In The Kingman Museum’s newly opened mezzanine exhibit, a polar bear, frozen mid-snarl, presides over his fellow Ice Age beasts. Surrounding this tableau are glass cases filled with fanged skulls of extinct predators, prehistoric pottery, and miniature replicas of ecosystems. The eclectic exhibits lend the room the aura of a cabinet of curiosities, and are indicative of The Kingman Museum’s expansive mission to “provide lifelong learning opportunities in natural history, the universe, and world cultures for all ages for all time.” The scope of the museum reflects the swashbuckling spirit of its founder, Edward Morris Brigham. In the late 1800s, the explorer embarked on expeditions down the Amazon River, hiked across the Alaska tundra, and hopscotched across Hawaiian Islands. He toted back with him exotic specimens, fossils, and cultural artifacts, which now form the core of the museum’s collection. Over the years, the museum has expanded to include a planetarium, which screens nearly two dozen educational films that range from deep-space exploration to quests for the long-lost city of Pittsburgh. Additionally, museum curators inspire young minds with a slew of educational programs.
Crunching metal and the sweet smell of burning rubber prevail as the Monster X Tour invades the Ocean Center, thrilling all ages in an action-packed motorsports showcase. Bigfoot, the forefather of all station-wagon smashers, leads a fleet of competitive 10,000-pound monster trucks, including Bear Foot and Black Knight, through jaw-dropping races, wheelie contests, and freestyle car composting. Transaurus, a two-story transforming robot that never learned to love, buries his woes by chomping entire cars in his massive jaws while watching reruns of Felicity. Before the show, VIP tickets also grant access to the Pit Party, where fans can have autographs signed by the drivers. During intermission, fans get the opportunity to eschew sea level with a ride inside a monster truck or visit General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and learn its true feelings about excessive hood sliding.
Recognized by Billboard as one of the top 25 touring artists of the 2000s, Trans-Siberian Orchestra explodes onto the stage with a juggernaut of progressive rock and metal infused with symphonic instrumentation and themes. Surrounded by a spectacle of lasers and pyrotechnics, the band's 2012 tour covers the entirety of its millennial concept album Beethoven's Last Night, a rock opera set on the eve of the composer's death as he battles wits with the devil for control of his soul, his 10th Symphony, and his collection of vintage ear trumpets. The show opens with the methodical triplets of Moonlight Sonata played on a lonesome piano, swelling and slowing before the thunderous arrival of drums and electric guitar. Plumes of flames blast from the stage as the group careens into the evening's centerpiece, "Requiem," a hard-rock interpretation of the Fifth Symphony, grounded by light-bending ax solos and tumbling violins punctuated by a heavenly backing choir.
Founded five years ago, the Battle Creek Bombers have already shown their mettle, earning the title of 2011 Northwoods League Champions in 2011. The Northwoods League, one of the nation’s most competitive collegiate summer leagues, offers its top-caliber players minor league internships without jeopardizing their college careers. This season, the Bombers hope to conquer their league again and send more of its players to the MLB, having already done so for alumnus Tony Sanchez, who was the fourth pick in the 2009 draft. Led by Daniel Rockett, their top 2011 scorer with 46 runs and 43 RBIs, the team will surely spend this season launching home runs without the help of covert trebuchets.
While the players focus on the game, their mosquito mascot, Mo-Skeeter, mingles with roaring crowds in the Bomber’s home venue, C.O. Brown Stadium. Patrons can look on from general seating or opt for the more luxurious HBC fan-deck seats, where panoramic views complement an included all-you-can-eat feast with draft beer and hot dogs.
Each year at the onset of summer, the costumed bards, knights, and royalty at Mayfaire Renaissance Festival welcome visitors to enjoy rollicking entertainment and peruse handcrafted wares throughout the wooded festival grounds. Attendees step into a world of jousters and jesters, replete with Renaissance-era songs and dances and smartphones fashioned from mutton. All-ages-appropriate comedians regale families with zany antics, and visitors can ask mystical tarot-card readers questions about the future.
Established by cereal tycoon W.K. Kellog in 1927 to protect the Canada goose, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary surrounds visitors and migratory birds with lush scenery on the banks of Lake Wintergreen, 15 miles north of Kalamazoo. Up to two adults and all of their dependents in the same household ages 17 and younger can enjoy access to hundreds of waterfowl in their natural habitat, access to enclosures of majestic birds of prey, and access to a 3/4-mile paved lakeside trail perfect for wheelchairs, strollers, and stilt-walkers. Dozens of species flit and flap serenely, showing off for lurking scientists from Michigan State University's on-site research station, and fuzzy goslings and chicks take their first waddles in spring weather. Volunteer tour guides lead occasional tours, spotlighting avians during warmer months, during migration in the fall, and during bird birthdays, baking tiny suet cakes.