Family Road Trip Guide: Kalamazoo, Michigan

This small city is just two hours away and brimming with art experiences, kids’ adventures and craft beer.

There’s a handcrafted culture bubbling up in Kalamazoo, not only from the breweries and farm-to-table eateries but also the artistic makers. If you’ve got a creative kid, they’re sure to covet a getaway to Kalamazoo, where they can get crafty developing their own fragrance, creating glass art, candles, canvases and more. 

Kalamazoo is also on point for kids’ entertainment, with an AirZoo, fun center and souped-up bowling alley. Not to forget sports fans, you can catch a Kalamazoo Growlers baseball game in summer or a Kalamazoo Wings hockey game in the cooler months. 

Getting to Kalamazoo, Michigan

Kalamazoo is a quick two-hour drive from metro Detroit. Head west on I-94 and before the kids can get restless, you’ll be there!

What Families Love About Kalamazoo, Michigan

Air Zoo is probably the first place you’ll hear about when planning a family trip to Kalamazoo. An aerospace museum and science experience, it holds a lot of aviation history, but also offers numerous indoor amusement park rides. Race around in a hot air balloon ride, feel weightless in the Paratrooper Jump or pilot stunt planes in 3-D full-motion flight simulators. 

Airway Fun Center is a place you really can’t go wrong with kids. From outdoor mini golf, go-karts, a ropes course and a four-person gyrosphere to indoor blowing, an arcade, laser tag and so much more you’ll have to beg them to leave. Revel & Roll is another fun option for bowling, billiards and a large arcade. 

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

The Kalamazoo Mall is the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States and it is adorable. Find specialty stores, restaurants and coffee shops in this cute area lined with animal sculptures. The DIY terrarium-making bar at Mason Jar Plant Shop was my 11-year-old daughter’s favorite experience in Kalamazoo. Choose your vase, succulents, rocks and decorative touches, then fill with dirt and voila! Now we’re enjoying the Zen of our creations and the warm reminder of our afternoon making them together. 

At The Aroma Labs, you can mix your own scents to make hand soaps, body wash, bath salts and other personal care products. It’s a bit pricey at more than $25 for each product, but it was a fun experience and my daughter is thrilled to have her own custom-scented products. Colors & Cocktails is a super cute store with creative classes like painting rocks, glass and henna. The owner is especially friendly, plus they sell accessories and décor from local artists. My daughter bought herself and her friend unique earrings to suit their individual personalities. Glass Art Kalamazoo offers in-person and take-home classes. At Kalamazoo Candle Company, you can mix up your own colors and scents to pour your own natural soy candle. 

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

In terms of culture, you’ll find the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Gilmer Car Museum and Kalamazoo State Theater. Get outdoors at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and nearby Fort Custer Recreational Area, which boasts a scenic beach. Head to Kalamazoo Farmers Market for local finds like fresh produce, delicious peanut brittle, kettle corn, Kzoo hoodies and more. 

Where to Stay in Kalamazoo, Michigan

We stayed at the Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center because it’s centrally located, has a pool and hot tub, Starbucks, shopping and a breakfast restaurant called The Morning Dish. The kids were wowed by the beautifully blue-lit back wall and the fact that there’s a skybridge to car parking, which is fabulous for inclement weather. 

Where to Eat in Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Morning Dish, the breakfast buffet restaurant inside the Radisson Plaza Hotel, has made-to-order eggs and omelets, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, breakfast potatoes, sausages and pastries. Service was friendly and we left full. Crow’s Nest is a popular, locally owned and operated diner serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The wait was 45 minutes long when we went, so we just grabbed muffins and drinks from the coffee shop downstairs. Breakfast at Tiffiny’s is located inside a strip mall, is pretty spread out and eclectic. Known for “breakfast stews,” which are like hashes with eggs, veggies, meat and hashbrowns, they also serve pancakes, waffles, omelets and sandwiches.

Bell’s Brewery started in Kalamazoo in 1985 and is now one of the largest craft breweries nationwide. Visit Bell’s Eccentric Café for burgers, salads and sandwiches. Presidential Brewing Company had a live band jamming outside when my family visited. We went for the pizza, but unfortunately, their pizza oven wasn’t working that evening. The super-friendly server helped us figure out the best options for my picky children. The tots were expertly seasoned and enjoyed by everyone. They have a freezer full of awesome, locally made layered ice cream bars, with all sorts of delicious flavors. You can indulge in a small ice cream bar for only $2 and $5 for a large bar. 

Latitude42 is a microbrewery proud to serve ingredients sourced in Michigan. We devoured the blue corn tortilla chips with elote dip. I had a sesame shrimp dish and my daughter loved her blood orange sorbet topped with raspberry coulis and mint. Yummy.

Upcoming Family-Friendly Events

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

June 2-3: Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair (downtown Kalamazoo in Bronson Park)

June 2-3: Art on the Mall (downtown Kalamazoo on the Kalamazoo Mall)

June 2-3: Kalamazoo Pride (Arcadia Creek Festival Site)

June 3: Do Dah Parade (downtown Kalamazoo)

June 9-10: Vicksburg Old Car Festival (downtown Vicksburg)

July 8: Black Arts Festival (downtown Kalamazoo at Bronson Park)

July 12-17: Kindleberger Summer Festival of the Arts (Parchment at Kindleberger Park)

Aug. 4-5: Kalamazoo Ribfest at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place

Aug. 8-12: Kalamazoo County Fair (at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center)

Aug. 11-13: Kalamazoo Balloon Fest (Gull Meadow Farms)

Sept. 24: Harvest Festival (Vicksburg Historic Village)

Sept. 25-Oct. 1: Sounds of the Zoo (various downtown locations and Bronson Park)

Oct. 7: Canadiana Fest (Kalamazoo at the Arcadia Creek Festival Site)

Nov. 18: Maple Hill Holiday Parade (downtown Kalamazoo)

Dec. 9: Vicksburg Christmas in the Village (parade and event)

Dec. 31: New Years Fest in downtown Kalamazoo

Content sponsored by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers. Visit buyfordnow.com


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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.

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