If You Only Have Time

03 lansing logoLinda Burton posting from Lansing, Michigan – “If you only have time for one thing,” begins the “Stellar Tip” from Christine Bennett in the Greater Lansing 2013 Visitor Guide, “make sure to visit the State Capitol.” Now, there’s a Visitor Guide after my own heart, as I’ve been digging deep into capitols for 38 states to this point; I love it when they are recognized as a Top Attraction in their own city. “Step back to the Victorian era,” are the tantalizing words they offer, followed by; “award-winning Capitol Building;” and “nine acres of hand-painted surfaces.” An image is forming in my mind and I’m eager to go; I see that tours are available every half hour on Mondays through Fridays from 9 03 state capitolto 4. Oops, no weekends? Hmmm, weekends are important times to draw visitors. What else do people do on the weekends in Greater Lansing? For Historic Sites I note some memorials and markers that may be visited at any time: the Remembrance Memorial honoring those who died on 9/11; the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial, honoring the 2,651 Michigan casualties of that war; the Malcolm X Homesite Marker, a registered historical landmark where he once lived. The Michigan Walk of Fame invites a leisure stroll 03 potter zoo signany day of the week; it is downtown on the sidewalks of Washington Square and honors the “ingenuity and resourcefulness of Michigan residents” – that would give a lot of insight into what Lansing, and Michigan, are all about. The Potter Park Zoo is open daily, as is the Michigan Historical Museum. The Impression 5 Science Center is open Tuesdays through Sundays, as is the R E Olds Transportation Museum; okay, it’s going to take grid paper for a chart. Fit “time” into what promises to be an interesting city – now there’s the challenge!

03 ransom photoBut I’m up for the challenge, and as a visitor who wants to live like a local while I’m here, I look for things unique to the particular place I happen to be. In Lansing, I get the chance to visit the R E Olds Transportation Museum, and it’s on my list right after the capitol. Ransom Eli Olds (1864-1950) built the very first Oldsmobile here in 1897, and it is on display along with other REO’s and memorabilia. Over 70 engines to see, from stationary to experimental; and vehicle models from the Baby REO (steam powered) to the GM EV1 electric car. “How many cars will trigger a memory?” they ask, “or put a smile on your face?” I have memories 03 reo emblemof a first date in an Olds; and of my teen son driving our beautiful white Olds with the red vinyl top through a flash-flood overflow in a Ferris Buehler move; he managed to clean it up before we knew (a story we heard after he grew up). I’m not interested in cars as much as the history of cars; and memories; it should be a fun place to explore. I won’t go on a Monday however; that’s the day they are closed. http://reoldsmuseum.org/

Other Lansing museums unique to Michigan:

  • All Around the African World Museum; it has pictures and displays of the African presence in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas; closed Sundays www.africanworldmuseum.org
  • Michigan Historical Museum; exhibits include a three-story Michigan relief map, a copper mine, and a one-room schoolhouse; it covers Michigan history from prehistoric times through the late twentieth century. And good, it’s open daily http://www.michigan.gov/museum
  • Michigan Society of Professional Surveyors Institute; exhibits and archives share the story of the surveying and mapping of Michigan, showing the settlement and development of the state and its natural resources; appointment only, 517-484-6605
  • Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center; a hands-on gallery designed for all ages; gain an understanding of the judicial branch of state government; closed weekends http://courts.mi.gov/education/learning-center/Pages/default.aspx
  • Michigan Women’s Historical Center; dedicated to women’s history; Hall of Fame has over 260 Michigan women honorees; history exhibits; Belen Gallery features women artists; open times vary, 517-484-1880 www.michiganwomenshalloffame.org

I know Lansing families are already familiar with the Potter Park Zoo, it is Michigan’s oldest 03 zoo lionand has been around since 1920; it covers 58 acres and features over 500 animals representing 160 species, including some threatened or critically endangered – Amur Tigers, Red Pandas, Bali Mynah Birds, Snow Leopards, Tamarin Monkeys, Bongos – all worth getting to know. Big on education and conservation and a participant in the Species Survival Plan programs; open daily year round. And of course there are pony rides http://www.potterparkzoo.org/

The Impression 5 Science Center sounds like the place families might seek on bad-weather 03 5 centerdays, when they can’t go to the zoo; that’s the way I planned outings with my kids. But any day would be fun because it’s interactive; play and create; exhibits include Bubbles, Throwing Things (oh boy) and a Build Zone; you even get to do science experiments. Summer camps include Dino Chomp and Movie Making; there is even a First Impression Room for little ones “birth to 4.” “Impression 5,” by the way, refers to the five senses, and how each sense is engaged in a visit. Closed Mondays http://www.impression5.org/

03 applesThe surrounding countryside and smaller towns are the places to see more of those apple orchards and vineyards I spotted driving in. The Country Mill in Charlotte lets you pick your own apples, and pumpkins, when the season begins; they’ll have a haunted cider mill along about pumpkin-picking time; hayrides, a corn maze, and cider too; check for times www.countrymill.com . Uncle John’s Cider Mill and Fruit House Winery in St Johns has wine-tastings and their award-winning hard ciders in the summertime, and seasonal vegetables and baked goods for sale; but fall is the time to watch 03 uncle johnsthe cider mill in operation, and to wander around the pumpkin patch or corn maze and do the hayride thing; check it out www.ujcidermill.com . There’s country atmosphere at Burgdorf’s Winery in Haslett where you can experience a “Moment in Wine.” They produce specialty wines from Michigan grapes; look them up at www.burgdorfwinery.com .

I haven’t got into Lansing’s arts scene, or all the parks and natural areas; I’ll save that for another post; and what about East Lansing, and the Michigan State University campus? That Spartan Spirit spills over into everything! I’m scheduled for a Garrison Keillor event at “Michigan’s Largest Presenter of Performing Arts,” which is the Wharton Center, on campus, August 4; I’ll give a full report, plus more about MSU.

And of course, I’m going to the Michigan State Capitol next week, sometime between 9 and 4. I’ll make the time for that.

Michigan State Capitol http://www.michigan.gov/miplaces/0,4634,7-244-45895—,00.html

03 vb logoGreater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau www.lansing.org