopian Cuisine. The restaurant serves traditional Ethiopian dishes, each made with a smooth, onion-based sauce. Don't miss the spicy ground peas and the lamb stew, or bring a friend or two and indulge in the Group Meat Feast.
When you're in the mood for a quick and filling dinner, stop by Crunchy's for classic pub food. Bring your appetite for an order of loaded tater tots and a Famous Crunchy's Burger, all washed down with a locally brewed Gingerbread Milk Brown beer. After dark, Crunchy's transforms into one of East Lansing's most popular nightspots. Daily drink specials, karaoke nights and occasional comedians bring in a steady stream of Michigan State students and young professionals.
Like Crunchy's, most of the nightlife options in East Lansing feature a casual, welcoming atmosphere. Many hot spots fill with college students on the weekends, but the neighborhood houses bars for people of all ages. For a relaxed evening, try out the traditional hookah pipes at Blue Midnight Hookah Lounge. Don't worry if you've never done it before; the friendly staff can answer all of your questions. Escape the rowdy college crowds at Beggars Banquet, a cozy saloon with excellent pub food. If you're into live music, listen to local bands at Mac's Bar on East Michigan Avenue or check out the regular schedule of touring indie groups at The Loft.
History & Culture
Originally home to two different Native American tribes, East Lansing did not attract European settlers until the early 1800s. A tiny community sprung up nearby in 1836, but East Lansing remained unsettled until the Michigan state capital was moved from Detroit to nearby Lansing in 1847. Ten years later, Michigan State University moved to the neighborhood, and the population grew quickly.
Today, the university serves as the center of culture in East Lansing. It houses the neighborhood's museums, which include the Michigan State University Museum and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. The Wharton Center for the Performing Arts hosts a regular schedule of touring music, theater and dance shows, and campus performing groups offer concerts around the neighborhood. Each year, East Lansing comes alive with events, such as the March Magic Hoopfest, the East Lansing Art Festival and the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival.
Like many Michigan neighborhoods, East Lansing is a car-dependent city. Residents can walk easily around the Michigan State campus and the central business districts, but most other trips require cars. Some streets feature bike lanes, but the heavy traffic in East Lansing merits extreme caution. Expect to see plenty of other bikers near campus and along the 4.5-mile Northern Tier Trail.
The CATA bus system serves East Lansing, providing numerous connections to points around the neighborhood. The most important and useful lines include 1, 24, 25, 26 and 48. Call ahead when you need a cab, or schedule a ride with Uber.
Parking in East Lansing can be a challenge, particularly on weekdays near campus. Inexpensive metered parking spots line the main streets, and in-demand free parking spots scatter throughout smaller arteries. In residential areas, be sure to check signs for permit restrictions. Getting out of East Lansing takes just minutes; the neighborhood offers easy access to highway 127 and interstates 496, 69 and 96.
In comparison to the city of Lansing as a whole, East Lansing has a higher cost of living — largely due to housing costs. Even so, ample affordable housing options can be found; East Lansing's average rental rate sits at $706.
If you want to travel from East Lansing to downtown Lansing, a one-way ticket costs $1.25. A beer at one of the many neighborhood bars runs about $5 per pint. If you drive, expect gas prices that match the national average.
Most of the stores in East Lansing cater to the neighborhood's college student population, and high-end shops are virtually nonexistent. For clothes, residents frequently stop by the Meridian Mall. Most boutiques and stores in East Lansing sit along both sides of Grand River Avenue.
East Lansing bibliophiles love the rare-book selection at Curious Book Shop. This quaint spot carries everything from new paperbacks to hard-to-find antique books, with knowledgeable staff members on hand to answer questions. Check out the large comic section, or hunt through the stacks of Michigan sports memorabilia.
If you're into music, direct your attention to the well-organized stock of vintage records and CDs at Flat, Black & Circular. The store also buys products for cash. At Pitaya on Grand River Avenue, the indie fashions and eclectic jewelry draw East Lansing's trendiest shoppers. Locals love the accessories section, which often features items for less than $20.
When faced with bare cupboards, East Lansing residents stock up on staples at Meijer or Kroger. If you prefer a smaller neighborhood market, check out ELFCO, the East Lansing Food Co-op on Northwind Drive. The store carries numerous organic products, bulk dried goods and a number of vegan-cooking substitutes. A Market on Chandler Road keeps locals stocked with rice noodles, stir-fry sauces and other Asian imports. From June to October, you can buy your fresh vegetables at the East Lansing Farmer's Market in Valley Court Park. Many sellers come directly from local farms, and all vendors must grow or make their own food in order to participate.
More than 20 parks dot the landscape in East Lansing, providing residents with ample opportunity to enjoy the warm summers and crisp autumns. The leafy campus of Michigan State University covers a significant portion of the neighborhood, and local residents often use the university's many trails for running and biking. The MSU Disc Golf Course also offers free entry for the public.
Families in East Lansing love the playground and ball fields at Patriarche Park. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the pavilion or work on your serve on the tennis courts. At Valley Court Park, the paved trails and volleyball court bring in students and residents year round. Each year, the park hosts events, including the Moonlight Film Festival and Play in the Park. If you own a dog, the Northern Tail Dog Park features a large fenced-in area and convenient water stations. Residents can use all parks in East Lansing free of charge.