12 Things to Do in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Kalamazoo, Michigan is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do for visitors of all ages and interests. From museums and performing arts to craft breweries and outdoor adventures, Kalamazoo offers an eclectic mix of attractions and activities.

ActivityDescription
Kalamazoo Valley Museum & PlanetariumOffers exhibits on science, technology, art, and history, along with a planetarium.
Bronson ParkA central park with landmarks, hosting community events and concerts.
Miller AuditoriumA venue for various performances, located at Western Michigan University.
Local BreweriesKalamazoo has over 20 craft breweries, famously known as the Brew Zoo.
Kalamazoo Institute of ArtsAn art museum with a wide collection, hosting various art-related events.
Kalamazoo Growlers BaseballWatch the local baseball team in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Gibson Mandolin-Guitar FactoryA historical site offering insights into the instrument-making process.
Air Zoo Aerospace & Science MuseumFeatures over 85 aircraft and interactive exhibits, catering to all ages.
Kalamazoo River Valley TrailA scenic trail for hiking and biking along the Kalamazoo River.
Downtown Kalamazoo’s Pedestrian MallOffers a variety of shops, boutiques, and dining options in an open-air setting.
Children’s MuseumEngaging activities and exhibits for children, focusing on science, math, and art.
Fancy Nancy Exhibit at the MuseumAn interactive exhibit based on the children’s book character, offering various playful and educational areas.

This article will highlight 12 of the top things to do in Kalamazoo to help you make the most out of your visit. We’ll cover family-friendly destinations, cultural and historical sites, performing arts, outdoor recreation, shopping districts, and more. Read on to start planning your Kalamazoo itinerary!

1. Visit the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Planetarium

Name and Location: The Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Planetarium is located at 230 N. Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. The museum is housed in a historic building that was once the Central Fire Station.

History and Significance: The Kalamazoo Valley Museum was founded in 1881 and has been at its current location since 1996. The museum’s mission is to engage the community in exploring the past, present, and future through exhibits and programs that focus on history, science, and technology.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum can expect a wide variety of engaging exhibits and interactive displays. The museum features a full-dome planetarium, a history gallery that explores the history of Kalamazoo and southwest Michigan, and a science gallery that includes hands-on exhibits related to physics, biology, and more. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits and special events throughout the year.

Visitor Information: The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Admission to the museum is free, but there is a small fee for planetarium shows. The museum is fully accessible and offers a variety of amenities, including a gift shop and a café. Parking is available in nearby lots and on the street.

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is one of the city’s top attractions, offering fascinating exhibits spanning science, technology, art, and history. This family-friendly museum features permanent galleries like the Michigan Habitats area with recreated natural environments from around the state.

The popular planetarium hosts public shows about space, planets, constellations and more using an advanced digital projection system. The museum complex also includes the Kalamazoo Valley History Museum chronicling local history. With so much to see, you can easily spend hours exploring the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

2. Stroll Through Bronson Park

Name and Location: Bronson Park is located in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, bounded by South, Academy, Rose, and Park Streets. The park is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

History and Significance: Bronson Park was established in 1829 and is the oldest public park in Kalamazoo. The park is named after Titus Bronson, the founder of Kalamazoo. Over the years, the park has been home to a variety of events and activities, including concerts, festivals, and political rallies.

What to Expect: Visitors to Bronson Park can expect a beautiful and well-maintained green space with a variety of features and amenities. The park includes a large fountain, a bandshell, and a variety of monuments and sculptures, including a statue of Abraham Lincoln. The park is also home to a number of annual events, including the Kalamazoo Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Kalamazoo Holiday Parade.

Visitor Information: Bronson Park is open year-round and is free to the public. The park is easily accessible by foot or bike, and is located just a short walk from many downtown shops and restaurants. Restroom facilities are available in nearby buildings. Visitors should be aware that the park can be busy during special events and peak times.

In the heart of downtown Kalamazoo lies Bronson Park, a green public park filled with trees, walking paths, and benches. The park features landmarks like the Fountain of the Pioneers and the Widow White Memorial Fountain while also hosting community events and summer concerts.

Take an afternoon stroll on the tree-lined pathways and stop to people watch, have a picnic, or let kids play on the grassy lawns. Bordered by historic buildings and within blocks of shops and restaurants, Bronson Park makes a perfect spot to relax during your time in Kalamazoo.

3. See a Performance at Miller Auditorium

Name and Location: Miller Auditorium is located on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The auditorium is located at 2200 Auditorium Drive, just off of West Michigan Avenue.

History and Significance: Miller Auditorium was built in 1968 and is named after James W. Miller, the third president of Western Michigan University. The auditorium has a seating capacity of over 3,000 and has hosted a wide variety of performances over the years, including Broadway shows, concerts, and lectures.

What to Expect: Visitors to Miller Auditorium can expect a state-of-the-art performance venue with excellent acoustics and sightlines. The auditorium hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year, including touring Broadway shows, concerts by national and international artists, and performances by local groups and organizations.

Visitor Information: Tickets for events at Miller Auditorium can be purchased online, by phone, or in person at the auditorium box office. Parking is available in nearby lots and garages, and the auditorium is accessible by public transportation. The auditorium offers a variety of amenities, including concessions and a gift shop. Visitors should be aware that security measures may be in place for certain events.

Miller Auditorium on Western Michigan University’s campus is southwest Michigan’s premier performing arts venue, hosting Broadway musicals, ballet, concerts, speakers and other events. With gorgeously restored architecture and excellent acoustics, Miller Auditorium provides an incredible space to take in world-class entertainment.

Upcoming shows for 2023 include Broadway’s Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, famed dance company Pilobolus, iconic rock band Chicago, and many more. Check the Miller schedule during your Kalamazoo visit for a chance to enjoy this renowned performing arts hall.

4. Explore LOCAL Breweries

Name and Location: Kalamazoo is home to a thriving craft beer scene, with several local breweries located throughout the city. Some of the most popular breweries include Bell’s Brewery, Latitude 42 Brewing Company, and One Well Brewing.

History and Significance: Kalamazoo has a long history of brewing, dating back to the mid-19th century. In recent years, the city has become known for its vibrant craft beer scene, with many local breweries gaining national recognition for their unique and high-quality brews.

What to Expect: Visitors to Kalamazoo’s local breweries can expect a wide variety of unique and flavorful beers, ranging from traditional styles to experimental and seasonal brews. Many breweries also offer tours and tastings, allowing visitors to learn more about the brewing process and sample a variety of different beers.

Visitor Information: Many of Kalamazoo’s local breweries are located in or near downtown, making them easily accessible by foot or bike. Some breweries also offer food menus, while others allow visitors to bring in their own food or order from nearby restaurants. Visitors should be aware that some breweries may have limited hours or may require reservations for tours and tastings.

From Bell’s Brewery to Tibbs Brewing Company, Kalamazoo lays claim to over 20 craft breweries giving this Michigan town the nickname Brew Zoo. Sample locally crafted pale ales, stouts, wheat beers and more at brewpubs and tasting rooms centered downtown or sprinkled around the region. Some kid and dog friendly options like Boatyard Brewing Co. offer outdoor beer gardens too.

A few highlights beyond Bell’s Eccentric Café include samplings at Rupert’s Brew House, Food Dance Restaurant, Olde Peninsula and Latitude 42 among others. Discover why Kalamazoo draws hops lovers from around the country.

5. Take in Art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Name and Location: The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) is located at 314 S. Park Street in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. The museum is housed in a modern building that was designed by architect Louis Kahn.

History and Significance: The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts was founded in 1924 and has been at its current location since 1961. The museum’s collection includes over 5,000 works of art from a variety of cultures and time periods, with a particular focus on American art and art from the Kalamazoo area.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts can expect a wide variety of engaging exhibits and programs related to the visual arts. The museum’s permanent collection includes works by artists such as Dale Chihuly, Andy Warhol, and Mary Cassatt, as well as a significant collection of Inuit art. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year, as well as classes, workshops, and special events.

Visitor Information: The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, and free for children under 12. The museum is fully accessible and offers a variety of amenities, including a gift shop and a café. Parking is available in nearby lots and on the street.

Devoted to collecting, preserving and interpreting visual art, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts contains an impressive collection spanning thousands of years and a variety of mediums. European and American paintings, contemporary pieces, interactive elements – you’ll find it all spread across this museum’s multiple galleries and rotating exhibitions.

Museum events like the annual Art Fair showcasing local artists and Art Hop evenings with art demos, music and food trucks, make visiting even more fun. Stop in to explore 5 floors filled with over 4000 distinctive artworks.

6. Cheer on the Kalamazoo Growlers Baseball Team

Name and Location: The Kalamazoo Growlers are a collegiate summer baseball team that plays at Homer Stryker Field in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The stadium is located at 251 Mills Street, just east of downtown.

History and Significance: The Kalamazoo Growlers were founded in 2014 and are a member of the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate baseball league that features top college players from around the country. The team has quickly become a popular attraction in Kalamazoo, known for its fun and family-friendly atmosphere.

What to Expect: Visitors to a Kalamazoo Growlers game can expect a fun and exciting atmosphere, with a variety of on-field promotions and giveaways throughout the game. The stadium features a variety of concessions and merchandise, as well as a kids’ play area and other family-friendly amenities.

Visitor Information: Kalamazoo Growlers games are typically played in the evening, with start times ranging from 6:35pm to 7:05pm. Tickets can be purchased online or at the stadium box office, with prices starting at $9 for general admission. Parking is available in nearby lots and on the street. Visitors should be aware that games may be subject to weather delays or cancellations.

Since 2014, the Kalamazoo Growlers collegiate summer baseball team has brought fun family entertainment to Homer Stryker Field downtown. This Northwoods League team offers an affordable and lively atmosphere for taking in America’s favorite pastime between May and August.

Covered seating protects from summer sun while kids can roam freely around the stadium. Enjoy popular theme nights, giveaways, mid-inning entertainment as you cheer for the Growlers. Catch rising baseball stars and a great ballgame with views of the city skyline.

7. Peek Inside the Historic Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Factory

Name and Location: The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Factory is located at 225 Parsons Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The factory building was originally constructed in 1917 and has been carefully preserved and restored.

History and Significance: The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company was founded in Kalamazoo in 1902 and quickly became one of the most important and influential musical instrument manufacturers in the world. The company’s Kalamazoo factory produced many of the most iconic and sought-after guitars and mandolins of the 20th century, including the Les Paul and the F-5 mandolin.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Factory can take a guided tour of the historic building and learn about the history and legacy of the Gibson company. The tour includes a look at the factory floor where Gibson instruments were once produced, as well as displays of vintage Gibson instruments and other memorabilia.

Visitor Information: Tours of the Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Factory are available by appointment only and must be booked in advance. Tours typically last about an hour and are suitable for all ages. Visitors should wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do some walking and standing. Parking is available on the street near the factory building.

Now a museum space along the Kalamazoo Valley River Trail, the Gibson Guitar Factory allows you to peek inside the birthplace of legendary instruments. Visitors can tour areas like the 1898 mandolin workshop and 1936 guitar factory to see how instruments were constructed over a century ago.

Contemporary exhibits detail the science and craftsmanship behind Gibson’s ornate creations. Music lovers and history fans alike will enjoy learning the stories behind Gibson and the Kalamazoo community that supported this iconic American brand.

8. Marvel at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum

Name and Location: The Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum is located at 6151 Portage Road in Portage, Michigan, just south of Kalamazoo. The museum is housed in a large, modern building that includes exhibit halls, a theater, and a restoration center.

History and Significance: The Air Zoo was founded in 1977 by Pete and Suzanne Parish, who began collecting and restoring vintage aircraft as a hobby. Over time, their collection grew into one of the largest and most significant collections of historic aircraft in the world. Today, the Air Zoo is a major educational and cultural resource for the Kalamazoo area and beyond.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Air Zoo can expect a wide variety of engaging exhibits and interactive displays related to the history and science of aviation and space exploration. The museum’s collection includes over 100 rare and historic aircraft, as well as exhibits on topics such as the Wright brothers, World War II, and the space race. The museum also features a 4D theater, flight simulators, and a variety of hands-on activities for kids and adults.

Visitor Information: The Air Zoo is open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $16.50 for adults, $15.50 for seniors, and $13.50 for children ages 5-18. Children under 5 are free. The museum is fully accessible and offers a variety of amenities, including a gift shop and a café. Parking is available on-site.

Just 10 minutes outside downtown, the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum offers a world-class aviation experience with over 85 rare aircraft on display from early planes to modern jets. Exciting hands-on exhibits let you pilot a plane, land a space shuttle, operate flight simulators and even touch a moon rock.

Air Zoo attractions cater to daredevils who can ride a suspension swing, kids who’ll enjoy the Kid Zone and veterans who can remember aviation history in the Restoration Hangar. Film screenings, special events and a model building workshop add to the entertainment during a visit to this dynamic museum.

9. Hike & Bike the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Name and Location: The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail is a 22-mile paved trail that runs through Kalamazoo County, Michigan. The trail begins in Kalamazoo and runs east to Battle Creek, passing through several local parks and natural areas along the way.

History and Significance: The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail was first proposed in the 1970s as a way to connect the communities of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and provide a recreational resource for local residents. The first section of the trail opened in 1993, and additional sections have been added over the years. Today, the trail is a popular destination for hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail can expect a scenic and well-maintained trail that offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The trail is paved and relatively flat, making it accessible for a wide range of users. Along the way, visitors can enjoy views of the Kalamazoo River, as well as several local parks and natural areas.

Visitor Information: The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail is open year-round and is free to use. The trail is accessible from several points along its route, including Verburg Park in Kalamazoo and Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek. Parking is available at several trailheads and access points. Visitors should be aware that some sections of the trail may be closed or detoured due to maintenance or construction.

Stretching across nearly 35 miles of southern Michigan, the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail delivers stellar opportunities for outdoor recreation with its paved multi-use pathway following the winding Kalamazoo River. Walk, run, bike or blade along this trail to enjoy wooded nature views and plentiful birdlife.

Interpretive panels describe the railroad and Native American history of the landscape. Easy trail access occurs in Kalamazoo at Paterson Park or Saylor’s Landing downtown, among other entry points. Visitors can hike or bike the trail for any distance their legs can handle while appreciating the lush river valley surroundings.

10. Shop ’til You Drop at Downtown Kalamazoo’s Pedestrian Mall

Name and Location: The Kalamazoo Mall is a pedestrian mall located in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. The mall runs along Burdick Street between Water Street and South Street, and includes several blocks of shops, restaurants, and public spaces.

History and Significance: The Kalamazoo Mall was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States, opening in 1959. The mall was designed by renowned architect Victor Gruen and was intended to revitalize the downtown area and create a vibrant public space for the community. Today, the mall remains a popular destination for shopping, dining, and people-watching.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Kalamazoo Mall can expect a lively and vibrant atmosphere, with a variety of shops, restaurants, and public spaces to explore. The mall features a mix of local and national retailers, as well as several unique and independent shops. The mall also includes several public art installations and performance spaces, as well as a farmers market during the summer months.

Visitor Information: The Kalamazoo Mall is open year-round and is free to visit. The mall is easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transportation, and parking is available in nearby garages and on side streets. Visitors should be aware that some shops and restaurants may have limited hours or may be closed on certain days of the week.

Connecting Kalamazoo’s main downtown thoroughfares lies the open-air Pedestrian Mall lined with trees, benches, gardens and over 60 shops, boutiques and dining spots. Retail favorites found here include the Black Owl Café bookstore, Ministry of Metal music shop, Confections with Lemon clothing, and more.

The eclectic mix of stores makes for prime wandering as you shop for clothes, jewelry, Kalamazoo souvenirs, records and books. Street performers and special events like ladies’ night out or craft fairs further enhance downtown visits. Post-shopping, grab a bite or relax by the central fountain.

11. Take the Kids to Discover Kalamazoo

Name and Location: Discover Kalamazoo is a children’s museum located at 4421 South Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The museum is housed in a colorful and inviting building that was designed with kids in mind.

History and Significance: Discover Kalamazoo was founded in 1997 as a way to provide hands-on learning experiences for children and families in the Kalamazoo area. The museum’s mission is to inspire a love of learning and exploration through play and discovery.

What to Expect: Visitors to Discover Kalamazoo can expect a wide variety of interactive exhibits and activities designed to engage and educate children. The museum features exhibits on topics such as science, art, music, and engineering, as well as a toddler area and a outdoor play space. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs and special events throughout the year.

Visitor Information: Discover Kalamazoo is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $8 for adults and children over the age of 1. Children under 1 are free. The museum is fully accessible and offers a variety of amenities, including a gift shop and a picnic area. Parking is available on-site.

At this children’s museum designed for young visitors, kids can let imaginations run wild across multiple themed areas devoted to science, math and art. Budding chemists will love the lab for mixing unusual concoctions.

Pint-size artists can craft projects in the art studio while young builders construct structures with giant foam blocks. Interactive exhibits teach concepts around mechanics, health, geology and more through sensory play. Parents will appreciate the activities that engage bodies and minds. With daily programs and seasonal attractions, Discover Kalamazoo makes indoor family fun easy.

12. Tour the Fancy Nancy Exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Name and Location: The Fancy Nancy Exhibit is a temporary exhibit at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, located at 230 N. Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. The exhibit is based on the popular children’s book series by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser.

Opening at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in 2023, the Fancy Nancy exhibit invites families to explore interactive environments inspired by the beloved children’s book character Fancy Nancy. Within six rooms decked out in vibrant décor and featuring exciting hands-on components, kids can host a puppet show, design fancy jewelry, play dress up, take tea in a giant tree house and more.

As one of only three museums hosting this touring exhibit based on the best-selling book series, Kalamazoo offers a must-do experience for young visitors through January 2024. Kids and parents alike will fancy this delight-filled Fancy Nancy destination.

Conclusion

Boasting vibrant culture, history, arts, and outdoor spaces galore, Kalamazoo delivers wonderful getaways where midwestern charm meets diverse attractions. Families, couples and solo travelers alike will discover memorable activities while exploring this southwest Michigan city.

From museum hopping to craft brewery sampling to baseball games and river valley trail adventures, Kalamazoo offers experiences to suit travelers of all interests. Use this guide highlighting 12 top things to do in Kalamazoo to jumpstart your travel plans to make the most of your upcoming visit. Whether you’re looking for performing arts shows, eclectic shopping, funky restaurants or outdoor escapes, Kalamazoo won’t disappoint.

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