By Brandi M. Seals
Finding something new to do when you have lived in state all your life can be difficult. Visitors can also find it tough to find something to fill their time between dinners and sleeping in at their favorite hotels.
Next time you are in Michigan or are otherwise just looking for something new to do, stop by one of these great places:
1.) Visit Ojibway Island. Pronounced Oh-jib-way, Ojibway Island is located in the Saginaw River in Saginaw. It is wonderful place for concerts, riverside walks, biking, picnics and other family activities. It is also home to several large concerts throughout the year and probably offers the best spot to catch the Saginaw fireworks on the 4th of July.
If you and your family are looking for a good time outdoors try out Ojibway Island. It is named for the Ojibwa Indians that used to inhabit the area. It is also close to several great Saginaw locales.
2.) Drop by the Binder Park Zoo. Binder Park Zoo is located in Battle Creek (home of the Kellogg Cereal Company). It is home to several unusual animals that cannot be found at every zoo. Go see the red pandas. Check out the ring-tailed lemurs. Or, feed the giraffes that wonder through an open range that also houses ostriches, zebras, and other African animals.
The zoo is divided into two sections. The first features animals from the Americas. The African animals are a short train ride away. One the way over to the train, visitors pass under flags from nations around the world as peacocks mill about. This zoo is perfect excursion for any animal lover.
3.) Stop in at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This wonderful locale is right on the Grand Rapids East Beltline. It is easy to get to and showcases some magnificent plants that would be hard to find in the cool Michigan climate.
There are Venus fly traps, several types of cacti, palm trees and much more. The gardens are mainly indoors, but there is a large outdoor sculpture park. The sculpture park is home to over 170 magnificent pieces, most notably a sculpture known as the American Horse by Nina Akuma. It pays homage to the Leonardo Da Vinci plans to create the largest horse statue.
During the springtime visitors will be delighted by flutter butterflies. Frederik Meijer Gardens is home to the largest butterfly garden in the United States. Over 6000 tropical butterflies from Central and South America and Asia are on display each spring in the Lena Meijer Conservatory.
4.) Experience Dutch Culture. Drop by Holland, Mich., on the coast of Lake Michigan. Here there is a thriving Dutch community that offers visitors a glimpse into Dutch traditions.
Holland was settled in 1847 by Dutch Calvinist separatists who were escaping persecution in The Netherlands. At the time the land was inhabited by the Ottawa, but they relocated after a clash with the Dutch settlers. Upon setting Holland, their leader Dr. Albertus Van Raalte established a congregation of the Reformed Church in America. Now known as the First Reformed Church of Holland, the religion has strong roots in the area.
Holland is known for its annual Tulip Festival and its unique charm. The Tulip Festival has been going strong since its start in 1930 and features approximately 6 million tulips around town.
Visitors can also stop by Dutch Village, a theme park and shopping center. Watch performers do traditional Dutch dances; workers dip and carve candles or the making of wooden shoes. Vendors also show the process of making delft, a blue and white pottery that the Dutch are known for.
5.) Visit the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. This area located along the Eastern coast of Lake Michigan is a National Lakeshore. It covers 35 miles of coastline. Get out a break a sweat climbing the sand dunes or if you are looking for a little more leisurely fun, try taking a Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4 mile self-guided auto tour features spectacular views from the top the dunes.
The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes are said to get their name from an Ojibwa story of a mother bear and her two cubs. The story goes as follows:
One day, a mother bear and her two cubs were in the Wisconsin woods searching for food when a fire broke out. To escape the blaze, the mother bear and her cubs swam across Lake Michigan to Michigan. It was a very long swim. It was so long that the two cubs grew very tired and fell behind their mother. When the mother bear came to the shores of Michigan, she climbed to the highest point she could find, a large hill made of sand. She waited for the cubs but her cubs could not make the long journey. Instead, the Great White Spirit, who watched over all the animals, turned the cubs into two islands. The mother bear, who soon grew tired, saw the two islands form in Lake Michigan and knew they were her cubs. Knowing that her cubs were safe, she soon fell fast asleep. Now, the cubs are known as North Manitou Island and South Manitou Island. Their mother was covered with sand to keep warm by the Great Spirit. She now watches over her cubs from her spot atop the giant hill made of sand. We call her Sleeping Bear Sand Dune.