Michigan State University’s campus is huge. At about 2,000 acres — not counting another 3,000 acres of undeveloped land — it can feel like a world in itself to a college student. Add in the bars, restaurants and shops just across the street in East Lansing, and it’s easy to spend much of one’s college career close to campus.
“When I lived in the dorms, we spent almost all our time on campus,” said Katie Harmer, a 20-year-old MSU Biochemistry major. “It was hard to get a group together to go out and do things, so we stayed on campus and did stuff through (University Activities Board).”
Many undergrads don’t have a car, so offcampus travel is difficult. But there are ways to get out of Spartyland — if you know where to go.
“If there were more advertised events, I’d be in Lansing more often,” said Kyle Truszkowski, a 23-year-old Chemistry student and senior at MSU. “I moved here last year, so I’m not totally aware of everything.”
So, in an effort to persuade MSU’s homebodies to venture toward Lansing and its surrounding areas, we have compiled ten tips for off-campus excursions. Many are easily accessible by CATA public transit, but you may need to buddy up to an upperclassman with a car or pony up for an Uber to get to some of these locations.
1.) Shop ‘til you drop
Shopping across from campus on Grand River Avenue can be fun and convenient, but when the selection gets a little stale, hop on CATA’s No. 1 route toward Okemos. For just $0.60 with student ID ($1.25 without) and a 20 minute ride, you can get to the Meridian Mall. The shopping center has 100 stores to choose from and features the Studio C! movie theater, where you can enjoy a beer while you take in a movie.
2.) All aboard!
Speaking of CATA, the bus service offers a solution for students looking to bar hop without driving. The Entertainment Express Trolley runs Thursday through Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., with buses running about every 30 minutes before 9 p.m. and every 15 minutes after that. The trolley runs between campus and downtown Lansing, making stops near popular Lansing bars like the Beer Grotto, the Tin Can and Soup Spoon Café.
3.) I’m on a boat!
Located at Grand River Park, the Michigan Princess is just a short drive (or Uber ride) from campus and frequently hosts student-friendly events. Tonight, the riverboat offers a Welcome Week Blacklight Party for college students. Tickets start at $10.00 for 18-year-olds and $6.00 for 21 and over. Doors open at 10:00 p.m.; party-goers are encouraged to buy tickets online in advance at theriverboat.com.
4.) Get funky
Lansing’s premier destination for quirky boutiques and adventurous restaurants, Old Town is great to visit any time of year. It also hosts popular festivals — like Michigan BluesFest, coming up Sept. 16 and 17. —and is a great spot for a first date.
5.) Ditch the yellow fizzy beer
If the kegged Bud Light found at many MSU parties doesn’t strike your fancy, Greater Lansing offers a variety of breweries to investigate. Head to downtown Lansing for a pint at Midtown Brewing Co. or Lansing Brewing Co., or if you’re feeling really adventurous, make the trek to Mason to check out BAD Brewing Co. If you’re looking for something a little closer to campus, check out the taproom at Ellison Brewery + Spirits, tucked into an industrial park just east of MSU.
6.) Catch ‘em all
PokéMon Go is still sweeping the nation, and Greater Lansing has plenty of PokéStops to explore. Take the bus to downtown Lansing, where you can hit up several of the most popular PokéStops. There are three located right outside the Radisson Hotel Lansing, a stop on CATA’s No 1 route.
7.) Fall in love with a girl (or boy) at the rock show
East Lansing has plenty of dance bars, but you’ll need to head west to catch some real live music. Mac’s Bar, on the eastern edge of Lansing, offers live music almost every night and hosts a popular comedy night every Monday. Farther down Michigan Avenue, check out the live shows at the Green Door of the Avenue Café. Nationally touring acts regularly stop at the Loft, which hosts a variety of rock, hip-hop and country acts. If you’re looking for some boot-scootin’ and you have a car — or more appropriate, a truck — head out to the Lansing mall for the country shows at Tequila Cowboy.
8.) Dance the night away
If you want to dance but you’re sick of the frat bros at Rick’s, Spiral Dance Bar in Old Town is the place to go. It’s Lansing’s premier LGBTQ nightclub, but all are welcome.
9.) Break a leg
Add some sophistication to your evening with a local theater show. Greater Lansing hosts a variety of professional and semiprofessional theater groups, including Riverwalk Theatre in downtown Lansing, Williamston Theatre in downtown Williamston, Peppermint Creek Theatre Co. in South Lansing and Ixion Theatre in REO Town. From intimate black box shows to full-on musicals, the theater scene is worth venturing off campus to check out. Maybe you’ll even want to audition for a show.
10.) I’m on a (much smaller) boat!
When the school grind gets to be overwhelming, getting in touch with nature is always an option. Hawk Island Park offers pedal boat and canoe rentals, and River Town Adventures, in the Lansing City Market, offers canoe and kayak rentals for river excursions.