Welcoming Summer in Kalamazoo in 2021
While we have not returned to pre-pandemic form in 2021, we have seen glimpses of our pre-covid activities: favorite places have reopened, sports have resumed, and many students returned to classrooms.
As an unprecednted school year comes to a close, many of us are left wondering how to plan for another summer during a pandemic.
While our plans may be uncertain, what is guaranteed is that summer in Southwest Michigan is pretty amazing. Compared to 2020, more scheduled events are on the books: some festivals are returning, summer camps and classes are happening, and more venues are open.
We’ve put together a list of Kalamazoo activities to serve all families’ needs: places to play inside or out, camps and classes to learn, and local restaurants to try. And when you’re ready to venture, we have you covered with day trips and weekend getaways.
Here are 101+ ideas for families to have a totally awesome summer.
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Kalamazoo Activities Outside
As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, we recommend maximizing your family time outdoors.
Whether it’s a lazy day at the beach to build sandcastles or a full day of visiting furry and scaly friends at the zoo, there are activities for all ages to enjoy. Grab your sunglasses, lemonade, and sunscreen and embark on your outside adventures.
Parks, Playgrounds & Lakes
1 | Explore the trails at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.
2 | Visit the Spinosaurus and other prehistoric friends at Western Michigan University’s Dinosaur Park.
3 | If your little one is a climber, take her to one of the toddler-friendly parks in Southwest Michigan.
4 | Go for a hike in one of our favorite (but lesser-known) Kalamazoo-area trails.
5 | Feed the fish at Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery.
6 | Explore one of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy ten public nature preserves.
7 | Grab the sunblock and towels and head to Ramona Park Beach.
8 | Play a round of mini-golf at Jungle Joe’s Family Fun Center.
9 | Not a fan of sand in your car? Enjoy some sand-free water play at a splash pad.
10 | Grass still wet after a rainstorm? Try a mess-free playground.
11| Play pickleball at Kindleberger Park.
Outdoor Amusement Centers, Zoos & Attractions
12 | Visit the alligators, camels and goats at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park.
13 | Play mini-golf, brave the ropes course or zoom around the track on go-karts at Airway Fun Center.
14 | Walk the trails and visit the waterfowl at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary.
15 | Bring the marshmallows and go camping.
16 | Hold and feed gators at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Athens.
17 | Feed the giraffes and visit Raj the snow leopard at Binder Park Zoo.
18 | Say giddyup and get ready to hit the trails while horseback riding.
Other Fun Outdoor Activities
19 | Rent a canoe or kayak for the day and have a family adventure.
21| Try out an old-fashioned lawn game like badminton, croquet or bocce ball.
22 | Go on an outdoor scavenger hunt.
23 | Visit Kalamazoo’s Art Hop the first Friday of each month. Browse local talent at this FREE event.
24 | Hop aboard a train and watch the world pass by on one of these Train-tastic Adventures.
25 | Invite whimsy by planning and planting a Fairy Garden in your yard.
26 | Catch a movie with Portage’s Movies in the Park.
27 | Paint rocks and hide them for others to find around town. Share your creations with Kalamazoo Rocks.
Indoor Activities in Kalamazoo
While we love summertime weather in Kalamazoo, sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. Whether it’s too hot, too rainy or you just need a change of scenery, there is no shortage of indoor play options to engage the family.
We’ve highlighted high energy activities where kids can run and play, as well as lower-key projects to do at home.
Bounce, Jump & Play
29 | Bounce your way over to Airborne Adventure‘s trampoline park and try the ninja warrior course, x-swing or zip line.
30 | Suit up the family for laser tag at Revel & Roll West.
31 | Comb our list of Indoor Play Areas, to discover somewhere new to beat the summer heat.
32 | Play some Donkey Kong or Pac-Man at Klassic Arcade.
33 | Take a leap of faith, literally, at Allegan Event. Climb on and over 85 rope elements as you maneuver your way around the course.
Museums & Libraries
35 | Broadcast the latest news and weather forecast from Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
Looking for inspiring, immersive, hands-on STEAM learning? We have you covered. From interactive exhibits and aerospace exploration to in-person and live-virtual summer camps, we have something for adventurers of all ages!
Visit our two exciting centers and explore the people, artifacts, history and innovation behind flight and space exploration for hours.
Daily admission is affordable and family memberships are just $100/year and the benefits include discounts, pre-sales, insider information and reciprocal memberships at more than 1200 museums world-wide. We are open 7 days a week to inspire.
Check out airzoo.org/plan-your-visit for admission, experience, and policy info prior to your visit!
6151 Portage Road, Portage, MI 49002
38 | Explore the latest masterpieces at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
Other Things to Try
39 | Play Mouse Trap, Sorry, or other favorite board games.
40 | Gather books you no longer read and donate to a Free Little Library.
41 | Go swim at an indoor pool.
42 | Make a photo journal or scrapbook of all of the memories the family will make this summer.
44 | Press summer flowers and use them for homemade bookmarks or cards.
45 | Restock your art supplies from Colors & Cocktails.
46 | Grab your telescope and do late-night stargazing.
48 | Go paint pottery at Art Bayou or pick up a kit to go.
49 | Build your own terrarium at Mason Jar Plant Shop.
Kalamazoo Restaurants & Food
Kalamazoo has a fantastically diverse set of restaurants to satisfy every palette. Whether it’s pizza, sushi, grape leaves or Pad Thai, this area can cover your family’s appetite.
And when you’re ready for dessert, make sure you have room for rolled ice cream, decadent cakes, handmade candy and macarons.
Beyond sampling the local favorites, summer also provides a fun time to experiment with cooking at home. This list also includes some fun recipes to try with your family.
Restaurants, Bakeries & Farmers Markets
50 | Grab a scoop of strawberry ice cream at one of Kalamazoo’s best ice cream spots.
52 | Try out a new breakfast spot, and get your eggs sunny side up.
53 | Dine al fresco with the family on one of Kalamazoo’s outdoor patios.
55 | Have a summer cookout with Portage’s Pig Out in the Park with Public Safety. This annual event in August includes free backpacks and school supplies.
57 | Celebrate a summer birthday with cake from a favorite bakery.
58 | Grab some late night grub from the Late Night Food Truck Rally.
59 | Visit a farmer’s market and stock up on locally grown goodies.
60 | Pick up a grilled cheese kit from The Cheese Lady in Texas Corners.
61 | Try a Boston Cooler from the new soda bar at Schultz’s Treat Street.
62 | Have a monster shake from Cherri’s Chocol’art downtown.
Cook at Home
64 | Make your own healthy and delicious popsicles or fruit slushies.
65 | Make meals together. The kids can help with these recipes.
66 | Blend frozen bananas to make a smooth, cool treat. (Daniel Tiger fans will know this as banana swirl).
67 | Make your own lemonade and “sell” it to family members from a cardboard stand.
Fairs & Festivals
Festivals and fairs are summertime staples in Southwest Michigan. Live music, games and delicious food (hello, elephant ears!) are all ingredients for a great family experience.
Each summer, these events return to Kalamazoo with a mix of time-honored traditions and new and fun experiences.
Festivals Look Different This Year
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some festivals are still on pause for 2021. However, some have returned this year with some tweaks to keep families safe. We are updating our list as we receive information, but recommend checking with venues before you head out.
68 | See millions of tulips in Holland for Tulip Time in May.
69 | Party in the Park has gone virtual on May 26! Free book and snack are available for pickup at KPL locations.
70 | The Do-Dah Parade is going in reverse on June 5, 2021. The parade floats will be set up on Lovell Street in Downtown and be spread out from Jasper Street up to Rose Street, allowing visitors to do the moving while they stay put!
Canceled for 2021: Plainwell Days Festival Family Fun Day
71 | The Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival is back for 2021 during the first week of July. This event features balloon launches, a thrilling air show and fireworks.
72 | The Kindleberger Festival is a great place to relax and watch a fun play in the outdoor theater.
73 | Get scaly at Binder Park Zoo’s Reptile Weekend on August 7 – 8. Kids can interact with over one hundred reptiles and amphibians.
Undecided: Kalamazoo County Youth Fair
Summer Camps & Classes
Camps and classes are a fun way to keep children’s brains energized and learning during the summer break from schoolwork. Whether your child is interested in creative endeavors like art or music or more physical activities like sports, Kalamazoo offers a diverse set of camps to meet all families’ needs.
There are more summer camp and class offerings for 2021. Make sure to sign up early, as many have reduced capacities this year.
74 | If you have a horse fan in your family, Grace Adventures offers overnight summer camps with daily horseback riding.
75 | Explore your creative side with summer camps at the KIA for grades 1 – 12.
76 | The Air Zoo is inspiring future engineers and scientists from home this year with in-person and virtual summer camps.
77 | Looking for an overnight camp? Since 1950, Van Buren Youth Camp has welcomed kids to Great Bear Lake to swim, kayak, make arts and crafts and play sports.
78 | Getting OUTSIDE is a priority with Kalamazoo Nature Center. They even offer a Thursday overnight camp out for the big kids!
79 | Camp Kzoo is full of adventure, with daily trips to places like the Kik Pool, Rollerworld, and the movie theater.
80 | Want to bond with some music classes? Crescendo Academy of Music is offering their Music Together classes both virtually and outside this summer for caregivers and little ones.
81 | Kingdom Soccer offers youth soccer classes starting at age 2.
82 | Kalamazoo Music School offers the ultimate in flexibility for families; kids interested in learning an instrument or voice lessons can take them 7 days a week!
83 | Soccer Shots engages kids aged 2-8 in soccer skills, using parks in multiple cities near Kalamazoo.
Take a Road Trip
While Kalamazoo is pretty amazing, sometimes it’s good to break out of your comfort zone and explore somewhere new. You can try a new amusement park, museum, zoo or beach and still have enough gas in the tank to return home.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip or are ready to pack the bags for a weekend away, we have you covered with our favorite family road trips.
Day Trips Within 2 Hours
84 | Watch the trees come to life in the Fantasy Forest at Leila Arboretum
85 | Plan a shopping day at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Byron Center.
86 | Say hello to the tigers and penguins at John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.
88 | Take a day trip to South Haven: swim, walk the pier and shop during the day. Stay for the Lake Michigan sunset.
89 | Immerse yourself in art and flowers at Fred Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
90 | Go zip lining through the trees at TreeRunner Adventure Park in Grand Rapids.
91 | Go grocery shopping or play banker at the Kids ‘N’ Stuff Museum in Albion.
92 | Barrel down the dunes in a schooner by booking a ride with Saugatuck Dune Rides.
93 | Raining? Get in the car and visit our favorite out of town indoor play places.
94 | Explore the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, ride the Silver Beach Carousel and explore a playground on the beach!.
95 | Visit Moo-ville and learn how milk and ice cream are made. Stay and see the animals in the FREE petting farm.
Get Away for a Weekend
96 | If your family likes thrill rides, check out Michigan’s Adventure. Don’t forget the swimsuits for their outdoor waterpark
97 | Take a road trip to Detroit and visit Belle Isle.
98 | Beat the traffic and take the train to Chicago and explore the Magnificent Mile.
99 | Head east to Auburn Hills and visit Peppa Pig World of Play, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, and SEA LIFE Aquarium.
100 | Cross one place off your bucket ‘visit’ list from our 15 places to take your kids in Michigan before they grow up.
101 | Spend a weekend away at the Grand Hotel at Mackinac Island.
102 | Need more ideas? Here are our picks for family-friendly destinations within a 2-5 hour drive.