Yes, There Really is a Kalamazoo and It’s Full of Things for Families to Do

Consider this your official welcome to “The Zoo.”

Kalamazoo is made up of many neighborhoods each with its own individual flavor and vibe. No matter where you decide to live in or near Kalamazoo, you’ll love it. 

As a parent, I feel so lucky to be raising children in such a family-friendly city. Kalamazoo has an impressive amount of businesses and activities centered around a positive family environment

We are so glad to have you in our ever-growing city and we hope we can help you get settled quickly. This guide will help you fool even the natives into thinking you’ve been here your whole life.

I hope you can use my tips and tricks to love it here as much as I do. 

Moving to Kalamazoo - Resources for Families

Let Your Senses Be Your Guide Through the City

I’m going to take you on a senses-led tour which includes my personal tips for each of the five senses. 

Taste Your Way Through Kalamazoo’s Food Diverse Wonderland

Of all the places I’ve lived, Kalamazoo offers an astounding variety of high-quality food I’ve tasted all in one area. There’s truly a dish for everyone in this marvelous cuisine hub.

Dessert first right? Welcome to the home of Sweetwater’s Donut Mill, the best donuts you’ll ever eat open 24/7, seven days a week. Check out this full Donut Guide for even more local options.

Girl eating donut Kalamazoo - Families new to Kalamazoo

You’ll find that Kalamazoo is a true foodie’s Heaven. Our KZOOKids team has compiled restaurant guides that are perfect places to start; for Breakfast, Outdoor Dining, Food Allergy Friendly Dining SpotsFamily-friendly Breweries, and Coffee Hangs

Where to Get Fresh Ingredients and Local Finds

Shopping local and supporting small businesses is important to me. The community has a number of Farmers Markets and U-Pick Fruit Farms. At the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, you’ll find fresh ingredients, local flowers, bread, clothing, cheese, meat, and my husband’s personal favorite, elote. Stop in on a Saturday and the family can sample some of our best food trucks.

Girl at Kalamazoo Farmers Market - New to Kalamazoo

Touch and Explore Kalamazoo + Hands-on Activities for Kids

These activities and places are the go-to choices that are certain to bring joy to everyone from baby to adult. 

And, since Michigan weather can be unpredictable make sure to keep this full list of INDOOR PLAY options at your fingertips.

See and Experience the Talent of Local Kalamazoo Artisans

The Kalamazoo area is home to numerous theaters, art venues, and amazing local talent. This section is dedicated to the marvels you experience mainly through sight. 

The first Friday of each month is my favorite time to visit downtown. The Kalamazoo Arts Council organizes the Art Hop, a 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 various creative minds. 

Make sure to visit Bates Alley. This lighted and painted alleyway in the heart of downtown is often an accidental, and delightful, discovery.

New to Kalamazoo - Parent Guide - Visit downtown Bates Alley

 Kalamazoo Always Keeps its Sense of Humor

One of our family-favorite events is the annual Do-Dah Parade, a 35-year old tradition built around satire and entertainment. Every June, head downtown dressed up, and collect candy as local businesses show off their funny bones and dance through the streets

Parents and kids Do Dah Parade - new to Kalamazoo Guide

Shop ’til you Drop

Fun fact – did you know Kalamazoo boasts the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States?  It was erected on Burdick Street as it closed to auto traffic back in 1959.

Families new to Kalamazoo - moms shop downtown

On the mall, you’ll find a wide array of local businesses such as coffee shops, shoe stores, clothing boutiques, cocktail bars, salons, yoga/barre studios, and an indoor rock-climbing gym. My personal favorite? Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop – where you can find the largest variety of candy imaginable.

New Business

Hear the Sounds of the City with Kalamazoo’s Music Scene

Kalamazoo has an abundance of options for music and audio art lovers. 

At Wings Event Center and the Kalamazoo State Theatre, you will find mainstream musical artists and comedians touring.

Do you love Broadway tours and plays? You’ll want to head to Miller Auditorium or Chenery Auditorium. We attended the Broadway production of The Lion King at Miller last year and were blown away. 

If you’re a classical and fine arts aficionado you will surely enjoy a Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra performances. Make sure to check out the KSO’s Family Discovery Concert series, where tickets are only $5 each and are the perfect introduction to symphonic music for little ears.

 

Some of my favorite musical talents are those of local artists and small touring bands. Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Old Dog Tavern, and Shakespeare’s Pub are my go-to live music spots downtown. 

Smell the Fresh Air of the Great Outdoors

My ultimate favorite smell is fresh cut grass, followed by the smell of the wet air when you’re standing on a lakeshore at a nearby Favorite Family Beach

Where will your kids play? Lucky for you there is no shortage of preserves, parks, and playgrounds in Kalamazoo. Our Best Parks and Playgrounds Guide will help you find the closest option to home and list the amenities of each. 

Boy at Ramona Park on Ladybug - Parent Guide to Kalamazoo

Outdoor lovers will enjoy the multitude of Biking and Hiking Trails for Families. Our personal favorite is the Kalamazoo Nature Center. The trails are marked by difficulty and the landscape is beautiful. Their renovated indoor kid area has couches, books, a climbing structure, coloring stations, puzzles, and other toys on rotation. My daughter loves looking at the fish, snakes, rabbits, and other critters housed at the center. In the summer cool off at the nature’s playground water play area.

Water Play

Boredom Isn’t an Option Living in Kalamazoo

What are we going to do today? 

Truthfully, how many times have you heard that dreaded question? It can be exhausting researching or figuring out how to plan your week with kids, especially if you are new to the area. Luckily, we did the work for you. 

Take a look at our Bucket List – with family activities guaranteed to give you a head start so you’re ready with ideas all year long. 

Have a kid interested in taking a class or joining in with extracurriculars? Our Lessons & Learning Guide has ideas for all ages and interests.

You can also find local events and keep an eye out for fun family activities on the Event Calendar. It’s been the absolute biggest resource to navigating my life as a parent in Kalamazoo.

Home is Where the Heart Is, and Our Hearts are Set on Kalamazoo

Moving can be stressful and scary, and adding kids to the equation can make starting over in a new place daunting.

Parenting can be isolating in any place, but especially when you’re brand new to a town. Looking to connect with other parents and find your tribe? Check out our list of Parenting Play Groups to get started.

Working parents will love the Childcare Guide that can help you choose the best place for your daycare age children. Help find the best fit for your preschooler with our Preschool Guide.

Hopefully, this guide will paint you a picture of this beautiful area, along with helpful resources. We’re glad you’re here.

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