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Finding the soul of Lansing in a pinch

A two-day itinerary to get acquainted with the city

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Lansing’s attractions and culture are ripe for the taking. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a few maneuvers planned to maximize 48 hours in the capital. I get to see my father for about two weeks a year. One week I spend with him in the city of Chengdu, China, where he has worked as a mold engineer for 10 years.

The other week he spends with me. I set out to craft the best two days to spend with my dad to introduce him to Lansing before we headed off to camp on Lake Michigan. He hadn’t visited the capital since the late ’60s.

DAY 1

9:30 a.m. — Breakfast at Batter Up Bistro (Stadium District)

This snug little cafe has remarkable coffee and sumptuous breakfast entrees at a reasonable price. Inside, exposed brick, embossed ceilings and an antique bar decorated in mid-century gleam make a cool and collective space for starting the day right. We opted to split a Greek omelet and order of oatmeal with two cups of coffee.

7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday and Sunday, 621 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 575-6717, www.batterupbistro.com

11 a.m. — Capitol Building tour (Downtown)

The Capitol Building is the heart of Lansing and should be a stop for anyone looking to get acquainted with the city. The amount of craftsmanship and history of the building is striking. From discovering fossils in the old tiled floors to gazing up in the capitol dome with its stars, the Capitol building is the flagship of the region and is crucial in establishing the city’s identity. Plus, the tour guides are passionate about telling the secrets of the iconic building, like how the marble work was faked by an artist on wood for the indoor columns.

Guided tours available 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, 100 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing (517) 373-2353, capitol.michigan.gov/Tours

11:45 a.m. — Perusing the REO Town Marketplace (REO Town)

There is a lot to see and do in the REO Town Marketplace. The place is rife with knick-knacks, antique goods, vintage records and local art. The sheer variety of vendors and crafts make it feel like a bazaar. Visiting the marketplace is like putting a finger on the pulse of the city’s art and craft scene.   

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1027 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 927-7576, www.reotownmarketplace.com

12:30 p.m. — Shot of Eckert Station at Moores Park (REO Town)

The other iconic building that defines Lansing is the Otto E. Eckert power station, visible miles away with its three smoke stacks — known affectionately as Wynken, Blynken and Nod from the Eugene Field poem. A quick trip to Moores Park's walk on the riverfront is a great photo opportunity. There is a small fishing deck jutting out into the river, where the scale of the enormous building can be seen and photographed in full with or without selfie glory.

Open 24 hours, 400 Moores River Drive, Lansing (517) 483-4277, lansingrivertrail.org/Moores-Park

1 p.m. — Cuban food at La Cocina Cubana (Downtown)

Owner Illiana Almaguer-Tamayo makes homestyle Cuban dishes iconic to her childhood in Cuba. Dad went for the traditional Ropa Vieja shredded roast beef while I had a Cuban sandwich. Most importantly, we had another dose of caffeine with Cuban coffee, a double-shot of espresso served special in a quaint orange companion espresso cup and tray.

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 123 S. Washington Square, Lansing, MI (517) 708-8144, www.facebook.com/cubanLLC

2 p.m. — Hunter’s Orchard Park walk (Westside)

This insular park on Lansing’s far west side borders the Grand River with a nicely maintained walking trail that makes it a quiet retreat. One half of the walk is a paved path by the river while the other is a gravel path through wildflowers and wilderness. Keep the GPS handy, however. The entrance is obscured by a hill and you’ll need to keep watch to make it in.

Open from dawn until dusk, 7242 Old River Trail, Lansing (517) 323-8555

3 p.m. — Shopping at Horrocks (west side)

This place is like Disneyland for food. Grab a beer or free coffee and go grocery shopping for your next dream meal. We bought a fillet of wild-caught salmon, multicolored fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms to fire up in a roasting pan for dinner.

7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, 7420 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing (517) 323-3782, www.shophorrocks.com

6 p.m. — Dinner at home

8 p.m. — Beer and shuffleboard at Stober’s Bar (Stadium District)

The gilded artistry behind Stober’s Bar is incredible with its giant griffins and Merlin stained glass. It was Lansing’s first bar to regain its liquor license after prohibition in 1933. We ordered two beers, hung out and played a round of shuffleboard before calling it a night.   

11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 2 a.m. Sunday, 812 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 487-4464, www.facebook.com/stobers

DAY 2

9 a.m. — The Fleetwood Diner breakfast (south side)

This retro-inspired diner serves its signature “hippie hash” with broccoli, onion, tomatoes, green peppers, feta cheese and mushrooms on top of hash browns. We ordered one each. The place oozes vintage Americana with its neon lights, steel crowned ceilings and checkerboard floors. It was all too tempting to order a slice of pie and crack open a paper copy of the New York Times at the table. 

Open 24 hours, 2211 S. Cedar St., Lansing (517) 267-7606, thefleetwooddiner.com

10 a.m. — Hike through the ledges at Fitzgerald Park (Grand Ledge)

The trail at Fitzgerald Park winds up and down cliffs, valleys, rivers and streams. In spite of the Midwest’s reputation for flat land, hiking this trail can find you on the banks of the mighty Grand River one moment and atop a sandstone cliff soaring into the canopy the next. It all centers around Grand Ledge’s ledges, great sandstone behemoths that date back 300 million years to an ancient sea. There is a $5 parking fee to enter. It is about a 15-minute drive outside of the city.

100 Fitzgerald Park Dr., Grand Ledge (517) 627-7351, www.cityofgrandledge.com/visit/parks/park/fitzgerald-park

11:45 p.m. — Old Town tour with a stop at Preuss Pets (Old Town) 

Coming back into Lansing, we parked in the Old Town lot to view the fish ladder, a manmade structure with a spiraling staircase of water for fish to traverse the dam. Getting onto Turner Street, we took pictures by the Bluesfest and strawberry picker murals, both icons of the neighborhood.

Up the street was Preuss Pets. It spans 25,000 square feet and houses hundreds of saltwater and freshwater fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, rodents and insects. Aside from the spectacle of looking at the colors of live coral and saltwater fish, we were amazed at the built in koi pond with what looked like 4-foot-long fish swimming below.

Old Town's center is Turner Street and Cesar E. Chavez Avenue.

Preuss Pets

10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 1127 N. Cedar St., Lansing (517) 339-1762, www.preusspets.com

12:30 p.m. — Lunch at Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern (Old Town)

Zoobie’s Bar is attached to The Cosmo, a zany sci-fi themed pizzeria. We split a “Trust Us” pizza and had some duck fat fries. The “Trust Us” is exactly like it sounds. The restaurant makes a mystery daily special with only asking about food allergies. The pizza did seem like it was out of B grade '60s sci-fi movies in the best way. It had cheese, balsamic reduction sauce drizzle, strawberries, chicken and goat cheese. At first, I thought it may be too adventurous, but it was delicious and won us over. The fries were great too.

11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, 1200 N. Larch St., Lansing (517) 897-356, zoobiesoldtowntavern.com

1 p.m. — Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum and W.J. Beal Botanical Garden visit (East Lansing)

My dad remarked that the Broad Museum looked like a building designed around the concept of a broken Venetian blind. Nevertheless, it is quite a spectacle to behold inside and out with its modern art exhibitions, and it’s free to look at the artwork. A short drive from the museum was the Beal Botanical Garden. The garden has more than 2,000 species of plants from all over the world to walk around. The smells and sights were incredible. 

Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum

Noon to 7 p.m Tuesday to Sunday, CLOSED Monday, 547 E. Circle Drive, East Lansing (517) 884-4800 broadmuseum.msu.edu

W.J. Beal Botanical Garden

Open 24 hours, 408 W. Circle Drive, East Lansing (517) 884-8486, www.cpa.msu.edu/beal

3 p.m. — Coffee at Blue Owl Coffee (REO Town)

We marveled at the acrylic tables that use old doors as backdrops and ordered cold brew coffee out of a tap. We also found a stash of poetry in between some bricks in the back and read the humorous notes meant for strangers to find. It was a nice place to hang out.   

7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 1149 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 575-6836, www.blueowlcoffee.net

6 p.m. — Noodles at Naing Myanmar (Southside)

The cramped quarters of tables and chairs seemed more at home at an old legion hall. However, all aesthetic sins are absolved once the food gets on the table. It arrives bursting with color and flavor that stimulates all the senses. I ordered the Tom Yum soup with noodles, and Dad got the Thai chicken noodle soup. From the aroma to the taste, everything was spot on delicious. It was our favorite meal of the trip.

11:30 a.m to 3 p.m., 5 to 8 p.m Tuesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, CLOSED Sunday and Monday, 3308 S. Cedar St., Lansing (857) 615-8393, naing-myanmar-family-restaurant.business.site

7:30 p.m. — Darts and brews at Eaglemonk Pub and Brewery (Delta Township)

We rounded out the two-day tour of Lansing with brews from Eaglemonk Brewery. Founded by Dan and Sonia Buonodono, the microbrewery takes pride in brewing its beer the old way with wooden casks and pours available with a vintage beer engine. The establishment also brews mead, wine, hard ciders and soda pop. We gravitated toward the back room where the dartboard sat and took turns shooting at the bullseye, toasting a successful tour before retiring for the night.

3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, 4906 W. Mount Hope Highway, Lansing (517) 708-7350, www.eaglemonkbrewing.com

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