What's on your Lansing bucket list? New tourism ambassador has 100 ideas.
Lansing State Journal, March 31, 2022
Growing up, 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'd take later in life.
But after years of hopping between continents as a travel writer — she's been to every one except Antarctica — she took a pause from traveling during the pandemic. Slowly, she started to think about the locals who had guided her growing up, people who knew the ins and outs of Lansing.
"When I’m at home, I can do that 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. She was recognized this month by the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau as Certified Tourism Ambassador Star of the Year for 2022.
"In picking this year’s recipient, we as an organization could not think of a more perfect person to receive the title," said Julie Pingston, GLCVB president, in a press release.
Piper admits that Lansing doesn't have the same reputation for tourism as cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids. But in fact, she says, the area is teeming with activities — so many that she had to make harsh cuts in her book. Among them: There's no mention of beloved farm market Horrock's.
The book also features a seasonal breakdown of activities and suggested itineraries for planning purposes. She recommends readers use the book like a passport, gathering experiences while seeing everything the area has to offer.
The daughter of an Oldsmobile welder and bookkeeper, Piper didn't plan on settling in Michigan at all. She studied Spanish and linguistics at the University of Michigan, but her husband later got a job with the state, moving them back to Lansing.
She got the travel bug while climbing 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 for chunks of those trips.
She picked up travel writing through workshops, including an early class with a 30-day challenge to get published. The experience yielded her first clip, a piece exploring German culture in Frankenmuth.
Piper currently works in as a project manager for an IT company but will soon retire. For now, she's working remotely and planning frequent weekend trips to accommodate her travel writing ahead of her 66th birthday next month.
Outside of the book, Piper writes freelance stories for travel outlets and runs her own blog, Follow the Piper, where she expects to publish more Lansing-centric work soon.
In her new role, Piper will help teach Certified Tourism Ambassador classes to train front-line hospitality and tourism employees on how to best represent Lansing to visitors.
She says part of being a good ambassador is knowing how to adjust a trip on the fly and cater to visitors' interests: Don't send an art gallery aficionado to a Lugnuts game or a shopaholic to a botanical garden.
Piper has honed those skills managing her own family's travel: Her daughter loves to shop, and her older granddaughter Cassidy enjoys history and art. Meanwhile, 3-year-old granddaughter Lyric is mostly interested in Peppa Pig.
It's a challenge keeping up with Lansing’s changing landscape as businesses close; some recommendations in Piper's book were obsolete by the draft deadline around a year ago. Readers of the book can no longer visit iconic pizzeria DeLuca’s or Eastwood Towne Center restaurant Amer1can Bistro, leaving their passports incomplete.
But even after compiling 100 activities, Piper said she's always discovering new attractions in the area. While promoting the book one weekend, she learned about the Capital City Bird Sanctuary in Delta Township, something she'd never heard of before.
"You just need to open up," she said. "When they tell me that they've seen everything and done everything, it's like, there are new things happening here all the time!"