Get Ready to Rally for These College Towns!

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As the end of the summer and beginning of fall nears, many parents are sending their children off to college, perhaps for the first time. For some, their child may now be living in a city they've never really spent time in. So, what's there to do when you drop them off, visit, or attend a sporting event? Come along as we explore some popular Michigan college towns and offer up a sampling of what's to enjoy in each.

Home to Michigan State University, one of the biggest and greenest college campuses in the country, East Lansing has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. Embrace the "Go Green!" energy by visiting Crunchy's (an EL tradition) for a Breakfast Burger; savoring a sweet baked good from Mitten Raised Bakery; taking in a show at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts; or vying for a new high score at Pinball Pete's. The nearby state capitol building is also worth a visit.

Attending a football game and staying overnight? Consider the trendy new Graduate East Lansing hotel, located right on Grand River Avenue less than a mile from Spartan Stadium (don't forget to check their website for game time deals).


Michigan Locker Room. Photo Courtesy of Destination Ann Arbor. 

Don your maize and blue and head to the University of Michigan! In addition to world-famous Zingerman's Deli in the city's Kerrytown District, Ann Arbor boasts the largest football stadium in North America—"The Big House," which can be toured on weekdays, upon request and for a fee.

While visiting, don't miss the flavorful dishes found at Taste of India Suvai; craft brews at Wolverine State Brewing Company; the stunning architecture of the William W. Cook Legal Research Library in the Law Quad; and the natural beauty of the Waterloo State Recreation Area. The Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown—just blocks from campus—is a popular place to lay your head after a long day of tailgating.


Homecoming, 2021. Photo Courtesy of Central Michigan University. 

"Fire Up" and venture to Mt. Pleasant, where you'll find Central Michigan University and the many scenic parks and trails surrounding the Chippewa River. There's plenty to do in the city and immediate area, including playing a round of golf at Bucks Run on their award-winning 18-hole course before dining at the Quarry Grill.

While in Mt. Pleasant, remember to chill out with some grub at The Cabin; chow on classic and gourmet hot dogs at Dog Central—a popular post-football game hot spot; test your luck at Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort; book a reservation at Karma Kat Cafe; and more. CMU's campus is especially picturesque come autumn, so when in doubt, take a stroll from one end of the campus to the other to soak up the sights.


State Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Discover Kalamazoo. 

Located on lands historically occupied by the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi nations, Western Michigan University is known for its aviation program, among others. Kalamazoo itself has a vibrant Art Deco downtown that's sure to keep visiting families entertained. Refreshing brews and live shows are always on tap at Bell's Brewery, while over 300 vintage automobiles & motorcycles await at Gilmore Car Museum in neighboring Hickory Corners. Don't skip the Air Zoo, a ​​Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum.

For a taste of "magic," venture to One Well Brewing for some drinks and dining, before getting competitive in their family-friendly Wizard's Pinball Palace next door, which includes 50 pinball tables, 20 arcade games, four dart boards, three pool tables, air hockey and foosball.


Mount Marquette Hiking. Photo Courtesy of Aaron Peterson/Travel Marquette. 

Situated in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is Marquette, a paradise for nature lovers and home to Northern Michigan University and the U.S. Olympic Education Center, which offers elite athletes the opportunity to get an education while training for the Olympic games.

From hiking Mount Marquette and dog-friendly Sugarloaf Mountain to the old Lower Harbor Ore Dock and ADA-accessible trails leading to Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook, outdoor activities abound in the U.P.'s largest city. You may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights while you're here!

If the indoors are calling your name, opt for a pint of MYKISS IPA at Blackrocks Brewery; explore the Marquette Maritime Museum or paint your own pottery at HOTplate, a DIY art studio. Stay overnight at the Landmark Inn if you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the Lilac Lady who supposedly haunts its historic halls.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.

 Main Photo Courtesy of Amie Lucas, Greater Lansing CVB. 


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