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The Lookout | February 26, 2021

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Stay connected with a virtual vacation

Stay connected with a virtual vacation Cooley Law School Stadium Preuss Pets Impression 5

Shauna Stocken
Editor in Chief

Stay connected to friends, family and the community while social distancing in quarantine with a virtual vacation, hosted by the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

Predating the pandemic, the bureau posted online tours of many Greater Lansing facilities, including hotels, sporting events, MSU’s campus, restaurants, art and theater. Visit online at

“National Virtual Vacation Day is actually March 30,” said President of Marketing Communications Tracy Padot of the Lansing Visitors Bureau. “We’re right in the middle of the stay-at-home order and that was really what kicked (the virtual vacation) off for us.

“We have all these wonderful resources from our members that have given virtual tours and videos. A lot of members were offering fun events so I was like, ‘Why don’t we curate that all into one great location on our website,’ so people have something to do when they’re stuck at home.”

Now, in addition to the website’s normal content, many Greater Lansing attractions and businesses are offering free virtual tours, activities, classes, videos and live events.

“A lot of our members are offering cool and fun things to do,” Padot said. “The Impression 5 Science Center is offering weekly Facebook live events for kids doing science investigations.

“Preuss Pets is offering their story time. The Symphony (Orchestra of Lansing) is doing a lot of their concerts, I believe, on their website. There’s a little something for everybody, from a gardening class to science, music and art.”

According to Old Town business owner Kirbay Preuss of Preuss Pets, business owners have to find creative ways to reach customers while being closed to the general public.

“There’s so many parents who are doing schooling at home and they need to have good educational resources to connect their kid to kind of grow their minds in creative ways,” Preuss said.

“I think not only from an educational standpoint, but from an interactive standpoint: let’s do fun things together as a family. The more businesses can help with that, I think, the better.”

Preuss Pets offers weekly Facebook live events Sunday from 7 to 8 p.m. The upcoming live event (May 10) will feature an aquatic salamander called an axolotl. 

“They are really fascinating because they are able to regrow their limbs and skin,” Preuss said. “They are used in a lot of research for cancer patients and people who lose limbs … and we have a fun book that goes with that guy.”

Although the story time at Preuss Pets is geared toward elementary age children, Preuss said the impact of the virtual vacation is invaluable for many Lansing area residents.

“For individuals with autism, as well as anxiety disorders, having the virtual tour has been really phenomenal with kind of easing the anxiety and anticipation before going into a store,” Preuss said. “It’s kind of neat that people can explore our store and event that we’re doing virtual, and hopefully visit in the future.”

Padot said she hopes the virtual vacation will be a summer gateway for those experiencing cabin fever and a way for guests to make a list of places to visit in the future.

“We know that visiting may look different in the future with social distancing, and maybe we will wear a mask when we go to the zoo, but we want people to be excited,” Padot said.

“We should get out and support all of those local attractions that have lost a lot of income over the past couple months, not being able to host the school groups and field trips. They are going to need all of us to support them come summer, or when we’re back able to do so.”

Lansing resident Sarah Birney, owner of the online shop Blooming Botanicals, said she has explored the vast list of virtual vacation options and is excited to get started.

“Taking a dance class through the Wharton (Center) is something I have never thought of before,” Birney said, “but doing it from the comforts of my own home for the first time is a great way to get started.

“There are so many great things to still look forward to (on the virtual tour), like the East Lansing Arts Festival, that I thought would be canceled.”

Birney said she hopes the virtual vacation experience will open up new possibilities for businesses and customers as Lansing slowly reopens to the public.

“I think this time is more important than ever for people to stay connected and learn about their own areas,” Birney said. “We often joke that it would be good to be ‘a tourist in your own town’ because people don’t explore their hometown as much as they explore a new area they may visit on vacation.

“Lansing has a lot to offer and this is a great opportunity for people to support local businesses and connect with their community.”

Lansing area businesses wanting to enroll their activities or business on the website should contact the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau at