As (approximately) college-aged guys who did the majority of our growing up in Michigan, Nate and I both are pretty familiar with multiple colleges in the state, and even some around the country. We've all heard the stereotypes, and have a pretty good idea of which are true, and which are false.
It is with this in mind that we ventured to East Lansing on a Friday night to take in the nightlife. As a caveat, this trip occurred in the break between classes and exams, which may slightly change the atmosphere. Nate and I have also each been to East Lansing several times, so in the interest of a fair review, I'll sprinkle in a bit of my prior knowledge as well.
The first thing I'll note is that State is famous for charging cover at parties ($5 to buy a solo cup). This is standard issue there, so while it sucks (yes, people who go to State, parties are just free in Ann Arbor), I won't criticize it too much. It is what it is. However, nearly every single bar in East Lansing was charging cover on this particular night as well. We started the night at Woody's, which isn't so much a bar as a Mediterranean restaurant that serves alcohol, and stays open a little later than usual. Definitely not a bar-like atmosphere, and no cover there. However, upon progressing from Woody's, we found that every other bar along Grand River and in the entire area was charging a $5 cover. This, quite obviously, is not the case in Ann Arbor. The only place I know that EVER has such an expensive cover charge is Necto, and even that is only on certain nights. Some places in Ann Arbor will have a $2-3 cover charge, especially on a night that they have a special. However, you'll never wander for more than a few minutes before finding a bar with free entry. In EL, even the bars that were mostly empty were trying to charge $5 cover (and those that were full, like Rick's or __, were probably making a killing). The bars that I've been to on other trips to East Lansing include Rick's (a hybrid between Scorekeeper's and Rick's in Ann Arbor) and the Landshark. Nate loves him some Landshark, so I'll keep that one to him.
Our bar attempt rebuffed, we decided to hit the party scene. It is here where the caveat about academic calendar comes into play, because there were next to zero house parties going on in East Lansing. Sure, it isn't the house party-heavy environment that Ann Arbor is, but not a single one? Really? Eventually, we settled on a party that Nate's friends knew about at a housing co-op. This, predictably, was filled with Hippies, Hipsters, and lots of other things that start with "hip." It was not, however, filled with Solo Cups. Even though we were clutching our $5 bills, ready to take the hit to be able to drink, there were none available. We settled on a beer can that Nate had brought with him (full at the time), refilling it from the keg. Another thing to note at this party was that a huge proportion of the house was non-navigable due to weed smoke. Yes, it was a co-op, so this is probably expected, but it was certainly overwhelming.
The final note on East Lansing is that, for a school allegedly filled with hot girls, I saw maybe 2 of them the whole night, and it certainly wasn't because I saw very few girls. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive because State students love to brag about their girls while simultaneously ripping on those in Ann Arbor, but over the course of my many, many visits, the girls in Ann Arbor are probably more attractive, but dead even at worst.