The Best Things to See and Do in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Paratrooper Jump ride at Air Zoo
Paratrooper Jump ride at Air Zoo | © Air Zoo

Sitting between Detroit and Chicago in south Michigan, Kalamazoo is one of the most famous cities in the southwest part of the state thanks to its memorable name. But there’s far more to this city than that. With a number of museums to explore, beautiful nature to enjoy and one of Michigan’s most famous breweries, Kalamazoo offers a lot to locals and visitors alike.

1. Air Zoo

Museum

Space suit at the Air Zoo
© Air Zoo

The Smithsonian-affiliated Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum has frequently been voted among the best attractions in the city. Celebrating the wonder of air and space flight through historical exhibits, amusement park-style rides, flight simulators and educational activities, it’s a world-class museum that’s also fun for everyone from history buffs to children of all ages.

2. Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Museum

The free Kalamazoo Valley Museum is a great value option for families. It’s a science, technology and history museum featuring a planetarium alongside a variety of hands-on exhibitions across three floors. Notable exhibits include a mummy that dates back to 300 BC, a giant animated globe and the history of Kalamazoo. As well as being educational for children, it hosts a lecture series and discussions for adults as well.

3. Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Museum

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© Brian Rawson-Ketchum / Flickr

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is the city’s premier destination for art lovers. As a nonprofit museum and school, it offers rotating exhibitions, lectures, events, activities and a permanent collection of nearly 5,000 pieces, as well as a wide range of art classes for all ages and skill levels. See everything from globally significant paintings, sculpture and photography to work by local artists and kids.

5. Kalamazoo Nature Center

Natural Feature

North of the city, the Kalamazoo Nature Center includes 1,100 acres of wooded, rolling countryside, as well as wetlands and prairies. Explore it all on one of the many hiking trails that are suitable for every ability level, or learn about the environment and conservation at the educational visitor center, which has programming and events throughout the year for all ages and interests.

6. Bell’s Brewery

Brewery

Kalamazoo is home to one of Michigan’s most famous breweries, Bell’s, which was started by Larry Bell in 1985. You can tour the original brewery where beers like Oberon and Two Hearted Ale were first brewed commercially, and then enjoy the end product at the General Store and Eccentric Café, which has exclusive beers among its more than 20 draft options.

7. Kalamazoo Mall

Shopping Mall

In the heart of the city, the Kalamazoo Mall is notable, as it became the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States when it opened in 1959. Running from Eleanor Street to W. Lovell Street along Burdick Street, the mall has some of the city’s most unique shops and best restaurants, as well as a variety of coffee shops and bars.

8. Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Hiking Trail, Park

If you’re looking to take in the beautiful nature around the city on foot or by bike, the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail currently has more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) to explore. From downtown, you can head north along the river through Verburg Park, Markin Glen County Park to the Kalamazoo Nature Center, or you can follow it east all the way to Comstock. The trail is still in development and will eventually be 35 miles (56 kilometers) long in total.

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