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8 Things to Do in East Lansing (Plus Insider Tips Only Locals Would Know!)

Classic style and campus spirit aren’t the only things to see near Michigan State University, though you’ll certainly find them at Graduate East Lansing. Beloved by Spartans and as-yet-undiscovered by others, East Lansing is an underrated gem of a college town. 

The Grand River rushes through it and unique eateries and boutiques abound within it, creating a haven for anyone with a passion for good food, good times, and boundless culture. Take a look at our favorite things to do, see, and eat while in East Lansing, complete with the insider tips you’ll need to really get this Sparty started.

1

Wharton Center for the Performing Arts

You never know what’ll take the stage at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, an East Lansing favorite for show tunes and sold out crowds. Each new season brings Broadway favorites as well as intimate concerts and family-friendly performances. Though Wharton Center’s rich history in performing arts reaches all the way back to 1939, their offerings are remarkably modern, blending the most popular shows of today with more close-to-home educational experiences. 

Spring for a season pass so you won’t miss a show or simply buy a ticket for a night at the theater while you’re in town. No matter how many times you’ve visited the Wharton Center, you’ll always find reasons to return.

Insider Tip

If you’re an MSU student, make sure to go for College Nights at Wharton, when the center is reserved exclusively for Spartans.

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2

Michigan State University Museum

Walk the halls of the earliest established museum in the United States: the Michigan State University Museum. Nearly a million artifacts from around the world line the museum’s shelves and exhibits, spanning anthropology, natural science, folk arts, and history. Get up close to everything from life-sized habitat dioramas to an exhibit on the Great Lakes’ economic roots. 

Beyond the rich exhibitions true to its Michigan roots, MSU Museum also houses priceless collections of materials that are thousands of years old and from places far and wide. Soak up the cultural and natural spirit of artifacts you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Insider Tip

Check out the Ichthyology Research Collection of marine and freshwater specimens. 1,100 of them were collected from the Red Cedar River, which flows through campus!

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3

Michigan State University Broad Art Museum

The MSU Broad Art Museum is always free, yet many of their exhibitions are priceless. Some works pack a punch through color, others plant the seeds of cultural and artistic revolutions. Be transported through photography, painting, sculpture, and more, all flawlessly displayed throughout the museum’s sunny and spacious galleries.

Almost as unique as the artworks themselves, the museum’s special events invite visitors to see art in a new light—literally. Step into Night at the Museum, cultivate the skills to make works of your own, or hear from an artist whose creations hang right here at the Broad Art Museum.

Insider Tip

Stop by on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and your admission is always free.

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4

Ellison Brewery

Cozy up with a cold one at Ellison Brewery, a local favorite dedicated to small batch, handcrafted beer. Sip their fresh beers brewed daily spanning the hoppy to the malty to the sour and anything in between. More adventurous beer drinkers will feel at home here, as will beer lovers with an appreciation for the classics. 

If you’re not developing a taste for their tried and true lineup or limited releases, opt for Ellison’s spirits. Their one-of-a-kind essential spirits span whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum. So whether you’re traveling with a beer fanatic or a dark liquor lover, they’ll all find something to love about Ellison’s.

Insider Tip

Order the Ellison Fiona, a sour beer named after the head brewer’s daughter.

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5

Crunchy’s

No bar in East Lansing channels the college spirit quite like Crunchy’s. Enter the bar and MSU Alums will be flooded with nostalgia for their college days while first-timers will wish they had a Crunchy’s during theirs. Crunchy’s keeps it simple: beers are cold, food’s in a bucket, and good times are never more than a moment away. 

Unlike local breweries like Ellison’s, Cruncy’s keeps on tap craft beers from all over the country. Taste New Belgium out of Colorado or Stone Brewing Co. out of Escondida, CA, alongside regional favorites like Arbor Brewing Co. and Short’s Brewing Co., both based right here in Michigan.

Insider Tip

Order a bucket of sliders to go with your cold beer. Yes, a literal bucket full of sliders.

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6

Beggar’s Banquet

It’s no famine and all feast at Beggar’s Banquet, an eatery whose menu (and wine list) is as boundless as the name suggests. Named for the proprietor’s favorite Rolling Stones album, Beggar’s Banquet has served hungry East Lansing students and residents alike since 1973. The restaurant is both elegant and casual, making room for just about anyone in need of food and drink. 

Try their elevated twists on classic comfort food dishes like macaroni and cheese, which gets a Beggar’s Banquet upgrade of Münster, Havarti and smoked Gouda cheeses. Pair that with Beggar’s brews, carefully curated wines, and craft cocktails.

Insider Tip

Stop by for Wine Wednesday and order the baked brie.

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7

Mad Eagle

Whether you forgot to pack the perfect pair of earrings or you’re simply in need of a little retail therapy, Mad Eagle is must-shop while in East Lansing. This boutique is both charming and well-curated, stocked with Michigan-local home goods, candles, jewelry, and other sundries. 

Take home a new ring, collect a vintage puzzle, or pick up a leather handbag to remind you of your trip to Lansing.

Insider Tip

Don’t miss their sister store, Clever Clover, also located downtown!

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8

Rotary Park at the Lansing Riverfront

East Lansing revolves around the Grand River, which flows through the heart of downtown. As the name suggests, Rotary Park at the Lansing Riverfront’s plaza, beach, lighted forest, and more all sidle up to the river itself. It’s also located just west of the Lansing City Market, so you can swing by the market, peruse some shops, then stroll the banks of the meandering Grand River. 

Grab a picnic table on a sunny day, catch a show at The HUB, Lansing’s newest outdoor performance venue, or walk beneath the enchanting twinkly lights at dusk.

Insider Tip

 Launch your kayak from the park and cruise down the Grand River.

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