The Coopersville & Marne Railway Company whisks riders back in time aboard passenger cars from the early 1900s, a diesel locomotive built in 1952, and tracks laid in 1858. Trained volunteers dressed in period uniforms welcome passengers, who then set out on a route through scenic fields and family-owned farmlands as a soundtrack of 1800s train music plays in the background. Throughout the ride, the conductor shares stories about the train and its route, filled with glimpses of deer, wild turkeys, and eagles, as well as several flowing creeks. Upon request, passengers may join the engineer in his cab to see how the train works or perform duets of “The Ballad of Casey Jones.”
The railway company regularly hosts special events aboard its trains, including the Great Train Robbery, a Wild West–themed escapade with volunteers playing Jesse James, the Earp brothers, and other legendary figures. To celebrate the holidays, the company operates a Santa train where kids can meet Kris Kringle; a bunny train with a walking, talking Easter bunny; and a fall-themed ride that includes a visit to a pumpkin patch.
As the sun dips below Coopersville Farm Museum and Event Center’s grain silo, local musicians gather in the high-ceilinged hall against the backdrop of patchwork quilts and antique farm tools. They sing gospel, country, and folk songs that have been passed down for generations. Events such as these are one facet of the museum’s mission to honor and uphold rural traditions. In addition to the monthly jam sessions, the 12,000-square-foot facility hosts quilting circles, line dancing, and other skill-swapping events. Curators spotlight the region’s agrarian past by recruiting antique-farming tools and folk art and freeing hopelessly lost scarecrows from corn mazes. In addition to shining a light on the region’s past, the museum strives to support current culture makers; The hall serves as a gallery space for local artists, and during the youth-led Kids’ Day local teens teach tykes creative skills.
Founded by local civic leaders in 1854, the Grand Rapids Public Museum continues to keep the city’s history alive in the minds of its current residents with a promise in it mission statement and a trove of exhibits that explore West Michigan’s natural and cultural past. Current exhibits and standing collections cast a spotlight on past and future centuries, giving voice to the stories that helped shape our modern world while speculating about when our politicians will be finally replaced with robots. If visitors to the three-story Van Andel Museum Center can pry their eyes away from the exhibitions inside, they will be treated to stunning views of the downtown skyline; similarly, the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium enthralls with its panoramic photographs and up-close looks at the night sky.
Just as history constantly replenishes itself, the Grand Rapids Public Museum never stops working to collect local treasures, educate members through camps and special programs, and develop projects for the future.
Art is both a passion and profession for Michelle Calkins, one of Four Corners Framing Company's experienced artisans. Michelle earned her full certification from the Professional Picture Framing Association after mastering its meticulous techniques for framing pictures, textiles, and memorabilia. The plethora of framing methods and materials—imported from more than 25 vendors—enables any artwork to find its match, be it in a traditional wood frame or a contemporary metal one. Unable to limit her creative talents to the realm of custom framing, Michelle creates vibrant artwork of her own inspired by still lifes, outdoor scenery, and police descriptions.
Skilled artist Regina Marie Johandes employs more than 30 years of experience working with fused glass as she creates original pieces and enlightens budding artisans. Regina's vibrant, full-service studio brims with chromatic creations including jewelry, home decorations, and celestial road maps. Informative workshops taught by Regina and a team of talented instructors bestow glass-fusion knowledge upon nascent creators, teaching each step from cutting and coloring to fusing and tossing into a wishing well. Students leave with a one-of-a-kind bauble, and local artists working at the studio are available to enhance custom pieces with their wire- or metal-manipulating prowess.
Kalamazoo Nature Center's 14-mile expanse of trails weaves around 1,100 acres of ponds, prairies, and forests, giving nature lovers of all ages an ample arena to hike, learn, and explore one of the first nature centers in the country. Membership allows unlimited free admission to the preserve so that visitors can soak up a diverse array of wild flowers, birds, and majestic park benches in natural habitat. Kalamazoo hosts a slew of family and children activities on select Saturdays, such as "Story Corner at the Barn," during which a storyteller corrals tykes aged 8 and younger for visits with sheep, goats, and barnyard residents before and after reading them pastoral tales. Additionally, Kalamazoo Nature Center members receive a 10% discount at Expedition Gift Shop, a bimonthly newsletter subscription, and discounts on youth camps for ages 3–17.