Moving to Kalamazoo? Family Guide to Things to Do, Doctors, Childcare & More

moving to Kalamazoo family guide

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

Consider this your official welcome to “The Zoo.”

My husband and I moved here a decade ago, excited to return to the Mitten after our stint in Cleveland. However, we were unfamiliar with the west side of the state.

Without any family or friends here, we were a bit worried about moving here and making connections.

Those worries quickly faded away. It wasn’t long before Kalamazoo became our new home: neighbors introduced themselves, local shoppers happily pointed me in the right aisles at Hardings, and I embraced this vibrant and caring community.

And after our first child was born, I found a local mom’s group, KZOOKIDS, and a network of supportive, local families. I was then inundated (in a good way) with meal trains, play dates and a village of parents.

Things to Do in Kalamazoo
Considering moving to Kalamazoo? SWMI is full of family resources and activities.

The Guide to Moving to Kalamazoo

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

The logistics of finding schools, sports teams, activities and doctors can be overwhelming- but we can help.

Consider this guide your one-stop-shop for all family things to do in Kalamazoo.

Whether you’re new here or have been in Kalamazoo for many years, we hope this resource helps your family feel more connected to this amazing community.

Favorite Places in Kalamazoo With Kids

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. Try this list below of some of our favorite places to take kids locally.

You can also find local events and keep an eye out for fun family activities on the KZOOKIDS Events Calendar.

Air Zoo
Explore air and spacecraft at the Air Zoo

1 – Kalamazoo Valley Museum

This amazing, public museum is packed with exhibits and hands-on activities and has FREE admission. Take the youngest ones to the Children’s Landscape for many activities that are just the right size for little hands and big imaginations.

We also suggest snagging some tickets to a show on their domed planetarium (check schedule online).

Kids Museum Kalamazoo
Kids can be newscasters or meteorologists at Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
230 N Rose St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007

2 – The Air Zoo 

The Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum. In addition to displaying over 100 aircraft, they are also world-renowned for their aircraft restoration skills.

This favorite in Portage includes rare air and space artifacts, indoor amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators, an educational theater, and hands-on activities.

Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum
6151 Portage Rd, Portage, MI 49002

3 – Libraries

The Kalamazoo area is home to multiple locations of libraries each boasting fantastic activities. From classes and storytimes, our local libraries are a valuable resource for the community.

Portage Library Building
Portage District Library
Kalamazoo Public Library
Portage District Library

Antwerp Sunshine Library
Three Rivers Library
Comstock Township Library
Willard Library

4 – Parks & Playgrounds

Where will your kids play? Kalamazoo offers no shortage of green space. Parks, preserves and playgrounds cover Kalamazoo and its surrounding cities.

Our Best Parks and Playgrounds Guide will help you find a new favorite to explore and provides each park’s amenities, including which are toddler friendly or have ADA-accessible equipment.

Three Rivers Park
Scidmore Park (image: City of Three Rivers)
Parks + Playgrounds
Bike + Hiking Trails
Splash Pads

5 – Beaches & Lakeshore Towns

If you’re in Southwest Michigan, you are only a short drive away from MANY beaches.

With local lakes in Kalamazoo, Portage, Gull Lake and surrounding areas, we have your sandy adventures covered. And less than an hour away is beautiful Lake Michigan, adding fun destinations like South Haven and St. Joseph to your list of weekend beach adventures.

families at the beach - Ramona Park Beach
Ramona Beach Park in Portage
Favorite Beaches
South Haven
St. Joseph

Kalamazoo Education & Childcare

The city of Kalamazoo is home to a community college (KVCC), a private university (Kalamazoo College), and a public university (Western Michigan University).

If you’re moving to Kalamazoo, you’ll find the options for primary and secondary education are numerous among public, secular private, charter and religious schools.

Kalamazoo Public Schools is the largest district in the area. All KPS graduates meeting attendance and residency requirements can receive The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship.

The Kalamazoo Promise

The Kalamazoo Promise is an anonymously funded scholarship program providing up to 100% post-secondary tuition and fee assistance at over 60 eligible Michigan institutions, from colleges and universities, to trade schools and vocational programs.

Since it began in 2005, 8,794 KPS students have been eligible for The Promise, and $165 million+ in scholarships have been awarded. The Promise is just one reason why the number of high school graduates continues to grow in Kalamazoo Public Schools.

KPS Kalamazoo Public Schools
image: Kalamazoo Public Schools
KPS Kindergarten
Schools Guide
Preschools Guide
Parenting & Play Groups

Doctors & Healthcare Providers

Kalamazoo area residents are lucky to have two options for hospitals: Ascension Borgess Hospital and Bronson Methodist Hospital. Both provide families with health professionals in a wide variety of specialties for all ages.

But how can you choose the right provider for your family?

We’ve polled KZOOKIDS readers and curated a list of the best of the best in healthcare in our Top Doctors Guide. From dentists to pediatricians to OB/GYNs, you can start with a list of local favorites and find the best match for your family.

Fine Arts in Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo area is home to numerous theaters, art venues, and amazing local talent.

Whether you want a museum to browse, a local band to entertain, or a Broadway show to attend, Kalamazoo checks all of the creative boxes.

Farmers Alley
Farmers Alley Theatre

Local Kalamazoo Artisans

The first Friday of each month is a fantastic 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.

Downtown Kalamazoo Events Summer
Bates Alley in Downtown Kalamazoo

If you’re more of a traditional art museum-type person, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts delivers with regularly rotating exhibits of both famous and lesser-known (but equally awesome and local) talent.

Kalamazoo’s Music Scene

Kalamazoo has an abundance of options for music lovers. 

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

Photo with Kids State Theatre Feature Photo
Kalamazoo State Theatre

Do you love Broadway tours and plays? You’ll want to head to Miller Auditorium or Chenery Auditorium.

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

Those looking looking for live music from a more intimate venue have options too: Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Old Dog Tavern, and Shakespeare’s Pub are all local favorites to showcase small, touring bands. 

Bell’s outdoor beer garden is a favorite spot for live music (image: Bell’s)

Local Food + Dining

Kalamazoo offers an astounding variety of high-quality food from a variety of cultures. There’s truly a dish for everyone in this marvelous cuisine hub, making it a foodie haven.

Kalamazoo Restaurants

Dessert first, right? Welcome to the home of Sweetwater’s Donut Mill, the best donuts you’ll ever eat (we may be a bit biased).

They have three locations: two in Kalamazoo, and one in Battle Creek. You’ll also find an independent franchise (SW’s Donuts) in Plainwell.

Kalamazoo Donuts
Sweetwater’s Donuts

But don’t stop with donuts. Kalamazoo has restaurants for every taste and appetite: from hamburgers to Pad Thai to soul food, this region is bursting with delicious options.

Our readers voted for the best restaurants in Kalamazoo and many of the categories were highly contested! A testament to the vast talent of our local chefs and bakers.

Breakfast Restaurants
Coffee Shops
Outdoor Dining
Ice Cream
Kids Eat Free

Farmers Markets + Locally Grown Food

It’s easy to shop locally and support small businesses and farmers in Kalamazoo. With farmers markets, CSAs and U-Pick fruit farms, there are tons of great options to purchase locally grown food.

Farmers markets also offer local flowers and plants, clothing, wine and food trucks- and they aren’t just on the weekends! Many cities offer a weeknight market too. Most farmers markets open in May and run through the fall.

U-pick fruit Kalamazoo
Farmers Markets
U-Pick Fruit
Apple Orchards
Pumpkin Patches

The Kalamazoo Mall

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.

The Kalamazoo Mall is provides a fun way to spend the day downtown with family or friends and see a wide variety of unique, locally-owned businesses.

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, candy shops and an indoor rock-climbing gym.

Downtown Kalamazoo Mall
Kalamazoo Candy Shop
Find candy and a massive soda selection at Rocket Fizz
Try indoor rock climbing at Climb Kalamazoo

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

We believe Kalamazoo is a fantastic, family-friendly community full of both amazing places AND people.

So if you’re moving to Kalamazoo, welcome to Southwest Michigan! We’re glad you’re here!