Explore Kalamazoo Michigan
Halfway between Detroit and Chicago, Kalamazoo sits as the anchor of southwest Michigan. More than just a mid-size college town in west Michigan, Kalamazoo radiates vibrant youthful energy without losing the strong sense of community and general charm of a small town.
It’s a great place to wander…there’s just so much to discover here.
The city of Kalamazoo, the county seat of Kalamazoo County, is set exactly between Detroit and Chicago; 150 miles either way. This growing city is more than just halfway markers for travelers, though.
Home to Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo’s rich history also includes the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and even guitars (Kalamazoo was home to the original Gibson Guitar Corporation).
Read on to discover more about Kalamazoo, MI.
Stroll the art deco downtown setting in search for quality dining and boutique shopping, search for the best hidden gems in the eccentric Vine Neighborhood, or get out of town altogether and experience the great outdoors. You’ll find Kalamazoo is filled with nature centers, county parks and tourist attractions.
No matter what your cup of tea (or pint of beer) is, there is something for you in Kalamazoo.
Shopping in Kalamazoo MI
Shopping in Kalamazoo is marked by local shops and boutiques throughout the city. The emphasis on supporting local businesses keeps the community of Kalamazoo strong and quality of goods and services even stronger.
The Kalamazoo Mall was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States. With plenty of unique businesses from specialty shops to restaurants and coffee spots, you’ll certainly find your new favorite little nook of Kalamazoo here. Seasonal events are also hosted here, including sidewalk sales, Art on the Mall, Mixer on the Mall, and more.
Located in the Vine neighborhood, adjacent to downtown Kalamazoo, Satellite Records is the best place in Kalamazoo to find new and used vinyls, CDs, cassettes and more. Low prices and a vast selection that spans many genres means that this funky little shop has something for every taste.
If digging through piles of old books to find the one gem in the stack is your kind of shopping experience, then Bicentennial Bookshop is exactly where you should go.
Also located in the Vine neighborhood, this little gem holds a massive eclectic collection of old and rare books with prices ranging from one dollar to thousands. This is truly a unique shopping experience that any book lover should seek.
Bookbug & This is a Bookstore
If you’re looking for a more traditional bookshop experience while continuing to keep your dollars local, try Bookbug & This is a Bookstore. This charming little bookshop has a cozy and inviting atmosphere and plenty of books to browse.
The store’s commitment to diversity and representation means they have books that reflect as many experiences as possible, which is the intention, as they work to empower, support, and reflect the community.
Where to Eat in Kalamazoo
Dining in Kalamazoo is much like shopping. Lot’s of local spots with unique menus and funky vibes. Whatever you’re craving, there is sure to be a great Kalamazoo restaurant where you will find exactly what you’re looking for.
Crow’s Nest & Fourth Coast
This pair is an iconic Kalamazoo brunch duo. This two story space is occupied separately by Fourth Coast on the lower level and Crow’s Nest on the second floor. Crow’s nest is the premier brunch spot in town and for good reason.
Showing up on a Sunday morning guarantees a wait, but it is well worth it – especially when you get to wait in Fourth Coast, the equally eccentric and high quality coffee shop neighbor downstairs. If you’re in Kalamazoo, a meal here is essential.
Check out more amazing Michigan coffee shops here.
Deep dish pizza is not exclusive to Chicago. Here in Michigan, Bilbo’s Pizza is bringing deep dish deliciousness to Kalamazoo. This pan style pizza place is a Kalamazoo favorite and for good reason. Named for J. R. R. Tolkein’s popular character, Bilbo’s overflows with fantastical atmosphere and creative names for the menu items – all of which are simply delectable.
Kalamazoo Beer Exchange
The Kalamazoo Beer exchange is a must-do beer destination while in town. Here, beer prices are like the stock market – dynamic based on supply and demand, meaning happy hour is always evolving.
Random “market crashes” add even more thrill to the game of beeronomics as prices plummet. Enjoy solid bar fare as you play the stock market of beers in this unique pub experience.
Michigan Craft Breweries in Kalamazoo
It’s no secret that western Michigan is a big on breweries and Kalamazoo is no exception. The Kalamazoo craft beer scene in vibrant: there’s even Kalamazoo Brew Bus with stops near each brewery along the beer trail on their route.
You’ll find countless breweries in Kalamazoo all with different beer selections, menu items, and overall atmospheres. You can also use our Guide to the Best Breweries in Michigan.
Bell’s Eccentric Cafe and Brewery
It would be wrong to exclude Bell’s Brewery from the Kalamazoo pub and brewery scene. This oldest craft brewery in the state has been a mainstay of the Kalamazoo community since the 1980s and plays a big role in the culture of the city and the state overall to this day.
This all of course comes from the amazing work that happens here, creating iconic beers like Oberon or Two-Hearted Ale. Anyone who likes beer loves Bell’s and anyone who thinks they don’t like beer, will find something they like.
Final Gravity Brewing
A more recent member of the Kalamazoo brewery club, Final Gravity joined the community in 2017 and has been welcomed with open arms. The father/son team that runs this brewery bring their different perspectives together to make amazing beer, whether it’s something radical and new, or something more traditional.
For great food and solid drinks, you can’t go wrong at Latitude 42°. Either of the two locations in the greater Kalamazoo area will serve up great food, whether you want steak, pizza, or a sandwich. Additionally, there’s a great selection of brews, so treat yourself to a drink and pick one to go with your meal – you won’t be disappointed.
Western Michigan University
Home of the Broncos, Western Michigan University is a massive part of Kalamazoo and its culture. This campus feels like its own miniature city within Kalamazoo and there is plenty to do, even for those who aren’t students.
James W. Miller Auditorium
Kalamazoo’s halfway point location between Detroit and Chicago makes it a popular stop for Broadway shows and Miller Auditorium is where these shows are hosted. This premier performing arts venue in western Michigan is located at Miller Plaza on WMU’s campus, where a massive fountain decorates the space shared by other academic and office buildings. Visit Miller Auditorium for Broadway plays, concerts, stand-up comedy, and a variety of other shows.
Of course, when visiting a college town, seeing a college football game is a must. The Bronco football team has a roller coaster history and each season is as exciting as the last. Seeing a game at Waldo Stadium is well worth it for anyone interested in college football.
Lawson Ice Arena
At WMU ice hockey is nearly as big of a deal as football, if not just as much. Bronco hockey is fast-paced and exciting to watch, but the fans in the student section, known as “Lawson Lunatics” have an energy that fuels the team’s success. This stadium atmosphere is unlike any other and a must-do for any hockey fan.
A handful of museums call Kalamazoo home. Each one is unique and offers something different, making museum hopping a worthwhile family friendly activity while in town.
The Air Zoo brings the wonder of aerospace science to southwest Michigan. With interactive exhibits and activities for everyone from young children to adults, anyone interested in aviation or aerospace sciences will have a blast. Enjoy one of the rides on site, try a flight simulator, or simply observe and learn about historic or rare air and spacecraft.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo, like many college towns, has an eccentric art culture and it is nurtured at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The KIA is downtown Kalamazoo’s visual arts hub where the observation and creation of art is encouraged. View thousands of artworks across ten galleries or engage with art more directly by participating in one of the classes offered by the KIA. Any lover of the arts will appreciate this museum’s passion for creativity.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
For those looking to learn about everything from local history, science, and cultural artifacts, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum is the perfect place. This museum is incredibly accessible to anyone who wants to go, including free admission, ADA-compliance for disabled visitors, and exhibits fit for people of all ages. Whether you want to know about the history of Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo or understand more about space, there is a little bit of everything here.
Gilmore Car Museum
If you have a particular interest in automobiles and don’t mind taking a short drive north, the Gilmore Car Museum is a must-see. This is North America’s largest auto museum with hundreds of vehicles on display on a 90-acre campus. Here American history will be told to you through the stories of cars that have been collected and displayed in historical settings to match.
Explore Kalamazoo Outdoors
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors in Kalamazoo. There are plenty of choices for outdoor activity, whether you want to hike, bike, kayak, or just have a beach day.
Bronson Park is a patch of green surrounded by the art deco buildings of Kalamazoo. This park is a scenic spot, with a fountain at the center surrounded by grass and trees while maintaining the vibrant atmosphere of downtown Kalamazoo. A picnic here is unlike any other; find a food truck and a picnic table and enjoy lunch outside. Events make Bronson a great place to gather in warm weather and enjoy Kalamazoo.
Asylum Lake Preserve & Al Sabo Land Preserve
Depending on the landscape you want, Asylum Lake and Al Sabo Preserve both provide great spaces for outdoor recreation. Both have plenty of trails for hiking or off-road biking and both are dog-friendly. You can’t go wrong at either of these sites and visiting both is recommended.
Kalamazoo River Valley Trail
Long-distance runners and bikers love the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. For over 20 miles this non-motorized paved pathway winds along the Kalamazoo River and through the forested areas that surround it. For those who like to kayak, consider taking a kayak along the river itself. Whether you’re looking for that long-distance run, a bike path to work, or if you just want somewhere to take the family for a stroll, the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail is a perfect choice.
About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.
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