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A Capital Place To Visit

Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties; just 90 minutes away from 90% of Michigan's population.

By Becky Kalajian

Lansing offers a rich selection of attractions from exquisite dining options and outdoor entertainment to historical landmarks. CREDIT James Lenon

It’s hard to find a more accessible location to hold a meeting or other event than Lansing. “Being centrally located in Michigan, the Greater Lansing area is convenient for just about everyone,” says Stephanie Wohlfert, senior sales manager for the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (GLCVB). “Lansing is 90 minutes away from 90% of the state’s population.”

Getting there is easy. Motorists can drive via U.S. Highway 127, Interstate 96, and Interstate 69. The Capital Region International Airport is just 3 miles northwest of downtown Lansing. Other options include Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, which is a 90-minute drive to the east. Flint’s Bishop and Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford international airports are both a quick, 50-minute car ride away. Amtrak’s Blue Water Special stops in East Lansing.

And once you are there, there are many options for where to stay and what to do with its vibrant mix of cultures, arts, nature, dining, attractions, and a host of meeting spaces. “Greater Lansing offers an abundance of big-city amenities with small-town charm,” says Wohlfert, whose organization has more than 500 Certified Tourism Ambassadors working in area hotels, restaurants, and attractions. “Their friendly hospitality makes our visitors feel right at home,” she says.

WHERE TO STAY

Greater Lansing counts more than 5,000 hotel rooms and facilities that can accommodate a variety of group sizes. The newest hotels include the Courtyard by Marriott Lansing Downtown (122 guest rooms), located within walking distance to the Lansing Center, and the boutique-style Graduate East Lansing (194 rooms) overlooking the Michigan State University campus.

Nearby, dual-brand accommodations feature the 156-room AC Hotel with a restaurant and lounge and the 139-room Hyatt House, with apartment-style kitchens and the H bar. Both will offer several meeting rooms, fitness centers, and indoor pools.

“This new development will be perfect for overflow guest rooms, whether the conference is in Lansing or East Lansing,” Wohlfert says.

OPEN SPACES

The largest convention facility in the city is the Lansing Center, with 71,760 square feet of column-free exhibit area, plus 12,000 square feet of meeting space spread across 12 rooms, 27,000 square feet for registration, and 13,320 square feet of ballroom space. The center is connected via a covered skybridge to the Radisson Hotel Lansing at the Capitol, which offers additional versatile space in its 10,000-square-foot conference center. Centrally located on Michigan State University’s campus, the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center has more than 35,000 square feet of flexible space with 32 event rooms for up to 1,200 guests, an upscale restaurant, a 1,000-spot parking garage, and shuttle service to Capital Region International Airport. Nearby and attached to the 128-room Candlewood Suites hotel, The James B. Henry Center for Executive Development has 29 executive-style meeting rooms.

The Lansing Center on East Michigan Avenue CREDIT Maurica James

Off campus, the elegant Eagle Eye Golf Club offers seven banquet rooms for all-day meetings, trade shows, and corporate retreats. The banquet rooms at Eagle Eye and nearby Hawk Hollow can host up to 500 guests with free on-site parking.

A meeting at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center CREDIT Thomas Gennara

CHANGING IT UP

Three nature centers, a manor, and various arts facilities round out the venue choices in the Greater Lansing area, says Wohlfert. “For planners seeking one-of-a-kind opportunities, there are several spaces that will leave a lasting impression on attendees,” she says.
Fenner Nature Center, Woldumar Nature Center, and Michigan Wildlife Conservancy/Bengel Wildlife Center all offer team-building activities in addition to space for meetings and events. For a special small-group experience, Wohlfert suggests The English Inn, a 1927 Tudor mansion with its own fine-dining restaurant and 18 overnight rooms, in Eaton Rapids. “The banquet and convention facilities service up to 200 people,” she says.

Other unique opportunities include a tour of the Grand River on the double-decked Michigan Princess Riverboat, which accommodates up to 500; craft beer tasting at Lansing Brewing Co.; or getting artsy at Urban Beat in Old Town. Up to 25 attendees can meet and then ogle antique automobiles at R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

COME HUNGRY

The restaurant scene is as diverse as the region’s population. Two upscale eateries to experience are Envie and Capital Prime. Soup Spoon Cafe and People’s Kitchen are known for having original and creative menus. In Old Town Lansing, barbecue fans flock to Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine or the Creole Burger Bar & Southern Kitchen for its trifecta of burgers, beignets, and bourbon. More than 15 craft brewpubs help to slake visitors’ thirst, including Midtown Brewing Co. in downtown Lansing and Jolly Pumpkin, HopCat, and Ellison Brewing in East Lansing.

ATTRACTIONS

“A tour through the majestic and historic Michigan State Capitol building should not be missed,” says Wohlfert. She recommends the new Heritage Hall that features a 40,000-square-foot entrance with views of the building’s dome as well as history exhibits, an artifact conservation space, a large meeting area, and ample restroom facilities. There are also tours of the circa 1879 building, restoration demonstrations, and spaces for legislative events.

For sports fans, nothing beats an MSU Spartan Big 10 college sporting match, whether it is football, basketball, volleyball, or hockey, says Wohlfert, noting that “Just about year-round, you can find a great sporting event for your group.”

JOIN THE CELEBRATIONS 

Lansing is known as the festival capital of Michigan for good reason, says Wohlfert, markets abound in the Greater Lansing area.
adding that more than 60 festivals and events occur year-round. Vermontville Township’s Maple Syrup Festival is in April. The East Lansing Art Festival is following in May, with the Michigan Chicken Wing Festival over Labor Day weekend and Silver Bells in the City in November. “Visitors can find area festivals celebrating just about everything.” she says.

ARTS & CULTURE

Lansing is a 24/7 kind of town with events, music, and exhibits featuring everything lows in May, with the Michigan Chicken from Broadway tours to niche art shows. The Wharton Center for Performing Arts Wing Festival over Labor Day weekend draws in touring Broadway shows, theater, music, and other entertainment. Contemporary art lovers will want to visit the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. During “Visitors can find area festivals celebrating just about everything,” she says.

Live music and dancing at the Michigan Bluesfest CREDIT Thomas Gennara

FARM FRESH

More than 20 seasonal and year-round farmers markets supply the area with fresh, local produce, says Wohlfert. “The Lansing region has an abundance of both seasonal and year-round farmers mar- kets,” she says. A few to note include Horrock’s Farm Market, which includes a beer garden; the East Lansing Farmers Market; and the year-round, award-winning Allen Farmers Market, open every Wednesday.

Year-round farmers markets around in the Greater Lansing area CREDIT Thomas Gennara

ACTIVITIES: FUN OR PHILANTHROPY?
Greater Lansing likes to have a good time, says Wohlfert. “Just about anything goes here—take your group high-speed go-karting, ax throwing, laser tag, or bowling,” she says. Three options include High Caliber Karting (go-karts), Spare Time Entertainment Center (arcade, laser tag, bowling, and escape rooms), and Zap Zone (interactive, high-tech gaming). For other team-building events, Wohlfert recommends Le Chat Gourmet or Sweet Encounter Bakery & Cafe for group cooking and baking classes. In addition, Wohlfert says the GLCVB can connect groups with numerous charitable organizations for volunteer opportunities, such as eradicating invasive species at area parks.

EXPERIENCE THE GREAT OUTDOORS

An abundance of trails, rivers, and woodsy walks for nature lovers are also hallmarks of this region. The Fenner Nature Center, Woldumar Nature Center, and Michigan Wildlife Conservancy/Bengel Wildlife Center offer walking trails. Wohlfert also recommends the Lansing River Trail, a 20-mile paved path that follows the Grand and Red Cedar rivers, and Michigan State University’s Horticulture Gardens are “well worth a visit.”

Kayaking on the Grand River is one of the many activities for Lansing visitors CREDIT Thomas Gennara

STROLL AND SHOP

For shopping, Wohlfert says to head to Old Town on Lansing’s north side for “unique boutiques, galleries, and great eating options.” Downtown Lansing’s shopping area includes REO Marketplace with a curated collection of artisan and vintage goods, among other spots. In the mood for a snack? Check out The Peanut Shop, which has offered fresh-roasted nuts and popcorn since 1937 in downtown Lansing. Downtown East Lansing is known for a collection of shops that range from MSU apparel to mountaineering gear, boutique clothing, and jewelry. Nearby is Eastwood Towne Center with retail shopping, dining, and movie theaters.

Centrally located Frandor Shopping Center, along with Meridian Mall to the east and Lansing Mall to the west, have been longtime destinations for shoppers. Downtown Charlotte and St. Johns are among outlying communities with shopping districts with eclectic offerings.

The city is home to an abundance of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. CREDIT Thomas Gennara

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