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.
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.
During their annual Big Zoo Party, Potter Park Zoo’s team rolls out the red carpet in support of conservation and educational programs with fine food and drink, local music, and dazzling entertainment amid the zoo’s exotic animal habitats. Don snazzy duds and hit the red carpet as photographers snap pictures and offer an excuse to start a flash-strobe dance party. One hundred sixty species of animals, including blushing red pandas, cooler-than-thou snow leopards, and mischievous tamarin monkeys, strut their stuff in elaborate habitats as guests enjoy glasses of fine wine or Michigan microbrews from Short's Brewing Company. Sample fine food from local restaurants, including Mitchell's Fish Market, Enso, and munchables by chef Jesse Hahn of Lansing’s own Trailer Park'd. Entertainers dazzle animals and humans alike on the brightly lit grounds. Check out the blazing dance antics of the Detroit Fire Guild as they inspire oohs and aahs from humans and jealous comparisons to dragon ancestors from crocodiles. LED and laser lighting and performance art enliven a live and silent auction, spotlighting guests bidding on donated notions and experiences.