There are plenty of things to do in Kalamazoo, whether you're looking for family fun, arts, outdoor activities, or history. Kalamazoo is an ideal mix of urban and rural with cultural attractions and a wide range of outdoor areas where you can hike and bike. Add to that a vibrant nightlife thanks to the multiple universities in the area, and you have your choice of things to keep you busy. Whether you're looking for a place to shop, a trail to hike, or a museum to explore, you'll find it in Kalamazoo.
There's a lot to see at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum; the best part is that most of the displays are hands-on. The museum has many permanent exhibits, like the Innovation Gallery, where you'll learn about breakthroughs in medicine and safety and how the glaciers carved Michigan and the surrounding areas. You can also play with a giant animated globe, learn about mummies, and take a walk through the rain garden to learn about native plants. You'll find temporary items, too, so there's always something new to see. One more thing: general admission to the museum is free.
The Air Zoo is a truly unique experience, especially if you love science, airplanes, and space flights, but there's something here for everyone. Hop on the indoor Ferris wheel or balloon race, or feel weightless with the Paratrooper jump. Ever wanted to pilot an airplane? Try your hand at flying a stunt plane, racing trains, or soaring over the countryside in one of the museum's flight simulators.
If you want to spend some time enjoying the outdoors, head to Al Sabo Preserve. The park covers more than 700 acres, and because of its vast size, it's home to multiple ecosystems and seemingly unlimited plants and animals. One of the best things about the preserve is there are so many ways to see it. If you're feeling adventurous, go for a hike on one of the unmarked trails or bring your bike and take a long ride through the grounds. Looking for something a little more relaxing? Grab your camera and talk a leisurely walk over the two boardwalks or snap some photos from one of the overlooks.
One of the best things about Kalamazoo is it's a perfect mix of rural and urban areas., and the pièce de résistance is the Kalamazoo River Trail. This paved trail is ideal for long bike rides, and if you want a nice place to take a stroll with the family, it's baby-stroller-friendly. You can follow the trail through downtown Kalamazoo and into the surrounding natural areas to explore rivers, hills, and lakes. Bring your camera because the River Valley Trail showcases everything beautiful about Kalamazoo.
About 30-minutes northeast of Kalamazoo is the Gilmore Car Museum. It is one of the largest automobile museums in the country and houses more than 300 classic cars, including a Model T from 1927 and a Rolls Royce from 1913. There are also interesting old-fashioned vehicles here, like the Fonz's motorcycle, checkered taxis, and pedal cars.
Have you ever wanted to spend time on a working farm? At VerHage Fruit Farms and Cider Mill, you'll have your chance. Take a tour to see the crops, mills, and barns that the owners still use every day, then stick around to ride the zip lines, go on a hay ride, see cider-making demos, or take tractor driving lessons. When you're done exploring, stop by the shop for a wide range of delicious goodies, including homemade bread, doughnuts, pies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and apple cider.
You'll probably want to head to the Kalamazoo Mall to shop, but you might not realize that it has a pretty impressive history. The mall opened in 1959 and was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the country. It's located in central Kalamazoo and was an attempt to attract people back to downtown. Many cool small businesses are still located at the mall today, including the Kalamazoo Candle Co. Marketplace and Pop City Popcorn.
Frank Henderson, one of the city's most successful businessmen, built the Queen-Anne-style Henderson castle in 1895 with seven bathrooms, an elevator, and a ballroom. The castle changed hands a lot over the years. In 1945, the house was turned into several apartments, and it eventually became the property of a nearby liberal arts college. In 1975, it was sold again, and restoration began. Today, the castle functions as a boutique bed and breakfast, offering multiple dining experiences, including H Prime Chophouse, where you can get delicious seafood and steaks. You can also get high tea service, breakfast, and Sunday brunch.
To really get a taste of Kalamazoo, don't miss the Farmers Market. It runs from May through November and is the perfect place to find delicious and affordable locally-grown food, baked goods, skin care products, plants, crafts, coffee, and more. Head to the regular market on Saturdays and Thursdays, or stop by the night market on selected Tuesday and Thursday evenings. There's even a kids' market aimed at children under age 17, so everyone can get in on the fun.
Art Hop is a free event that takes place from February to December on the first Friday of each month, and it is of the most unique experiences in Kalamazoo. The event is an opportunity for local businesses, artists, and organizations to unite the community. Each Art Hop has a different theme, from works in progress to digital technology to student artists. It's a great way to connect to the community and see a variety of unique, locally-produced art.