by Julie S
The Air Zoo is one of our favorite field trips. No matter how many times we go, there is always something new to see, and something new to experience, and that’s not even counting the rides. Here are some of our favorite spots to check out while at the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, and maybe one will become yours too!
Five Fun Spots at the Air Zoo
Big Rides, Little Rides, and Flight Simulators
The rides are what every kid notices when first flying down the cloud corridor to the open space of the museum. The ferris wheel and the bi-plane ride are perfect for little guests with an older sibling or parent, and the balloon race and paratrooper jump handle kids are great for kids slightly older. On the other side of the room, and sometimes missed by first time visitors, are the Air Zoo’s flight simulators. If you have smaller children, they offer a flight simulator that has gentle bumps and movements from the inside, with no 360 degree motion. Best of all there are two rides they can switch between, and one has you flying through a volcano! For older children and teenagers, the Air Zoo offers full motion simulators!
Play with Physics
Kids may walk by some of the new exhibits at the Air Zoo in search of the rides, but one of our favorite ways to play at the Air Zoo is the new physics exhibits scattered around the main exhibit hall. In one you build a car, bus, or truck around a plastic bottle and then turn a crank to increase pressure before pressing a button which zooms the vehicle down a track. Kids can race their creations here, and get a nice arm workout! There is also a vertical bottle launch using air pressure, a metal ring launch using an electric charge where kids can experiment against their friends to see which bottle and ring can go the highest. They also have a beginning circuit board, which is perfect for budding scientists!
Photo courtesy of Air Zoo
Blast Off into Outer Space!
The Air Zoo has a fascinating exhibit about how astronauts live in space that is largely ignored. In it, kids can see how astronauts eat, how they bathe (and use the toilet!) among other interesting things. These white pods are tucked away in the Space: Dare to Dream exhibit. Don’t forget to pop under the infinity chamber while you are there. Kids love seeing more of themselves than they can possibly count, and it’s a great way to start talking about the concept of infinity! This exhibit has some other great ways to experience history hands-on, from Galileo’s telescopes where kids can see what it would have been like to be an astronomer, and marvel at the clothes he might have worn, to seeing different ways that other cultures created calendars. To polish off your space adventure, try out some of the astronaut ice cream you can buy in the gift shop.
Be a Pilot!
Kids love to spread their arms and pretend to fly down the cloud corridor past the ticket desk. In the main exhibit hall, try your hand at one of the flight simulators listed above to get a real feel for being on a plane! Past the space room, and into the room with older aircraft (the East Wing), the Air Zoo offers two cockpits for kids to climb into, located right next to each other. Kids love hitting all of the buttons and cranking the levers. Also, not in the same room, but hidden in a nook, there’s a fun parachute backpack to try on, and it makes for great pictures! If you happen to visit in the summer months, the Air Zoo offers bi-plane rides as well, where kids can learn how to be a pilot.
Construct an Architectural Marvel!
Tucked away within a mural (follow the left-hand wall after the cloud corridor) is the Kids Area. Inside this room is the Imagination Playground, an area with huge blue foam building blocks where kids (and their adults!) can build a house, castle, animal, or anything else that their imagination can come up with. On a smaller scale are the KEVA plank creation stations located around the Air Zoo. These are long, thin, rectangular blocks that look very simple, yet these blocks teach physics, geometry, and architecture. Stunning examples of KEVA creations are located all around the exhibit hall.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Bathrooms are available in both larger rooms with changing tables.
- Drinking fountains are available.
- The Air Zoo is very stroller friendly!
- Do your kids have a question about a favorite aircraft? Volunteers are always nearby to talk about the aircraft in the Air Zoo where kids and adults can learn some fascinating things about their history.
- The Kitty Hawk Café offers a ton of lunch options for those who want to stay longer, including vegetarian.
- Children 0-4 are free! They also offer a military/veteran discount, a public safety worker discount, and a senior discount.
- The Tigers: Tracking a Legend is an amazing exhibit, full of multi-sensory exhibits and a climbing wall, but it does have an extra fee: $6 for non-members and $3 for members.
For More Information
6151 Portage Road
9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday
noon – 5:00 pm Sunday
Have a favorite part of the Air Zoo that we missed? Please feel free to share with us!