18 Free Things to Do in Kalamazoo, MI

Free Things to Do in Kalamazoo, MI
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The city of Kalamazoo is a vibrant destination in Kalamazoo County, southwest Michigan, 136 miles from Detroit.

Founded in 1831, the city has a rich history and is home to various industries from the 19th century.

With beautiful parks and nature spots, the city offers plenty of outdoor leisure and relaxation opportunities throughout the year.

It is also home to a lively downtown and a thriving arts and culture scene.

What’s more exciting to know is that there are a lot of activities you can do and places you can explore in the city for free, like enjoying lovely views to experiencing its rich heritage!

Here are some free things to do in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to help you make the most of your vacation.

Take a Stroll at Milham Park

A stream at Milham Park
Dean Pennala / Shutterstock.com

Go for a relaxing walk and some fresh air at Milham Park.

This historic park has served as a recreation spot for city residents and visitors since it opened in 1911.

The park features almost 50 acres of beautiful natural spaces and picnic shelters.

Stroll under the shade of mature trees along the park’s nature paths.

The waters of Milham Park
RonaldL / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy calming views of the creek and lovely greenery.

If you’re visiting with your kids, they can enjoy several children’s play areas in the park.

You can find Milham Park along East Kilgore Road.

Beautiful trees at Milham Park
Dean Pennala / Shutterstock.com

Watch a Cooking Demonstration at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market

If you’re a foodie or fond of cooking, don’t miss out on the cooking demos at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

This community market showcases its local produce through cooking demos right at the center of the market.

See local chefs whip up fresh and delectable dishes from local ingredients, and you might be able to pick up some new recipes or cooking tips to try back home.

You might even get some free samples!

This activity also aims to advocate for cooking from root to stem, which reduces food wastage.

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market is located along Bank St.

Try Disc Golf at Knollwood Park

If you’re looking for a spot for active fun with friends or family, head to Knollwood Park.

This 20-acre park features open spaces and wooded areas great for activities and relaxation.

There’s a disc golf course that you can enjoy for an 18-hole game.

Otherwise, you can also bring a soccer ball and have fun playing in the open grassy areas.

Knollwood Park is in Greenwood near Western Michigan University.

Enjoy the Festive Light Display at Bronson Park

Stop by Bronson Park for some holiday cheer if you’re visiting the city during the Christmas season.

This 3.5-acre park downtown is the city’s oldest and most popular spot for strolling, gathering with family, or meeting friends.

It hosts the city’s annual tree-lighting event during the Christmas season.

Stop by and see the park light up and decked out for the holiday season.

Don’t forget to snap a photo along the walking paths adorned with giant candy canes!

You can find Bronson Park along S Rose St.

Visit the Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Exterior of Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Cody Hough, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend a day exploring and learning at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

This family-friendly interactive museum features exhibits and experiences to enjoy.

The museum traces its roots to a collection and department of the city library since the late 19th century.

You can learn about the city’s past and rich heritage at the history gallery through various educational displays such as the famous Checker cab and Gibson guitars.

Interior of Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Joe Ross from Lansing, Michigan, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The museum also has a planetarium and a mummy exhibit.

Outside, the museum has a living rain garden exhibit where you can admire native flowers and plants and learn about the garden’s importance.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum is located along North Rose St.

Guitar exhibit in Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Heritage Guitar Works display -- Kalamazoo Valley Museum 106 (6926495673).jpg: Joe Ross from Lansing, Michigan derivative work: Clusternote, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See the Towering Dinosaurs at the Lloyd Schmaltz Geology and Mineral Museum

Take the kids on an educational and fun visit to the Lloyd Schmaltz Geology and Mineral Museum.

This museum at Western Michigan University features various exciting collections such as fossils, minerals, and even shark teeth.

Outside, the museum has a dinosaur park to keep your kids entertained.

It has several large-scale dinosaurs on display that you can check out with your kids.

The dinosaurs exhibit features facts about these prehistoric creatures, making it a fun and informative attraction for everyone.

The Lloyd Schmaltz Geology and Mineral Museum are housed in the Rood Hall along Wilbur Avenue.

Catch the Beats on Bates Show

Head downtown and check out the city’s vibrant music scene at a Beats on Bates show.

This live music series at Bates Alley showcases musical performances from various local artists.

See their lineup, catch a show, and you might even find a new favorite song or band!

Unwind to the tunes as you enjoy the city’s summer evening atmosphere.

You can reach Bates Alley through Portage St. or South Edward St.

Enjoy the Views at the Bow in the Clouds Preserve

Head for a hike at Bow in the Clouds Preserves for beautiful nature views.

This 60-acre nature preserve near downtown offers a quiet and relaxing break from urban sights.

The preserve features various terrains, but its extensive boardwalk offers an easy way to traverse and enjoy the surroundings.

Follow the trail to the viewing deck, where you’ll see a beautiful view of the marshes below.

Hike down the slopes and through wetlands.

You can also stroll along the small pond and get a glimpse of some waterfowl.

Bow in the Clouds Preserve is located along Nazareth Road.

See the Wildflowers at Kleinstuck Preserve

Trees at Kleinstuck Preserve
Chez1981M / Shutterstock.com

Experience the unique ecosystem at Kleinstuck Preserve.

This nature preserve protects one of the remaining open spaces in the city.

It covers almost 50 acres and encompasses marshland, upland forest, and swamps, home to diverse plants and wildlife.

Explore the trails and immerse yourself in the beauty and serenity of this rich habitat.

Visit in spring, and you can enjoy the sights of lovely native wildflowers and birds.

Western Michigan University manages the preserve.

You can reach the Kleinstuck Preserve through Stearn Street.

Go Fishing at Woods Lake Park

The waters of Woods Lake Park
RonaldL / Shutterstock.com

Spend a quiet morning fishing at Woods Lake Park.

With picnic areas, playgrounds, a beach, and nature areas, this six-acre park is excellent for enjoying a sunny day outdoors.

It also provides access to recreation on the waters of Wood Lake.

A short dock at Woods Lake Park
RonaldL / Shutterstock.com

Head to the shores for some fishing time and enjoy the lake scenery.

You can find Woods Lake Park along Oakland Drive.

The grounds of Woods Lake Park
RonaldL / Shutterstock.com

Stroll along Kalamazoo Mall

A visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without stopping by one of its most significant landmarks, the Kalamazoo Mall.

Established in 1959, it is the country’s first mall in the outdoor pedestrian style.

The mall has since served as a model for more outdoor shopping malls across the country.

Even if you’re not going for some shopping, you can enjoy the lovely sights and experience this lively downtown spot.

Stroll along the admire the beautiful Art Deco buildings and charming storefronts.

If you’re visiting in the winter, Kalamazoo Mall is decked in holiday decorations, a colorful feast for the eyes!

Enjoy a Free Ride on the Holly Jolly Trolley

There’s no better way to see the city during winter than through the Holly Jolly Trolley.

If you’re going sightseeing or have someplace to go downtown, try to catch the Holly Jolly Trolley for a ride!

This beautiful old-fashioned trolley is decked out for the holidays yearly, bringing cheer as it transports people to several stops downtown.

Hop on, feel the holiday spirit, and enjoy a warm ride to your downtown stop.

The trolley runs at various times of the day with a traditional route that includes stops at the City Hall, the Kalamazoo Mall, and other major streets.

Check Out the Beautiful Murals of Kalamazoo

Take a walk downtown and admire the vibrant murals of Kalamazoo.

The city is home to plenty of public art, including colorful murals perfect for a souvenir photo of your visit to the city.

Get a glimpse of the local art scene as you have fun spotting these wall paintings downtown.

You can find these fantastic artworks of various artists on the walls of multiple establishments.

If you still have some time, complete your art adventure and venture into other areas in the city, such as Portage St. and Westnedge, for more inspiring murals of Kalamazoo.

Photograph the Beauty of the Asylum Lake Preserve

Nature trail at Asylum Lake Preserve
Chez1981M / Shutterstock.com

If you’re into nature photography, don’t miss the opportunity to snap some beautiful scenes at the Asylum Lake Preserve.

Dedicated to research and passive recreation, this nature preserve spans over 270 acres of land and is home to over 400 species of plants.

Enjoy the sights and capture stunning sceneries of the landscape, from meadows and woodlands to the lake’s tranquil waters.

Wildflowers along Asylum Lake Preserve
Chez1981M / Shutterstock.com

See the resident bluebirds by the prairie and a variety of wildlife around.

Explore along the forest trails and see magnificent trees and various migratory birds.

You can find Asylum Lake Preserve along Parkview Avenue at Western Michigan University’s campus for business, technology, and research.

Ride a Bike on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

Cycle your way around the city on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

The city serves as a hub for this beautiful recreation trail that connects to various other trails in the county.

Stretch, warm up, and hop on your bike for a day of exploring.

The trail is paved asphalt and dedicated for non-motorized use, allowing you to enjoy the lovely sights around comfortably.

There are various trail parking spots in the city that gives you easy access to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

Take a SkeleTour Downtown

If you visit the city in October, enjoy the season’s spooky festivities through the SkeleTour.

This month-long celebration turns downtown into a fun and spooky attraction.

See the streets and storefronts decorated with life-size skeletons in various themes.

Stroll along and have fun checking out and taking photos with the skeleton’s various poses.

Besides the SkeleTour, various activities and events throughout the month include pumpkin carving and pub crawls.

Join the Festivities at the Maple Hill Holiday Parade

Experience one of the city’s rich holiday traditions at the Maple Hill Holiday Parade.

The festive parade started in the 1960s as part of the city’s annual holiday celebrations.

Bundle up and head downtown to watch the marching bands pass by.

If you’re coming with your kids, pick a good spot along the route, and don’t miss out on seeing the parade’s giant creative balloons!

Various activities and post-parade events are also to check out downtown after the main Maple Hill Holiday Parade.

Visit the South Street Historic District

Houses along South Street Historic District
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a lovely walk along the beautiful tree-lined blocks of the South Street Historic District.

This historic neighborhood is home to well-preserved houses dating from the mid-19th century.

Catch a glimpse of the period’s architecture as you see residences built in the Italianate, Gothic, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles.

History marker of South Street Historic District
Gpwitteveen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re visiting in the fall, this neighborhood is also great for seeing the season’s foliage.

In 1979, the South Street Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

A house at South Street Historic District
Andrew Jameson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

The city of Kalamazoo is a fun and exciting destination worth visiting any time of the year.

With beautiful parks, lovely nature spots, and a thriving creative community, the city offers plenty of places to explore and adventures to enjoy on your vacation.

Try these free things to do in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to make the most of your visit to the city.

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