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.

Along Lake Michigan

How much can you discover in one day? Joshua Nowicki, a St. Joseph local, recently found out as he explored the coast of Lake Michigan earlier this fall. Today, Joshua shares his experience with us.

Read about it below and let us know where your favorite place to take a day trip in Michigan is!

Kite surfer near Muskegon, Michigan

Michigan’s Great Lakes feature an astounding number of parks and nature preserves.  Equally amazing is how few of them I have had the opportunity to visit despite being a lifelong Michigander.

So often when I travel, I concern myself with the amount of time that it is going to take for me to get from Point A to Point B.  I have stubbornly ignored dozens of billboards and Pure Michigan signs encouraging me to “Stop, slow down, and enjoy Michigan’s beauty along the way.”

This has been a folly of mine, and this is a wrong that I intend to right.  I recently decided to start taking day trips that do not have set destinations and let the sun determine how far I travel.  I want to focus on all of the ‘places in between’ that I have overlooked in the past and gain a deeper appreciation for my home state.

Holland, Michigan

For my first trip, I wanted to find out how many parks and nature preserves I could visit along the coast of Lake Michigan in one day.  Between busy work days, I planned an adventure, part personal challenge and part scavenger hunt.  How many different locations along Lake Michigan could I photograph? 

I started in the early morning at the City Beach in New Buffalo and completed my journey with a beautiful sunset at Pioneer County Park in Muskegon.  Along the way I visited 24 additional locations, many of which I had never even heard of before.

A few highlights:

  • Enjoyed watching deer walk across foggy dunes at Warren Dunes State Park
  • Talked with fishermen on the pier at Silver Beach County Park while standing under the monumental sculpture ‘And You, Seas’ by Richard Hunt
  • Delighted at seeing the Friends Good Will Tall Ship in South Haven.  
  • Waded in the water and rested on the beach at Pier Cove Park.
  • Watched sailboats near Saugatuck.
  • Stood amazed by the breathtaking view of Lake Michigan from Tunnel Park.
  • Felt exhausted and accomplished after walking the trails at Rosy Mound Natural Area.
  • Marveled at the patterns in the windblown sands of P.J. Hoffmaster State Park.
  • Enjoyed the view of the autumn leaves and Lake Michigan from Muskegon State Park Blockhouse.
  • Stood in awe of the paddle and kite surfers at multiple locations throughout my trip.
  • Relaxed on the beach at the end of the day and enjoyed the sunset from Pioneer County Park.

    Pioneer County Park, Muskegon, Michigan

My trip was fun, beautiful and tiring.  I hiked miles through woodland trails, over sand dunes and climbed thousands of steps on boardwalks.  I intend to return to and spend more time hiking the trails, wading in the water and appreciating all of the new destinations I have newly ‘discovered’ close to home. 

I look forward to my next road trip along the Great Lakes in Pure Michigan… See you there!

Joshua Nowicki is the Director of Community Relations at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan and is a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Museums Association where he serves as the Vice President for Marketing.  Joshua’s interest in photography began while working for a museum in the Metro Detroit area, photographing artifacts, exhibits and events.  After moving to St. Joseph, Michigan in 2011, he started taking nature photographs to encourage his friends and relatives to visit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the area.  Joshua’s inspirations range from Lake Michigan and wildlife to sculpture and architecture.