College is typically referred to as “the best four years of your life." Between living in the same city as some of your best friends, going to parties on the weekend and juggling a schedule of classes, it’s easy to overlook the actual best part of college: when your parents come to visit.
However, it can be hard to know where to take them, especially in the winter. Without football games and tailgating to plan your day around and without the warm weather that makes sitting out by Beaumont or walking through the gardens an easy go-to, it can feel like there's no point in having your parents make the drive.
But Amy Ohmer, Michigan State University alumni and parent of a MSU student, said winter may actually be an ideal time to visit.
“Sometimes I think the winter is even better because there's literally nothing else going on in Michigan and our campus is always hopping,” Ohmer said.
In the Morning
Let’s start with breakfast – or maybe brunch, if your sleep schedule isn't allowing you to be an early riser. An East Lansing staple is Beggar’s Banquet. While there are many options for breakfast in neighboring cities like Okemos and Lansing, this joint has the benefit of being in the heart of East Lansing.
Community events specialist Karla Forrest-Hewitt said that a nice thing about East Lansing is that most things are within walking distance of campus, which Beggar’s Banquet is a prime example of.
“The cool thing about East Lansing is that there's a lot of green space,” Forrest-Hewitt said. “I think that when parents visit there a lot of different things to do in daytime or at nighttime.”
If you’re just looking for a cup of coffee or a quiet bite, Foster's Coffee, Blue Owl and GoodFella’s Bagels are just around the corner, all within walking distance. But starting your day on Grand River Avenue will immediately give your parent a feel for how integrated East Lansing and MSU are.
Since you’re still on Grand River Avenue, a visit from your parents wouldn’t be complete without a walk across the street to MSU’s campus. A walk can get cold, but there are plenty of stops along the way to warm up in.
If you’re not a fan of art but still want to learn something, the MSU Museum isn’t just a history of the university. It regularly brings new exhibits to its floors which currently include “Sounds of Religion” and “1.5 Degrees Celsius.”
A lot of times, parents have no idea what your day-to-day life looks like – and they want to know. Take them to the buildings you have classes in, show them where you like to study, walk them down the path you take on a daily basis. All of these are ways to make campus more specific to you and give them a glimpse into your MSU experience.
If you’re looking to get farther away from campus, take a trip to MSU's Surplus Store. You might find a nice piece of clothing or furniture, or likely something a bit more unique.
If you're bundled up and able to bear the cold, visit the Northern Tier Trail. Director of parks, recreation and art in East Lansing Cathy DeShambo said the trail is open to walk or bike on and travels through many other parks in the city.
“I think that that's something that students at MSU, along with their families, could really enjoy and it also allows them to see other parts of the city that they may not normally see as a student,” DeShambo said. “When they're focused on campus or activities in the downtown, broadening their view of the city by experiencing our park systems and our trail systems is something that can really bring great value to their time here in East Lansing.”
In the Evening
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Any good visit centers around a good meal. For dinner, there are plenty of well-known options along Grand River Ave. and on Albert Street.
If your parent is an alumni, they might want to visit some classics such as El Azteco,The Peanut Barrel or Crunchy’s. But there are newer options that might allow them to get a feel for how the city has changed, as well.
Hannah Plaza has a number of restaurants with a variety of different cuisines. If you’re looking for Indian food, check out Sree Saffron or Sindhu Indian Cuisine. For Vietnamese food, Pho So 1 has everything from pho to bahn mi. Zhen Ramen & Grill has a wide variety of noodles and bowls and almost all of these restaurants have vegetarian and vegan options.
It’s at this time, after dinner, most parents have a choice to make: drive home or stay for the evening. Ohmer’s advice? Head back to Grand River Avenue and over to the Graduate Hotel Rock Bar for good drinks and good views.
“The rooftop is beautiful because you see the whole campus and the sunset,” Ohmer said. “It looks right over Grand River – I just absolutely love it.”
Maybe you won’t be able to have a drink with them, but who said this visit was just for you?
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