Getting Out in Downtown Lansing is Educational and Fun
The fun options were endless in metro cities – BC (Before Children). Now, in AD (after delivery) what I so freely did before my two boys seemed as if it would be wildly different. One brave morning I found that it didn’t have to be. My sister and I packed up the kids, snacks, a stroller, and water and set out for our first exploration day. It was liberating to see that I could still be me and share that with my boys in a way that cultivated conversations, learning opportunities, and adventurous fun. Now, one of our favorite places to explore is Downtown Lansing (Central, Reo Town, Old Town).
If you’re new to the area, or looking to get out of the normal routine, try heading to Downtown Lansing. There’s a full day of fun things to do and then some because our city is growing fast changing almost overnight.
So, where do you want to start first?
Where to Start on an Outing in Downtown Lansing – with Kids
I’m a huge advocate for walking a city. A way to get a good feel a place is to walk its streets. Our friendly, homey reputation is pretty accurate so be prepared to get a few smiles and waves. Here are some places and ideas of where to start out the day in Downtown Lansing, or check out our Calendar to see what’s happening Downtown today!
Ideas for Hanging out in Downtown Lansing
Lansing River Trail I was pleasantly shocked to realized that our river trail connects Greater Lansing. North to South, East to West, and all in-between. If you start downtown you can head in all four directions. A nice easy access place to start is the Brenke Fish Ladder and parking lot of Old Town. You’ll pass a big park kids love, bridges, River Town Adventures, and end up at Impression 5. This route is about a 2 mile walk in distance.
Bike the Path between the Capitol and Michigan Hall of Justice. It’s a safe and fun way (no cars allowed) to let the kids play and practice with a great view. Access this path anywhere between these two buildings between Allegan and Ottawa streets.
Impression 5 I5’s goal is to create play areas for all ages. This means zero to 60 and beyond! Read our parent’s guide before you go for great tips.
Michigan Historic Center You’ll be greeted by a huge tree in the center of the building with a beautiful water structure wrapped around. Kids know right away this place is for them as they walk into the children’s area stocked with art supplies, a performing stage, and fun projects. Head upstairs for an entire days worth of fun or just stay for an hour – either way this is guaranteed fun for all! The best part is that it keeps you moving in one directions so little runners like my 3 year old stay corralled.
CADL Downtown Library Read, Play, Explore, Go to special events and movies, and more! Enjoy their Zen Garden in the warmer months.
River Town Adventures See the city in a new way with a kayak trip along the river. They offer tandem boats for families, one hour on site trips, and special site-drop adventures. It’s a blast!
Tour the Fire Station Call ahead to set up a trip through the downtown fire station. You don’t have to wait for a field trip before you take kids to meet this amazing brave team.
ReOlds Museum Is your kid into cars? This is a great place to see beautiful vehicles and tour through history.
Art Path Take a walk on the riverfront with the purpose of focusing the art. Art Path kicked off with a bang for it’s first year and promises to be something that continues to be an attraction through the years.
Reach Art Studio Drop in for a class or just walk through their beautiful new art gallery. (Reo Town)
Brenke Fish Ladder Kids love to see the water roll down the dam and climb the Fish Ladder Stairs. It’s a fun spot to stop before you hit the park a couple of feet/walking distance on the Lansing River Trail.
Turner Dodge House Tour this beautiful old building then walk the river trail through Old Town to find fun treats and sites.
Go Thrifting: Kids love finding treasures at these places: Reo Town Marketplace is so fun to visit. Walk through the market to Petals and Tea where you’ll find places for kids to color and special events. Cross the street to St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store (1020 S Washington Ave, Lansing, MI 48910) to find great prices on clothes and kids puzzles, toys, and finds. Aprils on Kalamazoo is so always a treat to sort through or find that beautiful piece you’ve been looking for for years. Right next door to April’s is Dicker and Deal – where you can do just that. Vintage Marketplace in Old Town (1219 Turner Rd, Lansing, MI 48906) is adorable, two stories, and packed full of surprises.
Preuss Petsis a must see, must go, enjoyable spot! You’ll love to feed the fish in their multiple ponds, say high to the talking parrots and birds, see tons of exotic fish, and more. Have fun!
Lansing Lugnuts Cooley Law Stadium Cheer on our local team with the family! There’s a play area in the grounds and lots food choices. They’ve taken extra care to make sure all ages have a great time.
Where to Find Coffee in Downtown Lansing – with Kids
What’s the secret to getting out with kids? Coffee of course! Props to you if you don’t need it or don’t like it. As for me, I love coffee. I love it even more when the coffee shops go out of their way make my kids feel welcome. Here are some stellar shops that do just that.
Strange Matter Their downtown location is small but don’t let that fool you – great things can come in small packages. Their staff is so friendly with kids and engage with them in conversation. Their in-house donuts are DELICIOUS, with vegan and gluten free options! They also have a patio for those warm days when you need a little chill time after or before a long walk. 337 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933
Biggby on Ottawa is a tight squeeze for strollers but they are so friendly and the kids love to sit in the old architecture seats. My sisters and I usually swap going inside as we sit with the kids on their patio seating. 120 W Ottawa St, Lansing, MI 48933
Biggby on Allegan There’s a lot of space to walk in and sit for a bit if you’re kids are good with that. My youngest likes to keep it pushing so we are usually in and out. This is our go-to location during the Halloween events downtown. 115 W Allegan St, Lansing, MI 48933
Blue Owl Coffee Co (Reo Town) Ready for a good time? They are so much fun, have weekly community engaging events, rotating art exhibits, and the best part – great coffee! 1149 S Washington Ave, Lansing, MI 48910
Grand Traverse Pie Company Dare I say this is my favorite way of ordering? Here’s why – it’s a walk through ordering system. I can roll my double wide stroller through, grab or order what we need, and roll right back out. With lots of seating inside and out it’s the perfect mom-shop. 200 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933
Bloom Coffee Roasters (Old Town) I recently had my hands so full that the barista carried my coffees out to my car and then THANKED ME for coming in! If that doesn’t say it all I don’t know what would. They rock! 1236 Turner Rd, Lansing, MI 48906
The Crafted Bean These guys are a lot of fun. Have you tried butter coffee? Let me know what you think!? 800 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912
Glazed and Confused Drip Coffee and Donuts? Yes please! They can also make Gluten Free donuts upon request. 107 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933
Where to Find Good Food in Downtown Lansing – with Kids
Eating out with kids can be tricky. For the most part we all know the easy fast spots right? What I love about getting out in Downtown Lansing is that I still get to eat at delicious, fun atmosphere and vibe kind of places with my kids in tow. They start to appreciate the cute places along with me and eventually start trying new food. It’s a win-win situation.
Lansing City Center
MP Social One of my new favorite spots! The view of the city is great and they’ve got the food to match.
Waterfront Bar and Grill This place is perfect after or before a kayak trip with River Town Adventures. Watch the sun set on the water and at times enjoy live music.
Lansing Brewing Company Burgers and fries and outdoor games make this place a sure fire good time.
For Crepes Sake One word. Yumm.
Midtown Brewing Company They are super kid friendly and a nice patio.
Zoup! Quick and fun makes this a great landing spot with kids.
Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant I’ve heard great things!
Blue Owl Coffee Co (Sandwiches etc.) Grabbing food and a coffee in one stop is #lunchperfection.
Los Tres Amigos Who doesn’t love chips and salsa?
Mediteran Cafe Mediterranean food right on the downtown strip.
Cottage Inn Pizza I personally think they make the best gluten free pizza around.
Roma Bakery Fun and delicious!
Happy’s Pizza Super friendly staff and yummy pizza make a great combo for #thatmomlife.
Good Truckin Diner The name says it all! Yum, Yum, Yum!
Saddleback BBQ OMG. This is what I said when I took my first bite here. They have picnic tables set up for family style eating making eating out with kids a dream.
The Cosmos Delicious pizza in a fun atmosphere. Kids love Cosmos! And parents love it on Sunday when kids eat FREE.
Meat Southern BBQ and Carnivore Cuisine Adults and kids love trying out all of the different sauces. Interactive eating = awesome mom/dad points.
Sir Pizza An oldy but still a goody! Their pizza is classic in Lansing. Stay for the Kareoke for good laughs and a grand ole’ time.
Pablos Authentic Mexican food can not be beat!
Punk Tacos This place is AWESOME. Best funky taco I’ve had in a while! Try all the fun stuff you won’t be disappointed.
The Creole Great vibe, great food. You’ll want to note that it takes a little longer to eat here but it’s worth the wait if you have the time.
Cravings Pop Corn Looking for a snack? Pop in here for free samples and grab a bag of their fun flavors.
Old Town General Store I love to stop in here for easy grab-and-go food options. It helps keep us moving on our adventure without skipping a beat. Bonus – their treats, chocolate, and wine selections are wonderful!
Old Town Diner a staple of goodness in Old Town.
Golden Harvest Wait in line for what is argued the best breakfast in town.
What Do You Like to Do in Downtown Lansing?
Do you know of a special spot that we don’t have listed? Let us know and we will spread the word! If you venture out on any of these fun ideas tag us and let us know how it went. Have fun out there, Lansing!