Free Things to Do in Lansing, Michigan

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Michigan’s Capital City Inspires Four Seasons of Good Times

You and your family can put on your adventurers’ caps to explore Lansing’s inner workings, history and natural wonders. Michigan’s capital city offers free quality experiences that inspire learning, recreation and cultural discoveries. Just bring an open spirit to unfold something new during every season.

Catch the Holiday Spirit

Get your holiday in gear at November's Silver Bells in the City in downtown Lansing. The event kicks off the season with traditional family-oriented festivities. The evening begins with the Electric Light Parade through downtown. The lighted floats, marching bands and the arrival of Santa ramp up holiday spirit. A community singing and the lighting of the official state tree at the state Capitol (100 N. Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI) ignites goodwill and cheer following the parade. Get a jump on your shopping at the Silver Bells Village event (100 E. Block of Allegan St., Lansing, MI), where vendors offer toys, treats and gifts. Lansing’s churches, museums and other entities offer a variety of entertainment throughout the evening to check out. Silver Bells in the City tops off with fireworks exploding in the winter skies over the Capitol building dome that thrill all ages.

Learn About Michigan's Star Citizens

Enjoy a dose of Mitten State pride with a stroll along the Michigan Walk of Fame at Washington Square in the heart of downtown. Modeled after the celebrated Hollywood Walk of Fame, the 23 bronze sidewalk plaques elevate the star status of Michigan scientists, civil activists, artists and industrialists. Michigan citizens who get their own star include Rosa Parks, Henry Ford, Gordie Howe and President Gerald Ford. Each plaque features a description of the Michigander’s contributions to the state, nation or world. It’s a fun way to learn about state history and culture without hitting the books. Enjoy the attraction in any season.

Flow With the Music

Tap your toes and let your heart sing at Lansing’s free JazzFest (Intersection of E. Grand River Ave. and Turner St., Lansing, MI). Considered by some to be Michigan’s premier jazz festival, the annual August event brings great sounds to historic Old Town, where trendy shops and a creative ambiance are enhanced by the riverfront location. Local, state and national acts perform on multiple stages Friday evening and Saturday until midnight. Produced by Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art, JazzFest has all the makings of a classic music festival with food, fun and vendors. Youngsters get inspiration at Kidzbeat with hands-on art activities and an instrument zoo. Free transportation? Hop on a bike and wheel your way to the festival. Bike racks are available on East Grand River Avenue and Turner and Center streets. You’ll find limited free vehicle parking after 6 p.m. every Friday along Grand River Avenue. Be sure to grab an umbrella if skies are gray, because all this jazz fun is too cool to be dampened by a little rain.

Escape to an Urban Oasis

Spend quality time with Mother Nature at the 134-acre Fenner Nature Center (2020 E. Mt. Hope Ave., Lansing, MI). More than four miles of hiking trails, which are open from 8 a.m. until dusk, showcase pine forests, maple groves and open fields. It’s all about honoring nature here. When snows melt and the days grow warmer, Sugar Bush is the focus of the annual Maple Syrup Festival and Earth Day celebration. A free children’s fishing clinic in spring teaches kids angling basics. Fall highlights Michigan’s apple season with the Apple Butter Festival. Enjoy the unfolding seasons by witnessing nature’s handiwork at a butterfly garden, observation decks overlooking ponds, and the visitor center’s viewing station, which is frequented by songbirds, deer and wild turkey. Inside the visitor center, live native reptiles, amphibians and hands-on exhibits enhance the outdoor experience. The nature retreat has a way of awakening the sense of wonder and keeping curiosity alive for all ages.

Invite Adventure

Explore a myriad of local sights along the non-motorized Lansing River Trail. The 20-mile paved trail system follows the Grand and Red Cedar rivers, which encompass municipalities, nearly 20 parks, museums, and a zoo and farmers’ market. It winds through Lansing, East Lansing and Delphi Township. Take it all in in one day, or pick a slice of the trail to create a short adventure. It's possible to catch sight of ducks, herons, hawks and bald eagles along the way. The Brenke Fish Ladder (216 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing, MI) is a fun stop in early fall during the salmon run. Numerous access points are along the route. Crego Park (1600 Fidelity Rd., Lansing, MI) and Adado Riverfront Park (201 E. Shiawassee St., Lansing, MI) are good places to hop on, and they provide parking options. Listen to the birds sing, the river rush and music of city life as you walk or bike your way through the capital city.