One of MSU's two main gardens -- the other being the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens -- this spot sits right along the Red Cedar River. Benches abound and a gazebo overlooks the garden, making it a spot for a quiet read.
Visiting Beal Garden is also an educational opportunity, as there are little information cards near every plant in the collection. You can schedule a guided tour as well, for more information than the cards provide. There is an exhibit dedicated to endangered plants native to Michigan, a collection organized from the most primitive members of the plant family to some of the most advanced and a bevy of wetland plants.
The garden was underwater during the flooding that overtook campus late this winter, but the plants seem to have recovered since then.
This one is kind of cheating, since it's not solely MSU's to claim, but the Lansing River Trail provides incredible views of the two rivers that cut through the region.
What makes the trail special is its combination of natural and urban beauty. On campus, the tree-lined spaces and historic buildings perfectly complement the Red Cedar views. As you go toward Lansing, you first follow the Red Cedar and then the Grand as you pass through neighborhoods, industrial areas and parkland, ending up in downtown Lansing.
The paved trails allow for a bike ride from a class at Wells Hall to a night out at the Lansing Brewing Company, or a scenic jog from your East Neighborhood dorm to worship at the feet of Spartan Statue.
The southern half of campus is dominated by farmland, which should come as no surprise at a school formerly known as the Michigan Agricultural College. But the crops, open horizons and horses you'll see seem a world away from the towers that dominate the "main" part of campus.
Out here, research is conducted on everything flora and fauna, from turfgrass to beef cattle.There's even a 90-acre Sheep Teaching and Research Center where you can take a self-guided tour around the main barn. There you'll see the fluffy critters and the students who perform "sheep research activities," as the website puts it.
Biking or driving through the farms on a warm night guarantees you an open-sky view of the sunset, although if you're biking, be sure to get back to the well-lit part of campus before dark since the rural roads can get dangerous.
Sanford Natural Area
During the tail end of summer you might need bug spray to avoid the mosquitoes, but this large area near the River Trail and East Neighborhoods is MSU's most convenient spot to take a hike through the forest.
If you're not afraid to get a little muddy, you can get very close to the Red Cedar River by following the trails -- even though it's sometimes hard to tell what trails are meant to be there and which ones were just beaten down by student trailblazers.
Sometimes resourceful visitors to Sanford make small shelters out of branches too, although they never seem to last very long. If you visit, make sure not to leave any snack wrappers; the natural beauty can be interrupted by a piece of trash laying near the river or alongside the trails.
Cherry Lane Park
West of Holden, Wilson and Wonders Halls, this park used to be the site of Cherry Lane and Faculty Bricks Apartments, which were built to house a rush of soldiers returning to school after World War II. Those were demolished in 2011, leaving a wide open field that can be used for a lunchtime picnic or your Ultimate Frisbee practice.
Even though it's located near the highly-populated South Neighborhood, this seems to be an underrated spot. Students seem to know it better as a shortcut from Harrison Road to their dorms than as a place to relax.
This article appears in the Welcome Week 2018 print edition of The State News.