While Lansing is itself a small city compared to New York, Chicago, L.A. and Detroit, it still is a city. And like all cities, there are buildings, concrete, and people everywhere you turn. It can get a bit overwhelming at times, causing you to head for greener pastures. Lucky for us, Lansing isn’t like New York or Detroit where you can only head to one major park in each city (Central Park or Bell Isle). There is no shortage of green space for Lansing area residents to escape to. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition, which is my prerogative.
The true beauty of Lansing may actually lay in its people, but a large part of its beauty is the park system. The city of Lansing has over 100 official public parks of various size and style. Some are simply the land surrounding historic buildings. Some are small with just a simple swing set. Others spread out over several acres of forested land.
While not every park is connected, a large portion of them can be easily accessed via the River Trail. The River Trail starts just northwest of Old Town and heads south all the way to Maguire Park on the corner of Jolly and Aurelius Rd. From West to East it runs from Moore’s Park near REO Town to Michigan State University. In between you can walk, run, or bike your way to a great number of local treasures along the 13 miles of paved trails. You are even able to travel the trail with your family pet, provided you have them on a leash.
On a hot summer day you can easily make your way to the splash pad or the lake at Hawk Island Park to help you cool down. Just make sure that you don’t eat too much ice cream from the concession stand before you go swimming. The River Trail can also lead you to the public pool located in Moore’s Park.
Do you have a large group of children who are complaining about being bored? Well, the River Trail can lead you to either Potter Park Zoo where you can easily entertain even the most finicky child with the Otter exhibit or the primate house. Are animals not your thing? No problem, the River Trail will lead you directly to Impression 5 Science Center, which is a wonderful place for children and adults alike. (Side note: Impression 5 is a great place for college students to take their date. I took all my first dates there, and I always got a second date. Whether or not I got a third date is a mystery for you to solve. )
Are you feeling penurious? Are you concerned that you don’t know what penurious means? Wondering if you will start using words like penurious, even though you will never actually need to know the definition of it, but you have it stuck in your brain because you recently took the GRE and learned all sorts of vocabularly? Anxious that I won’t stop asking you questions? Don’t worry, I’m done. Also, penurious means stingy. You don’t have to leave the trail and spend any money, if you do not wish. Riding the trail can be an adventure in itself. Through the year, you can watch the changes in nature as the seasons progress. As the snow melts, the river rises, which in turn leaves to flowers blooming. Later on in the summer you can watch the animals make nests and stalk out hunting grounds before preparing for the coming of winter as the leaves change colors. I am particularly obsessed with the heron that lives in a small marsh land just east of Aurelius Road. I never tire of watching it take flight, with the long neck leading the way, with the equally long legs trailing behind, looking like an elaborate kite backdropped by the blue sky.
Personally, I love to ride my bike down the River Trail and over to the Lansing City Market, in order to have a meal and drink at the Waterfront Bar and Grille, before riding on to Old Town to walk among the eclectic shops while I digest my meal. After which I am able to do a bit of site-seeing at the Brenke Fish Ladder, before hopping back onto my bike and riding through the various parks and natural areas that surround the trail. As my ride comes close to concluding, I love to stop at the Clippert St. parking lot next to US-127. I do this so that I can enter Bake ‘n’ Cakes for some of the best desert available in the Lansing area, before heading home to relax and reflect on the day that was. Not only am I getting some exercise, but I am able to see Lansing from a different point of view than if I was to simply jump in my car and head to each location directly.