Kalamazoo for Kids


There is no zoo in Kalamazoo, but the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek isn't far.  In the Summer of 1999 they opened a big new exhibit, "Wild Africa", with a safari  theme.  It's very impressive, if a bit Disneyfied-- well worth the drive.  The zoo's season ends in the late fall.  The Great Zoo Boo, where the zoo is filled with hundreds of jack-o-lanterns, is a popular Halloween event.  For the Holidays, the zoo is decorated with Christmas lights for the Zoo Lights Festival.

The John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids is small, but it has some popular animals, like lions, tigers, and monkeys, not featured in Battle Creek.  It's open year 'round.  Each Spring (early March through mid-April), Grand Rapid's Frederik Meijer Gardens fills its greenhouses with butterflies.

The Detroit Zoo isn't too far for a day trip.

Chicago has two excellent zoos-- the Lincoln Park Zoo , on the Lakefront and the Brookfield Zoo , in the suburbs.  These aren't substantially farther than Detroit, but an overnight trip is less hectic.

Things to do

The Kalamazoo Air Zoo isn't really a zoo; it's a small warplane museum.  If your kids like that sort of thing try the Gilmore Car Museum , too.

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum has exhibits that appeal to many ages and it's free.

The Kalamazoo Nature Center features lots of kid-oriented activities.  Exhibits include giant prairie flowers and a giant beech tree.  Tanks feature live fish, turtles, bugs, and other creatures.  Feeders attract a variety of birds in all seasons.  Several  nature trails wind through hardwood forests and along a creek.  They offer a summer day camp, and a variety of kids (and adult) programs throughout the year.

The Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, near Gull Lake, has several ponds full of ducks, geese, and swans.  Kids love feeding them.  Cracked corn is available at the entry.  Open all year.

The Kalamazoo Public Library has children's programs and reading games (and books, too.)

Piranha Alley (skateboards, snowboards) formerly on the Burdick Street mall has moved to the Skate Zoo Park on Ravine.

If your kids like magic, Abbots Magic in Colon, MI (a bit of a drive) sponsors magic shows during the summer and sells tricks for kids, amateurs, and professionals.

Most Kalamazoo restaurants are fairly kid-friendly.  I'll assume you can find your own way to the Golden Arches, and other fastfood favorites. Bilbo's Pizza is a good alternative.  Rykse's is a locally owned family restaurant with a particularly good children's menu.

Try also: WMU's Kalamazoo area restaurant list and Area Restaurant Guide from Portage Soccer.


Kalamazoo Public Schools

Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center

Portage Public Schools

Kalamazoo school closings from WWMT

Online stuff for kids

Websites for Kids -- lots of links

Lizzie McGuire

PBS kids -- Clifford, Dragon Tales, Zoboomafoo and more

Nick Jr -- Blue's Clues, Little Bear, & others play online games

The Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum, has lots of fun online exhibits

Archie McPhee : cool toys and gifts (not just for kids)


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Chuck Stull
December 1999
revised January 2004