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The 20 Best Things to Do in Kalamazoo for First Timers

Markin Glen County Park

Kalamazoo is a city in Michigan and the seat of Kalamazoo County. It sits midway between Detroit and Chicago. If this is your chosen destination for a vacation, then you will find plenty of things to see and do as there is something for all tastes and ages. Regardless of whether you are interested in history or you want to spend time outdoors, you will find an activity to keep you entertained during your stay. To help you plan your vacation, here are the 20 best things to do in Kalamazoo for first-timers.

Play a Round of Golf at Milham Park Golf Club

20. Play a Round of Golf at Milham Park Golf Club

Golf enthusiasts can keep themselves entertained during a stay in Kalamazoo by playing a round of golf at Milham Park Golf Club. This is an 18-hole, par 72 course that was created in 1933, although it originally had just nine holes. Golf lovers have rated this course as one of the best in Michigan as it is well-maintained and offers various challenges. This course is used for many tournaments throughout the year, so you might get tickets to a tournament even if you do not get the chance to play yourself. Some of the facilities at this course include practice areas, power golf carts, snack bars, and a pro shop.

Enjoy Drink and Music at Old Dog Tavern

19. Enjoy Drink and Music at Old Dog Tavern

If you want a venue to visit in the evenings, then a good option is the Old Dog Tavern. It is located in the downtown district of Kalamazoo, just down the road from Bell’s Brewery. This venue has a lively bar where you can enjoy drinks, and it also has a restaurant area where you can enjoy a meal. One of the reasons that this venue is so popular is that it hosts live music acts on Friday and Saturday nights. There are local beers on tap, and you can even enjoy a game of ping pong or pinball in the bar area.

Crow’s Nest

18. Dine at The Crow’s Nest

Although there are many wonderful places to eat in Kalamazoo, Thrillist recommends enjoying a meal at The Crow’s Nest. This is a casual atmosphere that is popular for its laidback, community atmosphere. It is one of the top lunch and brunch venues in the area, thanks to its delicious, homely food. Tourists visit this café to fill up on steak and eggs or banana nut bread French toast before exploring the area.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

17. Have Fun at Sky Zone Trampoline Park

One of the most fun activities to enjoy in Kalamazoo is trampolining, which is an activity you can enjoy at the Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Sky Zone is a well-known indoor trampoline chain, and there is a location in Kalamazoo. Inside the trampoline park, it is filled with wall-to-wall with huge trampolines, so the whole family can enjoy some trampolining fun. There is also the Foam Zone, which is where visitors can launch themselves from the trampolines into a pit filled with foam. There is also trampoline-based dodgeball and basketball to enjoy. Check what is going on before visiting this trampoline park, as some sessions are set aside for fitness classes or for younger children to trampoline safely.

Homer Stryker Field

16. Watch a Match at Homer Stryker Field

Sports fans visiting the area should try to watch a baseball match at Homer Stryker Field. It is home to the Kalamazoo Growlers baseball team who are in the Northwoods League. One of the seating areas at the stadium has picnic seating, free-flow soda, and buffet food. Other eating options include the Home Plate Club, the Bell’s Bear Cave, and several concessions selling either barbecue or ballpark food. Even if you are not a sports fan, watching a match and grabbing a bite to eat is a fun experience.

Kalamazoo State Theater

15. See a Show at Kalamazoo State Theater

If you enjoy a trip to the theater when you are on vacation, then one place you might like to catch a performance is at the Kalamazoo State Theater. This theater opened in 1927, and it is now considered a local landmark. It is the best venue in the area to see touring bands, and it also hosts various other performances and events throughout the year. As with any attraction of this type, you should check what is on and book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Al Sabo Preserve

14. Enjoy the Trails in Al Sabo Preserve

Al Sabo Preserve is a wonderful place to explore the natural beauty of Kalamazoo County. This is a 741-acre nature preserve that has two boardwalks and several hiking trails. There are also seven miles of cycling trails, as this is a popular spot for mountain biking. There are several elevated areas that offer wonderful views of the nature preserve and the surrounding area, including the west branch of the Portage Creek and the Kalamazoo River. There is plenty of wildlife to see, including fish, turtles, coyotes, muskrats, and deer. There are also more than 150 species of birds, so it is the ideal spot for avid birdwatchers.

Wines at Lawton Ridge Winery

13. Sample the Wines at Lawton Ridge Winery

Wine lovers will enjoy a visit to the Lawton Ridge Winery. This local and award-winning winery first started growing grapes in 1974 but did not open their production facility until 2008. The wines they produce are made with either their own grapes or those of other local growers. Their tasting room is open to the public, and you can try up to six of their wines. You will also have the chance to buy some of the wines to take home. If you are visiting as a group, you will need to make a reservation in advance.

Markin Glen County Park

12. Explore Markin Glen County Park

A great place to enjoy the outdoors while visiting this city is at Markin Glen County Park. Formerly part of a private estate, it is now a public recreational area that has plenty to keep visitors entertained. Some amenities to enjoy include several hiking trails that vary in difficulty, sports fields, children’s playgrounds, and a lake where fishing is permitted. The park is also a good place to enjoy scenic views, as the highest point along the trail looks over downtown Kalamazoo. If you are an outdoor lover, you can also stay in the park as it boasts 38 campgrounds with modern facilities, fire rings, and picnic tables.

Farmers Alley Theater

11. See a Performance at the Farmers Alley Theater

Theater lovers should try to catch a performance at the Farmers Alley Theater. It is a non-profit community theater group that performs classic plays throughout the ear. There are also performances from new and upcoming acts, children’s performances, and cabaret acts. If you want to see a performance at this theater, you should check out what is o before visiting Kalamazoo and book your tickets in advance if there is a performance that catches your fancy.

Henderson Castle

10. Stay at The Henderson Castle

Where you choose to stay can make a significant difference to your overall enjoyment of your visit to Kalamazoo. To get the best experience possible, you should consider staying at The Henderson Castle. The hotel is an 1895 Queen Ann-style castle that sits in the historic West Main Hill neighborhood. Originally, the castle was the home of a local businessman, Frank Henderson. It now offers luxurious accommodation with heated marble floors, a hot tub, a steam room, a sauna, and many other fantastic facilities.

Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market

9. Stroll Around Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market

Vacation Idea recommends going to Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market. The market is only fully open every Saturday from May to November, although they occasionally have smaller markets during the winter and spring months. Shopping at this market is a great way to see local culture first-hand. There are stalls selling local food produce alongside stalls selling handicrafts.

Kalamazoo Mall

8. Shop at Kalamazoo Mall

Kalamazoo Mall is one of the city’s most famous features. When this mall first opened in 1959, it was notable as it was the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the United States. This mall runs along Burdick Street, from Eleanor Street to W. Lovell Street. Not only is this a great place for some retail therapy, but it is also home to some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.

Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

7. Walk the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Although most of Kalamazoo is urbanized, there are also some spots where you can appreciate the nature of the area. A beautiful place to visit is the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. There are more than 20 miles of trails to explore. One option is to head east from the starting point towards Comstock. Alternatively, you could head north to the Kalamazoo Nature Center, which takes you through Verburg Park and Markin Glen County Park.

Beer at Bell’s Brewery

6. Sample the Beer at Bell’s Brewery

If you are a beer fan, then you should visit Bell’s Brewery to sample their beer. This is one of the most famous breweries in Michigan, and it was founded in 1985 by Larry Bell. Visitors can take a tour of the original brewery before heading to the General Store and Eccentric Café to sample some of the products. There are more than 20 draft options to try.

Gilmore Car Museum

5. Go to Gilmore Car Museum

Although there are several museums to visit in Kalamazoo and the surrounding area, one of the most interesting to visit is the Gilmore Car Museum. Michigan is the home of the auto industry in North America, so it makes sense that the largest auto museum in North America is located in Kalamazoo. At the Gilmore Car Museum, there is the private collection of Donal S. Gilmore. Some of the vintage mobiles in this Kalamazoo businessman’s collection include a 1920 Pierce-Arrow, a 1913 Rolls Royce, and a 1927 Ford Model T. In total, there are more than 400 automobiles on display at this museum.

Kalamazoo Nature Center

4. Explore Kalamazoo Nature Center

For those who love the outdoors, one of the best places to explore is the Kalamazoo Nature Center. This is located just north of the city, and it consists of approximately 1,100 acres of countryside, including woodland, wetlands, and prairies. There are multiple hiking trails to explore, with trails for people of all abilities. Visitors can also learn more about conservation and the environment at the educational visitor center.

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

3. See the Art at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Art lovers visiting this city should include a visit to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in their vacation itinerary as this is the top art destination in the city. There are both permanent and rotating exhibitions at this non-profit school and museum. The permanent collection has more than five thousand pieces. Throughout the year, various events, activities, and lectures take place at this attraction. If you want to take part in any of these, check out what is on in advance.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum

2. Visit Kalamazoo Valley Museum

A top attraction for families is the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. This is a science, technology, and history museum that boasts hands-on exhibits over three floors. One of the highlights of the museum is the planetarium. Some of the interesting exhibits include a giant, animated globe and a mummy dating back to 300 BC. It is worth noting that entrance to this museum is free, so it is a fantastic option for families visiting the city on a budget.

Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum

1. Go to the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum

According to The Culture Trip, the best thing to do in Kalamazoo for first-timers is to go to the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum. This attraction is devoted to air and space flight. Within the museum, there are historical exhibits, flight simulators, educational activities, and amusement park-style rides. It is an attraction that will suit adults and children alike, and everyone from history buffs to those who just want to have some fun.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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