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 favorites is 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.
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
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.
Air Zoo Day Trip Itinerary
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.
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.
- Go for a Ride: The Air Zoo has four indoor, amusement park-style rides. Rides are FREE and a fan favorite.
- Fly to (Simulated) Heights: The 3D full-motion flight simulators are open! 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.
Once you’ve finished exploring the Flight Innovation Center, it’s time to check out the other building at the Air Zoo.
Once outside, it’s only a short walk to the Flight Discovery Center. You can also move your car or take the electric shuttle (check posted schedule inside)
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!
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.
Their current work includes WWII aircraft recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan, and their newest arrival – an F-117 Nighthawk – one of the first to be exhibited in a non-governmental museum and a fan favorite (trust us- it’s HUGE!).
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.
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?).
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 winged tigers).
Short on time? You can shop online when you return home too.
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!
Visitors of all ages will enjoy racing air cars, launching water bottle rockets, or testing Bernoulli’s principle:
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.
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.
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
Explore nine different environments featuring space and technology. This exhibit includes some famous Star Wars droids, Ironman, and robots from The Terminator Movies.
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
Air Zoo Memberships are the Way to Go
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
|• 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: SW MI 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 2022, this program will run from October 1 – 31
WIN: Free Admission + $50 Shopping Spree at the Air Zoo
This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to our winner and check back for new offerings in the future!
Enter to Win FREE Admission and $50 Shopping Spree at the Air Zoo’s Fly Buy Gift Shop!
One lucky winner will enjoy hours of exploration and inspiration with free admission to the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Center for their household (up to 6 persons).
The winner also receives a $50 shopping credit for the Air Zoo’s Fly Buy Gift Shop.
- FREE Air Zoo admission for your household (up to 6 persons)
- Winner also receives a $50 shopping credit for the Air Zoo’s Fly Buy Gift Shop
- Passes and shopping credit must be used by 12/31/2022
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:
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|
Schedule: First Tuesday of select months
Times: Check-in/Free time 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Class/Demonstration/Tour (in rotation by age group) 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
Free time 4:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Fees: Fees: $11/participating child (covers admission, classes, tours and demos) reduced admission for parents and siblings. Members are free and receive 10% off program.
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
OR Check-in/Free time 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM; Class 1:30 PM – 2:15 PM
Costs: $5 per participating child.
Adults (one adult required to attend) $8 and non-participating children $7/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.
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:
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.
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).
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!
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 Museums for All Work?
Visting 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 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.
|STEAM Day Saturdays|
|• FREE, Outdoor Events at the Air Zoo|
• 2022 Dates: June 25, July 23, August 20
• Hands-on Science Stations
• Special toys at the Fly Buy Gift Shop
• Grab and Go Lunches available for purchase from The Kitty Hawk Cafe
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.
Special Events at the Air Zoo
The Air Zoo has many cool, engaging events planned in 2022:
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. Flights range from 20 to 30 minutes.
Most aircraft also have ticketed tour options as well where you can learn more about these planes from the experts.
June 25 – B-25 ‘Rosie’s Reply’
Flights: 11AM, 12PM
25 min. experience
Take a ride in the most widely-produced American twin engine combat aircraft of World War II.
August 20 – B-17 ‘Yankee Lady’
Flights: 10AM, 11AM, 12PM
30 min. experience
Soar through the sky and discover why it’s called the Flying Fortress.
Sep 24 – C-47 ‘Hairless Joe’
20 min. experience
Tour the standard military aircraft that operated from every continent during World War II.
National Aviation Day
AUGUST 19, 2022
Fun activities and FREE admission to the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center on Milham Road.
View or sit in the cockpits of some of the most famous aircraft in history!
More 2022 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.
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.
2 – Refuel Upstairs: Grab a bite at the Kitty Hawk Cafe 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.
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 Childen’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.
The Air Zoo is a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated museum in our own backyard.
Make plans to visit soon for an amazing experience that your family won’t soon forget!