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Photo of the Michigan Statehouse in Lansing, MI at Dusk.

13 Things to Know About Living in Lansing

Thinking of moving to Lansing? Michigan’s capital city is home to fantastic entertainment, affordable housing, and incredible outdoor recreation. Check out these 13 things to know about living in Lansing!

An Affordable Place to Live & Work

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If you’re looking for a budget-friendly place to live in Michigan, L-Town might be the spot for you! Lansing’s cost of living is 16% lower than the national average—roughly on par with Detroit—and 38% lower than Ann Arbor. Plus, its cost of housing is a whopping 40% lower than the national average! But Lansing isn’t just affordable—it’s got a great job market! The city’s unemployment rate has declined since 2020, landing below the national average at 3.7%. This shows Lansing’s job market is healthy, with many people seeking employment in top industries like government, education, healthcare, manufacturing, and more. Residents can also find plenty of jobs in Lansing with top employers like the City of Lansing, General Motors, Sparrow Health System, Michigan State University, and Lansing School District.

Get a Quality Education at MSU & More

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Founded in East Lansing in 1855 as the nation’s first land grant universityMichigan State University (MSU) is a high-ranking college offering 200+ programs, including business administration, chemistry, journalism, and education technology. With the Division I Spartan athletics program, MSU has many sports within the Big Ten conference—including baseball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, and football! Though MSU traditions—like visiting the bronze statue of the mascot, Sparty, and belting the MSU fight song—are cornerstones of the city’s identity, you have more options for colleges in Lansing than just MSU. The private four-year university, Great Lakes Christian College, offers programs in business management, early childhood education, music, psychology, and advanced biblical studies. Alternatively, Lansing Community College is among the best community colleges in Michigan, with degrees in agricultural technology, architecture, automotive technologies, building construction, and more!

Live In an LGBTQ-Friendly City

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Lansing has a reputation of being a welcoming community to LGBTQ residents. In 1972, East Lansing was the first municipality in U.S. history to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance safeguarding residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Plus, in 2023, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was amended to reaffirm and expand those protections to include gender identity and expression. MSU also helped to pioneer an atmosphere of inclusion when it established the Michigan State Gay Liberation Movement—now known as the Alliance of Queer and Ally Students organization. Now, residents of the Greater Lansing area have a variety of LGBTQ-friendly events, venues, and resources! Find essential support and resources at the Salus Center, which serves as Lansing’s LGBTQ community center—and networking opportunities for LGBTQ residents of the Mid-Michigan area at Suits and the City. Celebrate your authentic self with a parade, drag performances, and more during Lansing Pride in Old Town, or head over to the Capitol for Michigan Pride. Support trendy Lansing gay bar The Exchange and enjoy a Vanilla Mule, Canyon Oaks Moscato, and more. Or catch drag brunch while sipping craft brews at Lansing Brewing Co.

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Travel Around Michigan’s Capital with CATA & More

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L-Town isn’t necessarily the most walkable city, but traveling around the metro is easy, thanks to the robust public transportation services. With a 19.3-minute average commute time in Lansing—about seven minutes shorter than the national average—commuting around Lansing is a breeze. Hop on the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) to beat traffic and take advantage of convenient bus routes throughout the Greater Lansing area. Take the Michigan Flyer-AirRide to commute to East Lansing or Detroit. Rent an electric scooter to zip around town—a mode of transportation popular among MSU students. If you’re looking to extend your travels, leave your car at home and take the Michigan Amtrak train service to other cities like Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and even Chicago!

A City Steeped In Automotive History

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Lansing’s modern history is deeply intertwined with the automotive industry. Founded by Ransom Eli Olds (who also founded the Oldsmobile brand), the REO Motor Car Company was Michigan’s first operating car company in 1905. Today, L-Town continues the tradition of auto manufacturing in Michigan, being home to many General Motors plants, which provide thousands of jobs in the Lansing area. If you’re an auto enthusiast, check out the popular cars, motorcycles, trucks, and bikes on display at Lansing’s Car Capital Auto Show—hosted by the RE Olds Transportation Museum, which houses an impressive collection of over 80 Lansing-made cars dating back to 1886!

Make the Most of Michigan’s Winters

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Lansing’s weather is fairly moderate during spring, summer, and fall, but the winter is something you’ll need to prepare for—especially if you’re coming from a warmer climate. Lansing gets an average of 46 inches of snow annually, with an average low temperature of around 17 degrees in January. Though Michigan winters can be long and cold, the snow can present many options for fun things to do! Make your winter fun at Burchfield Park, one of the best places for sledding in Lansing. Have a blast snow tubing or ice fishing at Hawk Island Park. Play games like ice corn hole and ice sculpting while listening to live music or opt for the annual BrrrCrawl of popular Lansing bars during Lansing Winterfest. Or hit the slopes for some nighttime skiing from January to February for Dew After Dark at the scenic Mt Brighton ski resort, located just 45 minutes outside of the city!

Take In the Great Outdoors

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Outdoor lovers will appreciate the many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the Lansing parks and green spaces located throughout the city! Perfect for a scenic jog or walk with the pup, visit the Lansing River Trail, a 20-mile stretch along the Grand River and Red Cedar River. Spend an afternoon fishing, kayaking, and canoeing at the 200-acre Crego Park. Let your dog roam off-leash, play in the pond, and get scrubbed clean at the dog-washing station at Soldan Dog Park. Stroll through the picturesque rose garden and capture breathtaking views of the Grand River at Frances Park. Stir a big vat of apples at the Apple Butter Festival in the fall, or hike year-round on the trails around the Fenner Nature Center. Go fishing, play softball, or have a family picnic at Grand Woods Park near the Grand River. Or enjoy a relaxing evening stroll along the riverfront at Louis F. Adado Riverfront Park.

Visit Charming Old Town Lansing

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Public art, eclectic local shops, excellent dining, and fun community events can all be found in the Old Town Lansing district! Find one-of-a-kind jewelry, cards, and gifts at Bad Annie’s Sweary Goods. Appreciate the photography, handcrafted goods, and woodwork of local artists at Great Lakes Art & Gifts. Observe the grandeur of the Georgian Revival architecture during a Turner-Dodge House tour—once the home of two families who had a huge impact on Capital City’s development. Turn out to witness local artists brightening up the city’s sidewalks with colorful art during Chalk of the Town. Show off your feats of strength, enter the Regional Beard Competition, and sip local craft brews during the Lumberjack Competition. Order the Pork Ribs, Smoked Chicken Wings, or Made-to-Order Mac & Cheese at Meat Southern BBQ & Carnivore Cuisine. Or turn out for live jazz music, dancing, and vibing with your fellow community members at JazzFest Michigan!

Enjoy Family Activities in Lansing

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If you’re searching for ways to keep your family entertained, there are many things to do in Lansing with kids! See 160+ animal species like red pandas, black rhinos, and snow leopards at one of the best zoos in Michigan, Potter Park Zoo. Bring the kids to play in interactive exhibits like Spectrum, Pop: A Bubble Experience, and SMASH: A Nuclear Adventure at Impression 5 Science Center. Journey through the cosmos with public shows like One Sky, The Little Star That Could, and A Teenager’s Guide to the Galaxy at Abrams Planetarium. Take part in fun summer activities like Butterfly Day, the Garden Geocache Event, and Bubble Day at MSU’s 4-H Children’s Garden. Snag some hot dogs and catch a Lansing Lugnuts (MiLB) game at Jackson Field (formerly Cooley Law School Stadium). Bring your teens for a night of high-octane excitement at the Lansing go-karting venue at High Caliber Karting & Entertainment–which also has fun games for adults like axe throwing, rage rooms, and more.

Get to Know the Local Arts & Culture Scene

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Lansing has tons of museums, art galleries, and public art murals throughout the city—in addition to a thriving local music scene. Stroll through great archives and historical collections like Food Fight!, Afrofuturism & Quilts: Materializing Black Futures & Womxn’s Quilt Legacies, and Marking Time: A Year of Spartan Marching Band Traditions at the MSU Museum. View works of art from local and regional Michigan artists, sign up for drawing classes, and shop for pieces to bring home at the Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center. See everything from visual art exhibits to sculpture work from Contemporary artists while attending events like JazzFest, Funkfest, and Bluesfest at the Michigan Institute for Contemporary Art. Sign your kids up for art education classes, or take instructional courses on molding clay, acrylic painting, and paper making at the Lansing nonprofit REACH Studio Art Center. Snag tickets to live performances like Spring Awakening, The Music of Star Wars: May the Fourth Be With You, and Bluey’s Big Play at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts. Or spend an afternoon exploring the public murals in Downtown Lansing, Old Town, and REO Town during the Lansing Wall Crawl!

Embrace Your Love of Music

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Looking for live music in Lansing? L-Town is full of entertainment for music lovers! Catch live shows in a variety of genres like blues, rock, R&B, and more at one of Lansing’s best dance bars, The Green Door Bar & Grill. Featuring performances from local and national artists, food trucks, and more, get tickets to the brand-new Rock Lansing music festival. Join in for contra dancing, square dancing, and folk music performances while attending a concert at Ten Pound Fiddle. See metal, punk, and electronic bands live while attending events like Latino Night at Mac’s Bar. Support local musicians as they perform in Valley Court Park at East Lansing Farmer’s Market. Or grab tickets to embark on a dinner cruise down the Grand River while getting down to live blues, R&B, jazz, and funk during the Mixed Flavors event on the Michigan Princess.

Dine at Incredible Lansing Restaurants

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If you’re a foodie on the hunt for the best restaurants in Lansing, you’re bound to find a place with amazing cuisine! Reserve a table to enjoy scratch kitchen cuisine like the Voodoo Pasta, Braised Lamb Shank, or the Brisket Burrito served at Soup Spoon Cafe. Enjoy a house margarita with some Chicken Flautas, Steak Fajitas, or Mole Enchiladas on the rooftop at Mexican favorite El Azteco. Fill up on a hearty weekend brunch of the Son of a Biscuit, Brunch Wrap Supreme, or Quiche Latifa at The People’s Kitchen. Try the Molasses Chicken, Eggplant Napoleon, or Pork Shoulder Tacos at the State Room Restaurant located inside the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center. Order up a California, Shrimp Tempura, or Eel Cucumber Roll at the Japanese restaurant Mikado Sushi & Grill. Start with an appetizer of the escargot before setting into the Shrimp Bisque or Filet Mignon for a fine dining experience at  Bowdie’s Chophouse. Pick up diner fare with a truck stop twist like the Music City Hangover sandwich, Breakfast Tacos, or the Shroominator Burger at Good Truckin’ Diner. Or stop for a slice of specialty pizzas like the Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Bruschetta Pizza, or Hawaiian Pizza at the family-owned DeLuca’s Pizza.

Check Out Lansing’s Nightlife Spots

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If you’re a night owl looking for fun things to do after dark, there are plenty of bars, lounges, and clubs in Lansing to keep you entertained! Sip a Guinness while participating in events like DJ Trivia, Live Jazz Tuesdays, or Open Mic Nights at Moriarty’s Pub. Catch the big game on TV while snacking on Buffalo Nachos, Nutty Cheese Bread Stuff, or Chicken Wings at Nuthouse Sports Grill, one of the best sports bars in Lansing. Chill out on the patio while watching live sports games at Cleats Bar & Grille inside the Hope Sports Complex. Try the Bourbon Porch Cooler, Mint Julep, or Hive Five at American Fifth Spirits, Lansing’s first distillery. Or listen to live music on Tuesdays and Sundays while enjoying small plates and draft brews at the oldest bar in Lansing, Stober’s Bar.

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Moving to Lansing? Extra Space Storage has self storage facilities throughout the Lansing area, so we can help with your transition. Find a storage unit near you!

About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.