***This is part of a series of articles compiling useful resources and information for new graduate students. Some of the information in this series will be relevant for anybody new to MSU, including undergraduates, postdocs, faculty and staff. The topical areas range from settling into East Lansing and Michigan, getting to know which services can be found on campus to administrative steps and information needed throughout a graduate program at MSU. For the full series, see this playlist dedicated to (international) graduate students.***
Welcome to East Lansing! Here are a few resources and tips on good places to eat, drink, shop and visit. Some things that will help make settling into your new hometown easier. These suggestions don’t represent any official endorsements but are rather some favourites from your fellow graduate students. There are always new shops and restaurants opening up, so keep exploring.
There are a few on campus housing options available for graduate students. Please see this website for an overview. Make sure they are open to graduate students! Common choices are Spartan Village, Owen Hall and 1855 Place. Spartan Village is a little older and a little further from main campus than the newer 1855 Place for example. Be aware that due to demand, you may be placed on a waiting list and not get an apartment immediately.
There are many options to live off campus, in apartments or houses, individually or shared with others, depending on budget and location. Some help to get started can be found here. Other common websites to use are Zillow and this Facebook page specific to MSU students. Again, this is just to name a few, you will find more options googling for housing in (East) Lansing. You can also ask around in your department.
Note that MSU offers legal support services to have lease agreements and such checked for you.
The big grocery chains in this area are Kroger and Meijer. They both have several stores around East Lansing and Lansing and are reachable by bus in case you don’t have a car.
On the west side of campus is a nice “farmer’s market” type supermarket called Fresh Thyme that is really good.
For organic, nice but a little expensive groceries, check out Whole Foods and Foods for Living.
For Asian and other ethnic foods try out Fresh International Market. Specifically Indian food can be found at Swagath Foods, next to Swagath Indian restaurant (near Fresh Thyme market).
There is an Aldi in Okemos (east of East Lansing), near Meridian Mall that is a great cheap option.
Horrocks on the west side of Lansing is a little far away but definitely worth the drive! Fantastic produce, cheese and beer/ wine section and you can grab a coffee while you’re shopping.
A word on groceries…
Many stores have rewards programs or special days on which you can save money. They can definitely be worth it! Just ask!
I thought about listing restaurants that have become favourites, however, everybody enjoys something different. So instead, I would like to point you to some areas (East) Lansing where there is a variety of dining options. This is by no means a comprehensive overview, so please google for restaurants serving your favourite cuisine!
Just north of campus in downtown East Lansing you can find several of the bigger chain restaurants but also some smaller businesses.
There are a few places near Hanna Plaza on Hagadorn Road just east of campus.
A few are dotted around Frandor Shopping Center just west of campus.
In Lansing, look at restaurants in ReoTown (southern Washington Avenue), in downtown (on Washington Avenue and Michigan Avenue) as well as Old Town (around César E. Chávez Avenue and Center Street).
If you like to try new beers, check out the following local breweries:
- Lansing Brewing Company
- Midtown Brewing Company
- Ellison Brewing (great Pizza food truck outside)
- EagleMonk Pub and Brewery
- Old Nation Brewing (outside of East Lansing, towards Williamston)
For local coffee shops, try Blue Owl Coffee and Foster Coffee in downtown East Lansing. Strange Matter is another local favourite. Find coffee, fantastic pastries and breads at Mitten Raised. For a little French flair, amazing pastries and desserts visit Chapelure east of campus.
Besides those, (East) Lansing is home to many bigger coffee shop chains such as Starbucks and Biggby Coffee with locations on and near campus.
There are a few malls close by: Meridian Mall, Eastwood Towne Center and Lansing Mall (a little further away in west Lansing). Outlet malls are further away but can be great for finding bargains, e.g. Tanger Outlets.
(East) Lansing also has several second-hand shops, including Plato’s Closet, 2nd Time Around (both east of campus towards Okemos), St. Vincent and Paul Thrift Store (and more in ReoTown Marketplace) or Metro Retro (in Old Town).
Big “supermarkets” like Meijer, Walmart and Target also have a selection of clothing, as well as selling household products, electronics and even gardening supplies and furniture. Good to get some basics.
There are a few places that sell second-hand furniture (and used bicycles) like the MSU Surplus store and for example Dicker and Deal and many more. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist can also be helpful for finding cheap second-hand stuff online.
A word on shopping…
There are many different stores, both big department stores that offer lots of different things as well as designated furniture/ gardening/ clothing/ etc. stores around. Too many to list here. They are often NOT located in the downtown areas but on the outskirts of the city. The closest place with a collection of stores is east of MSU campus towards and around Meridian Mall (can be reached by taking bus #1).
(East) Lansing has many cultural attractions and activities. Sometimes you just need to look a bit harder than in other places 😊 Many events use Facebook for advertising.
Directly on campus is the Wharton Center for Performing Arts that shows anything from orchestra and opera to musicals and Broadway shows. They have student discounts!
The Broad Art Museum is home to changing art exhibits and can be visited for free! There is also a Starbucks in there and sometimes free Yoga classes are hosted in the lobby.
Another great thing to do on campus is seeing a show at the Abrams Planetarium. They sometimes offer free lunch time Relaxing under the Stars or Rest with Music sessions, in cooperation with Health4You.
Old Town (a district in Lansing) is hosting different types of festivals throughout the year, including Art’s Night Out and Jazz Fest, etc. The same goes for Reo Town that regularly hosts pop-up (and thrift) stores and is home to the cute little Robin Theatre.
For a glimpse at historic Michigan, check out Meridian Historical Village.
A lot of bars have Live Music nights. I usually find out about those by “liking” events on Facebook and then getting suggestions for similar events. Again, you might have to look a little to find events but they do exist!
Nature/ Outdoors Activities
You might be wondering if there are things to do outdoors in “cold” Michigan. Of course! It actually gets pretty hot during the summer. In my experience, Michigan has very short Spring and Fall seasons, a pretty long winter with snow and cold temperatures below freezing, and hot humid summers. There is plenty to explore at any time of year. You might just have to layer up 😊 In the summer, don’t forget your sunscreen (if you’re as pale as me) and mosquito spray!
For a walk in the woods right on MSU’s campus, go to Baker Woodlot/ Rachana Rajendra Neotropical Bird Sanctuary. It’s beautiful any time of year. Beware the muddy pathways though!
Want to explore all sorts of plants and flowers? Check out the Beal Botanical Gardens, Horticultural Gardens and Arboretum.
Need some peace and quiet? Try the MSU Radiology Healing Gardens.
THE nature thing to do in Lansing in my opinion is to walk, run or cycle the Lansing River Trail. Check out the different parks along the way – Crego Park, Potter Park, Hawk Island – and follow its extensions trails further south and west. It’s a beautiful way to cycle from campus to ReoTown or all the way into Old Town for instance. There’s swimming at Crego Park and Hawk Island Park where you can also go tubing (think sliding down a snowy hill in a big rubber donut) in the winter.
Just slightly off the River Trail is Fenner Nature Center, good for a stroll and to learn more about specific vegetation and landscapes.
Missing a trip to the Zoo but don’t want to go all the way to Detroit or Chicago? Lansing has its own Zoo that also does a lot of conservation work! Visit Potter Park Zoo and maybe combine it with a walk down the River Trail.
If you’re into water sports, you can kayak on the Grand River. A rental company right in downtown Lansing is Rivertown Adventures. Though there are many more rental companies around, e.g. it’s very pretty heading towards Grand Ledge. Also make sure to check out the MSU Sailing Center for sailing boat, kayak and paddle board rentals on Lake Lansing (student discounts!).
Try Woldumar Nature Center for trail running and walking.
There is outdoor rock climbing at Grand Ledge.
Michigan has a decent network of hiking trails and even longer distance biking trails (e.g. the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail that crosses Michigan from east to west)
And of course so much more in other parts of Michigan, the further North you go, the more diverse the landscape 😊 Pure Michigan is a good website to use as a starting point. Definitely try to get to the Upper Peninsula while you are here. It is gorgeous up there.
Besides the opportunities to stay fit on campus (see “Campus Services”), (East) Lansing has a multitude of gyms and fitness options to offer. From general gyms to dedicated Yoga studios, there is something for everybody. I won’t try to list them here. Please google for your most convenient location and check whether they have student specials.
In terms of hair and beauty salons, again, there are many different ones catering to all sorts of needs. Conveniently located and with good prices is Aveda Institute on Grand River Avenue, just across from campus. Be aware that this is a school, hence, students cut hair and provide the services – supervised by experienced staff.
When looking for things like beauty services or massages, it can be worth checking Groupon or other sites that offer special deals in local shops.
There are two post offices close to campus, one on Abbot Road and one on Collins Road. You can buy stamps and envelopes also online from USPS (United States Postal Services). Other common carriers include UPS and FedEx, especially when sending larger things. Make sure to compare prices!
A word on the postal service…
The mail is delivered every day. If you are expecting a package but weren’t home when a delivery attempt was made, THEY WILL NOT TRY AGAIN. They will leave a little note for you to know either where to pick up the package or to fill out, place in the outgoing mail box and have them try another time (according to a date you specified).
When choosing a phone plan, make sure you “shop around” for the best offers. The big companies here are AT&T, xfinity, Verizon, and T-mobile. But there are others too.