2023 Air Zoo Trip Planner: Favorite Exhibits, Membership Perks, Special Events & Hands-On, Interactive Fun

Air Zoo Portage MI

Experience a Local Kalamazoo Treasure at the Air Zoo

As a Kalamazoo transplant, I have come to appreciate the places, food, and culture that are uniquely Kalamazoo:

  • a pizza from Bilbo’s
  • handwritten receipts from Little Chick Shoe Shop
  • a walk down the painted blocks of Bates Avenue

These are just some of the special KZOO things you will not find elsewhere.

Among that list of local favorite things to do is visiting the Air Zoo: a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum.

With over 100 air and spacecraft, educational programming, indoor, amusement-park style rides and exhibits updated regularly, it’s easy to be impressed.

Flight Innovation Center
Main Exhibit Room at the Air Zoo in Portage, MI

Air Zoo
6151 Portage Road, Portage MI 49002

The Air Zoo is Not Your Typical Museum

The Air Zoo is more than just a museum full of artifacts, though.

It’s a welcoming, family-friendly space that encourages children to learn through hands-on experiments and develop a love of science.

It’s a place where toddlers can run, strollers can roll, and big kids can fly (simulated flight, that is).

After just one visit with my children, our family was hooked and we were planning our return.

It was not long after that we bought a family membership.

Years later, my kids request museum visits regularly and attend Air Zoo camps and other special events.

Plan Your Air Zoo Visit: Day Trip Itinerary

This engaging museum invites families 360+ days a year to imagine, discover and explore in their massive, interactive space.

With engaging exhibits, hands-on interactive displays, indoor, amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators and tons of aircraft and spacecraft, the kids won’t be bored.

Ready to visit and don’t know where to start? The Air Zoo spans two buildings and has plenty to see. 

We’ve outlined an itinerary of must-sees during your stay.

2 buildings to explore at the Air Zoo

The Flight Innovation Center

Start your day here. After checking in and getting your wristbands, it’s time to take your walk through the clouds.

Air Zoo

If you need to shed any unnecessary layers, stop by the lockers (small fee to rent) or use the coatroom (free).

Once inside you’ll find two things: planes as far as the eye can see and some very friendly volunteers (take them up on their free tours if you have time).

The main area of the Flight Innovation Center is massive; feel free to browse all of the aircraft and exhibits.

A couple of our favorites include the following:

Get Lost in Space

More than just planes can fly. The Air Zoo also features a number of exhibits dedicated to space travel, featuring spacecraft, equipment and astronaut suits.

Air Zoo

Take a Ride

The Air Zoo has four indoor, amusement park-style rides. Rides are FREE and a fan favorite.

Fly to (Simulated) Heights

With both 3D HD and standard HD options, you’ll take the ride of your life as you pilot stunt planes, dogfight in the skies over the Pacific, or ride along in a battle against giant robots.

All riders must be at least 48″ tall and 250lbs or less for the simulators.

Hungry?

We recommend a quick stop at the Kitty Hawk Café upstairs for some tasty food from the Millennium Group (get the cookies).

There are also picnic tables outside to stop and refuel.

Flight Innovation Center Map

Air Zoo Portage MI

Once you’ve finished exploring the Flight Innovation Center, it’s time to check out the other building at the Air Zoo.

It’s a short walk to the Flight Discovery Center. You can also move your car or take the electric shuttle.

Flight Discovery Center

Previously known as “East Campus,” the Flight Discovery Center provides another showcase for aircraft. Take a stroll through all of the exhibits here, including ones being put back together!

Visitor Tip: You can climb into some of the cockpits here! If you see stairs, you are invited to explore.

Head up the stairs to see the aircraft’s controls

That’s right: the big highlight here is the aircraft restoration.

They restore planes here too?

The skilled team at the Air Zoo has staff and volunteers that are world-renowned in their restoration abilities.

Air Zoo

Their current work includes WWII aircraft recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan. The attention to detail and skills needed to restore these aircraft is nothing short of amazing. Here’s an update on their progress from April 2023:

Visitors are encouraged to talk to the team and ask questions while you watch their efforts to reconstruct these aircraft to their original beauty.

Many of these volunteers are veterans, and all of them are friendly and bursting with aeronautical knowledge.

Flight Discovery Center Map

Wrapping Up your Visit

Head back to the Flight Innovation Center and revisit some favorites before you head home.

My kids usually require return trips to a few favorite exhibits before we can depart (perhaps one more spin on the Ferris wheel?).

Air Zoo Ferris Wheel

The Fly Buy Gift Shop

After you leave the clouds, make a stop at the lockers or coatroom for your belongings and be sure to browse The Fly Buy for souvenirs (we love the Air Zoo exclusive winged tigers).

Fly Buy Store Air Zoo Gift Shop

Short on time? You can shop online when you return home too.

Featured Exhibits

The Air Zoo’s ever-changing landscape is great for families. You and the kids can visit again and again and still find new things to do and see.

Families can enjoy these engaging exhibits at no additional cost; all of these are included with your admission.

Hands-On STEM Learning

The Air Zoo is not a stuffy, “look but don’t touch” kinda museum: visitors are encouraged to learn through play with exhibits located throughout the Flight Innovation Center. These fun activities teach physics, engineering, and other science disciplines.

These FLEXHIBIT science activity & experimentation stations are exciting hands-on, multi-outcome, multi-sensory STEM-based interactives- and they are not just for kids!

Will you win the air car race?

Visitors of all ages will enjoy racing air cars, launching water bottle rockets, or completing simple circuits:

Women in Air & Space

The Air Zoo honors the women of aviation and space through multiple exhibits in both the Flight Discovery and Innovation Centers. Families will learn about aeronautical pioneers and modern-day record breakers.

These exhibits feature stories, images, videos, and activities that help illustrate the major impacts made by these extraordinary women.

Amelia Earhart

Explore Amelia: Adventurous Aviatrix in the Flight Innovation center to learn about the brave, bold woman who broke through barriers to make history in the sky.

Amelia was the first woman (and second person) to pilot an aircraft across the Atlantic. Learn about her ultimate dream to fly around the world and the unsolved mystery that followed her journey.

A recreated historic scene—which depicts Amelia giving flying tips to pint-size pilots—provides the centerpiece to this exhibit in the round.

Amelia Earhart Exhibit Air Zoo

Rosie the Riveter

In We Did It: The Riveting Real Rosies of WWII, the Air Zoo introduces some of the women who filled defense plant positions in the 1940s.

Visitors will see an authentic rivet gun, rivet manual, and paystub on loan from Yankee Air Museum, which sits on the former site of the Willow Run plant where women manufactured one B-24 bomber an hour.

You can also watch video interviews from the children of real Rosies and take a photo with their “We Can Do It!” poster cutout. 

Other Can’t-Miss Exhibits

Alien Worlds & Androids

Explore nine different environments featuring space and technology. This exhibit includes some famous Star Wars droids, Ironman, and robots from The Terminator movies.

Apollo 11

Relieve the historic event from 1969, complete with a vintage living room prepped to watch the moon landing on a console tv.

Why You Need an Air Zoo Membership

Something we quickly discovered with our inaugural trip to the Air Zoo: one visit is not enough. Our departure only left us planning our return to see more exhibits and revisit favorites.

A family membership allows you to visit as often as you like for an entire year; it also comes with discounts and perks.

Discounts + Perks

Membership Highlights
• Unlimited access to all permanent exhibits and rides for a year
• Invitations to members-only and VIP events
• 10% discount in Fly Buy Museum Store – with special sales throughout the year
• 10% discount at the Kitty Hawk Cafe
• Checkout privileges at the Air Zoo’s Smith Library
• Discounts and presale opportunities on most seasonal camps & programs
• Monthly newsletter with exclusive member features
• ASTC Travel Passport and NARM benefits with access to over 1200 museums and science centers worldwide

Southwest Michigan Cultural Exchange

The annual Southwest Michigan Cultural Exchange provides free admission to 5 other participating cultural institutions.

Your Air Zoo membership card becomes your free ticket to places like Binder Park Zoo for a full month!

Annual Membership Perk: SWMI Cultural Exchange
• Show your Air Zoo membership card and gain FREE admission to Binder Park Zoo, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Gilmore Car Museum, and W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary/ W.K. Kellogg Manor House.
• Free admission lasts an entire month
• In 2023, this program runs October 1 – 31
SWMI Cultural Exchange

WIN

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to our winner! Check back for more opportunities to WIN with the Air Zoo in 2023.

Enter to Win 6 Tickets to the Air Zoo + an Air Zoo exclusive Kitty Hawk Flying Tiger Stuffed Animal

One lucky winner will enjoy hours of exploration and inspiration with 6 free tickets to the Air Zoo PLUS a Kitty Hawk stuffed animal from the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Center.

Prize Details:

  • 6 FREE tickets to the Air Zoo (use by 12/31/2023).
  • Winner also receives one Kitty Hawk Flying Tiger stuffed animal
Fly Buy Store Air Zoo Gift Shop
Kitty Hawk plushie at the Air Zoo

FINE PRINT:
This giveaway will close on November 30, 2022, at 11 pm and the winner will be notified via email. The winner will have 24 hours to respond by email accepting the prize. No purchase necessary to enter the contest. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to kzookids.com and not to Facebook. Entrants will release Facebook from all liability. Entrants must be at least 21 years of age and reside in Michigan. Only one entry per household or IP address. Kalamazoo Kids’ liability is limited to the value of the prize.

Classes & Enrichment

The Air Zoo offers dozens of hands-on learning opportunities to get kids and their families engaged and learning.  

Check out these exciting opportunities below and see what best fits your family:

Air Zoo

Homeschool Classes at the Air Zoo

The Air Zoo’s homeschool programs meet both Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Michigan Science Standards with dynamic, hands-on lesson plans and interactive demonstrations and tours. 

Homeschool Discovery Days
Ages: 5-14
Schedule: First Tuesday of select months
Times: Check-in: 12:30 PM; Class 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Fees:  Fees: $13/participating child; $10/participating member child.
Adults (one adult required to attend) $8 and non-participating children $8/each (5-18) which includes daily admission.
Members and children 4 and under are free.
Homeschool Discovery Days Schedule
Homeschool Discovery Days exploring electricity

Preschool STEAM

Preschool STEAM Days give young children and their adult chaperones a taste of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).

These fun, hands-on, interactive activities will leave your young scientist wanting to explore even more at home!

Preschool STEAM Days
Schedule: First Wednesday of select months
Times: Check-in/Free time 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM; Class 10:30 AM – 11:15 AM

Costs: $5 per participating child.
Adults (one adult required to attend) $8 and non-participating children $8/each (5-18) which includes daily admission.
Members and children 4 and under are free.
Parent and additional children will check in and pay at the time of arrival.
Preschool STEAM Schedule
Learning about magnets with Preschool STEAM

Education@Home 

The Air Zoo offers entertaining and educational Launchpad to Learning videos, 360 cockpits and STEAM activities, designed by the Air Zoo and affiliate organizations.

They will keep your child imagining, exploring, and discovering even more – from home or the classroom. 

The Launchpad to Learning offers a library of short, engaging videos, including the SR-71 ABC’s:

Scouting Programs

The Air Zoo works extensively with all levels of Scouts BSA, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts offering the best scout programming in West Michigan.

With classes spanning the spectrum of science, space and aviation, the Air Zoo offers multiple opportunities for scouts to earn awards and fulfill merit badge requirements.

Camps

Spend your summer break, winter break or spring break with the Air Zoo! These science-based day camps engage with fun, STEAM-based activities for kids (pre-K through 12th grade).

Family Fun Days + Events 

Join the Air Zoo for fun hands-on activities the entire family will enjoy during seasonal Family Fun Days.  Check the events calendar often for new programs! 

Family Fun Days include a NYE celebration where visitors “countdown to noon” with an epic balloon drop.

Community Access Programs

The Air Zoo wants every member of the community to spend time with its engaging exhibits and events.

These programs and events are free or low cost to ensure everyone has a chance to visit this fun museum.

Museums for All: $2 Admission to the Air Zoo

Museums for All is a fantastic program that offers free or reduced admission to over 700 museums in the United States.

For families that receive food assistance (SNAP benefits), they can receive FREE or low-cost admission to more than 45 Michigan museums.

The Air Zoo is proud Museums for All participant, offering $2 admission for EBT cardholders.

How Does the Museums for All Program Work?

Visiting the Air Zoo with Museums for All is a breeze. Simply come to the registration desk and present photo ID and your EBT card. Admission is $2 per visitor for up to six people (kids 4 and under are always free).

There is no registration required for this program and you can visit as often as you like.

Free Community Access Memberships

With the support of generous community members and local organizations, the Air Zoo is now offering free annual memberships to individuals and families who currently receive SNAP or EBT benefits.**

CAM members receive all of the benefits of being an Air Zoo member, including free admission 360+ days per year, invitations to members-only events and SkyKids Club!

Three membership levels are offered: individual, family and grandparent.

How to Sign Up for a Free Membership

The Air Zoo makes signing up easy: when you visit, just bring your ID and EBT*/SNAP benefits card and the staff will get your membership set up. You must sign up for the CAM program in person.

*NOTE: the CAM program excludes P-EBT

**Please note: This membership program is fund driven. In the event that CAM funds are depleted, families wishing to visit the Air Zoo will be able to take advantage of the Museum’s For All pricing of $2/person age 5+ living in the household. Names and contact information may be provided to the Air Zoo for notification of funds when they are again made available.

Free STEAM Day Saturdays

Families are invited to the Air Zoo for some free, outdoor, community-wide fun for three Saturdays this summer.

Summer STEAM Day visitors will have a blast with STEAM activities, take-home crafts, creating art on the Air Zoo’s sidewalks and discovering an array of learning toys and activities available for purchase in the Fly Buy Gift Shop.

Air Zoo STEAM Days 2023
STEAM Day Saturdays
• FREE, Outdoor Events at the Air Zoo
• 2023 Dates: June 24, July 22, August 19
• Hands-on Science Stations
• Special toys at the Fly Buy Gift Shop
• Grab and Go Lunches available for purchase from The Kitty Hawk Café

FREE STEAM Day Saturdays
– June 24: Space
– July 22: Engineering
– August 19: Aviation

2023’s STEAM Days are presented by Zoetis.

Spend the day outside at the Air Zoo with fun, engaging events for three Saturdays this summer!

The Fly Buy Gift Shop

The Fly Buy Store is a great place to find iconic items, apparel, games and STEAM learning activities for all ages.

Not able to visit the Air Zoo? Visit airzoostore.org to explore online. Curbside pick-up free for all online orders!

Follow The Fly Buy Museum Store on Facebook for updates and exciting new products.

Toys at the Air Zoo Gift Shop

Special Events at the Air Zoo

The Air Zoo has many cool, engaging events planned in 2023:

Summer Fly-Ins: May, July, August 2023

If you love history, engines, props or pilots, visit the Air Zoo this summer and fall for some exciting visits from historic aircraft!

Visiting planes will be on display at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center (FDC) and you can purchase tickets to take a ride.

Most aircraft also have ticketed tour options as well where you can learn more about these planes from the experts.

Aircraft will stay on location as customer demand, appearance agreement or weather allows.

May 27 – C-47 ‘Hairless Joe’

Flights: 11AM, 12PM

Tour the standard military aircraft that operated from every continent during World War II.

July 29 & 30 – UH-1 Huey ‘Greyhound’

Flights: 11:30AM – 4PM

Experience flying in the UH-1H Huey with the doors wide open (weather permitting).

August 19 – B-25 ‘Rosie’s Reply’

Flights: 10AM, 11AM, 12PM

Take a ride in the most widely-produced American twin engine combat aircraft of World War II.

National Aviation Day Open House: August 19, 2023

The Air Zoo is celebrating National Aviation Day with an Open House at the Flight Discovery Center- and everyone is invited!

Stop by the Milham Road building from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on August 19 and enjoy some fun activities and FREE admission*!

Flight Discovery Center Air Zoo

National Aviation Day Activities at the Air Zoo

  • Family STEAM activities (while supplies last)
  • Observe fly-in aircraft and mingle with pilots and enthusiasts
  • Learn about the aircraft restoration programs
  • Explore engines, planes and cockpits
  • Licensed pilots will receive 50% OFF admission to the Flight Innovation Center (main building)

*FREE Admission on 8/19/2023 applies to Flight Discovery Center only (Milham Road building). Standard admission rates apply at the main building on Portage Road.

Panels Off Month: September 2023

Ever wondered what it looks like inside an aircraft?

Many of the Air Zoo’s planes will have panels and or cowlings removed for an in-depth look into their workings. Come out and learn about the significance of their mechanics and features during Panels Off.

Included with admission, and free to Air Zoo Members, this month-long event is sure to give you a new and unique perspective of the Air Zoo’s aircraft and insight into what innovative engineering principles developed over the course of time.

Ice Cream Challenge: January 2024

Come ready to taste-test exciting local flavors and cast your vote for the most delicious treat, frozen with liquid nitrogen at the Ice Cream Challenge!

Ice Cream Challenge at the Air Zoo

  • Local organizations will form corporate teams and battle for your vote as this year’s victor
  • Ice Cream Challenge included with paid admission to the Air Zoo

Open Cockpit Month: February 2024

The Air Zoo invites visitors to view or sit* in some of the most famous aircraft in history in September.

The Air Zoo’s open cockpit experience is FREE with your paid admission and offers some fantastic photo opportunities!

*RESTRICTIONS: Due to the varying engineering and design elements, a weight restriction of 250 pounds is placed on each aircraft. Visitors must also have the ability to enter and exit the aircraft unassisted. Children wishing to sit in the aircraft must be supervised by their parents/guardians. Some cockpits are view only.

More Upcoming Air Zoo Events

Visiting with Kids 4 and Under

The Air Zoo is NOT just a place for big kids and adults.

Preschoolers and toddlers will have a blast in this massive, interactive space. And with FREE admission for ages 4 and under, it’s easy to make repeat visits.

Air Zoo

Things to Do at the Air Zoo with Preschoolers & Toddlers

1 – Go for a Ride: Take a spin on one of the indoor, amusement park-style rides at the Air Zoo. Rides are included with your cost of admission, and you can ride them as many times as you like!

Note: rides have minimum height requirements: some allow smaller children to ride with an adult.

The Paratrooper Jump ride is fun for kids AND adults 36″ or taller

2 – Refuel Upstairs: Grab a bite at the Kitty Hawk Café with some kid-friendly food, including pb&j and grilled cheese.

3 – Learn Hands On: Stop by the many hands-on stations to race an air car, design a circuit, or launch a water bottle. These stations are a fun way to engage your children in learning through play.

Space

4 – Take a Preschool STEAM Class: Classes are typically offered the first Wednesday of the month (schedule). Stay after class and play at the museum.

5 – Visit the Library: The Air Zoo has its own library, located near the rides. Take a break and explore some kid-friendly books in the Children’s Corner of the Smith Library.

6 – Play in the Kids Room: Reopened and full of building blocks, this space is perfect to run, learn and explore.

7 – Snag an Air Zoo Souvenir or STEAM Activity: The Fly Buy Gift Shop is a great stop for stuffies, LEGO sets, STEAM kits and Air Zoo swag.

Air Zoo FAQs

How much is daily admission to the Air Zoo?

Adults: $15.95, Children (5+): $14.95, Seniors: $12.95. Kids 4 and under are FREE. EBT cardholders: $2.00 with Museums for All program.

Can I bring my wagon or stroller?

Yes! Wagons and strollers are both welcome at the Air Zoo. If you forgot yours, the Air Zoo has a limited number of wagons available.

Does the Air Zoo have changing tables available?

Yes. Bathrooms have changing tables and a nursing room is available upstairs (ask a staff member to unlock it).

Are sensory kits available for visitors?

Yes. Sensory bags from KultureCity are available at no cost. Learn more about visitor accessibility on the Air Zoo’s site.

KultureCity sensory kits at the Air Zoo

Make Plans to Visit the Air Zoo Soon

The Air Zoo is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated museum in our own backyard.

Make plans to visit for an amazing experience that your family won’t soon forget!

Air Zoo

featured partner
6151 Portage Rd, Portage MI 49002
(269) 382-6555



About The Author

20 thoughts on “2023 Air Zoo Trip Planner: Favorite Exhibits, Membership Perks, Special Events & Hands-On, Interactive Fun”

  1. Sarah Anne Nemmers

    Wow … Great work guys! Thx for the awesome opportunity to join in on all the fun!

  2. I had my after graduation party here in 2009 I love this place its so amazing and very room and very fun for kids

  3. Haven’t been in years, would love to bring my grandkids to experience this amazing facility. So much to see and do and learn without realizing it, because it’s fun and relaxed!

  4. My grandbaby loves the Air Zoo only time she gets out is on weekends because mom works from home.

  5. Thank you for the chance to enter, I would love to spend a day at the Air Zoo with my grandkids. Fingers crossed!!

  6. This place is so fun yet educational, we are excited to take our son there for his first time. We’d love to win! Thank you.

  7. Thank you for this opportunity. We have 3 grandsons living with us. None of them have been there. They would love it. Thanks again.

  8. I’m not sure who would be most excited Great Grandma or my 4yr old. It would be a pleasure for both.

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