Summer is Calling

It’s a great time to be a kid.

Summer is here and the world is full of opportunity and sunshine. When it comes to the ultimate summer list of things to do around Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan – look no further.

You don’t have to travel far to have plenty of fun. Explore Kalamazoo for outdoor excursions, art and culture, festivals, al fresco dining, and enough ideas to fill every last lazy afternoon or weekend family outing. Want something a little bit farther afield? We have you covered too.

Here are 101 ideas for families to have a totally awesome summer – inside and out.

What are you waiting for? 

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Get Outside with the Family

1. Grab the helmets and get moving on one of the great bike trails in the Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan.

2. Head to Homer Stryker Field on July 12 for KZOOKids Night at the Ballpark and enjoy a game and concession food package. A fan favorite, the Inflatamaniacs will be entertaining the crowd with their whimsical dancing and comedic routines. Or take in any one of the Growlers family-friendly games during the summer.

Growlers

3. Watch your toddler achieve new heights without worrying about them falling off the play structure at one of the toddler-friendly parks in Southwest Michigan. 

park

4. Take a hike at the Kalamazoo Nature Center and afterwards cool off at their water-feature, natural playground. Or head over to DeLano Homestead to visit the farm animals or take in one of their educational programs. 

5. Binder Park Zoo is a short 30-minute drive to Battle Creek from Kalamazoo. The train is back and better than ever, there’s a carousel, face painting, and giraffes, goats and llamas to feed.

zoo

6. Hop aboard a train and watch the world pass by as you chug down the track on one of these Train-tastic Adventures

7. Mini golf, daring the ropes course, or zooming around the track on go-karts at Airway Fun Center is a great way to get the entire family playing together. 

8. Bring the family to Bonfire Night at Ramona Park on July 20 and August 24. S’mores making materials provided.

9. Bring the marshmallows and go camping. See our list of campgrounds close to home, and get ready to play cards, and sleep under the stars

10. Go fishing. Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery routinely offers free fishing classes to all ages. Keep an eye on their schedule for details.

11. Say giddyup and get ready to hit the trails while horseback riding. If you’ve never been before, many places also offer lessons.

12. Rent a canoe or kayak for the day and have a family adventure.

13. Take advantage of Free Park Day on June 19 and visit a local Kalamazoo park for free, including Ramona, River Oaks, Prairie View, Markin Glen, and Upjohn Park and the Kik Pool.

14. Hold and feed gators at Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary in Athens. Don’t forget to say hi to Godzilla and Medusa.

15. Hike one of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy ten public nature preserves.

16. Visit the Chubby Goat Sanctuary during Open Barn Days and say hello to their animals and tour 17 acres.

17. Grab the sunblock and towels, and head to one of the area’s nearby beaches.

18. If your kids love to play in the water, but you don’t want the adventure of sand in your car, head over to one of the fun splash pads.

19. Take a day trip to South Haven. Walk the pier, swim in Lake Michigan, join a pirate adventure cruise, and enjoy shopping. Stay and enjoy a sunset over Lake Michigan.

20. Head to the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport on July 27 for their 2019 Air Fair. Games, food, giveaways, and all the airplanes your kids can handle.

21. Walk or run your way with the entire family on one of these family-friendly run runs. Mud, animals, obstacle courses, there’s something to make every family want to come out and run together.

Arts and Culture

22. View the jaw-dropping chalk art creations at the 23rd Annual Chalk the Block in St. Joe all day in early August.

23.  Sing and clap your heart out with family-favorite musician Jim Gill at his concert in Oshtemo Park.

24. Spend the first Friday evening of the month with the family at Kalamazoo’s Art Hop. It’s a great way to explore downtown and immerse yourself in art at the same time.

25. Experience nostalgia – pack up the car and head to a drive-in movie theater.

26. Earn free stuff by joining a summer reading program. Check out the Portage District Library and Kalamazoo Public Library summer reading program initiatives.

27. Turn public trash cans into works of art by attending Space Art with Bonus Saves, a two-day art camp led by local artist Patrick Hershberger.

28. Sprawl out on a blanket under the stars at Celery Flats for Portage’s family-friendly Movie Night.

29. Enjoy food, games, inflatables, a watermelon-eating contest, and a fire show by Island Dancers at Portage’s 2nd Annual Luau at Ramona Park on August 17.

Culinary Delight

30. Try a new restaurant. Even better, check out our list of Kids Eat Free restaurants.

31. Travel to South Haven for the National Blueberry Festival from August 8 – 11. Live music, shopping, a parade, pancakes, barbecues, and all the blueberries you can fit in your car.

32. Grab a scoop of strawberry ice cream at one of Kalamazoo’s best ice cream spots.

ice cream

33. Make your own healthy and delicious popsicles or fruit slushies and share with friends.

34. No time to get away for the entire weekend and go camping? Have a backyard campout instead.

35. Dine al fresco with the family on one of Kalamazoo’s outdoor patios. 

36. Visit a local farmer’s market. They aren’t just on Saturday morning anymore, and many have music, food trucks, and kid crafts.

37. Go berry picking and watch the juice drip off your toddler’s chin.

Fruit Picking

38. On Fridays, head downtown for Lunchtime Live where you can enjoy live music, and all of Kalamazoo’s best food trucks.

39. Take the kids on a surprise donut run to Sweetwater’s Donut Mill or Peace, Love, and Little Donuts of Portage.

40. Try out a new breakfast spot, and get your eggs sunny side up.

41. Bring home an entire bushel of Red Haven peaches and cook up one of these mouth-watering peach dishes from around the country with your kids.

Family Friendly Shows and Festivals

42. Take the whole family to the Plainwell Days Festival Family Fun Day on June 16 for an entire day of games, food, and fun, including a petting zoo and a touch-a-truck event.

43. You won’t want to miss the Battle Creek Field of Flight Airshow and Balloon Festival in the first week of July. With balloon launches, a thrilling air show, and carnival rides, it’s a local summer tradition.

BC Air Show

44. Watch fireworks dazzle the sky over Lake Michigan at South Haven’s music-coordinated Light up the Lake on July 3.

45. Plan to attend the Kalamazoo County Youth Fair from August 6-10. 4-H animals, daily entertainment, carnival rides, food and more make this a great family event. 

46. The Kindleberger Festival from July 10-14, is a great place to relax and watch a fun play with the family in the outdoor theatre.  or SUNFLOWER FESTIVAL

47. Get scaly at Binder Park Zoo’s Reptile Weekend on August 3 – 4. Kids can interact with over one hundred reptiles and amphibians from around the world.

48. Join Maranda at Bronson Park on June 27 for the annual Maranda Park Party Kalamazoo. Inflatables, and obstacle course, prizes, free ice cream, and lunch.

Beat the Heat with Indoor Fun

49. If your kids love to bounce, SkyZone is the perfect place to work off some energy in a fun, air-conditioned environment.

50. Sign up for the Kids Bowl Free program. Bowl all summer for free at participating bowling alleys.

51. Board games are a great opportunity for family bonding during rainy summer weather. Check out our list of favorites.

52. Comb our list of 25 Places to Play Indoors, to discover somewhere new to beat the summer heat.

53. Visit the Portage District Library during the first week of July to view the 2019 LEGO City. The display is viewable during regular library hours. With moving trains and scavenger hunts, it’s a site not to be missed.

54. Take a leap of faith, literally, at Allegan Event. Climb on and over 85 rope elements as you maneuver your way around the course.

Kids Summer Fun Kalamazoo

Kids Only!

55. Register for a VBS program. Area churches offer free or affordable Vacation Bible School with stories, crafts, and singing.

56. It’s not too late to find and register for a Summer Camp. Kids make memories to last a lifetime

Van Buren Youth Camp

57. Let kids dance, sing, play games and more on Tuesday mornings at the Portage District Library Summer Family Fun – Sing-Along Storytime event.  

Learn Something New

58. Learn how to make a candle from start to finish with your kids at Kalamazoo Candle Company’s Kids’ Day Out on Tuesdays. 

59. On Saturdays, make your way to the Air Zoo for their Summer Family Fun Days to explore STEAM hands-on activities and hope on a ride. 

air zoo

60. Explore a variety of artistic mediums and sign up for a summer art class at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts or Design Street in Plainwell. They offer classes for all ages.

61.  On Wednesdays in July, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum is the Place to BEE for hands-on programs related to our favorite pollinators.

62. Register for the special Build-a-Native Bee House Workshop on July 13 at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. Learn about our native bees and take home a special bee house.

63. Learn techniques for suminagashi marbling, bookbinding, paper making, and calligraphy at Kalamazoo Book Arts, and then kick back with a summer read of your own.

Mini Road Trips

64. Plan a shopping day at the Tanger Outlet Mall just up US 131 near Grand Rapids.

65. Get up close and personal with animals at Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park. Take the safari ride on the converted bus to view zebras, bison and other animals.

66. Take the kids to Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing this summer. The NEW traveling exhibit SMASH: A Nuclear Adventure opens in mid-July.

67. Immerse yourself in art and flowers at Fred Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Take the kids to the Children’s Garden and let the kids explore a treehouse, dig for fossils, and splash around in the Great Lakes water feature.

68. Love zooming through the trees? Experience remarkable views and the wind blowing on your face with several options for zip lining at TreeRunner Adventure Park in Grand Rapids

69. Barrel down the dunes in a schooner by booking a ride with Saugatuck Dune Rides. Riders can be as young as two years old.

70. Take advantage of Wristband Wednesdays at Craig’s Cruisers near Grand Rapids.

71. Harry Potter and Narnia fans, don your wands and armor. Head to Sparta for the Potter in the Park’s Spellbound Festival June 22. Live performances, house point competitions, and owl presentations will hold the entire family in its thrall.

72. Tulip Time isn’t the only time to head to Holland. Visit beautiful Windmill Gardens, or learn about Dutch culture at Nelis’ Dutch Village.

73. Get in the car and visit our favorite out of town indoor play places within an hour and a half drive.

74. Explore the Curious Kids Museum in St. Joseph, ride the Silver Beach Carousel, play in the splash pad, and then take a dip in Lake Michigan.

75. Snuggle bunnies and see a medley of farm animals at the Critter Barn in Zeeland.

Trips under 2 hours Kalamazoo

76. Visit M00-ville, located in Nashville, and learn how milk and ice cream are made. Stay and see the animals in the FREE petting farm and play on their playground.

77. Take a stroll through the gardens at Leila Arboretum. Let kids explore their senses at the Kaleidoscope Garden, and watch the trees come to life in Fantasy Forest.

A Day Excursion

78. Take a road trip to beautiful Amish Country in Shipshewana.

79. If your family likes thrill rides, check out Michigan’s Adventure or Cedar Point. Both parks have an outdoor waterpark so bring a swimsuit.

80. Beat the traffic and take the train to Chicago and explore the Magnificent Mile or Maggie Daley Park.

81.  Travel to the east side of the state and visit Peppa Pig World of Play, LEGOLAND Discovery Center, and SEA LIFE Aquarium, in Auburn Hills.

82. Indulge that sweet tooth and tour a Candy or Ice Cream Factory.

83. A couple of hours away is the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo – a zoo designed specifically with its younger visitors in mind. Or visit Science Central, which has reciprocal membership benefits for Air Zoo membership holders.

84. Take the self-guided tour of the Michigan State Capitol and be in awe of the architecture and history. Don’t forget a stop at the MSU Dairy Store for a scoop of delicious ice cream.

85. Schedule a family getaway weekend to cross one place off your bucket ‘visit’ list from our 10 places to take your kids in Michigan before they grow up.

86. Learn about the Adena-Hopewell people and their 10 unique earthworks at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana.

87. Drive south to Fremont, Indiana and experience an Into the Herd Buffalo tour at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.

Anytime Family Fun

88. Wake up with no plans and peruse our awesome listing on the Event Calendar. Pick a random outing to do with the entire family.

89. Unplug for the day with a technology-free family day. If this isn’t a challenge for your family – make it three days, five days or even a whole week.

90. Make an appointment to get those fingers and toes summer-ready at one of Kalamazoo’s Best Kid-Friendly Nail Salons.

91. Gather books to donate and find a nearby Free Little Library to add books to the collection.

92. Have fun popping bubbles with some super-sized bubbles.

93. Grab your telescope and do late night stargazing. Check NASA’s website for what to keep an eye out for.

94. Invite whimsy by planning and planting a Fairy Garden.

95. Press summer flowers and use them for homemade bookmarks or cards.

96. Grab friends and go on a geocaching adventure somewhere new.

97. Try out an old-fashioned lawn game like badminton, croquet, or bocce ball.

98. Have a tie-dye party with friends! Kits are available at most craft stores.

99. Make some fresh-squeezed lemonade and set up a lemonade stand. Or try it fruit-infused with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

100. Have an outdoor painting party. Get messy by filling water balloons with paint and throwing them at a sheet or piece of canvas, paint with your feet, or grab a piece of nature like a stick, rock, or flower to paint with.

101. Finally, make a photo journal or scrapbook of all of the memories the family will make this summer.

Ultimate Summer Fun Guide for Families near Kalamazoo

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