Editorial: Unlocking this area’s best-kept secretsPublished 9:24pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Sometimes best-kept secrets should be released.
The tourism bureau Discover Kalamazoo started a promotional campaign two years ago aptly named “269 Cool Things to Do” to promote tourism in the 269 zip code.
Of the 269 places and events submitted by the public — they are not numbered by rank — only a paltry three submissions came from Niles (Fort St. Joseph Museum, Veni’s Sweet Shop and Fernwood Nature Preserve) for the most recently released list. Two were from Buchanan (Pears Mill and RedBud MX Track). Pokagon even got a shout-out with The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden, but Edwardsburg and Cassopolis were omitted.
Dowagiac was well-represented: Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, the Museum at Southwestern Michigan College, Five Mile Drive-In Theater, Caruso’s Candy Kitchen, Wicks Apple House and the Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow.
While these are great examples of things to do and places to see in this corner of the state, we believe there are many more.
Our staff has compiled a list of our favorite best-kept secrets; maybe some of them are yours as well. If not, check them out. Our area has a lot to offer.
• Lunker’s in Edwardsburg — see more taxidermy than you ever thought possible in once place. Dare yourself to try the ostrich, elk or alligator at its Angler’s Inn Restaurant.
• Speaking of fish, visit Dowagiac’s Heddon National Museum of fishing lures, which were invented in Dowagiac. Toss a cold one back at the downtown’s Wounded Minnow, a sports bar with a fishing theme.
• Go off the beaten path to the lake community of Cassopolis. Stop in the Pioneer Log Cabin on Stone Lake, adjacent to the newly restored Sinclair gas station.
• Dowagiac Woods on Frost Street in Pokagon Township features the best spring wildflowers in Michigan.
• Rudolphi Wildlife Refuge on Dailey Road near SMC’s Dowagiac campus is part of a system of hiking trails that connect the college, Riverside Cemetery and the middle school. In that part of Dowagiac, there are 300 acres of public open space preserved and managed.
• Did you know Kitty Litter was invented by a Cassopolis resident? Check out the Edward Lowe Foundation’s museum on Decatur Road, Cassopolis, to learn the story of the tycoon who brought cats inside by creating Kitty Litter.
• Underground Railroad sites around Vandalia — a state historical marker on M-60 calls attention to the junction of two main lines, the Illinois from St. Louis and the Quaker from the Ohio River, which merged and went on into Canada. Cass County was the site of the Kentucky slave raid of 1847, which is recalled in a colorful mural in downtown Cassopolis.
• While in the area, swing by the monument on M-60 in Penn Township that commemorates space pioneer Capt. Iven Carl Kincheloe.
• Bald Hill in Newberg Township — at 1,140 feet, it is the highest point in southwest Michigan.
• Want to see a giant Buddha statue? The Wat Lao Buddha is located next to the Vandalia Buddhist Temple.
• Michiana Healing Arts Center/Kar Club, Niles — Get your zen on while you look at fancy cars. It makes perfect sense.
• Rumor Has It, Niles — Matt Shaver owns more than 60,000 records.
• Union Coffee House, Buchanan — This renovated cafe in a historic downtown building offers homemade sandwiches and coffee drinks using local ingredients when possible. It also offers great live acoustic music.
• Deer Forest Fun Park, Coloma — a bit of a trek from this area, but well worth it to see the ear-to-ear grins on your children’s faces when they pet live deer and farm animals.
• Swiss Valley Ski and Snowboard Area, Jones — Great for first-time skiiers and snowboarders.
To submit your favorite places to the “269” list, visit “269 Cool Things To Do (In Area Code 269)” on Facebook.
This editorial represents the views of the editorial board.