Lansing Michigan

5 Dec

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Centrally located in the southern portion of the mitten, is the capitol city of Lansing. Currently Michigan’s 5th largest city, it is home to the Michigan State Capitol Building, the State Supreme Court, the Library of Michigan and Historical Center, Thomas M Cooley Law School (the nations largest law school), various museums, and of course, nearby, Michigan State University. Detroit was originally the capitol of Michigan; In the War of 1812 Detroit was captured by the British, the United States re-captured Detroit in 1813, but fears remained about the capitol city remaining so close to British-controlled Canada. The capitol of Michigan was moved from Detroit to Lansing in 1847.

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Faced with another mild November Saturday, we pointed the car west for a day-trip. Located along the banks of the Grand River, downtown Lansing features many of the things you find in a typical city; beautiful historic buildings, museums, a farmers market, little business districts, they also have a delightful zoo. Potter Park Zoo has 20 acres with over 100 different species of animals. It is open year-round, admission is free from November 1 to March 31. Parking in the huge lot was a breeze, being Thanksgiving weekend most folks probably weren’t thinking about visiting the zoo. The exhibits begin pretty close to the entrance and you don’t have a great distance to walk from one resident to the next.  The river otters are usually entertaining to watch, unfortunately for us they looked as though they had just eaten a big lunch and were a snuggled in their  hollowed log napping, they were still cute. Peacocks wander freely throughout the zoo, you’ll see them everywhere; on the ground, perched on fences, overhead on anything they can rest on. Their colors are stunning, from the classic turquoise and blue to pure white, they seem to get along with everyone. The meerkats were out in number and very active, they behave as though they are as interested in us as we are in them. Since I love animals we always visit the feeding and petting area, or Farmyard Edventures as it is called here. Pigs, burros, chickens, a yak, and goats; I was particularly fond of a very friendly goat with an underbite. Check out the Aviary, besides housing birds it’s a cool old building . All the major animal species are represented; Lions, penguins, rhino’s, 3 new Amur Tiger cubs were born in September. It’s a great place to enjoy the outdoors and visit with nature.

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The R E Olds Transportation Museum opened to the public in 1981. Located on Museum Drive, it is dedicated to Ransom E Olds; inventor, entrepreneur and financier. Ransom Olds founded 2 local companies: Olds Motor Works in 1897, and REO Motor Company in 1904, you and I would know the latter as simply Oldsmobile. As the museum takes you through the history of the automobiles it also defines the history of Lansing itself, Oldsmobile operated in Lansing for 70 years. In addition to beautiful vintage automobiles, exhibits include personal effects of R E Olds and his family, multiple engines, dealer advertising, and items significant to the city. For a time R E Olds even made lawnmowers!  In 1987 they added “Transportation” to the title of the museum, it now includes many of the Lansing area’s contributions  to transportation such as wheels and other makes of automobiles.  It’s a great museum and surely worth a visit.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE VINTAGE AUTO PHOTOS

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You may have noticed by now that we like old things; with that fondness in mind we had lunch at Clara’s on Michigan Avenue. Built in 1903 it was originally the Michigan Central and Pere Marquette Railroad Station, thanks to preservationists it has been turned into a charming restaurant. The outside is Romanesque in design, it’s quite elaborate with cut-stone arches and towers, the inside is enchanting! The interior has a distinctly Victorian feel about it; softly lit by a series of crystal chandeliers and stained glass light fixtures, magnificent antiques reside throughout the space. The cathedral ceiling is made of wood, a bronze chandelier hangs from above. If you climb the steps to the second level you get a wonderful overview. The antique pieces come from a variety of sources; many are local to Lansing, when some of the mansions were torn down, pieces were salvaged and have found a new home at Clara’s. Other pieces have traveled across the Atlantic from places such as Belgium, Venice, Paris and England. Tiny white lights decorate the wooden trim for the holiday season and add even more loveliness.  Since it is a restaurant, I guess I should talk about the food….The menu is HUGE, they serve everything from starters, burgers, soups and sandwiches to pizza’s and full entree’s. They also have a large selection of adult beverages. We had the Santa Fe Chicken Salad and it was delicious, the chicken was grilled and tender, the salad itself had a nice variety of ingredients and was nicely dressed. We had a BLT served with their special potatoes; they take a baked potato slice it into thick slices, then deep fry, really good! It was a very enjoyable experience from start to finish.

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Before we left town we still had time to stop in at the Lansing City Market. We always enjoy visiting the local farmers market when we are in another city, it’s fun to check out the different local offerings. Sitting alongside the Grand River, the market is housed in a nice size, new, indoor building with places to sit and eat, or just rest for a bit, in the nice weather vendors set up outdoors as well. You can always count on at least a few samples of something sweet at a market, it made for a nice little dessert after our big lunch. Browse the aisles; produce from local farmers, gourmet foods, garden art and jewelry all vie for your attention. Vendors are friendly and like to engage in conversation. Because they not only sell, but either make or grow the product, they can answer any question you may have, that’s always a good thing. Booths were decorated for the holidays making it feel a bit festive. There’s so much to see and do in Lansing, we’ll be back another time to tell you about more. In the mean time, come see it for yourself.

 

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