Categorized | State Side

Winter Wanderings

Reality has finally hit, and MSU students have been forced to admit the glory days of warmth are long gone. The sticky sweet days of summer and the hoodie-clad days of fall are over, and Michigan’s creepy cold is coming quickly. Say goodbye to skirts, sandals and spaghetti straps. Wave farewell to iced mochas, iced tea and ice cream. It’s okay to think back fondly on days spent outside, climbing trees, picnicking with friends or taking long, barefoot walks, but those days are just that – fond memories. Say hello to snowpants, scarves, and silly footwear (Ugg Boots, anyone?) Get ready to bundle up and covet the warmth of your pumpkin spice latte, curl into your favorite comfy chair or put some effort into that gingerbread house. The time has come to spend your days inside.

It has been said Michigan has two seasons – construction and winter. If you’ve been outside lately, I bet you can guess which one is here. With outdoor activities quickly plummeting, where can students at MSU turn? Equipped with my scarf, wool coat, mittens and hat, I set off to find some bright spots in the city to help you beat those winter blues.

The Greenhouse
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It’s warm, humid and there are plants everywhere. What could be better than a nice walk among giant cacti? If you’re feeling lethargic and unproductive, spending some time volunteering can help keep you on Santa’s good side. Instead of wasting away your days moping about the cold and snow, get out and do some good! Try visiting the botany greenhouse, located behind the Old Horticulture building. Manager John Mugg welcomes all volunteers, since the greenhouse requires constant upkeep. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact him by e-mail at muggjohn@msu.edu. If you don’t have the time to spend watering thirsty plants, you may still have a chance scoring some greenhouse time. The greenhouse is technically not open to the public, Mugg said, but he has no problem with students visiting for university assignments, whether it be taking pictures for a photography class or researching for a term paper.

Barnes and Noble

[bn]Coffee shops are always popular places to warm up in the winter, but how do you choose the right one? Atmosphere. At Barnes and Noble, you can surround yourself with books while you enjoy that latte (one of the pumpkin spice variety will put your bill at $4.10). You can relax in the comfy chairs, study in the downstairs lounge or pull up a seat next to the magazine racks. There are desks and bright lights to create a productive atmosphere on the lower level, as well as circles of comfortable chairs that invite you to sink in and relax. Resident mentor Tenisha Howard said she goes to Barnes and Noble because not only do they offer quality Starbucks coffee, but the combination of the cafe, people and books create a nice atmosphere that simply can’t be topped. For a little fun, riding the escalators up and down is sure to keep you entertained, and the salespeople will be thrilled. [bn2]

There are plenty of on-campus alternatives to the common coffee shop, however. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual, try some spots most MSU students tend to ignore.

The MSU Museum
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If you’re looking for a little conversation, try the MSU Museum. Volunteer desk receptionist Tom Corwin was more than happy to talk when I stopped by. Corwin even gave me a tour of Stanley’s Crossroads Store, an old general store that used to be run in East Lake, Mich. The store was donated in its entirety to the museum in 1963, and its original light bulbs are still hanging. Even if Corwin is not in when you stop by, the museum is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and has a variety of displays to view. As volunteer coordinator Bill Prince explained, the desk receptionists can help you find something interesting in the museum that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. With its changing exhibits, the MSU Museum is likely to have at least one thing that interests everyone, Prince said. Not many MSU students frequent the museum, and the staff is more than willing to talk or help find information for a class project. It’s a neat place to wander, wind down and relax between classes.

Abram’s Planetarium
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East Lansing is not bad as far as light-pollution goes, but at the planetarium, star-gazers can stay warm and cozy while viewing more celestial bodies than the naked eye would allow. Students sometimes stop in to relax at the planetarium between classes, but not many take advantage of the weekend star shows. Art education junior Tanya Garcia hasn’t been to a star show at the planetarium since she made the trip with her elementary class. The only reason she comes to the building now, she said, is because of class requirements. Although they may be undiscovered by many, places like the planetarium can help cure winter blues. So even if summer nights spent outside, curled up next to a sweetheart and watching meteor showers from your favorite field are on hold until next season, you can snuggle up at the planetarium on any Friday or Saturday night with a $2.50 ticket. If you want to spend the nights of your winter weekends partying down, the planetarium also offers a Sunday afternoon show. Check out their Web site for more details.

Kresge Art Museum
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If you need a little visual relief from all those end-of-semester papers, try the Kresge Art Museum. While the MSU Museum has artifacts, displays and lots of information, Kresge can be a little less formal. It can sometimes be easier to appreciate art with just a glance, so there’s no reading required to have a good experience at Kresge. Student galleries are mixed in with classrooms in the building, so step lightly if you’re browsing during the day. Slip through the glass door into the actual museum, and walk among all sorts of art, including paintings, sculptures and photographs. While Kresge is only displaying a small part of its collection due to limited space, said art history senior Brynn Juranek, the university is getting ready to select a new museum, and visitors are invited to walk through models of proposed architecture to see what the new museum will be like. Kresge is another place students don’t often visit unless they are required to for class, but the calm, tranquil atmosphere offers a nice place to collect your thoughts. Give your eyes a break from a computer screen and take in the many works of art on the walls of Kresge.

Old Town
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If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, try a foray into the maze of Lansing’s Old Town district. Heading to Meijer on the No. 1 bus can get a little old, so try heading the other direction on Grand River Avenue to find some culture. The Old Town district has been revived over the past few years, becoming a thriving Lansing community. In fact, in 2006, Old Town was named a Michigan Main Street program area under Governor Granholm’s Cool Cities Initiative, according the district’s Web site. Vintage shops and boutiques, specialty restaurants and bars make this historic area a great hang-out spot for college students. The area features many attractions unique to Old Town, including one of Michigan’s largest pet shops, Pruess Pets, the historic Turner-Dodge House and Heritage Center and the Haze, Inc. art gallery. In addition, annual festivals make Old Town a great place to visit all year-round. On Dec. 1, the community will host the first Old Town Dickens Village, complete with craft shows, carriage rides and holiday music provided by bell choirs and carolers, according to iloveoldtown.org.

So when winter has got you down, or the heat in the dorms is so high you feel like a fried egg, take an adventure to see all that MSU, East Lansing and Lansing have to offer. While everyone else is inside, moping about the weather, you can wipe away your winter blues. As Garrison Keillor once sang, “You don’t have to be sad just because it’s not summer.”

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