Recently a tweet came through from an assistant publisher from a local digital magazine. The thing that caught my attention (as well as the attention of a few other #LoveLansing folks) was that it was used to promote a very negative news story. Lansing tends to suffer from an obvious Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. From the perspective of many #LoveLansing ers it’s all sunshine, flower pots and happy, healthy well to do citizens. Then the sun goes down and it turns into a crime riddled, gun totting, prostitution ring, wild, wild, west. I’ve been told that for every bad story that makes it into the media there should be 10 good ones. So today, on this Friday the 13 of July, I will present my 13 reasons why I think Lansing (greater Lansing Area) is a great place to be!
13. The water. I’m not talking just the rivers, which I will get to in a minute but we also have a system of smaller creeks that surround the area. Then there is Hawk Island that has a perfect little lake front oasis set up with swimming, boating and fishing. Also within this park is a wonderfully refreshing Splash Pad.
Many times I have taken my twins there to cool off and play in the shooting jets, and dumping buckets. To the north is the handmade Jones Lake. It’s not nearly as popular as Hawk Island but it’s a cute little lake to check out. If fresh water sources aren’t your thing there are also a couple of public pools in the area including Hunter Park Pool & Splash Pad and Moores Park Pool. If you venture outside of Lansing’s city limits there is Lake Lansing South which is a very popular swimming and beach area. Just north of that is Park Lake which is a no wake boating and fishing lake. Both make wonderful destinations to have a picnic, play on the playgrounds or people watch.
12. Museums. Lansing’s root as explorers, scientists, travelers and inventors is quite evident when you look at the museums in the area. One of my all time favorites is Impression 5 (I5 as us locals like to call it). Inside is a wonderful warehouse filled with fun scientific activities, experiments, play areas and demonstrations. They continue to expand and redesign the contents of this museum to match the needs and desires of the families that visit. They are truly a staple of downtown Lansing. Turner–Dodge House is also an exciting opportunity to step back into time. As a child that lived on the north side I often would ride my bike there and go through the tour of turn of the century artifacts. Outside, we would play on the property for hours; roaming the gardens and climbing on the circular bench surrounding an ancient tree in the front. Another great place to spend the day is the Michigan Historical Museum. A couple of smaller museums that we’ve travelled through during Be A Tourist in Your Own Town are The Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors Institute and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Both are worth a visit.
11. Parks & Nature. Lansing maintains 2000 acres of park land. This really could go much higher up my list as I think our park system is extraordinary! Some of my favorites are Fenner Nature Center, Cooley Gardens (it was this City Saunter that had me visit there for the first time. Read my blog here), Hunter Garden House, Potter Park Zoo, Frances Park, Hawk Island and Scott’s Woods, Louis F. Adado Riverfront Park, Washington Park and Shigematsu Memorial Garden. Check here for the entire listing presented by The Greater Lansing Visitor’s Bureau.
10. Community. Lansing is the best “Little, Big Town”. I hear this phrase all the time. It’s true. It’s big enough to have amazing resources and amenities. Yet it is small enough to bike across, run into someone you know while out, get to have a conversation with the Mayor (city council or president of a large corporation), and know the owner of a local restaurant. A day ago I was with a friend and we were talking about the Lansing skyline. She laughed and said, I still look at the Boji Tower and am astonished that I walked down that. And I was there that day taking photos of her. I’m not sure how likely that would be in Chicago or New York. Also here in our little big town we promote each other’s ventures, ideas and businesses. We cheer on the underdogs and buy local as much as we can. We have incubators, networking meet-ups, small business assistance and non profits like I have never seen or read about in other cities. I’ve often heard that it’s our friendliness, as a community, that really makes people want to be here.
9. Sports. We like to play in Lansing. We also like to watch other people playing. Not only are many Lansing people strong supporters of our Michigan and university based teams, but we also enjoy rooting for our kids on their sports teams, especially when one of them makes it to the 2012 Summer Olympics! (Congratulations to Jordyn Wieber of Dewitt). Lansing also hosts their very own minor league baseball team that draws hundreds into town during the summer months. Last year Lansing had its first full marathon. We also host a multitude of charity races each month and have an annual adventure race called Dirty Feat.
8. Artistic Haven. Rising up out of the rusty Oldsmobiles and Chevys is a strong creative group of entrepreneurs. Sometimes this group even uses those rusty parts to create art in the Old Town Scrap Festival. Old Town also has a multitude of design studios and galleries. Sometimes this artistic nature comes to fruition in theatric form like at River Walk Theatre or Peppermint Creek Theatre, and sometimes is can be in created art found at Art Alley, REACH, or Craig Mitchell Smith Glass Gallery. (Click here for a more complete list of galleries and theaters)
7. The Rivers. I love the rivers in the Lansing area. I also enjoy supporting groups and events that are helping make the river something all the residents can enjoy, like Mid-MEAC and the Capital City Dragon Boat Race held this September 1 & 2.
6. State Government. I like that the Capitol is here. I enjoy the ebb and flow of political conversations. The state government provides stability to this city and helps it stay viable during rough financial situations and collapsing of entire industries. I appreciate that.
5. Education. There is no denying that Lansing has within its borders an immediate access to a plethora of educational institutions. Many of the outer colleges have some sort of agreement with LCC and MSU to provide their programs here. Or you can just attend LCC, Davenport, Cooley Law School or MSU, each with their own set of personalized programs.
4. Non Profits/Volunteer/Community Gardens. I once read that Michigan was able to ride out the recession much better than other states because of our nonprofit programs. Working with Lunch with a Purpose for two years has allowed me to witness all the great things these groups are providing almost always on a volunteer basis. Here is a list from LWP website of local non profits.
3. The Music Scene. At the exact moment of me writing this friends of mine are preparing for the 5th day of Common Ground. Every year for a week in July national musical talents are brought in to perform at this fantastic outdoor concert series. The Capital City Film Festival also coordinates fantastic music performances at the end of each day of that event. These were often held at The Loft which has become the perfect venue for smaller (400 capacity) concerts. Lansing has also been known for its original artists including but not limited to; 19 Wheels, Jen Sygit, Root Doctor, Global Village, Starform, Summer of Sol, John Beltran, Organissimo and Lansing Unionized Vaudeville Spectacle.
2. The Festivals! Old Town on its own hosts about 12 festivals each year!! Add to that Common Ground, Silver Bells, Taste of Downtown, Frost Fest, Christo Rey Fiesta, Ignite, BWL Chili Cook Off, Mosaic Festival, Dragon Boat Race, Apple Butter Festival, Maple Syrup Festival, Capital City Film Festival, TEDxLansing, and my favorite Be a Tourist in Your Own Town. WOW!
And finally my number one favorite thing about Lansing;
1. The Lansing River Trail. A few years back the trail was expanded south from Aurelius across Mt. Hope and into Hawk Island. From there you can continue south all the way to Jolly Rd which is the edge of Lansing’s southern border at that spot. I’ve heard they are planning a route into Holt there. To the east the trail connects to MSU campus which is already extremely bike and walking friendly. To the north (from Aurelius again) you travel passed Potter Park, Impression 5, the Lansing Center, The Lansing City Market, Old Town and up to the Turner Dodge Mansion. (See why I like it so much? You can take it to many of the things on this list!). Now go back south and the right turn you passed before will take you on the west route which takes you right to Moores River Park and really you can continue all the way to Frances Park since the roadway is very biker friendly here.
Even as I finish this up I realize I didn’t get to mention The Lansing City Market, or the Turner Street Outdoor Theatre, or the local publications that keep us up to date on information, or the media “celebrities” that participate in event after event and are a true part of what makes Lansing a great place to be. Maybe there isn’t a way to write out all the amazing things we do have going right here. I hope this might help Mid-Michiganders appreciate it maybe a little bit more. I also hope that this might let those not living here realize what they might be missing.