Battle Creek

Day Trippers and Staycationers: A wealth of fun options for families in the Cereal City

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
BATTLE CREEK, MI — If I-94 wasn’t a major interstate highway, people traveling to Battle Creek from Kalamazoo and other points west likely wouldn’t think it was a big deal to get there.
We’re spoiled in Southwest Michigan, our little corner of the world. Within 30 minutes of Kalamazoo — give or take the volume of traffic — you can enter Calhoun County which has a rich history, cool attractions, tasty food options, and an arts scene that is intentionally unique to the area. If you live in Battle Creek, you can take advantage of the many cool things to do and perhaps try something new.
In this story, the first of an occasional summer series on where to go and what to do in Calhoun County, we’re offering you, our readers, some – ideas.
For this first installment, we’re focusing on a family-friendly day in the Cereal City.

Fun in the sun
Make your first stop Full Blast Recreation Center. Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Full Blast is located in downtown Battle Creek across from Kellogg Arena. The 88,000 square foot features Flash Flood Outdoor Water Park, a multi-purpose recreation, a full-service fitness center, locker rooms, an indoor walking track, three large gymnasiums, batting cages, and multi-purpose space.

Good eats
Mike WenningerThe is the food-preparation area at Cafe Rica.After the kids have had their fill of water and other activities, check out the numerous eating options in the downtown area including Clara’s on the River which has a large and varied menu that has something for everyone. For those with a more adventurous palate, there’s Umami Ramen, Café Rica, and Torti Taco, among other choices.

More to do downtown
Make sure you take some time before or after lunch to walk through the city’s downtown area which features some impressive murals (many from Battle Creek's well-loved festival, Color the Creek) and locally-owned shops.
Bread & Basket located downtown is a boutique-style public market filled with small business brands from throughout the United States. The shop offers shelf space to local entrepreneurs from the Battle Creek/Kalamazoo region and across the Midwest. It showcases the uniqueness of small business brands and acts as the intermediary for the market for their makers, curators, and creatives.
If you’re into all-natural, vegan, and palm-free skin care, check out Apidistra Naturals.
For all things Michigan and cereal, visit the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau Welcome Center. Here you’ll find a good selection of affordable T-shirts, mugs, plates, umbrellas, and more that will make you proud to be a Michigander.

Don't forget the zoo
After you and your young ones have strolled the downtown area and if you still have energy to burn, hop in the car and head to Binder Park Zoo.
The 433-acre zoo opened in 1977 and is one of the largest zoos in the United States. It’s home to a diverse array of exotic and native animal species. The natural and spacious habitat design that blends animal habitats into the surrounding landscape is a hallmark of the zoo that respects animals and delights guests. The Binda Conservation Carousel, vintage Z.O. & O. miniature train, and trip to the 50-acre Wild Africa exhibit aboard the Wilderness Tram are but several zoo adventures that entertain while making meaningful connections to nature.
It is very family-friendly with plenty of restrooms, places to grab water or a cold drink or snack, and areas to sit and relax.
As your visit to Binder Park Zoo comes to an end and you load up for the ride back west on I-94 or the backroads which will take you through Augusta and Galesburg, think about the many other attractions available to you in Calhoun County and plan your next visit.

What are you waiting for?
The Calhoun County Visitors Bureau website offers a broad overview of the familiar and not-so-familiar places to go and explore. 

Balloon Illumes at Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival in Battle Creek.The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and there's plenty to do close to home. The Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival features four days of aerial wonder from July 3 to July 7. A  fan favorite, Balloon Illumes, takes place each day at dusk where 20 balloons light the sky. 
Don’t think of that major highway as a challenge, look at it as an opportunity to spend time and make lasting memories in a community that has a lot to offer.

And there's always the backroads which offer views, sights, and possibilities of their own.
Stay tuned for a road trip with a more historical focus.

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Read more articles by Jane Parikh.

Jane Parikh is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.