28 Marvelous Family Things to Do in Kalamazoo

Things to Do in Kalamazoo

Yes, There Really is a Kalamazoo

While catchy for song lyrics (ask Bob Seger), Kalamazoo is also a real place with a vibrant, diverse community. Whether looking to get outside, visit a museum or find a new place to eat or play, this college town offers a welcoming place for families to live.

What to do in Kalamazoo With Kids

Kalamazoo is bursting with fun, family activities across a wide variety of experiences:

HISTORY: Bronson Park (named after founder Titus Bronson) is a favorite stop among families. Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Bronson Park in 1856.

FUN: Downtown Kalamazoo is a special place at Christmas time. Visit Santa at the Epic Center and take a stroll down Candy Cane Lane.

FOOD: Kalamazoo is a foodie haven, featuring cuisine from all over the world. Locals love the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, annual Ribfest and food truck rallies.

OUTDOORS: Kalamazoo offers an outdoor pool, splash pad, and plenty of parks to play outside.

Whether you live in this awesome city or are just visiting, this article features the best of the best for families in Kalamazoo.

City of Kalamazoo

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DEMOGRAPHICS

What it’s Like to Live in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo offers something for everyone: shopping, food, parks, museums, and a local college town all provide activities for families to enjoy.

Life in Kalamazoo

Why people love to live here:

Downtown Kalamazoo features museums, diverse cuisine and plenty of shopping. Add live music, parades and art hopping events, and you can see why many visit this dynamic city.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum is a family favorite: it’s big on history and science through hands-on learning, and easy on wallets (admission is free).

Holiday shopping is made easier with the Holly Jolly Trolley. This festive ride dresses up for the holidays and makes winter extra special.

You should know: Kalamazoo is home to many educational institutions including a private university (Kalamazoo College), a public university (Western Michigan Univesity) and a community college (Kalamazoo Valley Community College).

Kalamazoo Public Schools offer the Kalamazoo Promise, an anonymously funded college scholarship program available to KPS graduates.

Kalamazoo

Population: 76,497

Schools:
Kalamazoo Public Schools
Kalamazoo Covenant Academy

Known For:
» Kalamazoo Mall
» Do-Dah Parade
» Western Michigan University
» Bell’s Brewery
» Gibson & Heritage Guitars
» The Upjohn Company

Important Message: Area businesses are working to implement procedures based on the new safety guidelines. For each of the attractions and events we mention, we include a link to the business website. Please use this link to confirm the details, hours of operation and any requirements guests must follow before visiting. Thank You!

THINGS TO DO

01 – Shop and Dine on the Kalamazoo Mall

Kalamazoo Mall
N Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Opened in 1957, the Kalamazoo Mall was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States. Take a leisurely stroll downtown and stop for a coffee, dine outdoors for lunch, or shop the many locally-owned boutiques.

The Kalamazoo Mall hosts Art on the Mall each summer, where pottery, painting, sculptures, and other media are on display from local and regional artists.

Downtown Kalamazoo Mall

Photo: Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership

02 – Splash and Swim in the Kik Pool

Kik Pool
1018 Walter St, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Cool off in the only 50-meter outdoor swimming pool in the Kalamazoo area, offering water play, aqua fitness, swimming lessons and birthday parties. The Kik Pool is named after the former head of the Kalamazoo Parks Department, Nicholas Kik Jr.

After you’ve dried off, head over to Upjohn Park’s boundless playground, where all ages and abilities are welcome to play on their rubber turfed surfaces. Upjohn Park also includes a skatepark, basketball courts, tennis courts and covered picnic tables.Kik-pool-Kalamazoo-kids-swimming

03 – Explore your Creative Side at Art Hop

Art Hop
359 S Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 203, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Immerse yourself in the local arts on the first Friday of every month with Art Hop downtown. The Kalamazoo Arts Council organizes this free, public event where local artists display their work and patrons can “hop” from booth to booth to enjoy live music, vendors, and interact with many creative minds.

04 – Learn Hands-On at Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Kalamazoo Valley Museum
230 N Rose St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

The KVM is a local favorite for so many reasons: free admission, children’s area, regularly rotating exhibits, and a planetarium all in one, multi-level, magnificent museum. Families will move from one hands-on station to the next, learning geography, mathematics, history and other disciplines.

The planetarium features more than just stars: a variety of educational and seasonal shows play regularly on their domed ceiling.

Things to do in Kalamazoo - Museum, Zoo, Science Center

05 – Indulge Your Sweet Tooth at Sweetwater’s Donut Mill

Sweetwater’s Donut Mill
3333 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008
2138 Sprinkle Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Stop into Sweetwater’s Donut Mill for a yummy, frosting laden treat! Home to some of the most amazing donuts in Michigan, with original flavors like the grasshopper and classics from plain glazed to bavarian creme, we guarantee you’ll have a difficult time choosing just one.

Please note that donuts are not just for breakfast here: both Sweetwater’s locations are open 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

Kalamazoo Donuts

06 – Let Your Child’s Love For Reading Flourish at Bookbug

Bookbug
3019 Oakland Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

This independently-owned bookstore is for kids only. Find all of your favorite titles here, and be sure to stay for their weekly morning storytimes. Kids will also love exploring the little house in the back of the store.

If you need books for grown-ups too, stop by This is a Bookstore next door and grab food from their Table of Contents Cafe too.

Kalamazoo Bookstore

07 – Beat the Heat at the Florence Street Splash Pad

Florence Street Splash Pad
534 Florence St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Splash the summer days away at the free splash pad on Florence Street, featuring squirting frogs and a new, rubberized surface.

Florence-street-splash-pad-park

Photo: City of Kalamazoo

08 – Make Your Own Candle at Kalamazoo Candle Company

Kalamazoo Candle Company
166 S Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

The Kalamazoo Candle Company offers drop-in times at their marketplace to pour your own candle. Your personal wax creation includes scent selection and a custom label. Be sure to visit their Kids’ Day Out drop-in times too, for the youngest candle makers.

Kids Day Out Candle

09 – Experience a Nostalgic Sweet Shop at Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz Kalamazoo
125 S Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Transport yourself into a Willa Wonka-inspired daydream at Rocket Fizz Kalamazoo, where sugary sweets, sodas, puzzles, and toys create an atmosphere sure to entertain kids of all ages.  For social media fans, their Facebook page is one to follow on their latest products and silly shenanigans.

Kalamazoo Candy Shop

Photo: Rocket Fizz

10 – Go Apple Picking at VerHage Fruit Farm and Cider Mill

VerHage Fruit Farm and Cider Mill
8619 West ML Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49009

VerHage provides everything you need to experience a quintessential Michigan autumn day: apple cider, fresh donuts, u-pick apples, pumpkins, and a zip line. 

Bring the family on weekends for fun, fall activities including hayrides, jumping pad, animal barn, and a ride on Andy the Apple Train.

11 – Get your Giggles at the Do-Dah Parade

Do-Dah Parade
Downtown Kalamazoo

Since 1984, the annual Do-Dah Parade is a Kalamazoo tradition built around satire and entertainment. Every June, head downtown and collect candy as local businesses show off their funny bones and dance through the streets.

Kalamazoo Parade

12 – Paint Pottery at Art Bayou

Art Bayou
3306 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Art Bayou offers a drop-in style studio for painting pottery on Stadium Drive, featuring over 400 pottery pieces. Whether it’s a gift for a special family member or a personal keepsake, this studio is open six days a week to stop by and create your next masterpiece on a flexible schedule.

Kalamazoo Pottery Painting

Photo: Art Bayou

13 – Listen to Some Beats on Bates Alley

Beats on Bates
Bates Alley, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Grab dinner downtown and settle in for some live music every Wednesday evening with Beats on Bates. This event features new artists weekly, from June through September.

Music is not the only form of art on Bates Alley; in 2018, local artist Patrick Hershberger designed the Bates Alley Street Mural, which covers the street in beautiful, watery waves.

Bates Alley Mural

14 – Tour the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
 314 S Park St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 

Visit the KIA and browse their vast collection; over 4700 pieces of art are included in their permanent collection. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts also teaches classes and camps for all ages in a variety of media.

Kids will want to head downstairs to the Upjohn Mason Grandchildren Interactive Gallery, where hand-on activities with pegboards, magnets and books encourage learning through play.

15 – Play in Bronson Park

Bronson Park
200 W South St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Bronson Park holds four seasons of activities for local families. From live concerts and food truck rallies to winter strolls through Candy Cane Lane, this park merits visits all year long.  

Candy Cane Lane

16 – Cheer for the Broncos at Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University Athletics
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Living in a college town has its benefits. Whether it’s football, hockey or another sport, Western Michigan University offers a number of fun opportunities to watch sporting events together as a family. Be sure to snag a photo with Buster Bronco if you see him!

Western Michigan Football

17 – Hike the Trails at the Kalamazoo Nature Center

Kalamazoo Nature Center
7000 N Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49009

The Kalamazoo Nature Center offers 14 miles of trails for families to explore. Trails are labeled for ease of use with both distances and difficulty levels. In the warmer weather, stop by Nature’s Playground after your hike to cool off with some water play.

The KNC is also a fantastic source for nature education; check their schedule for children’s storytimes and programs.

Water Play

18 – Conquer Your Fear of Heights at Climb Kalamazoo

Climb Kalamazoo
136 S Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo MI 49007

Test your rock climbing skills at the indoor mountain climbing gym in downtown Kalamazoo. Climbers of all aptitudes and ages are welcome, starting at just three years old.  

Photo: Climb Kalamazoo

19 – Tantalize your Barbecued Tastebuds with Ribfest

Kalamazoo Ribfest
145 E Water St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

For over 30 years, Kalamazoo Ribfest pairs great food with live music downtown at Arcadia Creek Festival Place. Local and national vendors provide ribs and sides to fill your belly, while live bands perform on stage.

This three-day event is a Kalamazoo tradition since 1985.

20 – Visit Storytime at the Library

Kalamazoo Public Library
Central: 315 Rose St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Eastwood: 1112 Gayle Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Edison: 1244 Portage St, Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Northside: 1000 W Paterson St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Your local library is a fantastic spot for storytimes; many have ones geared to toddlers or preschoolers to foster a love of reading for all ages. After storytime finishes, be sure to visit each branch’s unique play area.

21 – Snag Fresh Foods at the Farmers Market

Kalamazoo Farmers Market
1204 Bank St, Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Kalamazoo Farmers Market features over 100 vendors offering fresh produce, plants, flowers and local goods. The market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from June through November.

22 – Train the Next American Ninja Warrior at Airborne Adventure Park

 Airborne Adventure Park
5103 Portage Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49002

Airborne Adventure Park provides trampolines, a foam pit, obstacle courses and a zip line in this indoor park to engage your family in a number of different fun, physical activities.

For their youngest visitors, Airborne also offers Toddler Time for kiddos four and under to play without the big kids.

23 – Visit Santa at the Epic Center

Santa’s Workshop (Epic Center)
359 S Kalamazoo Mall Ste 104, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Santa and Mrs. Claus make an annual trip to visit local families at the Epic Center downtown, in the old Jacobson’s building. This free visit includes writing Santa letters, cookie decorating, craft making and taking photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Girl visit Santa Kalamazoo Christmas

24 – Watch  a Show at Miller Auditorium

Miller Auditorium
1341 Theatre Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Located on Western Michigan University’s campus, Miller Auditorium features shows for families or a date night away: broadway productions, comedy events, family shows, and live concerts are on the schedule at this performing arts venue.

25 – Buy Some Peanuts & Crackerjack at a Growlers Game

Kalamazoo Growlers
251 Mills St, Kalamazoo, MI 49048

The Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team offers fun and excitement from the Northwoods League, a premier summer collegiate baseball league.

Fans can expect a lot of games in a short season: the Growlers play 72 games in 77 days, giving many opportunities to catch a game at Homer Stryker Field.

26 – Ride the Holly Jolly Trolley

Holly Jolly Trolley
Downtown Kalamazoo

Families will enjoy free rides downtown on this old fashioned trolley, decked out for the Christmas season.

This trolley may make more appearances in the future: in 2019, the trolley expanded its holiday schedule to include the “Trolley of Terror” for Halloween.

Downtown Kalamazoo Holly Jolly Trolley

27 – Strike up Some Fun at Revel and Roll West

Revel and Roll West
4500 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Revel and Roll West is a one-stop-shop for arcade games, bowling and laser tag. Families will also enjoy their laneside service, featuring scratch dishes (including specialty Detroit style pizzas) and full bar.

28 – Buy New Shoes with a Guaranteed Fit at Little Chick

Little Chick Shoe Shop
1924 Whites Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Open since 1938, Little Chick Shoe Shop is a shoe store for kids only that will transport you back in time with handwritten receipts and shopping history on index cards.

All of this history comes with a long-standing policy: all shoes are guaranteed to fit. If a child outgrows his shoes within their policy’s time frame, the replacement pair is pro-rated.

Kalamazoo Kids Shoe Store

Cover photo image credit: City of Kalamazoo

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