Traversing the sprawling, expansive campus of Michigan State University can be a daunting task. Where to go? How to get there? The long distances between campus buildings and local hot spots have exhausted many an unaware undergrad, but that’s why we're doing the legwork for you in advance. We’d be happy to accept any green-dyed "Spartan" beers (and you thought that was only on St. Pat's day!) by way of your thanks.
Best Place to Watch the Game: The Nuthouse (420 E. Michigan, 517-484-6887)
If you can’t be at Spartan Stadium, you at least want to be close to some sort of athletic facility, right? So if you have to settle for someplace away from the field, you can plant yourself across the street from the home of the Lugnuts, Lansing's minor-league baseball team.
The Nuthouse is just one of many sports-related destinations in the MSU area, but it's tough to beat the Nuthouse on deals. Anything from $1 PBRs to $5 pitchers will fit your needs to hydrate yourself during Spartan games. A healthy amount of televisions will make sure the game is on at every angle, and a full menu handles those booze-induced appetites. But one suggestion – if you end up overserving yourself, try to resist the urge to run the bases in the offseason. Security doesn't like it much.
Where To Eat Before the Game: The Peanut Barrel (521 E. Grand River, 517-351-0608)
A long-time grub destination for Spartiers, the patio at the Peanut Barrel is a good place to start any autumn day in the sun (for as long as that sunshine lasts). With a wide range of favorites like burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, sandwiches and wraps, a lunch at the Barrel is a good place to power up before the game. Bar selections are pretty standard – your run-of-the-mill drafts and bottles, but you've got to love a place that keeps your liver in mind: The Peanut Barrel limits your intake of their powerhouse Long Island Ice Teas to a maximum of two per customer per visit. How thoughtful.
Where To Eat After the Game: Crunchy's (254 W. Grand River, 517-351-2506)
Crunchy's is less a restaurant than it is a kind of rec-room for the entire MSU community over the last 25 years. With a wood-clad room, video games and pinball, pizzas and "East Lansing's Best Burger," they can take care of any lingering post-game hunger. But it's the bar that has most of the appeal – it's like drinking in Dad's den ... if Mom has a couple dozen micro-brews on tap. If you're interested in bulk purchases, check out the deal you can only find on huge state-school campuses: 270 ounces of beer (just over 2 gallons) in a huge bucket, starting at 25 bucks.
Best Place to Tailgate: South Campus Tennis Courts (Wilson Rd. between Red Cedar and Chestnut)
Parking lots open as early as 7 a.m. for noon football games, and determined 'gaters are out there with grills, drinks, couches, green face paint and more in tow. The MSU campus is an alcohol-free area, but the administration thoughtfully lifts those restrictions in the lots for the time that they're open for tailgating. And not that we'd suggest you flaunt any of those rules, Spartiers know that the tennis court area, all the way on the other side of the main parking lots and the practice fields, are a good enough distance to give a real party the ol' college try.
Best of the Nightlife: Rick's American Cafe (224 Abbott Rd., 517-351-2288)
Usually, when you call a place "Rick's Cafe," you're trying to evoke some sort of Casablanca-esque vibe to your location. Maybe a cutout of Bogey, maybe a piano player you can ask to play it again, Sam. Rick's in East Lansing is a subterranean thumping-bass sorority-girl-in-tight-pants dance extravaganza, beneath ground just to separate you a little more from any sort of social values you may have. Sure there's food, but there's plenty of food other places – Rick's is for drinks, happy hour specials, pretty people clad in MSU green, football players and more drinks. There is a cover charge, but it's usually no more than a few bucks – no big city $20 entry fee here.
Where To Go If You Don't Care About Sports: Travelers Club (2138 Hamilton Rd., Okemos, 517-349-1701)
It's a little out of town, but the town of Okemos is really just a hop and skip away from campus. The Traveller's Club is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a menu that features locally sourced ingredients like apple cider, eggs, honey and pies, all from Michigan growers and factories. The real draw to the Traveller's for non-sports entertainment is the one-and-only Tuba Museum, home to dozens of tubas and the worlds-only "Sousafountain" on the patio. Enjoy a buffalo burger surrounded by the large, unwieldy instruments – ask nicely and they'll serenade you on your birthday with the bass-register brass.
Follow us throughout the college football season as we highlight the entertainment options at nearby Midwestern schools. And be sure to check out our guide to Chicago tailgating.