Having lived in East Lansing, Michigan, for 23 years, it is hard for me to think of my town in terms of business travel or as a tourist, but I also cringe at the thought of a visitor not knowing what to do or where to go when they are here.
East Lansing is one of the best-kept secrets of Michigan, certainly not as flashy and well-known as our rival to the south, Ann Arbor. Whenever we are polled, the resident satisfaction rate is usually about 92 percent—as in 92 percent of people polled think East Lansing is a great place to live. With a low crime rate, tons of ethnic diversity, a world-class university (Michigan State University), an award-winning public school system, and a major medical center just eight minutes away in Lansing–what’s not to love?
There is also plenty here for tourists and business travelers. East Lansing offers dining for all tastes. Its most famous and revered restaurant is El Azteco, which offers authentic Mexican and Central American food. Their salsa, homemade chips, cheese dip, and generous-with-the-alcohol margaritas keep a steady line out the door on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Rooftop dining is offered during the warm months but be prepared for good-enough service and a unique-looking wait staff. I mean, if visitors want wait staff without piercings and with tucked-in shirts, there is always Chili’s, right?
At Lou & Harry’s, next door to El Az, I have stuffed myself on a giant gyro and fries for right around $5. For those in the mood for something a little pricier and upscale, I suggest Beggar’s Banquet. They take reservations and love for guests to linger through coffee. They are known for their wine selection and eclectic menu, which offers steak, fish, vegetarian options and pasta. For dessert, consider an ice cream cookie sandwich from Melting Moments on Grand River Ave., an ice cream novelty so popular in this area that they sell by the thousands at the MSU football games.
Once the business meetings are over and dinner eaten, now you need something to do? I recommend music lovers check out where the graduate students and the undergrad seniors at State hang at Rick’s American Café. Rick’s is known for their drink specials and their live musical performances (the Red Hot Chili Peppers played there before they became well-known).
Sports fan? MSU offers the best in Big 10 Athletics almost year round and many of the less televised sports: baseball, soccer, and most of the women’s athletics, are either free or offer reasonably priced admission. You might want to see what is at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts or the MSU Auditorium. Both venues offer traveling Broadway plays, the best stand-up comedians, and nationally known lecturers and musical acts. Check www.msu.edu for schedules and details. For fans of the arts in the spring or summer months, consider visiting during the East Lansing Art Festival or our annual film festival, the largest in Michigan. And of course there is Lansing too, right next door, but I guess Lansing is a whole ‘nother article.
Photos by Telaina Eriksen
Telaina Eriksen writes non-fictiony things for magazines and websites and she serves as a community board member for the MSU Center for Poetry. She enjoys travel but her idea of roughing it is drinking gas station coffee. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan with her husband, two children, their adopted dog named Sprite, a mischevious kitten, and two slothful, ancient goldfish. You can contact her at email@example.com.