South Michigan’s Kalamazoo is more than just a university town. Nestled between Chicago and Detroit, the progressive town is famed for its unique museums, craft breweries, and a variety of family attractions. Its vibrant downtown area sets the stage for cultural opportunities, high-quality dining, and shopping, while outdoor recreation, picturesque lakes, and river valley trails can be found just outside the city gates. Thanks to its easy-going vibe, the great outdoors, and plenty of cultural attractions, this Midwestern gem oozes charm on every turn. Without further ado, here is our list of the best things to do in Kalamazoo.
1. Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum
Ranked as one of the best attractions in Kalamazoo, the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum is a great place to visit for both adults and kids. This aviation museum and amusement park is home to numerous attractions ranging from historical exhibits and flight simulators to amusement rides for the little ones and educational activities. Hop on one of the flight simulators like the rocket trip to mars and see rare planes such as the red barnstormer and wright flyer.
2. Kalamazoo Nature Center
A nature preserve with more than 1,000 acres of forests and rolling hills, Kalamazoo Nature Center is well-known for its miles of walking and hiking trails. Along the way, expect to see prairies, ponds, native wildflowers, and many other wildlife habitats. Whether you are an experienced hiker or someone who just wants to spend an hour or so enjoying nature, you will definitely find a hiking trail for your ability level. There is also the amazing Interpretive Center which is home to a variety of science displays.
3. Kalamazoo Valley Museum
One of the town’s most popular museums, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum is an amazing place to spend the day. From the family-friendly interactive exhibits like the Science in Motion gallery and Children’s Landscape to artifacts that were originally made in Kalamazoo including everything from toys and guitars to cookstoves, there are plenty of attractions at this fabulous museum to keep you entertained for at least a couple of hours.
4. Gilmore Car Museum
Looking for things to do in Kalamazoo in winter? Stop by the fascinating Gilmore Car Museum, a true paradise for all your vintage car lovers. Located in the nearby village of Hickory Corners, the museum is home to more than 300 rare and nicely-restored vehicles spread across a large campus. Expect to see models such as 1920 Pierce Arrow, 1913 Rolls Royce, Duesenbergs, and Studebakers. Apart from vintage automobiles, the museum also houses many tin toy cars and old-school motorcycles.
5. Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Art lovers visiting Kalamazoo can look forward to visiting the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, a nonprofit museum with an extraordinary 20th-century American painting and sculpture collection. The museum’s permanent collection features nearly 5,000 pieces of art including works by artists such as Deborah Butterfield and Andy Warhol. Visitors will also have a chance to see some of the finest examples of European prints, photography and contemporary ceramics. It is worth mentioning that the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts organizes a wide range of art classes.
6. Downtown Kalamazoo
Thanks to the Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, the town’s downtown area is the most diverse and progressive part of Kalamazoo. With great shopping and restaurant options, the downtown area is a fun place to explore and have a meal and a drink. Visiting downtown in the morning? Check out one the many specialty coffee shops. Or, if you’re looking for an evening destination, you can head over to Bell’s Beer Eccentric Cafe for a quality micro-brew.
7. Markin Glen Park
Outdoor enthusiasts looking for free fun things to do in Kalamazoo, MI can spend the day at the lovely Markin Glen Park. Once a private real estate, this public recreational park features a nice lake suitable for swimming, as well as sports fields, playgrounds for kids, and dozens of hiking trails. If you wish to spend the night here, the park is home to around 40 campsites that are equipped with electric and water hookups, modern restrooms, fire rings, and picnic tables.
8. Gene the Pumpkin Man
One of the most legendary places in the region, Gene The Pumpkin Man is a must-visit spot for everyone exploring West Michigan. Drive from Kalamazoo towards Bangor and you will come across bright orange barns and hundreds of giant pumpkins that are a part of the famous Gene the Pumpkin Man’s farm. With its cornfields in the back, rustic outbuildings, and rows and rows of orange pumpkins, Gene the Pumpkin Man farm is one of those places where everyone stops to take photographs and post it on their Insta accounts.
9. The Henderson Castle
Couples on vacation looking for romantic things to do in Kalamazoo, MI can book a room at the Henderson Castle. Situated inside a beautiful 19th century Queen Ann-style castle, the hotel is located in the picturesque West Main Hill neighborhood. The castle’s old fashion charm blends perfectly with the hotel’s modern amenities like saunas and marble floors. Vacationers staying at the Henderson Castle will also have an opportunity to enjoy the hotel’s vineyard and organic garden.
10. Kalamazoo Farmers Market
A local market selling locally grown produce and a variety of handicrafts, Kalamazoo Farmers Market operates from May to November. It has more than 100 businesses including everyone from local artisans and farmers to food trucks, making it a favorite place to do grocery shopping for tourists and locals alike. If you wish to support local business and experience the local culture, Kalamazoo Farmers Market welcomes every visitor with open arms.
11. Milham Park
Kalamazoo is not short on open green spaces and Milham Park is one of them. With its beautiful shade trees, this 49-acre park is one of the most popular destinations in Kalamazoo for picnics and other social gatherings in summer. It is also home to Michigan’s best golf course that was created nearly 100 years ago. This fantastic golf course hosts many famous tournaments and competitions and boasts a nice indoor facility where you will find everything from practice areas and pro shops to dozens of snack bars and eateries.
12. Kalamazoo Mall
Welcome to the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the US, the famous Kalamazoo Mall that opened its doors for the first time back in 1959. From art-deco buildings and unique shops to chic restaurants and casual brewpubs, Kalamazoo Mall has it all. It’s a great place to stop by for coffee, do some window shopping, and visit for a fresh bagel or a pastry. Kalamazoo Mall also features many sidewalk sales and hosts seasonal holiday festivities.
13. Bronson Park
Located in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo, Bronson Park is the town’s oldest green space dating back to the 1850s. With beautiful fountains, statues honoring war veterans, and flower beds, this shady park is a perfect retreat for picnics and family gatherings on the weekends. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, but the favorite sport at the park is Bubble Soccer. Bronson Park also hosts many outdoor concerts, as well as Kalamazoo’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
14. District square
Wish to experience Kalamazoo nightlife? Pay a visit to the District square, a giant outdoor beer garden with live music located in the downtown area. From a wide range of both local beers from Michigan and many international brews to live music acts that range from country to rock, there is plenty to look forward to when visiting the District square. This phenomenal outdoor garden is known to host unforgettable block parties.