Lansing: Modern Classic Done Right

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. Today, she fills us in on a recent day trip that she and her husband took to Lansing, Michigan.

Whether you’re looking for intricate architecture, historical venues, great shopping, or places to dine, Lansing has it all. As Michigan’s “capitol city,” this diverse area brims with timelessness while managing to grow and adapt with modern society. For first-time visitors like me, however, experiencing everything Lansing has to offer in just one day can seem like a stretch. Nevertheless, one day is what my husband and I had when we made the trip, so we took a fast-forward tour of the city, sampling the overall picture of what makes Lansing a hot spot for people traveling across central Michigan.

First on our destination list was Lansing’s downtown area. Easily accessed just off of I-496, downtown Lansing hosts a mecca of small shops and eateries, a perfect lunchtime hub for tourists and local businesspeople alike. After grabbing some sandwiches at the Spotted Dog Café , my husband and I walked a couple of blocks to the state capitol building, a must-see for all visitors. Inside, we encountered countless rooms and hallways that were trimmed from top to bottom in Michigan pine, yet meticulously hand-painted to mimic walnut.  As we wandered from floor to floor, I couldn’t help but think of what it would be like to spend time in such a beautiful building every day. All of my thoughtful pondering, however, did not stop my inner child from posing for silly pictures in the reflection on the golden elevator doors.

Next, it was on to the Michigan Historical Center, a site that houses the state library, archives, and historical museum. While my husband and I didn’t have time to skim the library’s extensive genealogical records, we made sure to take in as much of the museum’s enormous collection as possible. With everything there is to know about Michigan history, from its first settlers throughout much of the 20th century, this was one of the best museums I’ve visited while in Michigan. We spent an hour or two looking around, but if we had allotted for it, the museum could easily have sufficed for an entire afternoon’s worth of entertainment.

With the day flying by, my husband and I hopped in the car and drove a few minutes down the road to Old Town. There, we encountered several blocks of art galleries, gift shops, and a little bakery called Aggie Mae’s, where we bought a couple of delicious cookies made with so many ingredients, I can’t begin to remember everything that was in them.  The town was quiet on that Monday afternoon, but our post-cookie stroll was complemented by a refreshing lack of crowds and a serene view of the river.  Eventually, dinnertime rolled around, and we scouted out Meat, a so-called “carnivore cuisine” restaurant. Feasting on pulled pork and brisket, we chatted with a down-to-earth waitress and hung out in the southern-inspired spot for a while—a great way to escape the chilly night outside.

After dinner, we took a quick cruise around the Michigan State University campus, and then found our way across the city for a little shopping at the Eastwood Towne Center.  Comprised of restaurants and upscale stores, Eastwood showed yet another facet of Lansing we had not seen.  We spent the remainder of the evening unwinding among shelves of new and used media at Schuler Books, then called it a night and headed back towards Detroit. So many things to do, and so little time . . . but you can bet I’ll be back. See you soon, Lansing.

Jennifer Bowman is a southwest Virginia native who moved to Michigan just over a year ago. Fascinated by travel and discovering new places, Jennifer spends her free time exploring Michigan towns and writing about her experiences on her blog, Wading in Big Shoes. You can follow her on Twitter @JHBowman.

Put It on Paper at the Michigan Historical Museum

Literature lovers don’t want to miss Put It on Paper – a special exhibit running now at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing! Mary Dettloff of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources fills us in on what visitors can expect.

Hand-written manuscripts by Laura Ingalls Wilder. A piece of short fiction by a young Ernest Hemingway. The original architectural drawings for the WorldTradeCentertwin towers. What do all these items have in common? They are part a special exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing called Put It on Paper.

The exhibit highlights the various stages of the creative process used by writers, artists, architects, musicians and designers with a Michigan connection, such as the hand-written manuscripts of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The famed author, a native of Wisconsin, began her Michiganconnection in 1937, when she spoke at the Detroit Book Fair hosted by the J.L. Hudson Department Store. In 1949, the Detroit Public Library named its branch on Seven Mile Road after her, and in a show of gratitude Wilder donated two manuscripts – The Long Winter and These Happy Golden Years – to the library. 

An early Ernest Hemingway handwritten manuscript for his story Sportsman’s Hash, which he wrote while visiting Michigan as a young man.

Hemingway spent time in Michigan as a young man, and while here, he penned a short piece of fiction called Sportsman’s Hash. The original document, written on his father’s stationery, is part of the exhibit and shows Hemingway’s work before he went on to become one of the iconic writers of the 20th century.

Minoru Yamasaki came toMichiganin 1945 as a young architect and in just a few short years would help usher in theMichiganmodern design movement. He designed several important buildings at the height of his career, but perhaps none as well-known as the former World Trade Center twin towers in Lower Manhattan, which would later be destroyed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Yamasaki’s original drawings for the twin towers, along with other materials, are housed at the Archives of Michigan, and select items from the collection are on display as part of this exhibit.

The original architectural drawings of the World Trade Center Twin Towers by Michigan-based architect Minoru Yamasaki. Yamasaki was based in the Detroit area and is one of the celebrated architects of Michigan modern design movement. He also designed several buildings in Michigan, including One Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

Other items in the exhibit include conceptual car design drawings and models, art from contemporary Michigan artist and illustrator Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (best known as a children’s book illustrator, including The Legend of Sleeping Bear), and music compositions by Michigan performers. An interactive area allows visitors to create their own masterpieces, including an area for kids who want to dabble in landscape architecture.

Put It on Paper is on exhibit until August 25, 2013. For more information about the exhibit, hours of operation and admission fees for the museum, go to While at the museum, check out its permanent exhibits about the history of our great state – The First People to 1900 and Michigan in the Twentieth Century. The museum also has a gift shop stocked with interesting Michigan-related items, including several books about different aspects of the history of the state. Group tours are welcome at the museum, and please note that spring school field trip season is the busiest time of the year.

Mary Dettloff is senior advisor for communications for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and a native of Northern Michigan.

From our Community: What’s your Favorite Place in Michigan to get Comfort Food?

As temperatures drop, it’s the perfect time of year to cozy up with friends and family and enjoy your favorite comfort foods. From the mac and cheese at the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen to the chicken at Zehnder’s or Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, there are plenty of places to indulge in your favorite comfort dishes across the state – including a few hidden gems.

We got some great responses over the weekend when we asked fans on our Facebook page: “What’s your favorite place in Michigan to get comfort food?” Here are some comments we wanted to share. Thanks to everyone who responded!

xochimilcos in Mexican town in Detroit.” – Alex Gurne

“Chicken Jalapeno soup at Art’s in Glen Arbor!” – Aline Levanen Gauss

“The best breakfast comfort food is at Suomi’s, in Houghton, way up in da UP. Traditional Finnish breakfast and regular breakfast foods. All. SO. GOOD.” – Olivia Zajac

RUB BBQ across from Comerica park has the best Mac n Cheese hands down.” – Jesse Cahill

Clarkston Union has awesome (gourmet) mac n cheese.” – Patrick Fetterman

“Mac and cheese from Blue Tractor in Traverse City. ♥ it!!” – Chelsea Lyn

Grand Rapids: Hopcat – Killer Mac n Cheese. Tip: add bacon and jalapenos, mmmm!” – Kevin Littlepage

“The Hilltop in L’anse. Cinnamon rolls the size of your head.” – Robert Bruce Brevitz

Central City Tap House in downtown Kalamazoo serves mac & cheese with pork belly. Can’t think of a more perfect combination! Plus vast scotch whisky menu and craft beers.” – Karel Juhl

Slow’s BBQ in Corktown, and the Mac ‘n Cheese at Zingermans Deli in A2 (Ann Arbor) can’t be beat. It’s divine!” – Colleen Smith Adkins

“Besides my own kitchen, DeLuca’s in Lansing.” – Lucy Dionise Platte

Fieldstone Grille in Portage…they have the best pot roast sandwhich!” – Jennifer Zindler

“At home; my husbands meatloaf. It must be why God made cows! And Zehnder’s in Frankenmuth for CHICKEN !!! YAY!!!” – Sarahlynn E Kelly