Grow, Amy Piper couldn’t wait to get out of Lansing. She just didn’t think there was anything to do here and dreamed of the international jaunts she would take later in life.
But after years of traveling from continent to continent as a travel writer – she’s visited everyone but Antarctica – she’s taken a break from her travels during the pandemic. Slowly, she began to think of the locals who had guided her as a child, people who knew the ins and outs of Lansing.
“When I’m home, I can do it for other people,” she said. “It’s a huge responsibility.”
Piper is the author of the book “100 things to do in Lansing before you die” published in September, which explores activities in Greater Lansing ranging from the culinary scene to history, culture and entertainment. It was recognized this month by the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau as 2022 Star Certified Tourism Ambassador of the Year.
“In choosing this year’s recipient, we as an organization could not think of a more perfect person to receive the title,” GLCVB President Julie Pingston said in a press release.
Piper admits that Lansing doesn’t have the same tourist reputation as cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. But in fact, she says, the area is bustling with activity – so many that she had to make severe cuts to her book. Among them: There’s no mention of the beloved Horrock’s Farmer’s Market.
The book also features a seasonal breakdown of activities and suggested itineraries for planning purposes. She recommends readers use the book as a passport, gathering experiences while discovering all the region has to offer.
The daughter of a welder and Oldsmobile accountant, Piper had no intention of settling in Michigan. She studied Spanish and linguistics at the University of Michigan, but her husband later got a job in the state, bringing them back to Lansing.
She caught the travel bug while working her way up the corporate ladder in electronic data systems, which sent her on six-month stints in South Korea and Argentina. Her husband, Ross, and daughter, Alexis, would join her on some of these trips.
She learned travel writing through workshops, including a first class with a 30-day challenge to get published. The experience yielded its first music video, a piece exploring German culture in Frankenmuth.
Piper is currently working as a project manager for an IT company, but will be retiring soon. For now, she is working remotely and planning frequent weekends to accommodate her travel writing ahead of her 66th birthday next month.
Outside of the book, Piper writes freelance stories for travel agencies and runs her own blog, Follow the Piperwhere she plans to publish further work centered on Lansing soon.
In her new role, Piper will help teach Certified Tourism Ambassador courses to train front-line hospitality and tourism employees on how best to represent Lansing to visitors.
She says part of being a good ambassador is knowing how to tailor a trip on the fly and cater to visitor interests: Don’t send an art gallery buff to a Lugnuts game or a shopaholic in a botanical garden.
Piper honed those skills by managing her own family’s travels: her daughter loves shopping and her eldest granddaughter Cassidy loves history and art. Meanwhile, 3-year-old granddaughter Lyric is mostly interested in Peppa Pig.
It’s a challenge to keep up with Lansing’s changing landscape as businesses close; some recommendations in Piper’s book were out of date by the project’s deadline about a year ago. Readers of the book can no longer visit the iconic pizzeria DeLuca or the Eastwood Towne Center Restaurant Amer1can Bistroleaving their passports incomplete.
But even after compiling 100 activities, Piper said she’s still discovering new attractions in the area. While promoting the book one weekend, she learned of the existence of Capital Bird Sanctuary in Delta Townshipsomething she had never heard of before.
“You just need to open up,” she said. “When they tell me they’ve seen it all and done it all, it’s like new things are happening here all the time!”
Some landmarks of Amy Piper in Lansing
Shigematsu Memorial Garden
598 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing
In her book, Piper praises the Shigematsu Memorial Garden on the campus of Lansing Community College as a peaceful downtown oasis to experience solitude among koi ponds, lanterns, and the seasonal colors of Japanese cherry and maple trees.
“It’s a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” she said. “It’s peaceful, you can reflect on what you’ve done or where you’re going.”
Southern BBQ meat and carnivorous cuisine
1224 Turner Road, Lansing
With slow-smoked meat over cedar until 6 p.m., a one-pound mac and cheese meal, and an 18-layer food challenge, this barbecue restaurant in the old town was a shoo-in on Piper’s list.
“Cherry bomb barbecue sauce, they told me they used to put it on the table, but they can’t do it anymore because people started drinking it,” Piper said. .
The English Inn
677 S. Michigan Road, Eaton Rapids
Stained glass, soft piano and high class French cuisine have made this historic eaton rapids bed and breakfasts a romantic choice for Piper’s book.
“There aren’t many places you can find chateaubriand in Lansing,” she said. “You have to know the places.
The arcade and the grill bar
226 E. César E. Chavez Avenue, Lansing
This Old Town Bar and Arcade features over 30 old-fashioned arcade cabinets, a pinball machine, and a wide selection of Michigan beers and cocktails, all located in a former bank building.
“It’s just pretty in there, with the blue light and all those old-school pinball games,” Piper said. “It’s just a nice place.”
Contact journalist Annabel Aguiar at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @annabelaguiar.