Kalamazoo Main Entry Sign

by Jill P

“Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!”

If you are looking for a great place to take the kids, Kalamazoo is where it is at. Conveniently located between Chicago and Detroit, there are a ton of things to do with children of all ages. So whether you are on a return visit or embarking on a new excursion to Kalamazoo – check out our visitor’s guide of the top spots to make your time spent in Kalamazoo a memorable one.

Here are our top picks for a three-day visit to the Kalamazoo:


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Kalamazoo Valley Museum

The Kalamazoo Valley is a hands-on, role playing activities museum. They have many interactive exhibits focusing on science, technology and history. It is specifically targeted towards families and is a great place to spend the afternoon with the kids. There are three floors to explore with a planetarium, tons of hands-on exhibits, and a preschool room. All of this for FREE! Yep, that’s right. General admission all day is free!


Kalamazoo Mall

The Kalamazoo Mall

Did you know The Kalamazoo Mall opened on August 19, 1959, as the nation’s first downtown pedestrian mall? A short walk from the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the Kalamazoo Mall offers year-round a variety of reasons to take a stroll. From sidewalk sales, parades, holiday events – this bustling vibrant area appeals to all ages.


(photo courtesy of Tara Fletcher Photography)

The Root Beer Stand

After all of that exploring, it is always fun to visit a drive up diner. Open seasonally in the spring through early fall is the Root Beer Stand. They feature old-fashion root beer and hot dogs with two locations (3100 Portage Road and 4400 South Westnedge Ave.) in Kalamazoo.



Air Zoo-overhead

Air Zoo

Located near the Kalamazoo airport is the home of the renowned Air Zoo – where you can spend the day immersed in all things aviation. There is a flight simulator that lets you fly a WWII fighter jet. Check all the planes exhibit that showcase both old and new plans including a SR-71 as well as the outer space exhibit. There is even a small Ferris wheel for kids. A general admission fee applies. If you are a veteran or in the military, admission is half-off and children 4 and younger are free.

Next, you’ll want to spend some time outdoors and what better place than the Kalamazoo Nature Center.



Kalamazoo Nature Center

Be one with nature at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. They have beautiful hiking trails with lovely views of nature. Home to wildflowers, birds and butterflies, it sure does not disappoint. Check out the expedition room where there are materials you can check out to take out on your hike. There is a dome tropical forest in the center with fun exhibits for children to interact with. They also have a petting zoo area for kids that have chickens, donkeys, rabbits, a pig and much more.

Food Dance

Food Dance Café

Located in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo is the renowned Food Dance Café restaurant. The Café uses the freshest, locally produced ingredients with the menu varied and changing with the season. Make sure to check out the bakery for a sweet treat such as their signature Cat’s Meow, a baked flourless chocolate torte with chocolate ganache, or their signature hot chocolate with a house blended cocoa mix.




(photo courtesy of Tara Fletcher Photography) 

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Located in downtown Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has unique pieces to see and also showcase local artisans with art pieces and crafts. The KIA is known for offering continuous events throughout the year and traveling exhibits. Not only can you view art, but if you have plans to stay in Kalamazoo a while you can create art. They offer art classes in many mediums – from painting to pottery and more. Classes are available for ages 4 to adult.



Kalamazoo Growlers /  Kalamazoo Wings

Sports fans in the family? Depending on the season, take in a hockey or baseball game.

The Kalamazoo Wings, nicknamed the K-Wings, have been a Kalamazoo tradition since 1974 and offer entertaining and engaging hockey games the entire family is sure to enjoy.


Kalamazoo GrowlersGame-Tara

(photo courtesy of Tara Fletcher Photography)

The Kalamazoo Growlers, an affiliate of the Northwoods League, offer action-packed baseball games during the summer with a variety of on-field promotions, theme nights, and overall family entertainment. Kids will love seeing the team mascot, Porter.


Sweetwater donuts

Sweetwater’s Donut Mill

All those sports, museum and interactive exhibits will have you and your family working up an appetite! If you are looking for a sweet snack, you must stop into Sweetwater’s Donut Mill. They have the best-tasting donuts and are one of the most popular stops in the Midwest. Their creative donuts concoctions resemble a mini cake – definitely worth the couple extra pounds once you taste them. Our pick – the Snickers and Blueberry Cheesecake donuts!

Nearby Attractions

If you have some extra time and don’t mind a short drive, consider a stop at one of the following attractions:


The Gilmore Car Museum

Located outside of Kalamazoo in Hickory Corner is what the Antique Automobile Magazine has called “one of the top five car museums in the nation” with over 400 automobiles sprawling over a 90-acre campus. In addition to the vast collection of vehicles, kids can explore an old-fashioned gas station, catch a glimpse of an 1890s train depot, see a vintage Disney movie set and eat in a working 1940’s-style diner.



The Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary

Another outskirt of Kalamazoo activity worthy of mention is the Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary. This reptile rescue facility is open to the public and houses over 100 alligators. It is the only ‘zoo’ of its kind within a 600-mile radius. Tour are provided and allow for an entertaining and hands-on experience. Don’t miss saying ‘Hi’ to Godzilla, a 30-year-old, 10-foot long alligator with a monster appetite.



Binder Park Zoo

Want to feed some giraffes? Visit Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek for your chance to feed these loveable and lanky friends. While there, you’ll also see zebras and antelopes where they run free together in an open space. You can feed the giraffes for a small fee. Kids will love this interaction. The zoo is quite spacious and open so you’ll have plenty of time to roam the numerous exhibits. There is a playground for children to play in and everything is very reasonably priced. Feeling a bit more adventurous? In the summer Binder Park Zoo offers a Family Safari Slumber Party – an overnight experience to learn more African animals and culture, an experience sure to delight!


Let us know what other great places are worth mentioning for our Kalamazoo visitors!