Of all the categories in the Top of the Town contest, there are none with more sheer variety than those places that were selected as this year’s best hangouts. And last week, voters offered up a cornucopia of crowd favorites, fun for all ages — a little bit of everything, all of the time.
So, I spent the weekend visiting as many of Lansing’s top-voted entertainment destinations as possible to compile the following guide to what our voters decided were at the Top of the Town:
First off: I’m allergic to cats, or I would’ve certainly made my first stop at the feline-friendly Constellation Cat Café, which by far received the most awards in this year’s contest, including top spots for best coffee shop, best hangout for seniors and students and best trivia night.
Instead, I started off Saturday morning with a stop at Fenner Nature Center, which narrowly defeated Woldumar Nature Center for the title of “Best Nature Center” in Lansing this year.
I could’ve easily spent the rest of the afternoon wandering its 134 acres of publicly accessible green space — including its more than four miles of trails, rolling glacial eskers, towering maple groves and a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians inside the Visitor Center. But even for a brief stop, it was still the perfect spot to enjoy some coffee and take my dog for a morning stroll.
Fenner also recently announced plans to take over the adjacent Sycamore Creek Driving Range, only further expanding its footprint and the potential for outdoor recreation in Lansing.
Su Casa Smoke Shop, which was voted as this year’s “Best Smoke Shop.”
I’ve picked up a few dazzling bowls and bubblers from this place over the last few years because they’re always reasonably priced and the shelves are always stocked with a huge collection of wares. It’s also locally owned and holds the title of the oldest head shop in town.
Lucas Peña is the third generation to run the shop. His grandparents met some resistance from a relatively conservative City Council when it first opened as a smoke shop in 1974. Custom jewelry was added to the shelves years later. But in the back, it’s still a stoner paradise with everything from vaporizers and grinders to roach clips and bongs — and everything in between.
With a long night ahead, my next stop was for an early afternoon pick-me-up at Lansing’s top-rated Biggby location, 2002 W. Saginaw St., on the eastern edge of Lansing near MSU.
People must love this place mostly for its exceptionally friendly staff and convenient drive-thru location, because there isn’t much space for hanging out. This is by far the tiniest Biggby location in Lansing, with space for only two tables — which can seat a maximum of four people. I grabbed a coffee, flipped through a copy of City Pulse and left before I could find a place to sit.
Pinball Pete’s. This local institution also won out for the “Best Place to Play Video Games.”
This basement arcade doesn’t have many windows, so it’s easy to lose track of time playing on the many pinball machines, old school arcade shooters and other games like Skee-Ball. And even though the prizes are gimmicky, there’s something intoxicatingly nostalgic about the adrenaline rush that comes from watching several dozen tickets whir out of a machine.
The Grid Arcade & Bar in Old Town, a close second-place finisher for “Best Video Games.”
Horrocks Farm Market for a late lunch. This expansive grocery store, pizzeria, gelato shop, bakery, deli and bar (and probably other things too) won the award for “Best Non-Bar or Restaurant Hangout,” as well as for “Best Solo Hangout” in Lansing.
As usual, I was one of about 100 million people in Lansing who wanted to hang out at Horrocks on Saturday afternoon, so I tried to avoid the larger crowds in the grocery store and headed straight for its semi-outdoor beer garden to grab some food at Eato Chef, a local food truck with some otherworldly Pad Thai that usually sets up shop out back Wednesday through Sunday.
Bonus: Voters also named Horrocks Farm Market as home of Lansing’s “Best Patio” this year.
Spare Time Entertainment near the Frandor Shopping Center, which was voted by a wide margin as this year’s “Best Bowling Alley.” A few pre-game pints of Zombie Dust from the attached bar made for a few poorly coordinated (but incredibly entertaining) rounds with my fianceé. I had time to play three games in one hour, which cost $35, including shoe rental. And the place was so packed, they also put me in their swanky Capitol Room — a room with a few lanes and comfier couches that are usually reserved for private events like birthday parties, class reunions, bridal showers and field trips.
Other favorite hangouts featured in this year’s Top of the Town contest included the downtown Lansing branch of the Lansing Capital Area District Libraries, BAD Brewing Company in Mason, Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns, Soldan Dog Park at Hawk Island Park, Breakout Escape Rooms, Hawk Hollow Golf Course and the Impression 5 Science Center in downtown Lansing.
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