While everyone is working to practice social distancing and educating kids from home, there’s bound to be cabin fever that pops up! Locations around West Michigan have been doing a great job providing online resources to educate, entertain, and engage!
We’ve rounded up our favorite ideas to help you explore West Michigan safely from the comfort of your own home. We will continue to update and add to this article on a regular basis.
Article last updated 4/2/2020.
- Social Distancing in West Michigan’s Great Outdoors
- West Michigan Dining: Curbside, Takeout, and Delivery
The Mendel Center
For the moment, we all live in a stay-at-home-world. However, that doesn’t mean live performances need to be on hold. To keep the arts alive during COVID-19 social distancing measures, The Mendel Center is introducing a new, online series: Remotely Interested: Live to Your Living Room. Seven online events are scheduled to be delivered via Facebook Live exclusively through The Mendel Center’s Facebook page during April. The lineup features local and regional artists who will perform from the comfort of their homes or studios while the audience sits back and enjoys online.
Battle GR Tactical Games
As we all are trying to figure out this crazy time, BattleGR wants to bring some fun entertainment to your living room. Every week on the BattleGR Tactical Games facebook page they will be hosting a live virtual trivia night. They will be giving away prizes and it is totally free to join in. They will also be posting fun activities to do with your kids each week.
Harbor Springs Area Historical Society
Did you know that the Harbor Springs Area Historical Society offers educational worksheets for young learners? They are free and available to download online. Interested in learning more about a specific topic? Let the historical society know! They are happy to tailor worksheets to meet your local history learning objectives. Email Beth@HarborSpringsHistory.org. Send them an image of your student holding a completed worksheet and they will be entered to win a children’s book from the museum store. Entries should be emailed by April 6.
National Writers Series
New York Times-bestselling author Terry McMillan and guest host Rochelle Riley are bringing the conversation to your house! They’ll be on Zoom (www.bit.ly/TerryMcMillan), on YouTube (NatlWritersSeries) and on Facebook. People joining via Zoom can ask questions. Doug Stanton is the host and moderator for the evening. “Doors” open at 6:30 p.m. so you can get comfortable with the platform (it’s really easy!); the “stage event” will begin at 7. They even have a sweet package of a book + Morsels that can be delivered to your home sweet home.
Circle Theatre Grand Rapids
Circle Theatre Virtual Fundraising Events are for everyone: patrons, volunteers, staff, community, and family near and far. Enjoy Circle Theatre’s series of original content that will stream on Facebook Live, including Petty’s Circle Fireside Chats and the Living Room Concert Series. These experiences, as well as others to be announced, are designed to be at-home experiences that can be watched in real time as well as on-demand. Love what (and who!) you see? Donate to Circle Theatre.
Seven Steps Up
Seven Steps Up decided that if you can’t come to them, they’ll come to you! Their livestream concerts can be found on their Facebook page, their website, the artists’ Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube, and more. All will air simultaneously: just pick your best video and audio option. Each link will take you to a PayPal donate button for a donation to assist the featured act and Seven Steps Up. Seven Steps Up thanks you for helping them survive until the world returns to normal.
Taste restaurant in South Haven has started posting live cooking demonstrations on their Facebook Page, and sharing out the recipes for the dishes they prepare so you can try cooking some new dishes at home!
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Join the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum as they celebrate their new Virtual Tours and Educational Experiences at the Ford Presidential Museum and DeVos Learning Center. On the first tour, Museum Curator Don Holloway explores the childhood of Gerald Ford, sharing the making of a President from an early age.
Dennos Museum Center
The Live & Local Concert Series, April 6-11th, presented by the Dennos Museum Center and Crosshatch Center for Art and Ecology to bring some much needed musical entertainment to your living room through a series of Facebook live concerts. Tune in on the Dennos Museum Facebook page, performers’ pages, or on the event page to watch Facebook Live concerts.
Performances by date:
- May Erlewine – Monday, April 6th at 7:00PM
- Blake Elliot – Wednesday, April 8th at 7:00PM
- Jack M. Senff – Thursday, April 9th at 7:00 PM
- E-Minor – Saturday, April 11th at 12:00 PM
The Dennos Museum Center recently began publishing twice-weekly videos with fantastic how-to-draw demos that are fun for the whole family. Narrated and drawn by Jason Dake, Curator of Education, these videos offer brief demonstrations and tips on a variety of drawing topics. They are posted to the Dennos Museum Center’s YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts on Mondays and Thursdays for the time being. Everyone is encouraged to share their creations on the Dennos Facebook page, facebook.com/thedennos.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has unveiled an online presentation of the annual Young Artists of Kalamazoo County exhibition. Art teachers from more than 50 public and private elementary and middle schools chose and submitted artwork by their K-8th grade students. The KIA is planning to present a virtual exhibition for upcoming spring exhibitions as needed. This will likely include the juried West Michigan Area Show (April 10) and High School Area Show (April 24).
John Ball Zoo
The John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids has launched an online series, Zoo Insider, a series of videos and pictures to engage the public with educational, yet fun information about John Ball Zoo and the animals. The goal is to post a Zoo Insider every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Videos will be available on the John Ball Zoo website, YouTube channel, and Facebook page.
Coloring is proven to have therapeutic benefits, so Discover Kalamazoo has taken some of their favorite spots in Kalamazoo and made them into coloring pages that you can download and make your own! Use #discoverkzoo to share your creations for the chance to win some Kalamazoo merch and a gift card to the local restaurant or shop of your choice.
Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo
Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo will be running an online Easter Egg hunt on their Facebook Page as we get closer to Easter! Watch their page for an announcement of when and how to play, and in the meantime check out the adorable videos of their newest resident: Brooke the sloth!
Grand Rapids Area
The COVID-19 virus is delaying some of Grand Rapids’ favorite spring doings – but there are still some great opportunities to explore the city as it greets the new season. Local museums are closed until the CDC gives the okay to reopen, but there are many Grand Rapids museums and attractions that you can still get a look inside.
Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts in downtown Petoskey has put together several blog posts that provide help with at-home school lessons, ideas for staying healthy, screen-free activities, and an Easter bunny coloring contest for children under the age of 12! And as a special treat, be sure to tune into Grandpa Shorter’s Gifts Facebook page to catch the Easter bunny reading stories, dancing, and being goofy!
The Critter Barn in Zeeland is about kids, families, and community, and works to connect visitors with nature, animals, and where our food comes from. Critter Barn is taking this mission online, and will be doing a Facebook Live on the Critter Barn Facebook Page each day at 11am to take you on a tour through different parts of the farm. Tune in each day to see what’s new, or check out the videos which have already been posted.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum features exhibits on science, technology, and the history of Southwest Michigan, and they’re making it easy to learn from their collection online. Each day around noon, they’ll be featuring a different artifact from their collection on the Kalamazoo Valley Museum Facebook Page. Check out the Fly Fishing Kit below, made by a Kalamazoo local around 1955! You can browse through everything in the Kalamazoo Valley’s Museums’ collection here, or check out past issues of their magazine museON (great educational pieces for kids who need reading materials!)
Silver Beach Carousel
Take a first-person-perspective virtual ride on the Silver Beach Carousel. When you’re able to stop by in person, they have enough options that you could ride a different carousel figure or chariot every week for a year! Their sea serpent chariot is wheelchair accessible so everyone can ride. The carousel has also made their coloring sheets available for download on their website to keep the kiddos busy.
Muskegon Winter Sports Complex
In light of what’s happening in the world right now, the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is offering a way to keep your family active in the outdoors: they have begun offering some of their DUNEiversity educational programming in an online format for you to follow along with on a daily basis.
Each day they will post a new project on their Facebook page. Every activity will be designed around the three pillars of DUNEiversity: environmental education, health and wellness, and adventure. The best part… we’re going to have a lot of FUN! These activities can be done at the Sports Complex at the State Park (while still maintaining social distance) or in your own backyard. So far they’ve provided a ¼ mile fitness trail and a live-streamed yoga class, with upcoming days to include tree and plant identification, night time hiking and stargazing, scavenger hunts and more. You can find more information and resources on the Winter Sports Complex’s website.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Even though you aren’t able to visit the butterflies at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park right now, you can check in with them on a regular basis! The gardens are providing virtual visits while they are closed to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Join them on the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Facebook Page every day at 10am for Cozy Tales storytime, and at 2pm for a virtual visit related to their mission of horticulture and the arts. If you miss a video, you can watch them at your leisure after each live airing has ended. Their online channels can be found at @MeijerGardens on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Tour Manistee County from home by exploring their Historic Sites Video Series. Their videos in this series showcase more than 100 historic sites which have been documented through eight themed tours. They are showcased through HD video featuring historic photos and videos, all beautifully narrated by Manistee native, Toni Trucks.
Click through their other self-guided tours available on their website, including tours of the area’s Natural Wonders and Historic Bridges & Dams. The Manistee County Visitors Bureau has also put together an information page to list what area restaurants, attractions and lodgings may be doing differently in light of the outbreak.
Greater Lansing Area
Virtually visit more than 60 locations in the Greater Lansing area with online walk-through tours. They’ve got a great variety of places to check out, from museums to MSU locations to the Michigan State Capitol building! You can also keep up with acts of kindness and ingenuity spotted around Lansing.
Sault Ste. Marie
Explore landmarks and attractions in and around Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with their 360° online tours. The videos will work on your smartphone or computer, and let you control the point-of-view to explore at your own pace. They have fourteen videos to check out, including virtual visits to a Soo Locks Boat Tour, the Tower of History, Tahquamenon Falls, Point Iroquois Light Station, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, and more.
The next best thing to being there: LowellArts will be sharing pieces from the West Michigan Art Competition on the LowellArts Facebook Page! These are all outstanding pieces of artwork by artists from the 25 Lower West Michigan counties. Head over to their Facebook Page to take a virtual walkthrough of the gallery, as well as to check out a new featured piece of art each day.
Grass River Natural Area
Throughout the next few weeks, the Grass River Natural Area will be providing daily resources to encourage families to get outside during these stressful times and to keep the kiddos’ minds engaged during school closures. These fun and educational activities are designed to be completed at your local natural area, a nearby park, or even in your own backyard. You can find these activities posted on the Grass River Natural Area’s Facebook Page each day, or find the archive of all the printable activities and other Fun in the Field activities on their website.
Lakeshore Museum Center
Did you know that you can search the museum’s online collection from the comfort of your own home? Check it out and see what you can discover about Muskegon’s past. They even created a quick tutorial on how to use the database which you can view on the museum’s YouTube page. The new Museum at Home page on the website has resources for all ages: from science and other videos to podcasts and downloadable activity booklets, links to crafts for young kids, the mini mastodon scavenger hunt map and more, multiple resources are waiting to be discovered and enjoyed, all made available by the museum, free of charge.
Michigan Maritime Museum
Join the Michigan Maritime Museum for their online Scavenger Hunt! Each day they’ll be posting a photo of an object from the museum: see if you can guess what the object is, or where at the museum it’s located. It’s a great way to gain some historical and nautical knowledge.
Thornapple Arts Council
The Thornapple Arts Council has put together a great resource to help you find ways to explore the arts online! They have both local and national opportunities, including virtual dance classes, online performing arts, and more.
Blandford Nature Center
Learn about some of our local wildlife from home, with resources from Blandford Nature Center. Learn about the nature center’s Wildlife Ambassadors, including their names, species type, habitat, diet, conservation management and other fun facts. Then once the nature center re-opens, plan a visit to meet the Wildlife Ambassadors in real life!
Oliver Art Center
The Oliver Art Center has a new exhibit scheduled to open this week: “Make Mine Abstract!” They’ve provided a virtual tour through this brand new exhibit.
Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives
GRAAMA has a wealth of educational resources available on their website for you or your student to dig through. You’ll find podcasts, downloadable articles, and even a virtual library.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Dive into the shipwrecks of Lake Superior with the underwater research of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Read the stories and explore images from dives to eight different shipwrecks discovered in Lake Superior.
Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
Feeling crafty? Check out this list of fun craft ideas from the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Don’t have all the materials you need on hand? Use this as a time to challenge your kids to get creative and see what other materials you have around the house that they could swap in!
If you’ve ever wondered what you’ll find in the collections of the Holland Museum, you can check out their entire collection online! Different items are pulled from the collection to be on display in the museum throughout the year, so this is a great way to get a peek behind the scenes and delve into all of the great artifacts they own. Want to browse their newest acquisitions? Here’s a link to all of the donations they’re received in 2019/2020.
Tri-Cities Historical Museum
If you or your kids are interested in history and are looking for things to do, make sure to check out the Tri-Cities Historical Museum online! They’ve got lots going on, from looking for virtual guest-curators, to wacky photo caption contests, to transcribing historical documents.
While you are unable to visit the historic facility in person, Kingman Museum of Battle Creek, MI plans to help bring the museum to you. Join the natural history museum on Facebook as they soon introduce a new series “ABC’s of Kingman” each day highlighting a different piece from their 20,000 artifact collection. Starting with A and working through the alphabet, Kingman will touch on topics from natural history, Earth science, and world culture. You’ll also find lots of great links to resources from the Kingman Museum Facebook Page, particularly links with educational & science content aimed towards kids.
Dreaming of summer and Mackinac Island? Get closer to the island with their newly-launched Mackinac Island podcast series. Each episode gives you a behind-the-scenes experience of one of Mackinac Island’s many distinctive features. Learn more about the Grand Hotel, the ferry trip to the island, and, of course, the fudge!
Inland Seas Education Association
Looking for a project for your kids to do while school is closed? Help your kids learn about water with Audit Your Water Use: Water Conservation in Everyday Life. This project from the ISEA was originally designed for classroom use, but can easily be adapted for home use.
Muskegon Museum of Art
Explore some of the pieces and exhibits at the Muskegon Museum of Art from home! They posted a virtual tour of their current exhibit “20 for 20: Celebrating Michigan Illustrators,” and are sharing different pieces from their collection on their Facebook Page (along with a great sense of humor!).
Van Andel Area
Bored while stuck at home social distancing? Van Andel Area has got you covered! Here’s a list they shared of 30 rock/metal documentaries, movies, and shows to binge while you’re staying in.
USS LST 393
The LST 393 is a “landing ship tank” which has been converted into a veterans museum, and is bursting with history on every deck. Take a virtual tour of this nationally renowned veterans museum, featuring artifacts and displays honoring those who served America and fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.
Art of Cookery
Art of Cookery is currently working on a series of online instruction and interaction to replace in person cooking classes. We are starting with comfort food, because who doesn’t need a little comforting right now? Watch for updates on these new online classes on the Art of Cookery Facebook Page.
Tibbits Opera House
Since Tibbits can’t bring you to the theatre, they’re bringing theatre to you! Tibbits is now taking an educational as well as an entertainment approach to their social media content. Visit Tibbits’ Facebook page daily, where you can watch video clips from live performances being streamed from professional artists all over the world, and maybe highlights from Tibbits’ own vault. You can also get activities to keep your kids’ creative juices flowing, or see and learn about different vocations within the theatre.
Bell’s is planning to release a series of virtual activities, including tours of the brewery, how to homebrew, recipes to make beer cocktails, and all kinds of other things. Watch for their first video release on Friday, March 27th.
The Air Zoo may be closed, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot happening! Check out their YouTube daily for amazing new content to ignite your imagination over the next few weeks. Learn more about what’s coming by watching their first video.
Grand Rapids Public Museum
The Museum has shifted their live stream camera to showcase the two 10-month-old Lake Sturgeon featured in the Grand Fish, Grand River exhibition. You may visit the fish anytime during the day (the tank lights are off at night so the fish can sleep).
The GRPM’s Collection of more than 250,000 artifacts and specimens can be explored online for free, anywhere, anytime. The Collections database is intended as a resource for all. In addition to exploring the Collection online, visitors may also create a login for the website, and begin to curate their own collections and digital exhibits. If they choose to make their saved collection public in the website’s Community Galleries, they may see themselves featured on the Museum’s social media channels. Learn more about curating your own collection of Museum artifacts here.
The Museum is curating additional digital content specific for families navigating schooling from home. This includes activities, lessons and curriculum to engage with the Museum’s Collections in deep and meaningful ways. Check out the digital resources and content available online, or visit the Museum’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.
Krasl Art Center
Find original content from Krasl Art Center faculty and staff, as well as pertinent resources, posted regularly on their social media. Digital galleries of Dex R. Jones: Storied Portraits & Barbara Cooper, Community Art Exhibition at The Box Factory, and 40+ sculptures in KAC’s permanent collection are available, as are activities to help you stay grounded and well. You can also find Free Coloring Books from 113 Museums!
West Michigan Live Camera Gallery
Explore somewhere new without leaving your home with the West Michigan Live Camera Gallery. Use it as an educational tool to explore how weather and temperatures can change drastically as you travel the state, or just click through for relaxing views from around West Michigan, including from the USS Silversides Museum, Crystal Mountain, and more.