It's that special time of year when the sun is shining, the foliage is in bloom and you just want to spend time outside.

And also, East Lansing is pleasantly more navigable thanks to the sudden exodus of thousands of MSU students.

Don't get me wrong: We all love MSU. Who knows what the Lansing area would do without the 50,000 students and thousands of staff and employees.

But there's a certain tranquil beauty to campus and East Lansing at large in the summertime. Whether it's the relative ghost town-like corridor of Shaw Lane in June or the much less stress-inducing stretch of Grand River Avenue without as many vehicles and pedestrians, summertime is special in this town, too.

Here are the top five things to do in East Lansing when MSU students are gone for the summer.


  • Beal Gardens at MSU on a summer morning. (Photo courtesy MSU)

    Enjoy a walk or ride through campus

    Michigan State's is one of the most beautiful campuses in all the world, and it's right here in our own backyard. Unfortunately, we don't often enough get to enjoy its winsomeness due to the everyday hustle and bustle of campus traffic.

    That's not the case in the summer. While there may be more construction and road work projects ongoing, May through August makes for a great time to take a casual walk or ride around MSU as you'll encounter far less foot and road traffic (plus the CATA buses aren't running as frequently).

    Explore the natural beauty of the Beal Botanical Gardens or the Horticulture Gardens. Come to terms with your smallness in the shadow of Spartan Stadium. Take a trip through time by visiting the historic buildings on campus along West and East Circle drives, including the MSU Museum or the new Broad Art Museum. There's enough to see to keep you occupied for several walks/rides.

  • The hamster cage parking garage downown (Photo courtesy City of East Lansing)

    Park Your Car Somewhere

    If you're like me, you grew up in a rural Michigan town taking parking for granted. Afterall, being able to park your vehicle conveniently and for free seems like a natural and God-given right, right?

    Anyone who's spent time in this town knows how naive that thought was. But rejoice: With the MSU students out for summer, East Lansing and much of campus is a veritable cornucopia of parking! Whether it's the hamster cage downtown or the stadium lot at MSU, you'll have no problem finding a spot for your car in the warmer months.

  • Grand River Avenue corridor (Photo courtesy City of East Lansing)

    Go To Your Favorite Establishment Without An Insufferable Wait

    One of my personal favorite things about East Lansing in the summer: The long lines and waits and many of the local bars and restaurants are gone! Turns out when thousands of people leave town for four months, congestion at local businesses decreases--who knew!

    Grab a cold one and some grub on the patio of the Peanut Barrel, Harper's or El Azteco. Go cut a rug at Dublin Square. Or, if you're like me...

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    Show Off Your Undiscovered Talents with Karaoke at Crunchy's

    I'm biased on this one, but Crunchy's has to be one of the best college-town bars in the country. The place just oozes character, whether it's from the walls and tables carved with thousands of names of former patrons (a time-honored tradition there) or its unique menu and outstanding craft beer selection.

    And then there's the karaoke. I, along with the crew I ran with in college, were/are big fans of this main Crunchy's attraction. There's only a couple of problems, though: 1. Super drunk frat bros hogging the mic only to butcher some song while soaking in the limelight, and 2. Not being able to participate because of a huge cue of karaokers.

    Thankfully both of those issues are significantly ameliorated over the summer. Plus, you probably won't have to wait outside in the alley just to get in, like you almost certainly will on a weekend evening during the school year.

    Karaoke at Crunchy's is an experience you won't forget.

    Or maybe you will thanks to the copious amounts of libations.

  • Beaumont Tower (Photo courtesy MSU)

    Take In A Carillon Concert At Beaumont Tower

    Beaumont Tower is one of the most recognizable college landmarks around. But did you know it's actually the site of a summer concert series?

    You've probably heard the carillon inside the tower playing the alma mater song, "MSU Shadows," or the fight song. But every summer starting in July, Beaumton Tower puts on a weekly concert series where different performers play different pieces on the carillon.

    Stroll by for a visit, or make an evening of it with a picnic. It's not uncommon to see dozens of families sitting around on the surrounding greens to take in one of the concerts.

    Get more information on Beaumont Tower's carillon concert series here.