What it’s Like to Live in Kalamazoo Neighborhoods and Surrounding Cities

SWMI Neighborhoods have Something for Every Family

Southwest Michigan is PACKED with amazing cities and schools- perfect for families.

Whether you’re looking for more acreage in a quieter, more rural setting or a busier, walkable downtown option, you can find it here. Plus multiple colleges and oodles of parks and trails make this region pretty special.

We may be biased, but we think SWMI is one of the best places to live. Read on for more about our favorite region of the mitten.

Southwest Michigan Map

City of Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is a diverse, family-friendly college town. In addition to Western Michigan University’s campus, Kalamazoo is home to a vibrant downtown with boutiques, unique restaurants, holiday celebrations, food trucks and festivals.

Education is highly valued here with a public university (Western Michigan), a private university (Kalamazoo College) and a community college (Kalamazoo Valley).

Kalamazoo Public Schools supports higher education through its free college tuition program, the Kalamazoo Promise.

City of Kalamazoo & Neighborhoods

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

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

» Kalamazoo Public Schools

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

 Kalamazoo Suburbs

Kalamazoo’s neighboring cities and townships all offer their own unique attractions. Two communities offer zoos: Binder Park Zoo (animals) in Battle Creek and the Air Zoo (aircraft and spacecraft) in Portage.

Northern neighbor Allegan hosts a weeklong county fair that is one of the biggest in the state. Residents to the east can live on one of the largest inland lakes in the Mitten in Gull Lake.

We’ve got the scoop on what makes each of these places a fantastic place to visit and live. Read on for why so many families love Kalamazoo’s surrounding cities.

City of Portage & Neighborhoods

Portage is a fantastic city for families offering parks, lakes, shopping, restaurants, and an engaging aerospace museum.

Celery Flats Grain Elevator

Why people love to live here: The Portage Bikeway connects over 50 miles of bike paths throughout the city. There are even sections that are cleared in winter, allowing biking year-round.

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.

You should know: Fortune 500 company Stryker has its world headquarters in Portage.

Portage Public Schools are the only schools in the area to offer the International Baccalaureate program for juniors and seniors.

» Portage Public Schools

Known For:
» Celery City
» Air Zoo
» The Stryker Company
» Ramona Beach
» Portage Bike Trail

City of Battle Creek & Neighborhoods

There’s a lot for families to love about living in Battle Creek. Outdoor recreational opportunities, historical sites, and year-round entertainment are some of the best that Battle Creek has to offer.

things to do in Battle Creek MI

Why people love to live here: Battle Creek’s vibrant downtown community offers art galleries, entertainment, quaint restaurants and plenty of shops. You’ll find a small-town feel coupled with urban amenities.

A big local draw is Binder Park Zoo. Families line up to feed Ce-Ce the giraffe (she’s known to be the first one at the feeding deck each morning.)

Families also flock to Leila Arboretum and their dozens of gardens and walkways. You’ll find the Kaleidoscope Gardens and fantasy forest – perfect for exploring.

You should know: The city of Battle Creek features 29 parks and 26 miles of paved bike and walkways throughout the city.

Battle Creek’s National Cereal Festival is an annual event held in June. Fun fact – cereal was invented by accident! W.K. Kellogg and J.H. Kellogg invented it in the basement of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.

» Battle Creek Public Schools

Known for:
» Birthplace of the cereal industry, “Cereal City
» Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival
» Binder Park Zoo
» The Underground Railroad and Sojourner Truth

East Communities: Gull Lake, Richland & Augusta

The communities east of Kalamazoo offer a fantastic lake, a large variety of mom and pop style restaurants, and beautiful trails and parks.

Gull Lake Sunset

Why people love to live here: It’s hard to ignore the very large and watery reason why Gull Lake and surrounding communities are special. This lake offers something for everyone: boating, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing are all fun options in these crystal clear waters.

The W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary sells buckets of corn for visitors to feed their waterfowl. They also care for injured raptors who cannot live safely in the wild.

The Sherman Lake YMCA is a popular camping destination for both summer camps and school field trips.

The Kalamazoo Balloon Fest attracts hot air balloon enthusiasts to Gull Meadow Farms annually. Stay late for their evening “glow” launches to light up the sky.

You should know: In 1951, neighboring community Galesburg joined Augusta to form Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools. To this day, the primary school and high school reside in Galesburg, and the middle school is in Augusta.

Historically, Gull Lake was a popular destination for famous families, including the Upjohns (Kalamazoo) and the Kelloggs (Battle Creek).

» Galesburg – Augusta Community Schools
» Gull Lake Community Schools

Known for:
» W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary
» Fort Custer Recreation Area
» Sherman Lake YMCA
» Gull Lake
» Gull Meadow Farms
» Kalamazoo Balloon Fest
» Richland Farmers Market

North Communities: Plainwell, Otsego, Allegan & Fennville

Head north of Kalamazoo and you will find an abundance of outdoor activities: splash pads, kayaking, skiing and zip-lining are just a few options in these communities.


Why people love to live here: Bittersweet Ski Resort and its 350 foot vertical draws skiers and snowboarders from all over the Kalamazoo area annually.

Thurl Cook Park is the ultimate sledding spot for winter, featuring a 100-foot lighted hill.

You should know: The Otsego volunteer fire department started in 1866 and is still in operation today.

Pharmaceutical company Perrigo is headquartered in Allegan since its inception in 1887.

The Allegan Community Players is the oldest theatre company in Michigan.

Fennville is part of the American Viticultural Area or AVA, a designated wine-grape growing region.

Plainwell is known as the “Island City” due to a power canal diverting a portion of the Kalamazoo River around downtown Plainwell.

» Allegan Public Schools
» Fennville Public Schools
» Otsego Public Schools
» Plainwell Community Schools

Known for:
» Plainwell Ice Cream
» Dean’s Ice Cream
» Allegan Event
» Perrigo
» Second Street Bridge
» Goose Festival
» Crane Orchards

What are your favorite places to visit and live in SWMI?

Leave us a comment with some of your top picks in the region!