Fun on a Budget

By Liz Reyna

After the cost of tuition, housing and books, your pockets are feeling the pain. Add a campus crowd looking for fun, and money may become an issue. But to the activities expert, Lansing isn’t as expensive as it seems. The city can be haven for free or nearly free activities; it just takes a little research.

Make history

Taking a gaze into the past — a time filled with engineers, revolutionaries and history makers — can be a different way to kill an afternoon without much cash.

Lansing offers a variety of free or nearly free museums and historical sites. Just two blocks southwest of the Capitol, the Michigan Library and Historical Center Complex offers a combined look at Lansing’s history. The complex houses the Library of Michigan and the Michigan Historical Museum, and includes five-story glass atriums with a live 75-foot white pine in the courtyard. The Michigan archives are also located in this building. Tours are free, but they may not last long; the governor has been trying to close the complex to save the state some money.

Some students probably pass by it everyday, but with hoards of people clamoring outside protesting, singing and uniting, the Michigan State Capitol is more than a landmark. This 1879 building, built by famous state capitol architect Elijah E. Myers, is a beautiful reflection of the post Civil-War style of architecture. Outside, students can take part or listen in on a rally with the number of groups that gather on the lawn. Inside, take a free tour of the building, which includes glass floors and a cast-iron dome with hand-painted muses.

One with nature

If history isn’t your idea of fun, Lansing has a beautiful backyard. Parks like Reutter Park (400 S. Capitol Ave.), which features a historic fountain as its centerpiece, are scattered all over. The park, just across from the downtown library, is just one of many. Hawk Island Park, located on Cavanaugh Road, offers a variety of fun activities, including a beach, volleyball, picnic areas and horseshoes. Access to the Soldan Dog Park is just behind Hawk Island, so bring a dog to enjoy some cheap entertainment, too.

If you want to clear your head or sneak away for awhile, try the Riverwalk Trail in downtown Lansing. Surrounding the Grand River, the trail takes students on an eight-mile trip of exercise and relaxation. Students can walk, bike and even stop to fish along the trail. The Carl G. Fenner Nature Center also offers a glimpse of nature. The center includes four miles of trails, an herb garden and butterfly garden. Finally, visit for free one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States, W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, located on MSU campus.

Movie time

Forgot to catch that blockbuster in the theatres? Campus Center Cinemas offers free (with student I.D.) screenings of movies recently released to DVD on Michigan State University’s campus, so you can skip the rental fee and see the movie how it was made to be watched: on a big screen.