My fiance Greg and I are always on the lookout for new and unique experiences, especially involving local towns and attractions. After enjoying with our families Midnight Madness and KindleFest this year in Ann Arbor, which was extra mad because the weather was so warm, bringing more people out, we discovered another yearly December activity that we'd never heard of before, though it has been going on for some time, the Belle Isle Holiday Stroll. It's a festive night with free admission to the Conservatory, Aquarium, and museum from 5pm to 8pm, holiday lights here and there, and free hot cider and donuts while supplies last.
We arrived a little after 6pm and were shocked by the number of people. We waited in line for half an hour to get into the Conservatory, then weren't allowed the luxury of lingering, instead dutifully trudging along with the rest of the herd. There was a choir singing beautifully, but there was no time to sit and listen. The free cider and donuts were long gone. A man in front of us in line asked a volunteer how many people they get every year, and she answered, "If we get 500 to 600, we consider it a good year." This year, "thousands" (a direct quote from the Conservatory's Facebook page) turned up.
Another 20 to 30 in line, and we were inside the Aquarium, the oldest public aquarium in the U.S. I enjoyed the fine architecture, but the tanks for the animals seemed small and minimally decorated. Fish get bored, too! I did see a lot of water creatures that I had not seen at other aquariums, so that was neat, and some areas were under construction, so perhaps the less than stellar habitats are to be improved. The numerous children around us certainly were enjoying themselves, and that is what aquariums and zoos are all about, getting people interested in the world around us.
Unfortunately, after all that waiting, we did not make it to the third stroll location, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, before it closed. Maybe we will return to check out some other time, but honestly probably not.
Belle Isle has been the focus of a lot of attention in the past few years, what with making it a State Park and preserving all the old structures and all. I am glad I got to check it out, if only a teeny, tiny bit. I'll bet the gardens are beautiful in the spring and summer! So maybe we'll return. Greg never seems keen on a visit, though.
If the crowds in the future will be anything like this year, I don't feel the need to do the Holiday Stroll again. With so many people and the majority of the night spent outside waiting in line, the fun is sapped pretty clean away. It wasn't very cold, which was a blessing and a curse. It made waiting outside not so terrible temperature-wise, but is also to blame for all the people. KindleFest also was absurdly crowded due to the usual cold not being there to keep people away. Fighting against wall-to-wall people does not put me in a particularly festive mood.
Maybe next year they can hire street performers to entertain people while they wait in line. We were amused by the young fellow in a World War I uniform who kept walking by, and the man wearing a light bulb on his head who seemed to be acting as the information station. I know some hoopers and acrobats who might be interested in the job!