When it comes to the ultimate summer list of things to do around Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan – look no further.

After a cold winter and rainy spring, we’ve earned some summer fun with the family! Here is our bucket list of 101 things sure to hit that summer sweet spot.


You don’t have to travel far to have plenty of fun. Explore Kalamazoo for outdoor excursions, art and culture, festivals, al fresco dining and a bevy of other great options to fill every last lazy afternoon or weekend family outing.

Get Outside with the Whole Family

1. Grab the helmets and get moving on one of the great bike trails in the Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan.

2. Take in a baseball game at the Kalamazoo Growlers! See Porter and enjoy the family fun atmosphere at the game.


3. Check out one of the many toddler-friendly parks in Southwest Michigan. Richland Township park has a new toddler-friendly play structure worth checking out!



4. The Kalamazoo Nature Center has several opportunities for families to come out and experience nature this summer. The DeLano Homestead has animals to visit as well as educational programs during the summer.  And don’t forget their natural playground which has a stream for water play!

5. Binder Park Zoo is a short 30-minute drive to Battle Creek from Kalamazoo. There’s a carousel and train to ride, giraffes, goats and llamas to feed, and even face painting! Don’t forget to see the lion exhibit which debuted last year.


6. Pack a picnic lunch and head out to one of these great picnic spots.

7. Mini golf at Airway Fun Center is a great way to get the entire family playing together. Or if you’re daring, try their ropes course!

8. Go big and rent an inflatable water slide at one of the many inflatable rental companies in Kalamazoo and invite the neighbors!

9. Go camping! See our great list of campgrounds close to home.

10. Go fishing! If you want your child to learn the basics of fishing from the experts, check out the upcoming FREE Hook, Line, and Sinker class at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery. 

11. Make a new four-legged friend while horseback riding.

12. Rent a canoe or kayak for the day and have a family adventure!

13. Learn how to shoot a compound bow in Archery 101 at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, for ages 8 and up.

14. Take your pup to make new friends at a dog park. The Portage dog park has re-opened and is FREE. Or, want to bring Fido on your summer vacation? BringFido is a great place to check out hotels, beaches, restaurants, and more that are dog friendly so your furry family member can join in on the summer fun!

15. Join the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy “Hike Our Preserves” program. “HOP!” offers kids a chance to hike at ten of the SWMLC’s public nature preserves, earn a medallion for their hiking stick, and the first 50 participants to hike at all ten preserves receive a free $15 gift card to Bookbug!  

16. Bring your little animal lover to one of these great petting farms.

17. Heading to one of the area’s nearby beaches. There are several local beaches in the Kalamazoo area.

18. If your kids love to play in the water, but you don’t want the mess of it in your yard, head over to one of the fun splash pads in our area. Don’t forget the sun block!

19. Take a trip to South Haven, only an hour away. Walk the pier, swim in Lake Michigan, and enjoy the shopping!

20. Feeling adventurous? Try out a favorite Michigan pastime – tubing!

Arts and Culture

21. Enjoy Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors outside at the Celery Flats Ampitheatre presented by the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre Academy of Theatre Arts from July 18 – 22. The play is FREE, but you need to pick up a ticket at the Portage Parks office.  

22. Enjoy movies under the stars! Bring your own popcorn and join up with friends.

23. Spend the first Friday evening of the month with the family at Kalamazoo’s Art Hop! It’s a great way to explore downtown and immerse yourself in art at the same time.

24. Experience nostalgia – pack up the car and head to a drive-in movie theater!

25. Earn free stuff by joining a summer reading program. Check out the Portage District Library and Kalamazoo Public Library summer reading program initiatives.

26. Be a family of detectives at the Paw Paw Playhouse’s Playhouse Puzzles from August 21 – 25. The entire family can hunt for clues to solve the riddles!

27. Be amazed and astounded with a family friendly magic show by Joe Bennett at the Paw Paw Playhouse on August 11th.

28. View amazing chalk creations at St. Joseph’s Chalk the Block from August 4 – 6. Sidewalk sales, lighthouse tours, and music are all part of the fun!

Culinary Delight

29. Try a new restaurant. Even better, check out our list of kids eat free days!

30. On July 28th, come to Ramona Park’s First Annual Luau! Carnival games, inflatables, fire dancers, magic shows, watermelon eating, and more!

31. Who doesn’t love ice cream? Visit an ice cream parlor for a tasty treat this summer!

ice cream

32. Make your own healthy and delicious popsicles or fruit slushies and share with friends.

33. Have a backyard campfire and make s’mores.

34. Dine out on at a great restaurant with an outdoor patio.

35. Visit a local farmer’s market. Pick out a locally grown food that your kids have never tried and research different ways of preparing it! Let them choose the winning way and everyone will dig in. 

36. Go berry picking! Then head home and find new ways to prepare your favorite berries. Share some desserts with a neighbor or friend! 

Fruit Picking

37. Order lunch from a food truck in downtown Kalamazoo! Check out Lunchtime Live! happening every Friday around lunchtime for more information. 

38. Attend one of the Night Markets during the summer. Artisans, food trucks, farmers and friends. What more can you ask for?

39. Take the kids on a surprise donut run to Sweetwater’s Donut Mill or Peace, Love, and Little Donuts of Portage!

40. Try out a new breakfast spot, and get your eggs sunny side up!

41. Turn your 7-14 year old into a gourmet cook with a Henderson Castle’s Children’s Cooking Class.

Family Friendly Shows and Festivals

42. Love dogs? Go watch some dance their hearts’ out at the Rockin’ Rovers show on July 16th at the Kalamazoo Library – Eastwood Branch!

43. You won’t want to miss the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival in late June and early July! With balloon launches, a thrilling air show, carnival rides, and entertainment your family will have tons of fun.

BC Air Show

44. Light up the Lake with a firework show over Lake Michigan at South Haven on July 3rd at dusk off the North Pier.

45. Plan to attend the Kalamazoo County Youth Fair from August 7-11. 4-H animals, daily entertainment, carnival rides, food and more make this a great family event. 

46. Plan to attend the Kindleberger Festival from July 11-14 and watch one of the family-friendly outdoor plays such as Alice in Wonderland!

47. Get scaly at Binder Park Zoo’s Reptile Weekend on August 4 – 5. Kids can interact with over one hundred reptiles and amphibians from around the world!

Beat the Heat with Indoor Fun

48. If your kids love to bounce, SkyZone is the perfect place to work off some energy in a fun, air-conditioned environment!

49. If rain is in the forecast, a game or two of bowling is a great way to spend a summer day! Or sign up for the Kids Bowl Free program.

50. Board games are a great opportunity for family bonding during rainy summer weather. Check out our list of favorites.

51. On a rainy day, visit a FREE indoor play area.

52. Camp in! Grab the sleeping bags and the tent, and set up a campsite in the middle of the living room. Don’t forget the flashlights!

53. Have the entire family write a comic book of your adventures together. Have someone do the writing, and someone do the illustrating!

Kids Only!

54. Many churches offer free or affordable Vacation Bible School and fun summer programs/camps.

55. Summer camps are great way to make memories to last a lifetime for your child. Check out the Summer Camp Guide to find the best summer camp for your child!  

Van Buren Youth Camp


56. The YMCA of great Kalamazoo offers several great summer programs for kids

Learn Something New

57. Looking for a fun date idea and want to learn more about Kalamazoo’s history? Buy your ticket for the Hidden Kalamazoo tour on June 16th or 17th. 

58. Learn West African drumming and dancing at Rootead’s Family Drum & Dance every Saturday!

59. Visit the Air Zoo this summer! Pack a picnic lunch and watch the airplanes take off and land at the outdoor picnic pavilion. Or, head inside to ride some rides and see the summer exhibit: Wild Weather.  

air zoo

60. Explore a variety of artistic mediums when you sign up for a summer art class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. 

61. Take the kids to learn about their favorite pet at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s summer Cats & Dogs Exhibit with over twenty hands-on exhibits to explore.

62. Wednesday evening’s are wild at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary with  Wild Wednesday Family Programs. Learn something new about nature in your backyard with the whole family.

63. Head to Three Rivers for one of the fun and educational animal programs at the Scidmore Park Petting Zoo. Birds, reptiles, bunnies – there is a program for everyone!

Greater Southwest Michigan Fun

Road trip time?

64. Plan a shopping day at the Tanger Outlet Mall just up US 131 near Grand Rapids

65. Ahoy matey! Pretend you’re a pirate and join the Pirate Chaser Adventure Cruise.

66. Get wild for wild animals. Boulder Ridge Wid Animal Park is an area favorite.

67. Learn about a real working dairy farm at Breakfast on the Farm in Paw Paw at Hood Farms Family Dairy on August 25th.

68. Love zooming through the trees? Experience remarkable views and the wind blowing on your face with several options for zip lining at TreeRunner Adventure Park in Grand Rapids or Allegan Event Z!P to go zip lining over the Kalamazoo River.

69. Barrel down the dunes in a schooner by booking a ride with Saugatuck Dune Rides. Riders can be as young as two years old!

70. Take advantage of Wristband Wednesdays at Craig’s Cruisers near Grand Rapids.

71. Happy Potter fans unite! Join the Harry Potter in the Park Festival in Sparta (near Grand Rapids) on June 23rd.

72. Break out the family membership card and visit a number of museums around Michigan Michigan Museums, Gardens & Zoos With Reciprocal Membership Agreements.

73. Get out of town and visit our favorite out of town indoor play places around West and Southwest Michigan.

74. Have a budding doctor or astrophysicist? Go explore the Grand Rapids Museum‘s two special traveling exhibits on microbes and astronauts.

75. Anchors away! Catch a ride on one of these eleven #PureMichigan boats that you can sail the friendly seas.

76. Visit M00-ville, located in Nashville, and learn about how milk and ice cream are made. Stay and see the animals in the FREE petting farm.

77. Take a stroll through the gardens at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek. Let kids explore their senses at the Kaleidoscope Garden, and watch the trees come to life in Fantasy Forest.

A Day Excursion

78. Take a road trip to beautiful Amish Country and visit Shipshewana.

79. If your family likes thrill rides, check out Michigan’s Adventure or Cedar Point! Both parks have an outdoor waterpark so bring a swimsuit!

80. All aboard! Beat the traffic and Take the train to Chicago and explore the Magnificent Mile.

81.  Consider a visit to one Michigan Kids Road Trips series – Holland, Ann Arbor, Detoit and more to consider!

82. Check out the Jiffy Mix Plant Tour located a little over an hour from Kalamazoo in Chelsea, Michigan.

83. Head north to Traverse City to explore a true Michigan gem.

84. Let the kids play at one of the great Children’s Museums around Michigan.

85. Visit on of our 10 places to take your kids in Michigan before they grow up – including a list of Michigan Lighthouses, Frankenmuth, the Lake Michigan Dunes and more iconic spots in the mitten.

86. Visit a special exhibit in Chicago such as Shedd Aquarium’s Underwater Beauty or the Field Museum’s Mummies.

87. Drive south to Fremont, Indiana and experience an Into the Herd Buffalo tour at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.

Anytime Family Fun

88. Wake up with no plans and peruse our awesome listing on the Event Calendar. Pick a random outing to do with the entire family.

89. Unplug for the day with a technology-free family day. If this isn’t a challenge for your family – make it three days, five days or even a whole week!

90. Find a local place to do some volunteer work. If you want to do something less formal, a few trash bags and some rubber gloves are all you need to make a difference at a local park or playground. Your kids will have fun, enjoy the weather and give back to the community!

91. Gather some books to donate and find a nearby Free Little Library to add books to the collection.


92. Have fun popping bubbles with some super sized bubbles!

93. Grab your telescope and do some late night stargazing. Check NASA’s website for what to look for, or grab one of the many books from the library.

94. Invite some whimsy by planning and planting a Fairy Garden.

95. Press some summer flowers and use them for homemade bookmarks or cards.

96. Plan a nature scavenger hunt for the family, especially fun for tweens!

97. Try out an old-fashioned lawn game like badminton, croquet, or bocce ball!

98. Have a tie dye party with friends! Kits are available at most craft store.

99. Make some fresh-squeezed lemonade and set up a lemonade stand. Or try it fruit-infused with fresh strawberries or rapsberries.

100. Have an outdoor painting party. Get messy by filling water balloons with paint and throwing them at a sheet or piece of canvas, paint with your feet, or grab a piece of nature like a stick, rock, or flower to paint with.

101. Make a photo journal or scrapbook of all of the memories the family will make this summer!

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By |2018-06-06T00:31:15+00:00June 6th, 2018|Categories: Around Kalamazoo, Kids, Newly Published, Parent resources|Comments Off on 101 Ways for a Kalamazoo Kid to Spend a Summer – 2018

About the Author:

Julie is stay-at-home mom who homeschools two beautiful rainbow girls, and a self-professed geek. She enjoys playing video and board games, writing, reading, tennis, traveling, and just about everything else. She never wants to stop learning and loves sharing what she's learned with KZOOkids readers.