Did you know that 20 percent of Michigan's forested land is state forest? Throw in the assortment of non-forest state parks and you've got a recipe for finding great state parks all over. We're going to take a look at one excellent location in particular—Yankee Springs Recreation Area—and run down not only what to do when you're there, but what you can do in the immediate area to make a full day, or longer, of your trip. Let’s get started.
Middleville's Yankee Springs Recreation Area comes with a wide array of options. Not only is there a kettle formation that was carved glacially—known as the Devil's Soupbowl—but there's also fishing, horseback trails, 12 miles of mountain bike trails, 30 miles of hiking trails, and nine separate lakes contained within its bounds that makes for a host of summer fun activities as well as some winter ones. With over 5,200 acres total to its credit, you'll have plenty to do here. Since it's situated almost halfway between both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, there will be even more awaiting once you've enjoyed your time at the park.
If you were the type to hit the park early, breakfast likely came to mind. On the Grand Rapids side, stop into Real Food Cafe for some of the best such breakfast you'll find in town. Featuring mouthwatering options such as the hearty Monster Omelet (bacon, sausage, ham, green onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and Monterey jack cheese) and the Bananas Foster waffles made with a carmelized brown sugar-butter sauce, it will be easy to recover from your hike.
If you decide to travel south of the park, breakfast is best personified with Portage’s Cafe Meli. Featuring huge omelets and heaps of fresh fruit—along with more diverse choices like crepes, waffles and French toast—you'll have a breakfast here that will keep you happy well toward lunch, and potentially even beyond.
Grand Rapids' public museum of the same name delivers some absolutely amazing exhibits, great for when you're in the mood for a more indoor hike. Featuring exhibits related to dragons and fantasy creatures, the human brain, a puzzle room, and an exhibit involving two live lake sturgeon, you'll be able to experience a host of disciplines and learn much about not only Michigan proper, but about the wider world beyond as well.
If you're looking for something more competitive to the north of the park, then try Clique Lanes in Grand Rapids. An old-fashioned 16-lane affair on two levels, Clique Lanes offers a bowling experience of the kind that might have been engaged in years prior. But it's not just old fashioned fun—it's also got some updates to it. A complete roster of menu options and craft beers also accompanies the experience, and provides a way to keep going even when you've been bowling for some time.
You've just had one big day in Grand Rapids, so it's a great time for some dinner. One of the best such dinners in the entire city comes from the Electric Cheetah, a restaurant that will pursue eclecticism with such fervor that you'll barely know if you're coming or going. Whether you're looking for something small like the hot goat dip—featuring goat cheese and cream cheese together in a dip—or to compete for a shot to win a free Yahtzee sandwich—roll a Yahtzee in three rolls or less, yell Yahtzee, and get a sandwich featuring turkey, pork belly, cheddar and Granny Smith apple—you'll have most anything to satisfy your tastes here.
Zazio's, for dinner on the Kalamazoo side, takes one unique concept—the “open kitchen” format—and applies it to the Italian restaurant. Pasta of all types are on hand—from Pappardelle to Agnolotti—to dishes of chicken and shrimp. There's even a chef's table for up to 36 people where you can watch the meal prepared in an even more interactive fashion. So, no matter what you've got a hankering for, you can watch it prepared in front of you, and potentially even sit mere feet from the chef engaged in such activity himself.