Air Zoo, Photo by Gunner’s Pixs via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Four years spent at Western Michigan University means four years in Kalamazoo, an energetic and innovative city with tremendous opportunity for students. Take a study break and explore places like the Gilmore Car Museum and the Air Zoo, two famous hot spots known for high-quality historic exhibits you won’t find anywhere else. Get an adrenaline rush at places like Sky Zone Trampoline Park or while exploring the Kalamazoo Mall, then bring it back down a notch to peruse the collections at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. All the excitement of the Windy City may be a two-hour road trip away, but before you head out, explore what’s of interest in your own backyard.
Gilmore Car Museum
The Gilmore Car Museum is one of the most unique destinations in the United States. It began in the early 1960s when Kalamazoo businessman Donald S. Gilmore began his vintage automobile collection with models, including a 1927 Ford Model T and 1913 Rolls-Royce. The collection has grown to span the museum’s 90-acre campus, featuring nearly 400 vehicles on display, securing a spot as North America’s largest car museum. The museum is open year-round, and adult tickets are $14 from December 1–March 30.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts collection features 4,000 works of art. Students can visit for only $2 when they show their ID, so there’s every reason to come back more than once to see it all. The Institute showcases works by Dale Chihuly, Franz Kline, and Andy Warhol, among others. Check out their Tiffany Collection, comprised of one-of-a-kind, luxury items like lamps, vases, and brooches by Tiffany & Co.
The Kalamazoo Mall is known as the first outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the U.S. and is a staple of downtown today. You’ll find a variety of one-of-a-kind shopping and homegrown stores like the Amy Zane art studio/store and Lana’s Boutique, as well as plenty to do. Check out Climb Kalamazoo, a premier indoor rock-climbing gym. For only $30, you’ll get a belay lesson, a climbing pass, and rental equipment. But before you break a sweat, grab a bite at Irving’s Market, a popular deli on the strip.
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Head to Kalamazoo’s Sky Zone Trampoline Park for some antigravity fun. It’s a massive warehouse with wall-to-wall trampolines, a huge pool of foam squares to dive in to, and Ultimate Dodgeball games. They host the annual Ultimate Dodgeball Championships on their walled courts every year. Go here on Friday nights for Friday Night Flight, an evening of DJ beats paired with games, prizes, and a whole bunch of backflips. Bring three of your friends and Squad Up for $40, which earns you all an hour of jump time.
Fun Fact: The Air Zoo has a vintage, restored Ryan PT-22 Recruit on display, much like the WWII era training plane Harrison Ford crashed. Learn more: https://t.co/dFfTiSanwT | Photo by: Tammy Vandermolen (2017 Photo Safari) #flybyfriday #airzoo #history #wwii #airplane pic.twitter.com/eq2NzZqcp0
— Air Zoo (@Air_Zoo) January 20, 2018
The Air Zoo is one of Kalamazoo’s most interesting places for out-of-towners. Bring your folks here to explore hours worth of exhibits featuring rare and historic aircraft, immersive world history and scientific discoveries, and fine art. Don’t leave without strapping into a 3D HD full-motion flight simulator (and fight swarms of giant robots) or taking a ride on the paratrooper jump drop. General admission is $15.50 and grants you access to all of the Air Zoo’s aircraft, exhibits, rides, and simulators.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Head to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum for a free afternoon getting to know the region. While you’ll find detailed exhibits exploring all facets of science and history — like the mysteries of the Egyptian mummy — this museum is well known for its walk-through of Kalamazoo history. Head to the Kalamazoo Direct to You exhibit to explore how checker cabs made the town famous, and get to know the community with a visit to the WKVM TV station. Visit the planetarium for seasonal stargazing shows, teaching you how to spot constellations and celestial gems you can see from your own backyard. Tickets are only $3.