Rick the Reptile Guy, the resident reptile connoisseur of Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park, guides visitors through interactive reptile shows followed by tractor rides through the rest of the park’s sweeping expanse. During each private 45-minute reptile show, guests can pet and cavort with slithering wonders such as giant pythons, boa constrictors, and bodybuilding earthworms. Giant turtles and life forms of the crocodilian variety also preen for audiences. Outside the boundaries of the cold-blooded extravaganza, visitors can relax on a tractor ride through 80 acres of exotic creatures such as zebras, monkeys, and parrots that have retired from their careers as extremely blunt telemarketers. Groupon customers can bring additional guests to their private reptile show for an additional fee of $8 per person (the cost of park admission).
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.
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.
Unpainted figurines and pottery pieces stand in single-file lines on the pine shelves of Haze Ceramics and More, patiently waiting for guests to brandish paint-dipped brushes and embellish their blank surfaces with artistry. The studio's instructors lead classes and special events throughout the week, demonstrating techniques for mixing colors and achieving a variety of smooth or grainy textures. Aside from giving children and adults the chance to select a ceramic coffee mug, coin tray, or spiked mace from the studio’s expansive collection, classes include all glazes, paints, and firing fees. Special events, such as ladies' night, fuel outbursts of creativity with wine and snacks, and private parties clear out the room so that birthday boys and girls can gleefully bash away at terra-cotta piñatas.
Intrepid guests descend upon the four eerie haunted houses at Nights of Fear, voted the area's scariest venue by the Grand Rapids Press, boldly making their way through 80,000 square feet of terrifying spirits, lunatics, and extraterrestrials. Groups grasping through the Brainfield Sanitarium navigate decrepit hallways inhabited by deranged maniacs, and Rusty's Revenge traps patrons in a warehouse lab of sinister experiments, testing innocent subjects on the periodic table of elements. For terror with added depth, customers can tiptoe throughout the 3-D Maniac Mansion, where countless spirits patrol Victorian furnishings, or brave otherworldly fiends in Contact: Alien Encounter in 3-D, which is the site of a mysterious aircraft crash.
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.
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.