Lansing is located pretty much right in the middle of the state, so there are a lot of highways that connect it with cities in all other directions. It's very easy to drive to Lansing and usually takes 1-2 hours, at most, from the majority of locations in mid-Michigan.
If you are coming from...
-Detroit area: I-96 West will bring you right to Lansing
-Grand Rapids: I-96 East will bring you right to Lansing
-Flint: I-69 South will bring you right to Lansing
-Jackson: US-127 North will bring you right to Lansing
-Coldwater/Battle Creek/Kalamazoo: I-69 North will bring you right to Lansing
-Mount Pleasant: US-127 South will bring you right to Lansing
If you are coming from out of state, there are basically only three major highways that lead into Michigan...
-From Toledo: Take US-23 North and then get on I-96 West
-From eastern Indiana: Continue following I-69 North
-From western Indiana: Follow I-94 East and then get on I-69 North
If you come in from Wisconsin, you'll have to drive the length of the Upper Peninsula, cross the Mackinac Bridge, and then follow I-75 South until it merges into US-127 South which will bring you right into Lansing
If you come from Canada, you will be in the Detroit area, make your way to I-96 West and that will lead you right to Lansing.
I-496 is another highway in the area. It runs east and west but is basically a "Lansing Only" highway. It only goes from where both I-96 and I-69 meet in the west side of Lansing to US-127 (near East Lansing). This highway has several exits for various locations in downtown Lansing and for Michigan State University. It is essentially a shortcut to get from the west side of town to the east side/MSU... or to get from I-96/I-69 to US-127... and vice versa.
- Road Trip
Parking will vary depending on where you go in Lansing.
In the "shopping districts" of North and South Lansing, parking should not be a problem at all. Most of the stores and restaurants have huge parking lots with plenty of spaces available. There is also a huge parking lot at the airport, although you have to pay if you park there for an extended amount of time.
Downtown is a completely different story though. There is literally no free parking downtown during the week (8 AM to 6 PM, Monday through Friday) - there are a lot of parking structures which vary in price by the hour, but most have a maximum of $10 per day. There are also meters along main areas like Washington Square that provide temporary parking, although still at a price.
Parking downtown is a bit easier at night. After 6 PM, almost all meters are free. Additionally, several parking structures open their gates after a certain time (usually much later, like 9 or 10 PM) and can be used for free parking. In many of these structures, you can park overnight, but you may have to pay to get your car out in the morning if you do (that is, if you don't get it out before they put the gates back down). There is also a city ordinance that you cannot park on the street from 2AM to 6AM in most areas, and you will get a ticket if you violate this.
There is a squad of "parking police" that patrol the downtown area so, unfortunately, you are at a huge risk of getting a ticket if your meter expires or if you happen to just be parked somewhere you shouldn't be, so be careful!
- Road Trip
Capital City Airport
Capital City Airport is located in the northern part of Lansing, on Grand River Ave.
It is a pretty good location, as that is a main road, so it is easy to get out and get to where ever you need to go. There are several rental car agencies located right at the airport and several taxi companies service the area as well. CATA buses have stops near the airport too.
However, it is a fairly difficult airport to fly into, as there are not many direct flights. Most flights will require a layover in Detroit, Chicago, or possibly elsewhere. This is also true of flying out of Lansing - you will most likely have to take at least one layover to reach your destination.
I would NOT recommend using this airport - not because of layovers though, or even the service (I've heard it's pretty good actually), but just because of the prices. Flights to/from Lansing are often significantly more expensive than the exact same flight to/from Detroit. I have lived in the Lansing area since 2003 and have flown quite a bit, both domestic and internationally... and I have NEVER used this airport. I try - I try to find flights from this airport, but then I check the same flights from Detroit and find that they are MUCH cheaper than the ones from Lansing. I just can't justify paying that much more for a plane ticket when there is such a cheaper alternative right down the road.
In fact, a 2009 study actually rated the Capital City Airport as one of the 20 most expensive airports to fly out of in the United States. So unless you don't really care about the cost (maybe you are on a business trip and aren't paying for it yourself), I would suggest flying into Detroit instead and then using any of the cheaper options to get to Lansing; have someone pick you up, take the Michigan Flyer, rent a car, etc.
- Business Travel
To Lansing, From Detroit Metro Airport
Detroit Metro Airport is, by far, the biggest and most frequented airport in the state of Michigan, so if this is your entry point, here are some options on how to get to Lansing.
One of the easiest is to simply rent a car. Its very easy to obtain a rental car at DTW and Lansing has several rental car agencies as well, so you can drop off the car once you arrive here if you need to.
If you are coming to visit someone, one option would be to just have them pick you up from the airport. It is only about an hour and a half drive from Lansing to the Detroit Metro Airport. Offer to split the cost of gas (or even pay it yourself) and this would be one the cheapest/fastest options.
Another option is the Michigan Flyer. This is a shuttle system that makes 8 round trips from DTW to East Lansing every day (7 on Saturdays). A one-way ticket costs $30 and a round trip ticket is $50. The shuttle is a very easy and hassle-free way to get from the airport to Lansing. The only downside is that the shuttle makes stops in both Ann Arbor and Jackson, neither of which are really "on the way", so it takes a lot longer than any other option which goes directly from the airport to Lansing.
You could also get a taxi cab - although I've never done that so I don't know about pricing. I would assume it would probably be one of the most expensive options.
Finally, you could fly... I know I said I didn't recommend flying into Lansing in a previous tip, but to put all the options on the table, Detroit Metro is one of very few airports that offers direct flights to the Capital City Airport in Lansing. If you do try to fly to Lansing from your original location, chances are you will have a layover here anyways.
- Business Travel
There are numerous taxi companies which service Lansing. I personally try to avoid using them unless I absolutely have to, because I feel like they are over priced. But if you decide you want to take a taxi, here are some of the companies that operate around here:
Big Daddy Taxi, (517) 367-7474, http://www.bigdaddytaxi.com
Capital Cab, (517) 999-4444, http://capitolcab.net
DD's Downtown Taxi, (517) 252-4498, http://ddsdowntowntaxi.com
Green Cab Company, (517) 643-1905, http://www.greencabcompany.net
L Town Cabs, (517) 749-7871, http://www.ltowncab.com
Shaggin' Wagon Taxi, (517) 507-5047, http://www.lansingcab.com/
Spartan Cab, (517) 482-1444, http://www.capitoltransport.com
S-cabs, (517) 374-5500, http://www.s-cabs.com
- Business Travel
Officially called the "Entertainment Express", the Trolley runs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights only, from 7:30 PM until 2:30 AM. It runs only between downtown Lansing and downtown East Lansing, essentially going back and forth between both of the major bar scenes in the area.
There are numerous stops along Michigan Avenue, as well as Washington Square in Lansing and Albert Street in East Lansing. The fare is $1.25, or $0.60 if you have a student ID. You can ride for free on the first Friday of every month too.
- Budget Travel
- Beer Tasting
- Wine Tasting
Lansing doesn't have the greatest public transportation system in the world, but it does have a decent one with the CATA bus system.
CATA buses service pretty much all of Lansing and East Lansing as well as Okemos and Holt; although once you get towards the outskirts, there get to be fewer and fewer bus stops. If you are anywhere remotely near downtown though, finding a bus stop should not be a problem! The main terminal is located right in downtown Lansing and is where the majority of routes start and end.
General fares range from $1.25 to $2.50, depending on the "zone" you are in (the majority of routes are in the $1.25 zone, although the airport is in the $2.50 zone). If you have a student ID you can get significant discounts on these prices (just show the card to the driver before you pay).
There are tons of routes, but not a lot of stops on each. So while CATA buses will generally be able to take you to anywhere you want to go, their small routes might mean that you have to take one to the central terminal and then get on another to actually reach your destination. Fares do not carry over, so to get on another bus requires another fare to be paid.
All of the maps/routes are available online and on the bus, although generally at the bus stop it only gives information like when the bus is set to arrive and not where its going. The main bus terminal, however, also has plenty of maps/route info.
Overall, I much prefer using CATA to taxi cabs - although CATA does not run very late, so if you are out at the bars or something this may not be an option by the time you are ready to leave.
- Budget Travel
DRIVE OR FLY
LANSING IS NOT THAT BIG OF A CITY, THERE AREN'T MANY TRAFFIC JAMS, ONLY 5PM TRAFFIC, BUT THATS ANYWHERE. YOU COULD RIDE BIKE OR WALK, UNLESS YOU ARE DRIVING A DISTANCE, YOUR CAR IS THE BEST IDEA. I HAVE NEVER TAKEN THE BUS, BUT THAT WOULD TAKE YOU LONGER THAN YOU NEED.
Drive or fly. We have an...
Drive or fly. We have an airport right here in Lansing, so it is convienient as well.
You definately need to have your own car or a rental one. We do have a bus system called CATA (Capital Area Rural Transportation) that runs until 11:00PM, but people (for some unknown reason) tend to look down on people who take the bus. I have no idea why, but that's just Lansing. Taxi's are available, but you need to call and request one - they don't just drive by and stop when you stick your arm out. Most people only take a cab when they can't drive home...
PARK at your hotel and either...
PARK at your hotel and either WALK or get on the CATA bus because the mafia runs the parking over there and there is NEVER really free parking because you can get a ticket even when legally parked.
CATA or walking is best. But if you choose to drive into town, park there on a Sunday or after 6 during the week, where parking is free. Meters allow for 15 free minutes as well.
Best way is by car....I-96 and...
Best way is by car....I-96 and I-69 run right around town, with I-496, M-43, M-99, and US-127 providing in-town access. Lansing is an hour west of Detroit and Flint, an hour east of Grand Rapids, an hour south of Mt Pleasant....you get the idea :)
Capital City Airport is another way into town....Northwest is the main carrier there. Cabs and the bus system run out to the airport. Amtrak has a station at Michigan State; Greyhound has stations in downtown Lansing and by Michigan State.
Car is the best way to get around. The immediate Lansing area [Lansing, East Lansing, Okemos, Haslett, Holt] is served by CATA buses, which are very good buses. The west side of town is not as well served bus-wise. Rush hour is not a big deal, especially if you're from a major city :) 8-9 AM and 5-6 PM are the peaks....but even those won't keep you from getting across town in 20 minutes.
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