Vehicles leisurely roll across African Safari Wildlife Park's landscape, yielding to a host of friendly creatures. Camels, giraffes, zebras, forest-dwelling bongos, Asian sika deer, and Scottish highland cows await you. Guests can hold cups filled with feed, which exotic muzzles devour, and a walking area provides an up-close look at enclosed species such as the rare white alligator. Warm-weather months bring out additional activities, including animal rides, pig races, and educational animal shows where guests can interact with small animals. Food and beverages from African Safari's ice-cream shop, snack bar, and grill help sate midday hungers caused by watching a guanaco sneeze.
Per its name, Royal Oak Taste Fest celebrates some of the best local cuisine as well as the chefs behind each food sample on offer. But that might be the only traditional thing about this event. The dishes here hail from the Middle East, Mexico, Italy, and just about everywhere in between. In some ways, it's a Taste of Everywhere—except Greenland, where people only ever eat ice.
The festival extends beyond food too, showcasing art from local retailers and crafters, as well as musicians whose live shows add the soundtrack to the day.
While visiting the Great Lakes Zoological Society's indoor reptile zoo, guests take in animal sights that tend to deceive at first glance. A rough-barked indoor tree, upon closer inspection, may actually be a snake craftily blending in. Lizards, tortoises, and tarantulas populate similar enclosures, resting atop logs suspended over ponds or within forest-floor greenery. The nonprofit indoor zoo houses more than 100 animals representing over 70 species, including reptiles, amphibians, insects, arachnids, and birds, that help teach visitors about their habitats. Along the way, guides invite visitors to meet colorful residents such as a reticulated python weighing over 150 pounds, two 90-pound Sulcata tortoises, and monitor lizards that extend over 5 feet.
Zoo staff members also lead groups deeper into the study of their creatures during classroom visits, where children learn about ecological conservation, how to identify dangerous animals, and the proper way to give a snake a handshake as they touch and handle some reptiles. On-staff instructors also teach group classes in subjects such as animal medicating, handling, and reptile husbandry. The nonprofit occasionally places its animals up for adoption, and works toward conservation efforts by rehabilitating, breeding, and rereleasing native Michigan species and global endangered species.
For just a moment, visitors to Colasanti's Tropical Gardens might believe they've been whisked away to Madagascar: the call of ring-tailed lemurs and the squawk of parrots echoes around acres of exotic plants. And yet this tropical locale is nestled much closer to home—just outside of Kingsville. The 35-acre family farm keeps visitors entertained year-round with 15 temperature-controlled greenhouses filled with flowering equatorial plants and cacti, a petting farm that brings kids face-to-face with foreign animals without having to go through an ambassador, and carnival attractions.
Who They Are
In 1924, at the age of 22, Italian-born Aleutario Colasanti followed his dreams of a better life to Kingsville. Facing anti-immigrant sentiments and financial trouble, Alex only worked harder to eke out a living as a farmer. On a fateful trip to Detroit in 1932, he met—and fell in love with—Emma Colagiavanni. Despite her parents' protests, they eloped and started a family, and in 1941, they settled on what would soon become the Colasanti farm. Beginning with just one greenhouse and a small fruit stand, the family's operation grew over the next 30 years to host vegetables, exotic fruit trees, and a conspicuous lack of albatrosses. Though Alex and Emma have since passed, their legacy lives on through their grandchildren and the expansive Colasanti's Tropical Gardens.
The Butterfly House fills its lush indoor botanical garden with more than a thousand butterflies, creating a tranquil and meditative space for guests to relax and take in the wonderful natural variety present in a single order of organisms. Representing diverse species from the Americas and Asia, this well-traveled population of lepidopterans likes to flutter about, sipping nectar and basking in the sun, much like revelers at an international beach party. Since butterflies live for a fleeting two to three weeks, the facility brings in more creatures and new species regularly, making each visit unique. The knowledgeable staff helps patrons learn about every stage of this magnificent creature’s life cycle, from its awkward pupa days to the search for a mate and, in twilight, retirement from its professional nectar-collecting career to pursue a nectar-collecting hobby.
The smells of hay and freshly picked apples mingle with the shouts of children on the annual Erie Shores Farm Tour. An organized event between four very different, yet equally welcoming, farm facilities, the self-guided tour encompasses fall foods and a range of harvest-themed activities. Hillcrest Orchards welcomes visitors with attractions such as hayrides, a corn maze, and pedal carts, while staff at Dostall Farms lead their guests on a guided tour of their humane meat-processing facility, where animals are fed only grass or corn. The event ends with a prize drawing at Matus Winery, where staff also give a guided tour of the wine-making facilities, including the giant barrel where the winemakers sleep every night. To ensure participants don't lose their ways, Erie Shores Farm Tour provides a complimentary map and suggested travel routes between locations.