Aug. 31 2011 12:00 AM

Start the new school year off right by getting the lowdown on the coolest places in town that won’t be advertised anywhere else.


Going back to school can be stressful. You have to find all your classes in buildings you might never have been to, buy expensive textbooks you might never use and pray that your teacher for your 8 a.m. class is engaging so you don’t fall asleep on the first day. Then you have to hope your roommate likes you, find the coolest furniture to furnish your soon-to-be-coolest dorm room, and buy food for when the cafeteria just doesn’t quite cut it. And of course, there are other things to besides classes and homework, and you want to make sure you go to all the best places so you can tell all your new friends about your adventures. Quite often, colleges will give students a list of places, restaurants and activities to check out during their years at school, but we have thought of a few things that are just as important — and they won’t appear on any university Top 10 list.

1. The Impact 88.9 FM

The Impact, housed in the basement of East Holden Hall, is a great way to keep up with all the latest music from the not-so-well-known artists. The Impact is the student radio station — the Michigan Association of Broadcasters has named it the best 10 years’ running — that broadcasts from Michigan State University’s campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any commercials to distract from the tunes. Tune in during the day to hear alternative, indie and rock groups that rarely get the spotlight. Then, tune in at night for talk shows (including “City Pulse on the Air” at 7 p.m. Wednesdays) and specialty music shows that dive into other less familiar genres. Staying up late? The Impact keeps playing all night long with Impact Alternative from midnight to 6 a.m. Check out to see what’s playing, sign up to be a guest D.J. or request a song.

2.Basement 414

Want to display your collection of underground art or have your heavy metal cover band play a set at a public venue but need a place to go with an audience who will appreciate your talents? Basement 414 is the place for you. Basement 414 features everyone with an idea, no matter how off-the-beaten-path it may be. The Basement is also the home for the Lansing Bike Co-op. Got an old bike you don’t use anymore? Take it to the co-op, learn how to fix it up for free and save yourself the expense of buying a new one. Co-op hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer. Learn more through their website at  For a full listing of Basement 414’s events, visit their website at Visit Basement 414 by turning on Cedar Street from Michigan Avenue and taking the first side street on the left to the end of the ally. The Basement is at 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing.

3.Food Trucks

While most restaurants are stationary, Lansing’s three food trucks may never be in the same spot twice. El Oasis, at 2501 East Michigan Ave., features Mexican cuisine at an affordable price. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Purple Carrot uses local farm-grown food in a variety of dishes to feature Michigan flavors. The Carrot is always on the go, so follow it on Twitter, Facebook or it’s website,, for daily locations and hours. The Carrot is also representing Lansing in the Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. The truck with the most votes will be named America’s favorite food truck. Voting lasts until Sep. 12 and you can vote onece per day. Visit to vote. Trailer Park’d also features local farm-grown food in a variety of dishes from their “Balli’n’ Ass Tacos” to their pork belly sandwich. Follow them on Facebook to see where they’ll be Park’d on any given day.

4.Drag Night at Spiral

Whether you’re a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" fan, or just like to see some good queens in action, Spiral Dance Bar’s weekly Sunday night drag show is a must-see at least once. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun at the hippest LGBT bar in town and see some local queens strut their stuff on the runway. The show starts at 10 p.m. every week. Too much homework Sunday night to get to the show? Every Friday night is Friday Night Fushion at Spiral with D.J. Sammy, a 15-year veteran of the club scene in Michigan. If you’re more into electronic music, then check out Spiral’s college night on Thursday where it’s all electronic music all the time. Not 21 yet? That’s OK. Many events at Spiral, such as the Friday Fushion, are open for anyone 18 and over. Spiral is located at 1247 Center St. Check out its weekly events at or their Myspace page at

5. Farmers Market Foods for Living Better Health & ELFCO for groceries

If you want the freshest ingredients money can buy, skip the big chain superstores and buy straight from the local farmers. The Lansing City Market, located at 325 City Market Drive (behind the Lansing Center), features a selection of local vendors selling everything from floral arrangements and fruits and vegetables to Italian Ice. The East Lansing Food Co-Op, 4960 Northwind Drive in East Lansing, is the only community owned grocery store in the area and features a wide selection of fresh produce options. Also check out Better Health Market at 6235 W. Saginaw Highway or 305 N. Clippert St. in Frandor and Foods for Living at 2655 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing for other food purchasing options.

6.Thrift stores for furnishings/supplies

You’re never going to have a unique room if all your furniture is mass-produced and sold at the same location. Check out area thrift stores for some unique furnishing options and make your room as unique (or not) as you want it to be. Check out Hidden Treasures thrift store at 5445 S. Pennsylvania Ave. for some unique pieces that are often cheaper than what the big chains are offering. Volunteers of America also has a Lansing branch at 5411 S. Cedar St. Selection changes daily so you never know what you might find. Second Time Around at 4737 Marsh Road in Okemos, Plato’s Closet at 2843 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing and Rethreads at 543 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing are all great options for some second-hand clothing so your wardrobe can be as unique as your room.

7. MSU Horticulture Gardens & Woodlots

If you’re looking for a unique place to take a date or just a great way to soak up the last of the summer sun, look no further than the MSU Horticulture Gardens and woodlots. Spread over 14 acres, the gardens feature everything from roses to a Japanese meditation pit, all nestled on MSU’s main campus. The gardens are also home to the Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden with mazes, pots of gold and even Peter Rabbit. The gardens, which are open from sunup to sunset, are on Bogue Street at MSU right by the railroad tracks.

8. Co-op House Fridays at the Landshark

See MSU’s budding DJs lay down their tracks every Friday night at the Landshark Bar and Grill in downtown East Lansing. Representatives from the MSU Student Housing Cooperative, including MSU’s own electronic music co-op, have the opportunity to perform in front of a crowd. Co-Op members plus one guest have free cover all night long. The Landshark is at 101 E. Grand River Ave. Find out more by checking out their Facebook page at

9. 24-hour joints

It’s 4 a.m. and you’re in the middle of pulling your first all-nighter of the year. You’re hungry and need a break, but Jimmy John’s stopped delivering an hour ago. Luckily, there are a few diners in Lansing that are open for 24 hours so no matter how late it gets, you can still find your coffee — and wifi — fix. Check out Theio’s Restaurant at 2650 E. Michigan Ave. for breakfast anytime, day or night. Fleetwood Diner at 2211 S. Cedar St. in Lansing, Denny’s at 2701 E. Grand River Ave. in East Lansing or 7330 W. Saginaw Highway in Lansing also offer 24-hour service and Internet so you’ll always have a place to go.

10.Entertainment Express

The coolest way to get around downtown Lansing isn’t a car, it’s the Entertainment Express Trolley. The trolley goes up and down Michigan Avenue but stops at fewer bus stops than CATA’s Route 1 bus, making it a quicker way to get from point A to point B. The trolley runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., so you have a safe way home after a night on the town. The trolley costs the same as CATA’s regular buses — $1.25 one-way for adults or $0.60 one-way for students with a valid school I.D. For more information on where the trolley stops, check out CATA’s website at