An Edible Book Festival? Plus 25 Other FREE (or Affordable) Things to do in Kalamazoo This Spring

Cheap or free things for kids to do Spring

Catch Spring Fever in Kalamazoo

As soon as Cadbury pops up at the grocery store, I know what it means. It means Spring is around the corner.

After the cold winter, there is nothing like digging your hands in the dirt, seeing those first tiny buds on the trees, or stomping your boots in a rain puddle. Not to mention daring to crack that window a little bit as you drive around, since here in Michigan we put shorts on as soon as it hits 60 degrees.

You know the signs of spring, right? Local favorites, such as The Root Beer Stand and Ritters, open for the season. And, you breathe a sigh of relief not worrying about the endless winter gear and clothing every time your child heads outside.

With spring in the air, where should a family head first? With all that Kalamazoo has to offer, the options can seem overwhelming. We’ve compiled over 25 of the best and affordable activities for families.

Whether you want to kick back and relax in the sunshine, or take off and explore, there’s an activity perfect for you.

Thanks to our sponsor, Portage Pediatric Dentistry PLC.

Fun and kindness are our main focuses at Portage Pediatric Dentistry. We work hard to tailor appointments to fit everyone’s needs, creating an environment where all are welcome. We have two play rooms, one with a huge light bright and one with a large magnetic wall. You may even find where the tooth fairy lives!

Strike Out Into Nature

The trails at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery are free to the public all year round. For a small fee, kids love feeding the fish in the show pond. Borrow one of their loaded-with-fun backpacks and go for a scavenger hunt, or show up on Thursday morning for their Little Minnows Preschool Program for a guided nature program followed by a craft.

Head out to the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Kids three and under are free, and you can enjoy the Nature Center inside and out. Explore the trails on your own, or let your kids play at the natural playground. Try one of their signature programs – Preschool Explorers on Tuesdays, or Animal Encounters on Wednesdays.


Hike somewhere new at one of the 18 Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy preserves. Free and open to the public, they are a beautiful place to stretch your legs. Consider setting up a checklist with your family and aim to visit all 18 of them.

Load up the bikes and visit the Kal-Haven Trail State Park. This 33-mile long former railroad bed crosses over bridges, passes through towns and goes all the way to South Haven for the truly adventurous explorers.

Go birding with your binoculars and your field guide at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. See and feed the waterfowl, view the raptors and gamebirds on display, or just come for a picnic outdoors.

Buy a couple of seed packets and let your kids have a plot of land to create their own flower or veggie garden. For added fun, let them add rocks and decorations to make a fairy or a toad hideaway.

planting in the spring - free fun ideas

Put on your raincoat and galoshes and go on a rain puddle walk. Hop, skip, and jump to your heart’s content.

Spring for a Fun Time Indoors

Moms and kids love Just Move Fitness for their Just Move Playdates at their location (and offered for FREE through the Portage District Library). Try the Little Movers Club, which is supervised play while you get fitness to your day.

Take the family swimming on the weekend at WMU’s Gabel Natatorium. There’s a shallow end full of pool toys, lanes to use, and even an inflatable obstacle course.

WMU Gabel swim

Sad to see winter end? Take the family to Open Skate at the Lawson Ice Arena on Saturday afternoons.

Shop for new and yet old duds at area Mom2Mom and Spring Consignment Sales.

It’s music to your ears at the FREE Crybaby Concert Series, where kids and babies are welcome to make as much noise, or as little, as they wish.

You don’t have to spring for a movie at Flick’s Family Film Festival at Celebration Cinema, where kids 12 and under get in free to select movies and times.

Move It to a Museum

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is always free. Visit one of their traveling exhibits (Wicked Plants and then Ocean Bound) or catch a planetarium show for only $3. Kids will love their hands-on exhibits like the News Station, Diner, or the Innovation Gallery. Little ones will especially enjoy the Children’s Landscape and learning diversity as well as dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up.

Get your art on at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. Kids 12 and under are always free, and they will love all of the hands-on art activities in their downstairs Interactive Gallery after they’re done exploring the exhibits.

May is the month to visit local hotspots with the reciprocal Southwest Michigan Cultural Membership Exchange. If you have a membership to one of the following, it will get you into any of the others for FREE for the entire month: Air Zoo, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Gilmore Car Museum, Binder Park Zoo, and the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary and Manor House.


Sip, Slurp, and Sprawl Your Heart Out

Drive your car in for a homemade root beer and the best hot dog in town at The Root Beer Stand.

Kick back with some frozen custard at Ritter’s in Portage and let the kids run off their energy at the playground behind the building. Or choose frozen yogurt and over fifty toppings at Y’OPA. Then sit outside on their patio and give the kids room to stretch.

Ice Cream Playground for Families Kalamazoo

Become Berry Interesting from Smoothie King (they offer a Friday $5 promo on smoothies) or go bananas with a Chocolate Chimp at Tropical Smoothie and head to the park to sip in the sunshine.

Head to one of Kalamazoo’s favorite family-friendly breweries to see what’s on tap. Kid menus, kid play areas, and outdoor seating are only some of the reasons that Kalamazoo rocks what they brew.

Pack a lunch and a checkered blanket and head to one of our favorite picnic spots in Kalamazoo.

Hop On Over to One of These Free or Affordable Special Events

Stroll through the market and say hello to your favorite farmers at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market opening day on May 2 or the Portage Farmers Market opening May 10.

U Pick Fruit

Portage is hosting it’s 12th Annual Green-a-Thon on Sunday, April 19. This FREE Earth Day event includes exhibits, games, giveaways, and a sneak peek into the Portage Farmers Market for 2020.

Head to the Bank Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday, April 18 for the Kalamazoo Earth Day Festival. Celebrating Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, there will be games, music, food, and children’s activities.

View the deliciousness within the pages or enter your own creation at the Edible Book Festival on Friday, April 3. Prizes awarded for children and adults.

Kalamazoo Book Arts Center

Photo: Crystal Shaulis

Step back in time at the annual Kalamazoo Living History Show at the Expo Center from March 21-22. Crafts, reenactments, shopping – it’s fun for all ages, and educational too.

Visit your favorite bunny, and hunt for eggs at one of the many Easter events around Kalamazoo.

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FREE (or Cheap) Spring Fun

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