Besides being incredibly fun to say, there are also fun things to do in Kalamazoo. The kids and I spent a few days exploring Kalamazoo, Michigan and came up with a list of our favourite places to play and sleep. So without further ado, here is what there is to do in Kalamazoo.
Fly at the Air Zoo
One of the coolest spaces we visited all summer was the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo. Opened in 1977 by Suzanne Parish, a female fighter pilot and instructor in World War II, and her pilot husband, the Air Zoo is a complete labor of love. The Air Zoo is a huge space located near the airport. With two separate buildings filled to the brim with aviation history. Kids will love the aviation-themed amusement park rides, checking out over 50 planes and the current Tiger: Tracking a Legend Exhibit.
Having recently visited the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, I was blown away by the difference in the Air Zoo. Unlike the long lines, we found in Washington to see frankly outdated exhibits, I was pleasantly surprised that even though the museum was busy we were able to explore mostly on our own. Split between two campuses, the museum is huge. You can not only see completely restored planes but learn about how the Air Zoo is still pulling World War II out of nearby Lake Michigan and restoring them.
One of the most unique things you can do at the Air Zoo is schedule a ride in an actual Bi-Plane. For an additional fee of $70 a person up to 4 people passengers can ride in a front open cockpit of a D-25. Helmets, goggles, and scarves are supplied to guests who get to take part in maneuvers including lazy-eights and 360-degree turns. The rides last about 20 minutes in the air and will allow you and your kids to experience flight as it was in the 1920s and 1930s.
The Air Zoo’s motto is “Like No Place Else on Earth” and I can attest that in driving 9800 KM or 6000 Miles this summer, I found nothing that rivaled the pure passion and dedication to aviation history that the Air Zoo exudes. Make sure not to miss two very important pieces of American History. First, the museum houses a 9-11 Memorial Firefighters motorcycle that bears that names of all the firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. Secondly, there is a Hall featuring female aviation history and pilots that both young girls and boys should see.
Plan an entire day at the Air Zoo. You won’t want to miss a thing.
Get Dirty at the Kalamazoo Nature Center
A great place for your kids to play and let loose in Kalamazoo is at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. A quick drive from where we were staying, we headed over to the Nature Center eager and ready to explore. The main building houses a large atrium and outside you will find two injured birds being cared for by the center. The jewel of the Nature Center is the new natural kids play zone. I am constantly looking for places like this when we travel as I truly believe its important for kids to get dirty. Throughout our travels, the kids are exposed to air, dirt, and germs from wherever we travel and to this day have not been sick as a result of it.
We headed up the path to the kids’ nature center past a gorgeous sculpture garden and butterfly house. Once you have arrived, don’t expect a big play center or laid out activities. The play zone is instead a river with sand and tons of rocks for building different bridges and pathways in the river. There are also a variety of logs that are stacked so they work like teeter-totters when you step on them. There isn’t too much shade so bring sunscreen because once your kids figure out how to play in the space, they will want to spend more and more time there.
This type of nature center is exactly what I look for to develop their curiosity and imagination and I applaud the Kalamazoo Nature Center for not taking the easy route of electronics and swings but instead returning to the simplicity of playing in nature.
Stay at the Holiday Inn
As you can imagine, Michigan gets rather cold in winter. No matter when you are planning a trip to Kalamazoo, make sure to check out the Holiday Inn near the campus of Western Michigan University. We pulled in and the kids headed into the large atrium that housed the indoor pool, hot tub, arcade and games area. It was nice to be able to sit at the indoor picnic tables and work while the kids played ping pong and ran around. We also loved heading into the atrium for breakfast each morning.
The rooms are spacious and we found the hotel to be clean and quiet. There is a security guard present at night to ensure that the games area and arcade shut down for the night at 10:30 pm ensuring even those on the first floor get a great night sleep. We had a room near the pool and were not bothered at all by noise or activity. Also, there was no noticeable indoor pool smell which I have encountered in other hotels with similar layouts.
Parking is free and the rates are reasonable which will help with planning any family vacation. The Holiday Inn in Kalamazoo is definitely worth checking out when traveling with kids in tow.
When you are done with all there is to do in Kalamazoo, head downtown where shops and restaurants line the streets. Certain areas of the downtown core have pedestrians malls which make it easier to navigate with children. We had a lot of fun in Kalamazoo, Michigan and look forward to returning again soon.