Spending the Day in Downtown Lansing is Educational and Fun
I constantly get asked “are there things to do in Downtown Lansing with kids?” I love that I get to answer a big – YES!
I didn’t always have this answer though. Fun options were endless in metro cities for us – BC (before children). Now, in AD (after delivery) what we so freely did before my two boys seemed it would be a distant memory. Getting out with kids can seem too hard or way too much effort.
Getting out in Downtown Lansing with kids can be easy with a little prep.
One brave morning I found that at the end of an adventure, any effort I make getting out has way more benefit and reward than work. My sister and I packed up the kids, snacks, strollers, water and set out for our first exploration day – with kids. It was liberating to see that I could still be me and share my adventuring with my boys in a way that would cultivate conversations, learning opportunities, and adventurous fun. Now, one of our favorite places to explore is Downtown Lansing (Central + Reo Town and Old Town.)
If you’re 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 in what seems like overnight.
So, where do you want to start first?
Where to Start on an Outing in Downtown Lansing
I’m a huge advocate for walking a city. A way to get a good feel of 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 things to do in Downtown Lansing, or check out our event calendar to see what’s happening in Downtown Lansing today.
17 Ideas for what to do with kids in Downtown Lansing
I was pleasantly shocked to realize that our river trail connects most of 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 playground, bridges, River Town Adventures where you can rent kayaks or bikes, the soon to be new beach/Rotary Park, and end up at Impression 5. This route is about a 2-mile distance from the Fish Ladder to I5.
2. Bike or Walk the path between the Michigan State Capitol & Hall of Justice Buildings
The pathway between the Capitol and the Michigan Hall of Justice is a safe and fun way (no cars allowed) to let the kids play and practice with a great view. You can access this path anywhere between these two buildings between Allegan and Ottawa streets.
3. 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.
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 day 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 direction so little runners stay corralled.
Read, Play, Explore, Go to special events, movies, and more. Enjoy their Zen Garden in the warmer months.
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!
Sit on the patio and enjoy lawn games with the family.
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.
Is your kid (or you) into cars? This is a great place to see beautiful vehicles and tour through history.
10. Art Path
Take a walk on the riverfront with the purpose of focusing on the art. Art Path kicked off with a bang then continued the second year with lots of fun and promises to be something that continues to be an attraction throughout the years.
11. Reach Art Studio
Drop-in for a Wednesday walk-in class during the school year or walk through their beautiful new art gallery. (Reo Town)
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 or on your way to the cute shops of Old Town.
Take a self or guided tour of these beautiful buildings! It’s surprisingly fun for both adults and kids.
Tour this beautiful old building then walk the river trail through Old Town to find fun treats and sites.
15. Go Thrifting
Kids love finding treasures at these places:
- Reo Town Marketplace is so fun to visit. Walk throughout the market where you’ll find places for kids to color and sometimes 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.
- April’s 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.
16. Preuss Pets
This gem in our city is is 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!
17. Lansing Lugnuts and Lansing Ignite at Cooley Law School Stadium
Cheer on our local baseball and soccer teams with the family! There’s a play area on the grounds and lots food choices. They’ve taken extra care to make sure all ages have a great time during every game plus plan lots of special games geared toward kids.
** Honorable Mention: Potter Park Zoo
We had to add Potter Park Zoo to the list because although it’s not right downtown Lansing it’s just a hop skip and a jump from our city center. Plus, you can reach their grounds on the rivertrail and has a nice playground just outside the entrance. FREE admission for Ingham County Residents on Mondays from open until noon.
Where to Find Coffee in Downtown Lansing – with Kids
What’s the secret to getting out with kids? Coffee or other great beverages 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 Their ordering process is the best! 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-stop.” 200 S Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933
Reputation Beverage These place is a lot of fun. Have you tried butter coffee? Let me know what you think? Plus, they serve yummy kombucha here! 800 E Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912
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.
Here is my list of fun places that are kid-friendly and delicious for all. Check out our Lansing patio options, where to find ice cream, as well as where kids eat free in our area for more ideas and options.
Lansing City Center
MP Social One of the best views of Downtown Lansing is on their patio plus 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 sunset 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 Crepe’s Sake Great savory and sweet options.
Midtown Brewing Company They are super kid-friendly and have a nice patio.
Zoup! Quick and fun make this a great landing spot with kids.
Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant You can never go wrong with chips and salsa.
Blue Owl Coffee Co (Sandwiches etc.) Grabbing food and coffee in one stop is #lunchperfection.
Los Tres Amigos Again, 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, plus everything else here is like a guilty pleasure.
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.” That’s 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.
Picnic Food Truck is parked here many days and it’s super yummy. Call to make sure if you’re wanting to make a plan.
Bangos Food Truck is parked throughout the downtown Lansing area. Check their Instagram for current locations each day.
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! Tip: it’s a tight squeeze in here so try to leave your stroller outside.
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 and What Did We Miss?
Do you know of a special spot or place to eat that we don’t have listed? Let us know by commenting below to help spread the word to our LFF Community!
If you venture out on any of these fun ideas tag us and let us know how it went.
Have fun hanging out in Downtown Lansing, friends!