Since 1825, the Old Town area has seen both prosperous times and, for the second half of the 20th century, stretches of destitution. Within the last 30 years, dedicated locals have started turning Old Town back around, dropping its building vacancy rates from 90% to less than 10% and establishing a slew of festivals, art venues, and boutiques. The Old Town Commercial Association plays its role in this cultural and economic renaissance by holding the annual Old Town's Taste & Tour to raise funds for community revitalization projects.
More than 300 people attended the event in 2011, sampling bites of cuisine dished out by local restaurants. Owners of local lofts give participants a rare opportunity to tour their unique living spaces and the rooftop cannons that launch them to work each morning.
Fenner Nature Center sprawls across 134 acres of preserved land, using the natural resources to educate the public on Michigan’s native wilderness. Four miles of hiking trails wind through the woods, leading walkers to a colorful butterfly garden, a native-plant garden, and an herb garden. Two paved trails accommodate wheelchairs as well. Inside the visitors’ center, guests can commune with live reptiles and amphibians native to the area or watch songbirds and wild turkeys mingle and plan Thanksgiving coups through wide picture windows.
Since 1825, the Old Town area has seen both prosperous times and, for the second half of the 20th century, stretches of destitution. Within the last 30 years, dedicated locals have started turning Old Town back around, dropping its building vacancy rates from 90% to fewer than 10%, and establishing a slew of festivals, art venues, and boutiques. The Old Town Commercial Association plays its role in this cultural and economic renaissance by holding the annual Old Town Oktoberfest, a Midwestern interpretation of the traditional German holiday.
Over the course of two days, live polka bands provide a soundtrack for German-style dancing and festivities. Vendors pour German and European Oktoberfest beers from Spaten, Warsteiner, and Frankenmuth, and autumnal beers from American breweries such as Sam Adams and Blue Moon. Local restaurants serve authentic German dishes such as spaetzle, potato soup, frankfurters, and bratwurst throughout the fest, allowing visitors to taste the country’s staples without having to stow away in a UN ambassador’s suitcase.
Moonlight pools in the gym’s entryway as the nighttime visitor stops to fumble for her keycard. It’s 3 a.m. She worked the night shift again and wants to work off some tension. Her fingers grasp the small plastic card and with a quick swipe, she’s inside. Immediately enveloped by the warm glow of Snap Fitness, she joins the other late-night exercisers in pounding on the treadmill and lifting weights before the sun rises.
Accessible 24/7 via keycard, guests enter Snap Fitness to tone their physiques on myriad cardio and strength equipment day or night. During staff hours, they can seek out fitness assessments and one-on-one sessions with personal trainers, which ensure all moves are performed effectively, topped with a dose of motivation. The trainers devise personal fitness plans for each guest, taking into account their strength, cardio, and flexibility conditions to help them tackle weight loss, boost overall body strength, or attempt to finally unveil the mysteries of arcane cable-weight machines.
Woldumar Nature Center greets visitors with a coterie of trees, flowers, and grasses that populate 178 acres of diverse environs representing the region's larger ecosystem. Visitors explore the center's trails spanning 5 miles of lush scenery, which treats them to a prairie of wildflowers waving their vivid heads in the breeze, the Grand River flowing throughout 1.25 miles, and a hardwood forest that casts cool shade in the shadows of beech and maple trees. Deer peacefully forage in the apple orchard, and a butterfly garden hosts a feast for the gentle winged insects. The herb garden showcases common household herbs such as rosemary alongside oft-forgotten useful plants such as calendula, which pinky swears it goes well in potato soup. The nature center's knowledgeable staff lead educational programs year-round that fill brains with experiences in geocaching, exploring the Grand River, and watching live owl presentations.