8 Things to do in the Zoo this Fall

(For little or no money)

We’ve all seen those Best of lists—The 10 funniest comedies of the nineties, the friendliest town in every state, quirkiest museums in Michigan, even best dysfunctional-family books to read with wine (Full discloser – I wrote that last one). It’s what the social media world calls Clickbait, and yes, we can’t help but click. Sometimes these online articles pull us into a rabbit hole of ads, but occasionally we actually discover new places to visit or cause us to shake our heads, saying things like, “How could they not mention Tahquamenon Falls as a best state park?!” The simple fact is that many of us feel a sense of camaraderie when a Best of article reflects our own opinion.

But seriously, why should Saugatuck get all the credit for being the best (fill in the blank) town on so many favorites lists? Best artsy town, yep. Best beach town, natch. Best small town, kinda vague but sure. But why should our beach towns have all the fun? One has only to travel a little inland to discover what we in the Zoo already know is the best kept secret on any Best list. That little city whose name would fit in naturally in any Doctor Seuss Book—Kalamazoo.

Of course, I could list off the obvious places everyone should visit at least once, like the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, where visitors are greeted at the front entrance by a magnificent Chihuly and can browse the KIA gift shop for beautiful affordable artwork and gifts. Or the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, which pays homage to the Checker taxicab company known as Checker Motors. Under the ownership of Morris Markin, Checker became the first cab company to hire black drivers and the first taxicab company that instructed drivers pick up people of all races. Some speculate this is why the cabs have the black and white checker stripes. And of course, Kalamazoo is also home to the Air Zoo where one can check out the world’s fastest air-breathing aircraft, the SR-71B Blackbird.   

But there’s so much more to do in the Zoo …

If you think you’ve done it all, here’s a list to prove you haven’t even scratched the surface. Or at least provide you with the argument that yet another list has failed to mention one of your favorite, “Things to do in the Zoo…”

  • Attend the monthly Art Hop – While we’d like to think we invented Art Hop, it’s likely we didn’t, but we sure have perfected a perfectly good reason for visiting the downtown area. Kalamazoo is rich in the world of arts, and wine, shopping and great local art just go hand-in-hand. Taking place on the first Friday of every month, Art Hop invites shoppers and art lovers to experience downtown in fun fashion. Do yourself a favor and visit the participating merchants that are located off of the main busy streets. It’ll be a win-win for the both of you.

Speaking of Downtown …

  • Did you know that you can now stroll the downtown area with a drink in your hand? What started out as a solution to the challenges of the Covid pandemic has evolved into a standard rule and one more reason why Downtown Kalamazoo is the place to go for dining, shopping and hanging with friends. Beverages must be purchased from one of the designated Downtown establishments and must remain within a defined area. Finally, you don’t have to go to Vegas to stroll the shopping district with a drink in your hand!

Since we’re on the topic of drinking …

  • It’s no secret that West Michigan boasts a great assortment of wineries that will placate the palate of the sophisticated wine enthusiast and the casual admirer alike. But once again, don’t be afraid to step off the well-traveled path and experience a winery tucked away on winery trail less traveled. Have you been to B 52 Winery in Paw Paw, featuring photos and stories of the female aviators of WWII? If not, we suggest, you start there.     

But you’ll need to work off those wine calories …

  • Fun fact – Pickleball acquired its name from Joan Pritchard, wife of co-founder Joel Pritchard, and is a reference to the group of non-starters in the “pickle boat” of crew races. There’s an internet story circulating around that claims the sport is named after the family dog, but the lucky dog was actually named after the quirky sport. Anyway, there’s still time to purchase your paddles and balls to join in on the party that is catching fire, and curiously exploding with mature adults. This is an interesting phenomenon since the sport is not exactly for those with a weak heart. But if you’re looking to burn off some serious calories while laughing at the shot you just made, this is your game. You should have no problem finding a court near you, but here’s a list to get you started … https://www.discoverkalamazoo.com/blog/post/10-ways-to-experience-pickleball-in-greater-kalamazoo/

And if pickleball ain’t your thing …

  • How about a walk or bike ride down the Kal-Haven Trail or any one of the many trails in the area. Repurposing what was once a railroad bed, this unique linear state park welcomes many walkers and bicyclists, leading them from Kalamazoo to South Haven. Visitors will pass through a delightful collection of small towns and villages dotting the trail. As you pass through Alamo, take note of that barn located on the northeast corner of 6th St. and Hart Dr. Back in the late 1800’s that barn functioned as the Alamo Valley Creamery and was the largest employer in Alamo.       

And if you really enjoy learning about history on your walks…

  • Put on your sneakers and take in one of the Kalamazoo Historic Walks sponsored by Discover Kalamazoo, Gazelle Sports and the Zhang Legacy Connections Center. These 90-minute walks take participants through areas of Kalamazoo rich in history. Learn more at  https://gazellesports.com/pages/kalamazoo-historic-walks.

Or maybe you just want to sit back and take in a little music…

  • There’s no shortage of music available in the Kalamazoo area. Whether it’s local and regional bands playing at familiar bars like Old Dog Tavern and Bells or bars that maybe you haven’t taken a look at, like Lucky Girl in Paw Paw or Liquid Note in Otsego. Many of these spots offer outdoor dining while taking in the music.

And because it’s that time of year …

  • Take in a football game—any game. Kalamazoo is the home of Western Michigan University Bronco Football, and you don’t have to be a former student to appreciate and enjoy great football. But there are so many other teams to root for from the stands. When was the last time you attended a football game at your old stomping grounds at the high school you graduated from … never?! Come on, grab your husband, kids and old friends and make it an evening of hotdogs and touchdowns.       

Did I leave anything out? Of course, I did. This list can be so much larger but let’s call it a good start.

Heidi McCrary is a contributing writer. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Three Women…

…Three Random Questions

Do you have a favorite park or trail that you like to visit to get away from it all, or did you just miss the entire weekend catching up with the gang from Schitt’s Creek on Netflix? And if partying with Mick Jagger is on YOUR bucket list, we have just the friend for you. We’re catching up with a few women, and asked them three random questions…

HSJulie Jackson Chenery / Co-owner of Autobody USA – Type A personality and social butterfly: My passion and purpose is to help others get what they want but don’t waste my time if you aren’t ready to help yourself first. 

Sandy Shaw / Teacher & Musician – 2018 Michigan Orchestra Teacher of the Year

Dawn Worthington / Owner of Worthington Photography & Video – Favorite Quote:  I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~ Maya Angelou


 Jackson Chenery:  Walking  in nature with my dog is my happy spot, but it has to be warm and comfortable—68 to 82 degrees with a light breeze.

Shaw:  I’ve enjoyed the winter colors at  Chipman Preserve in Comstock. Besides discovering unique barks like the spiked Honey Locust Tree, other displays of multi-colored berries and textured fungi are delightful to spot. Dead logs give way to deep green moss, while some feisty ferns pop out through the snow.  It’s nature at its best. 

Worthington:  The beach is my refuge and ultimate happy place. I love the Florida Golf Coast—St. Pete and Fort Myers Beach. Closer to home, my most creative ideas are developed in the shower.


Jackson Chenery:  I love to learn, but hate school. Ted Talks and YouTube videos have replaced television. I have a short attention span, but I am very curious.

Shaw:  This is Us, on NBC, has caught my fancy. Each episode manages to tug at my heartstrings as a young couple raises their two surviving triplets along with an adopted baby who happened to be dropped off at the fire station on the same day as the other births. If you want to question your own parenting, watch as these parents always seem to be able to choose the best way to react to their Big Three issues! 

Worthington:  Heart of Dixie / Netflix


Jackson Chenery:  Lynyrd Skynyrd with the Grass Roots at Soaring Eagle Casino last year with my lifetime girlfriend Julie. We reconnected, shared a hotel room, and stayed up giggling all night. In the morning when we were checking out, we got to meet the band! 

Shaw:  I enjoyed sitting near the front row of Miller Auditorium to watch and hear jazz tenor saxophonist,  Branford Marcellus, years back. His brother played the drums while his father, Ellis, played the piano. 

Worthington:  Billy Joel at Madison Square Gardens. Best part being there with my husband who LOVES Billy Joel.


Jackson Chenery:  I would love to spend a day with Mick Jagger or Richard Branson.

Shaw:  I’d like to try skiing someday. I’ve always been mildly athletic, but grew up in the flat plains of Saginaw valley. I stayed in Kalamazoo mainly because of the hills that add so much character to this region. 

Worthington:  Cross country trip in an RV! My retirement plan.

Three awesome women answering three random questions. Here’s a thought… How about combining all three questions? You know, once you’ve devoured Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, practice your own standup routine while walking the Kal Haven Trail or one of the other many marvelous parks in the area!

Heidi McCrary is a contributing
writer for Women's LifeStyle.

Living in Kalamazoo… Looking Back at 2016 – the Good & Bad

child-with-balloon-1If you live in the Kalamazoo area, you were probably knocked off your feet more than once this year by the horrific events involving the mass shooting in February, and the tragedy involving the bicyclists this past June. Both incidents drew national news coverage, and painted a dark picture of what people are capable of doing, along with the incredibly sad consequences of their actions.

No one would argue with any of us if we quietly closed out the year, saying “Next year will be better.” But that’s not how we operate here in Kalamazoo. Instead, after getting knocked down, we stood back up as a community, and stood side by side.

While the violence behind the two tragedies does not reflect who we are, how the people of Kalamazoo reacted to the events does define us. We are part of an incredible community – defined by three factors.

The People…

Beyond those who make the headlines regularly, Kalamazoo is built on a foundation of good people who make a difference on a daily basis but without the fanfare. Like the two women highlighted below, who champion a segment of the community without a voice, and are Superheroes to the world of dogs and cats.

Katie Timber works endlessly as the Executive Director of SPCA of SWMI – a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing homeless dogs and cats, and adopting them into responsible homes. You have probably seen Katie with a spunky dog or two on the local news on Channel 3, or at one of the many SPCA events held in the area.

And over at Animal Rescue Project, Amy Geil Susan is also championing cats and dogs by dedicating her time to helping with the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of at-risk pets in pound facilities. You may have encountered Amy with a cat or dog at one of the many fund-raising events she facilitates.


When it comes to unique shops and eateries, the area is exploding with a distinct local flavor that rivals cities twice its size. And to keep us on our toes, the city’s shopping and dining landscape is ever-changing. From crack Fries at the new-to-Kazoo HopCat, Bronco shirts and Plainwell Ice Cream at the newly-located The Spirit of Kalamazoo, to a cappuccino at the new Coffee Bar at Sawall Health Foods, it’s all good! Want to relax? Kalamazoo has you covered, with a multitude of parks, trials and nature preserves.

And Things

While Kalamazoo may sound more like a Dr. Seuss name, the heart of what makes it tick is very real. Like the generous people who providing a large monetary gift to the city which will help in bringing down the city’s debt, and lessening the burden to those living in the city, and the organizations and people who are stepping up in the rebuilding and revitalizing of Bronson Park. This is why I am proud to call Kalamazoo home.

Here’s a thought… As we look back on 2016, let’s remember what makes us Kalamazoo Strong.

Heidi McCrary

Advertising Goddess / Writer



Four Things about Frank Lloyd Wright

Tucked away in a small wooded area in the Winchell neighborhood, and alongside Asylum Lake in Kalamazoo, sits Parkwyn Village – a community that features a beautiful variety of homes designed by local architects, Norman Carver Jr. and George Sprau. Parkwyn is also the home of several houses designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright.

Hosted by Gazelle Sports, a tour guide lead over 200 people through the Parkwyn neighborhood, and as we visited each of the four homes, our tour guide shared with us, a few interesting tidbits about this famous architect and this quirky little neighborhood. Following are four random things I learned along the way…

  1. The name, Parkwyn comes from Parkview and Winchellthe two main streets that run adjacent to the neighborhood. Someone must have thought that changing the i to a y would give the new name sophistication.IMG_1767
  2. Frank was an a** hole. Yep, more than one homeowner shared a story of Frank’s diva-like antics. Apparently greatness doesn’t like to be questioned – like if a purchased door is not the one he selected.IMG_1789
  3. Frank had no use for kitchens. Not only did he delegate very little floor space to the kitchen, he fired one set of Parkwyn homeowners when they insisted on adding a window to his kitchen plan.IMG_1770
  4. All Frank Lloyd Wright Homes at Parkwyn are designed with the emphasis in the back. Frank’s belief was that the home should embrace nature, so many of his homes are designed with the bedrooms all having a view of the backyard. The beauty of a Frank Lloyd Home is the view looking out.IMG_1783

Heidi McCrary, Author