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The Best of Both Worlds

Battle Creek offers award-winning dining, a revitalized downtown, and the World's Longest Breakfast Table.

By Becky Kalajian

Alligators are the attraction at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Athens. CREDIT Annie J. Kelley

Strategically located between Chicago and Detroit, Calhoun County is a destination for group gatherings, sporting events, and other activities for tourists. Offering the best of both worlds, the region provides a myriad of flexible indoor and outdoor options from a casino and a zoo with a rope and zipline course, to restau- rants that showcase flavors from across the globe and breweries with one-of-a-kind pours.

Vibe: Variety is what distinguishes this southern, mid-Michi- gan region. “In Battle Creek, you can go from an urban brewpub to a softball multiplex to a country lake that’s great for ice fishing—all within 15 minutes,” says Annie Kelley, communication manager for the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau. Just east of Battle Creek, Marshall is known for its quaint downtown and Victorian-era architecture. Albion is home to a small liberal arts college that goes by the town name. And the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo rivers run through it all, linking parks, trails, and wildlife areas. Transportation: Calhoun County sits in the crosshairs of Interstates 94 and 194, says Kelley. “While this was convenient for bootleggers in the ’20s, nowadays it’s an easy car trip for travelers from big cities,” says Kelley, whose bureau serves the Battle Creek, Marshall, and Albion areas.

For those hoping to avoid several-hour stretches in the driv- er’s seat, trains at the Battle Creek Amtrak station connect to Chicago, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint. Flights from Detroit and Chicago land at the nearby Kalamazoo/ Battle Creek International Airport.

Hotels: Calhoun County’s room count hovers around 2,500 small- to mid-size affordable rooms in properties that range from well-known chain hotels to bed-and-breakfasts. The newest will come in late 2023: the transformation of the McCamly Hotel into a 239-room DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Battle Creek. The 15-story, $55 million project will connect to the multipurpose Kellogg Arena via a modern annex.

Venues: Although the largest venue is Kellogg Arena, Fire- Keepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek is the place to “get your Vegas on,” says Kelley. The luxury hotel features 400 rooms and has a Four Diamond AAA rating. The Holiday Inn Battle Creek and the charming mid-century Goodrich Chapel at Albion Col- lege are suited to slightly smaller events. Planners might also want to check out the historic Bohm Theatre movie palace and the Record Box Loft.

Restaurants: Albion Malleable Brewing Co.’s burger patties are made with brisket, sirloin, and chuck that’s ground in-house. For those seeking heat, Torti Taco Bar & Grill in downtown Bat- tle Creek is known for award-winning tacos. In nearby Marshall, Cornwell’s Turkeyville serves up a traditional turkey dinner, potpies, turkey salad sandwiches, and turkey burgers. In the heart of Marshall, the iconic Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub has been famous for its prime rib for more than 100 years.

Must-sees and -dos: Every June in Battle Creek, headquar- ters of Kellogg’s, take a seat and enjoy a free bowl of cereal at the World’s Longest Breakfast Table in the city that created corn flakes. Take in Color the Creek year-round in Battle Creek, a walking tour that reveals more than 40 original murals. Accen- tuating the city’s abolitionist history, the largest monument dedicated to the Underground Railroad sits along the Battle Creek River. Outdoor enthusiasts will want to visit Historic Bridge Park, an open-air museum dedicated to the area’s transportation history. The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in nearby Athens has more than 130 alligators. In Marshall, the American Museum of Magic showcases the treasures of Houdini

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