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Over the weekend, we found ourselves chatting with a friend over a nice cup of coffee. We were talking about our hometown, and I said, after discussing a number of problems including violence against women, “Battle Creek is a shithole.” And, according to Sperling’s Best Places, it really is. Now, I’ve covered the horror of Battle Creek before (Sad, Sad Times in Battle Creek and Touring Downtown Battle Creek). Here it is again, from Sperling’s:
Battle Creek, MI, violent crime, on a scale from 1 (low crime) to 100, is 86. Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. The US average is 41.4.
Battle Creek, MI, property crime, on a scale from 1 (low) to 100, is 65. Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims. The US average is 43.5.
We have a higher rate of divorce than the national average. Our health may be in jeopardy, as there are 161 physicians per 100,000 population in Battle Creek, MI. The US average is 261. We have a higher income tax and MUCH higher property tax rate and much lower household income. Even though our houses are cheaper, we have lower home ownership and more vacant houses than the national average.
We have twice the snowfall than the national average and 39 fewer sunny days per year. Our overall cost of living is lower, but it’s dragged down by the housing. We pay more than the national average for transportation and utilities.
But that isn’t the full story. The following are some of my favorite places and things to do in the Battle Creek area (45 minute drive), as well as ten of my favorite places in Michigan.
Station 66 is one of my favorite places ever. Such love for this place. They have fresh from the farm produce every day. In the fall, they have homemade soup. Their food is amazing. They have local ice cream. They make their own donuts. They have lightly pasteurized apple cider. They partner with K Drive South Greenhouse and offer hanging baskets and beautiful mums in the fall. The only downside is they close for the winter.
Ritzee is one of those old time hamburger joints. Like chili dawgs? Ritzee has you covered. Check out the all you can eat spaghetti on Wednesday nights…tasty and a heck of a deal.
Like Ritzee, Mr. Don’s is a fantastic place to grab a burger or chili dawg. Their french fries are the best in town. And they now seem to have this thing for deep frying everything (deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Not bad!).
Brownstone is a great place to get a cup of coffee…regular coffee, specialty coffee, whatever. It’s a great place to take a meeting. It’s a great place to start your morning. But even more than that, it’s owned by a dear friend of mine. The day after my Dad died, I got up and went to Brownstone. Donnie pulled me behind the counter into the back room, got me a cup of coffee, and sat there with me. He’s someone special, and so is Brownstone.
Want to see the most beautiful gardens in the Battle Creek area? Go to Southern Exposure. Want to meet the world’s kindest, most hospitable people? Southern Exposure. Want to take amazing classes or go to a signature dinner? Southern Exposure.
My grandparents always took us to the turkey farm for hot buttered turkey sandwiches when we were young. The place is still there, but they have really expanded their turkey menu (everything is excellent, but make sure you save room for pie!) and have a really awesome gift shop area that also has fresh baked goods.
Binder Park Zoo is one of the best zoos in the nation. If you like zoos, you should go.
River Street Flowerland – Kalamazoo
Now, I love a good greenhouse. But RSFL is something special. It is a zen-like experience. It is so much more than a greenhouse. It’s impossible to be uptight or unhappy as you wander around, looking at the gorgeous flowers, listening to classical music. When things get tough, a trip to RSFL will make you feel better. Really.
Joe’s Gizzard City USA – Potterville
There are two types of people: those who will try a chicken gizzard, and those who will not. If you are game, you must try Joe’s. Best chicken gizzards anywhere. Joe’s has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. They like to deep-fry, nearly every item on the menu including whole hamburgers. There’s a gizzard festival yearly, with a gizzard queen.
Elderly Instruments – Old Town Lansing
If you are planning a visit to Old Town Lansing (and really, you must!), and you happen to play a fretted instrument of any kind, Elderly Instruments should be on your list of places to visit. It’s famous. And it’s where I got my guitar. They encourage you to try out the instruments. Their staff members are experts. You’ll love it.
Old Town Lansing is an up-and-coming place. Lots of awesome boutique shops. A friendly feel. You can spend a whole day there, eating and shopping. Make sure you check out October Moon…it’s my favorite.
Michigan Fiber Festival – Allegan
The fiber fest is not, as my coworkers imagined, a place where you eat a lot of bran. It’s one of the midwest’s largest fiber festivals and a great place to go if you crochet, knit, dry or wet felt, weave, etc. The vendor areas are amazing. There’s animal competitions, too. It’s a lot of fun!
The DIA is one of Michigan’s gems. Amazing artwork. Plan on spending at least a full day if you want to see everything.
Belle Isle Conservatory – Detroit
I’ve been to Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. It’s lovely! But it’s also expensive. You get just as good an experience at no cost if you make the trip to Belle Isle. Go in the summer, and you can wade in the Detroit River.