Experience a Local Kalamazoo Treasure at the Air Zoo
6151 Portage Road, Portage, MI 49002
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, attend Air Zoo Summer Camps and other special events.
- We’re Open! Plan Your Air Zoo Visit
- Featured Exhibits
- Why You Need an Air Zoo Membership
- Classes & Enrichment
- The Fly Buy Gift Shop
- Special Events at the Air Zoo
We’re Open! Plan Your Air Zoo Visit
While COVID-19 threw us all a collective curveball in 2020, rest assured that the Air Zoo is very much up and running.
This engaging museum invites families 360+ days a year to imagine, discover and explore in their massive, interactive space.
The full-motion simulators are not available yet- but don’t let that dissuade you from visiting ASAP. With new exhibits, hands-on interactive displays, indoor rides 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. Make sure to see how astronauts can sleep in zero gravity!
- Go for a Ride: The Air Zoo has reopened their indoor, amusement park-style rides. Rides are FREE and a fan favorite.
Once you’ve finished exploring the Flight Innovation Center, it’s time to check out the other building at the Air Zoo.
We recommend a quick stop at the Kitty Hawk Cafe upstairs for some tasty food from the Millennium Group (get the cookies). There are also picnic tables outside to stop and refuel.
Once outside, it’s only a short walk to the Flight Discovery Center (or you can move your car; there are parking lots for both buildings).
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.
|Pro Tips for Navigating the Air Zoo|
|• The Air Zoo considers guest safety and health a top priority. See their policies and admission requirements here.|
• 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.
• Skip the line and purchase tickets online.
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.
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.
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:
Other Can’t-Miss Exhibits
Alien Worlds & Androids: Explore nine different environments featuring space and technology. This exhibit includes some famous droids from Star Wars, Ironman, and robots from The Terminator Movies.
Apollo 11: Relieve the historic event from 1969 with this exhibit, 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 2021, this program will run from October 1 – 31
SW Michigan Cultural Exchange
October 1 – 31, 2021
WIN: Air Zoo Giveaway
No giveaways are being offered currently for the Air Zoo. Check back later!
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:
Whether you are a traditional homeschool parent or a parent supporting learning at home, the Air Zoo has you covered. They offer monthly programs that not only immerse your child in activities and learning – they meet state standards!
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.
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!
The Fly Buy Gift Shop
The Fly Buy Store is a great place to shop after concluding a visit to the Air Zoo. And when you’re home and could use some cool Air Zoo gear, you can now shop with them online!
Visit airzoostore.org to explore a variety of unique Air Zoo merchandise, toys and STEAM activities for all ages.
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 for 2021. Mark your calendars for these; we will update the details for each as the dates draw closer.
Free STEAM Day Saturdays
NEW at the Air Zoo: Families are invited to the Air Zoo for some free, outdoor, community-wide fun for three Saturdays this summer.
|STEAM Day Saturdays|
|• FREE, Outdoor Events at the Air Zoo|
• 2021 Dates: June 19, July 24, August 21
• Hands-on Science Stations
• Special toys at the Fly Buy Gift Shop
• Grab and Go Lunches available for purchase from The Kitty Hawk Cafe
June 19: STEAM Day Saturday: Engineering (Canceled Due to Weather)
Join the Air Zoo as they kick off a fun summer of STEAM programming with the Society of Women Engineering Corporate Engineering Challenge Celebration!
|June 19, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM|
|• Get inspired with a panel discussion of women engineers (12:00 PM)|
• Engage with STEAM activities, including an SPF Beads and Wind Bags station and cool antibody challenge
• Get messy at the tie-dye station: bring your own white shirt or purchase one from the Air Zoo for just $5 (limited quantities).
• Create sidewalk art
• Build and test a special catapult with Air Zoo educators
July 24: STEAM Day Saturday: Outer Space
Bring your best space helmet, NASA gear, or alien buddy and join the Air Zoo for some out-ot-this-world fun. Since June’s event was canceled due to rain, visitors will enjoy EXTRA activities in July!
|July 24, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM|
|• Special Visitor: “Doc,” a B-29 Superfortress, will be visiting at the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center (FDC) July 23rd-25th! Visit the courtyard for a sneak peek!|
• Design and test-launch a rocket and create a constellation telescope with Air Zoo educators.
• Create sidewalk art
• Plus BONUS activities from June’s canceled event!
August 21: STEAM Day Saturday: Aviation
This final STEAM Day Saturday is aviation themed: get ready to experiment with wind, speed and flight!
|August 21, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM|
|• Experience aviation-themed activities and challenges with Air Zoo educators: Chopper Copters, Balso Gliders & Wild Wings|
• Wear your fastest shoes for a “Wright Race”
• Create sidewalk art
• Plus additional hands-on activities from corporate sponsors
August 19: National Aviation Day Open House
In honor of National Aviation Day, families will enjoy FREE admission to the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center on Milham Road from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
The Air Zoo will observe normal general admission at the Flight Innovation Center on Portage Road.
|National Aviation Day Open House|
August 19, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
|• Enjoy family STEAM activities (while supplies last)|
• Observe fly-in aircraft and mingle with pilots and enthusiasts
• Get involved with WWII aircraft restoration programs
• Explore engines, planes, cockpits and more!
• Licensed pilots will receive 50% OFF admission to the Flight Innovation Center (main building on Portage Road)
*FREE Admission on 8/19/2021 applies to Flight Discovery Center on Milham Road only
September 2021: Open Cockpit Month
Open Cockpit Month is back at the Air Zoo!
Visit each weekend in September for an opportunity to get up close and personal with some favorite aircraft.
Guests will be able to view or sit* in the cockpits of some of the most famous aircraft in history! Don’t miss this amazing chance to experience a true “pilot’s eye” view.
The Air Zoo’s open cockpit experience is FREE with your paid admission and offers amazing photo ops for families!
|Open Cockpit Month |
September 2021 Schedule
• P-47 Thunderbolt – Flight Innovation Center
• FG-1D Corsair – Flight Innovation Center
• MiG-15 – Flight Discovery Center (view only)
• P-39 Airacobra – Flight Innovation Center
• F6F Hellcat – Flight Innovation Center
• T-34 Mentor – Flight Discovery Center
• Ford Tri-Motor – Flight Innovation Center
• Grumman FM2 Wildcat – Flight Innovation Center
• G-73 Mallard – Flight Discovery Center
• SR-71B Blackbird – Flight Innovation Center (view only)
• Boeing-Stearman – Flight Innovation Center
• Douglas SBD-2P Dauntless – Flight Discovery Center (view only)
*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.
2021 Upcoming Events
October: Southwest Michigan Cultural Exchange
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!
6151 Portage Road
Portage, MI 49002
FACEBOOK | (269) 382-6555