Families Will Soar High with the Air Zoo: Membership Perks, Cool Exhibits, Anytime Fun and Upcoming Events

Why Families love the Air Zoo - Membership, events, exhibits - overview of Air Zoo

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, and a walk down the painted blocks of Bates Avenue are all things you will not find elsewhere.

Among that list of local favorites is the Air Zoo: a world-class, Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum. With over 100 aircraft, full-motion flight simulators and exhibits updated regularly, it’s easy to be impressed.

However, the Air Zoo is more than just a museum full of artifacts: 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. Four years later, my kids request museum visits regularly, attend Air Zoo Summer Camps and other special events.

Note: The Air Zoo is currently closed. Upon reopening, hands-on learning activities, rides, and touchables may be temporarily removed for your safety to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep guests, staff and volunteers safe.

What’s New and Cool at the Air Zoo

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.

New Exhibit: Spend time with some pop culture icons that have taken up residence at the Air Zoo, in Aliens and Androids. This exhibit includes some pretty famous droids and Ironman in its collection.

Families at the Air Zoo - Exhibits

Virtual Learning: While planning your next visit, you can still “visit” the Air Zoo from the comforts of your home. The Air Zoo’s Launchpad to Learning offers fun, educational videos including tours, stories, and STEAM activities.

Virtual Summer Camps: Summer camps are happening with virtual camps for 2020. These camps will run three hours per day and will provide materials for experiments and other fun and engaging activities.

Take Your Family to New Heights with an Air Zoo Membership, Perks Included!

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.

Members receive invitations to VIP events including sneak previews of new exhibits. They also receive checkout privileges at the Air Zoo library and kids aged 6-11 can join the Air Zoo Sky Kids Club for free.

Make Sure Not to Miss a Thing with this Air Zoo Day Trip Itinerary

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.

The Flight Innovation Center

Start your day here. After checking in and getting your wristbands,  stop by the coatroom to shed any unnecessary layers and take your walk through the clouds.

family visit the Air Zoo

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).

Why Only Look at the Planes, when You Can Fly Them? Virtually of course, but still…

The main area of the Flight Innovation Center is massive; feel free to browse all of the aircraft and exhibits. Some favorites that are worth the stop:

  • Flight Simulators: Observing 100 aircraft is one thing; how about flying one? The Air Zoo is home to some of the most sophisticated full-motion flight simulators in the world. You can pilot stunt planes, dogfight in the skies over the Pacific, or battle giant robots during your flight.
  • Indoor Rides: Bring the fun of an amusement park inside at the Air Zoo with four rides: Century of Flight Ferris Wheel, Flying Circus Bi-Plane Ride, Montgolfier Balloon Race, and Paratrooper Jump. There are no tickets required for these, and you can ride them as many times as you want.
  • Hands-on Learning: Learn through play with interactive exhibits, located throughout the Air Zoo. These fun activities teach physics, engineering, and other science disciplines. Launch a rocket, design a circuit, or build a paper spaceship.
  • Kids Corner: Along the left wall towards the Ferris Wheel is the Kids Corner (look for the doorway with the mural inside). This room is a perfect place for little ones to play with toys geared for younger visitors.

The Kitty Hawk Café

Ready for a break? Head upstairs to refuel at the Kitty Hawk Cafe. With food from the Millennium Restaurant Group, there are plenty of tasty options for adults and kids alike, as you dine upstairs overlooking the exhibits. Members also get a discount on their meals.

Kid-friendly foods like Uncrustables and chicken tenders are available. If you’re snacking, we recommend the pretzel bites or bento boxes.

After eating, it’s time to check out the other building at the Air Zoo. Head outside for a short walk, or take the electric shuttle to the Flight Discovery Center.

Air Zoo for families - 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; there are several planes the kids can climb inside (Tip: if there are stairs, the kids are welcome).

Kids at the Air Zoo Flight Discovery Center

The big highlight here though is the aircraft restoration.

They fix 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 two WWII aircraft recovered from Lake Michigan.

Visitors are encouraged to talk to the team and ask questions while you watch their efforts to reconstruct these 1940s era aircraft to their original beauty. Many of these volunteers are veterans, and all of them are friendly and bursting with aeronautical knowledge.

Air Zoo volunteer with child showing equipment

Wrapping Up your Visit

Head back to the Flight Innovation Center and revisit some favorites before you head home. My kids usually require at least one more spin on the Ferris Wheel before we can depart.

The Fly Buy Gift Shop

After you leave the clouds, make a stop at the 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.

Toys at the Air Zoo Gift Shop

7 Things You Can Do Any Day at The Air Zoo

1 – Join the frenzy in the Kids Corner and build a fort with the oversized, foam blocks

2 – Admire the view as you zip around the hot air balloons

3 – Soar in the sky on a (flight simulator) high-performance stunt plane as you attempt to loop, roll, or dive. Word to the wise – not for queasy stomachs!

4- Become a racecar driver. Turn the crank and race your friends or family members with air cars.

5- Take a FREE tour. The very knowledgeable staff have many exhibits to show and stories to share.

6- Build with KEVA planks. There are activity tables stationed throughout the museum for budding architects and engineers.

7- Get lost in space. See spacecrafts, Mars rovers and astronaut food among their many space artifacts.

boy trying hands on activities at the Air Zoo

Pro Tips for Navigating the Air Zoo

Families can easily spend all day at the Air Zoo. Here are tips from a card-carrying member of the Air Zoo that will guarantee a soaring good time.

  • The Air Zoo caters to families from the moment you walk in the door. Bathrooms have changing tables and a nursing room is available upstairs (ask a staff member to unlock it).
  • Have a wagon or stroller? Bring them! If you forgot yours, you can rent a wagon.
  • You can park at either building. If you would rather visit the Flight Discovery Center first, you can reverse our itinerary.
  • The desserts at The Kitty Hawk Cafe are delightful- we recommend a treat break (try the cookies).
  • Take the shuttle between buildings if you have young kids. They will love the ride and their little legs could use the break.

More Air Zoo Fun…

Whether you’re traveling with a class or your family, the Air Zoo has something for all ages and interests:

Fun for Little Kids Too! (4 and Under are FREE)
The Perfect Destination for Field Trips and Groups
Day Trip Tips & Membership Perks

Upcoming Air Zoo Events

There’s always something fun happening at the Air Zoo. Check here to see what’s coming next:

What are you waiting for?

An Air Zoo membership is a great value and they also make the perfect gift.

Air Zoo - Easter Egg Hunt Guide 2020

6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI 49002

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