From the 313 to the 517: Why Lansing Stole My Heart

May 20, 2024 | Personal

In celebration of 517 Day, I'm sharing how Lansing stole the heart of this Detroit native and continues to inspire, engage, and entertain me. 
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Hello, fellow Lansing lovers and curious readers! This year’s “517 Day” celebrations in the Greater Lansing Area had people hitting the streets and participating in the festivities from 11 AM Friday morning until after 10 PM Sunday night. As I sit back and reflect on my second home in the vibrant heart of the Greater Lansing area, I’m here to share why Lansing has not only been a backdrop for my personal and professional growth but also a place that continues to inspire, engage, and entertain me every single day. 

A Green and White Beginning

For about 13 years, Lansing has been my home. Like many, my journey with Lansing started at MSU. In June 2008, I packed my bags and left Detroit to attend college as a 17-year-old high school graduate. At first, walking onto campus was filled with anxiety and hope. Although I didn’t initially want to go to MSU, I was more hopeful than anxious because I was excited to leave home and finally live on my own terms.

I moved onto campus earlier than most students because I accepted a job in Dining Services for Hubbard and Akers Hall cafeterias. A few weeks later, once most of the students had moved onto campus, the “Welcome Week” and orientation events started. 

As I strolled through the bustling campus, meeting my peers and dormmates, I was captivated by the vast, well-maintained lawns that stretched out in every direction. The Red Cedar River, lazily winding its way through the campus, added a serene and picturesque quality to the environment. Also wrapped into the festivities was a proper introduction to the unusually socialized squirrels. Combined, these elements, among others, created an electric energy of Spartan spirit that immediately made me feel right at home.

For me, college wasn’t just about lectures and late-night stressful cramming sessions; it was about discovering myself, learning to navigate adulthood, curating meaningful relationships, and realizing that Lansing was more than just a place I was temporarily occupying for college—it was a thriving community that became my second home.

Lansing’s Secret Sauce: Its People

One of the first things you’ll notice about Lansing is the people—the diversity. No matter where you go, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a vibrant collection of cultures, backgrounds, and stories. This diversity isn’t just seen in the faces you pass but felt in the rich blend of languages, traditions, and cuisines that fill the city. 

I didn’t realize that most places aren’t like Lansing, where the white collar and blue collar, young and old, black and white, and Hispanic and Asian live in the same neighborhoods and attend the same schools. Not only can they all coexist, but they have also built a well-connected community that loves and supports each other. Lansing is a place where different cultures come together to create a unique, harmonious community. This blend of backgrounds and experiences enriches the social fabric. It fosters a sense of unity and shared purpose among residents, making Lansing a truly special place to live and visit.

Whether it’s a barista at your favorite coffee shop, a bartender at the bar you frequent, or a neighbor you’ve never met, there are always new people to meet and a connection to make. Lansing’s people are its heartbeat. They’re entrepreneurs, artists, educators, and dreamers. They’re the folks who turned Old Town into a hub of creativity and those who tirelessly work to make the Lansing River Trail a gem for all to enjoy. It’s a place where collaboration trumps competition, and that’s a rare and beautiful thing.

Professional Playground

Professionally, Lansing has been a playground of opportunities. As a solopreneur, I’ve found a supportive ecosystem encouraging innovation and growth. Co-working spaces like The Hatch and The Fledge, and coffee shops like Blue Owl Coffee and Biggby are more than just places to set up a laptop—they’re buzzing hives of creativity and collaboration.

Lansing’s entrepreneurial spirit is contagious. The city is a hotbed for startups and small businesses, each contributing to the area’s economic vitality. From tech ventures to artisanal crafts, there’s a place for every dream here. The proximity to MSU means there’s a steady stream of fresh talent and ideas, keeping the professional scene dynamic and forward-thinking.

Hidden Gems and Local Legends

Some say there’s nothing to do in Lansing, but I beg to differ. Lansing offers a balance that few places can. It’s big enough to have all the amenities you need but small enough to feel personal and connected. There’s a rhythm to life here that’s both stimulating and comforting. It’s a place where you can drive ten minutes and be surrounded by nature or head downtown for a night of fun and culture.

Lansing’s charm lies in its hidden gems. Take a stroll through Old Town, and you’ll find eclectic boutiques, art galleries, and eateries that each tell their own story. The Old Town General Store is a must-visit, offering locally sourced goods and a taste of Lansing’s artisanal spirit. Every corner in Old Town exudes a blend of historic charm and modern creativity, making it a perfect spot to explore and discover one-of-a-kind treasures.

Just a short walk away, downtown Lansing offers a different but equally captivating experience. Here, the city’s vibrant energy comes to life with an array of attractions, from the striking architecture of the Capitol building to the bustling atmosphere of the Capital City Market. Downtown’s diverse dining scene features everything from upscale restaurants to cozy cafes, ensuring there’s something to satisfy every palate. 

Nature’s Embrace

One of Lansing’s greatest assets is its natural beauty. The Lansing River Trail offers miles of scenic paths perfect for walking, biking, or a leisurely jog. It’s a serene escape right in the heart of the city, connecting you with nature and providing a peaceful respite from the daily grind.

Ingham County Parks, like Hawk Island and Lake Lansing, and the Fenner Nature Center offer even more opportunities to get outside and enjoy Michigan’s natural splendor. These green spaces are perfect for picnics, paddleboarding, or simply soaking up the sun with a good book.

Celebrating 517 Day

About 517 Day

Eight years ago, Melik Brown, A.K.A. Metro Melik, started 517 Day in Lansing to foster community pride and highlight the city’s unique aspects. This day brings residents together to appreciate and celebrate the vibrant spirit of the Greater Lansing Area, turning it into an annual tradition that showcases the best of what the area has to offer. It’s a day to celebrate our local businesses, diverse culture, and the strong sense of community that binds us together. 

517 Day Weekend 2024

This year’s 517 Day weekend in Lansing was filled with notable events all around the city that brought the community together in celebration. Although Friday closed out Lansing Restaurant Week, it kicked off the weekend’s events, starting with the 517 Day Festival and Lansing 5:01‘s Grand River Connection networking event at the Lansing Shuffle. Performances from The Corzo Effect, the School of Rock, and DJ Metro Melik, as well as a free line dance session by Dancing with the Nordes, filled the air with energy. 

Saturday started with the Over the Edge fundraiser event for the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing, where people bravely rappelled down Boji Tower across from the Capitol building. Shortly after, the Best of Lansing Festival by Lansing 5:01 transformed Downtown Lansing into a playground for people of all ages with larger-than-life inflatables and obstacle courses on the Capitol lawn, over 100 vendors featuring Lansing’s finest creations, and showcasing the Lansing City Pulse’s Top of the Town winners. The 61st annual East Lansing Art Festival took over a stretch of Albert Avenue in downtown East Lansing, and a strip of M.A.C. Avenue served as a “connecting arm” to MSU’s Spring Arts and Crafts Show that was happening at the same time.

The events that I just mentioned weren’t even half of them. Family-friendly activities, including face painting, games, and interactive art installations, ensured there was something for everyone to enjoy. The weekend celebration definitely left attendees with unforgettable memories of this year’s 517 Day and showed off why Lansing is the place to be!

Final Thoughts

Lansing is more than just a place to live; it’s a place to thrive. It’s where I found my footing as a young adult, where my professional dreams have taken flight, and where I’ve forged connections that have enriched my life in countless ways. From Detroit to Houston and back to the 517, my journey has been one of growth, discovery, and a deepening love for this incredible community.

So, here’s to Lansing and all its quirks, charms, and hidden treasures. Happy 517 Day, everyone! Let’s celebrate this amazing place we call home.

Stay inspired, stay connected, and most importantly, stay local.

– Desi

Post Tags: Lansing, reflection


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Desiree' M. Slaughter

Desiree' M. Slaughter

Creative Professional, Solopreneur, Digital Creator

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