Michigan State University in East Lansing always feels ready for a good time.

September 12, 2015
Walkways surrounded by trees cross the MSU campus.

Somehow, returning to campus feels like the best type of regression: shedding the responsibilities of adulthood and embracing the heady freedom of college days, but without the classes. And few campuses channel that leave-it-behind spirit better than Michigan State University, in East Lansing, on the banks of the Red Cedar River. The capital city of Lansing, just to the west, tends to keep it all business. Popular daytime activities include lawmaking and administration (the nightlife picks up after 7 p.m.). But across the river, MSU always feels ready for a good time.

Walkways surrounded by trees cross the MSU campus.

Spirits inevitably soar when your football team is riding high. And this fall, the Spartans return to campus with a fresh Cotton Bowl win under their belt. Join the pregame party midmorning at The Rock, a giant painted boulder in a field along Farm Lane, a popular route to 75,000-seat Spartan Stadium. From there, ride the green current toward the sound of the bass drum thudding as the marching band warms up.

Even on nongame days, MSU and East Lansing conjure a festive atmosphere. Grand River Avenue, the tree-lined boulevard separating campus from the city, supports a village of restaurants with patios and bookstores catering to a town full of academics. In late morning, sidewalks fill with packs of students waiting in line for cheap lunchtime eats, and colorful artist-designed bike racks along the boulevard hold a jumble of bikes fresh off the Lansing River Trail. Followed west, the trail swoops away from the campus and into business-minded Lansing, past the neoclassical Michigan State Capitol. But followed east, the trail cruises by students swinging in hammocks, basking in the sun and soaking in the unencumbered sense of freedom.

Students cross the Red Cedar River.

The cut-loose campus

Play Campus attractions include contemporary works in theEli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, some 2,700 plant species in the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden, a rose display at the MSU Horticulture Gardens, a trove of science-minded exhibits in the MSU Museum and the sounds of a carillon at Beaumont Tower.

Dine Crowds pack the Peanut Barrell for BLTs and burgers, baskets of peanuts and Long Island Iced Teas. If the wait is too long, try hole-in-the-wall Crunchy's for towering burgers and buckets of onion rings. On campus, MSU Dairy Store dishes super-rich ice cream.

Stay The Wild Goose Inn, behind shops and restaurants across from campus, packs more charm than the nearby Marriott. Rooms at the inn offer tasteful decor, balconies or patios, and whirlpool tubs. However, you might hear spirited (and spirit-infused) students in the night. Light sleepers should consider bringing earplugs.

For more information: Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau (888) 252-6746; lansing.org