Exploring Kalamazoo Island Festival

Kalamazoo Island Festival


Candace Faistenhammer is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo who loves being a student at WMU, spending her free time fishing with her family and all things Detroit Lions! She is excited to explore all of the breweries and restaurants in Kalamazoo! :)

Kalamazoo, Mich. — The air is muggy, and the sky is over cast as Lori and I walk up to Arcadia Creek Festival Place.

As we cross the bridge to enter the festival, we see bright-colored garments and booths filled with Caribbean artifacts, jewelry and wooden drums available for purchase. The feeling in the air is care-free and relaxed as people saunter around from booth to booth.

It’s the 2014 Kalamazoo Island Festival in downtown Kalamazoo, and Lori Gottschling and I (both interns at Discover Kalamazoo) are here to check out the scene and get some photos.

The sound of Caribbean music fills the grounds as the early-afternoon DJ keeps the island-feel alive. It’ll really pick up tonight when the live performers take stage for the evening and nighttime festivities.

Kalamazoo Island Festival

There are more than 20 food vendors at Island Festival ready to satisfy the hunger of any and all festivalgoers.

The smell of the festival grounds is overwhelming with sweet, savory deliciousness. So, clearly, we had to head to the food tent. We walk into the huge tent to see people exploring the Caribbean, African and Jamaican tastes.

“It’s a great atmosphere; there are really good vibes here,” said Cassie Markwardt, co-owner of Camzie’s Pizza, a food truck that serves made-to-order pizzas. “The people are awesome.”

Lori and I definitely agree that the people are amazing — especially when Cassie offers us personal pizzas topped with Jamaican jerk chicken, green bell peppers, Ramona and mozzarella cheese and Camzie’s specialty topping, blueberries. (And yes, this pizza was to die for!)

Kalamazoo Island Festival

This is the Camzie’s pizzas that Candace Faistenhammer ate at Kalamazoo Island Festival. The Festival brings Caribbean, African and Jamaican tastes!

After enjoying our food, Lori and I stop to talk to some of the festival-goers about their experience at Island Fest. We learned that people come from far and wide to enjoy this event, and during their visits, many find much to appreciate about Kalamazoo’s festival scene.

We met Anna Pagan, who came to Kalamazoo from Chicago “specifically for Island Fest.

“This space is awesome in the fact that it’s dedicated to festivals,” Pagan said. “We don’t have anywhere like this in Chicago with the stage and space specifically for this type of event.”

Between bites of his Etal Vegetable Stew from Jessie’s Jamaican, Cosmos Boekey, said, “We came down from Chicago for Island Fest, but I hear you have festivals here almost every weekend in the summer!? That’s awesome.”

Kalamazoo Island Festival

At left, Anna Pagan of Chicago, came to Kalamazoo specifically for Island Fest.

Between the setting, music and cuisine, Island Fest definitely takes you away from Michigan and places you somewhere in the Caribbean lying on a beach, listening to reggae tunes in the sunshine.

I look forward to heading back to Kalamazoo Island Festival in the coming years to experience more of the cuisine and to see the live music and listen to the bands that perform at night!

…Until next year, Kalamazoo Island Fest!

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Top 10 Kalamazoo Instagram Photos in June

Here are Discover Kalamazoo’s top 10 photos from June on Instagram!

We posted, and you loved – thanks for sharing with us! :)


Kalamazoo Farmer's Market

Come on down to the #Kalamazoo #farmersmarket! Open till 2pm today! #foodie #puremichigan #love credit: Discover Kalamazoo


Bell's Beer Garden

A great picture of #Bell’s Outdoor Beer Garden! #kalamazoo #beergarden #summerdrinkin credit @bmosbeats


Kalhaven trail

#Latergram from #Running a few nights ago! #Sun #Sunrays #Scenery #Nature #Kalhaven #KalHavenTrail #Kalamazoo #Kzoo #PureMichigan credit: @louiisemarie


Downtown Kalamazoo SkyDeck

Downtown Kalamazoo from Skydeck #kzoo #summer credit: @cinematicheart


Westnedgehill Kalamazoo Sunset

Looking for a place to watch the sunset? @papizuto found one! #sunsetride #sunset #pedal #kalamazoo #westnedgehill #skyonfire #whyweride ridetolivelivetoride thanks for the picture :)


Lake Michigan Kalamazoo

I love Lake Michigan. #sunset #nofilter #northpoint #nature #michigan #swmichigan #kalamazoo #landscape #lakeshore #latergram #summer #summertime #ilovemichigan #iphoneonly credit: @emmavcurry


Turtle in Kalamazoo

How cute! This little guy crossed our path. #turtle #alsabo #kalamazoo #michigan #hiking #vscocam #vsco credit: @caronjess


Sky Kalamazoo

Awesome shot @chelseasayswhat! That #kalamazoo sky sure is gorgeous! #kzoo #puremichigan


Bell's Beer Garden Opening

Bell’s Brewery garden opening with Greensky Bluegrass #kalamazoo #kzoo #michigan #puremichigan #mi #oberon credit: @byrnesho


WMU Miller Fountain

“Stroll thru #WMU last nite! Fountains putting on such a show! Richmond Center behind it @wmunews #GoBroncos #GoWest” pic.twitter.com/xMUkTLALBo credit: @LanglGabe


Want to see more photos of the greater-Kalamazoo area? Follow Discover Kalamazoo on Instagram at @discoverkzoo!

Click here to find more cool things to do in Kalamazoo!

Local Spotlight: Favorite things to do in Kalamazoo

crows nest

Crow’s Nest was named the No. 2 best breakfast by MLive.com in 2013. This fabulous restaurant is located in the ecclectic Vine neighborhood near downtown Kalamazoo and is open 24 hours on the weekends! Photo credit: Crow’s Nest

things to do kalamazoo

Maria is the Director of Advancement and Executive Director of  Legacy Foundation at the Air Zoo. She loves to volunteer and has most enjoyed serving as a coach for Girls on the Run and Kalamazoo Soccer Club Board Member.
Maria is the proud mother of a Kalamazoo Promise scholar and student and spends many weekends cheering for her daughter Kaila, who plays soccer, fiddles and dances.

• Best Breakfast?
I love breakfast. Any time of the day. Anywhere. Have I told you I love breakfast? If I have to choose a favorite breakfast location, I choose Crow’s Nest. I very much enjoy the excellent service, wide variety of choices, high-quality ingredients, and the delicious flavors. It’s just good food.

• Favorite Restaurant?
I absolutely love Saffron Indian Cuisine. When I am craving Indian food, my taste buds are very specifically requesting Saffron’s amazing lunch buffet and “sensational salad.” Though, no meal is complete without a cup of Saffron’s rice pudding.

• Hidden gem in greater Kalamazoo?
If I tell you where they are, they won’t be hidden. I recommend the Ghosts of Kalamazoo Historic Tours or the Hidden Kalamazoo Tours. They are a lot of fun and always well done.

• Top hangout?
On a warm sunny day or a clear starry night, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe‘s Beer Garden is a great place to hang out with your peeps. Live music, movies, dancing, Bell’s beer… what’s not to love?!

Bell's Beer Garden

Bell’s Eccentric Cafe’s Beer Garden is the place to be in the summertime. Come on down for a show or to simply enjoy the ambiance. Photo credit: @byrnesho

• Favorite attraction?
The Air Zoo is Kalamazoo’s crown jewel. There isn’t a cooler place to learn the history of aviation and space flight while engaging in the science behind it. Whether you are practicing your skills in a flight simulator, taking a flight in a WWII Stearman bi-plane, or creating/launching your own rocket, the Air Zoo is fun for everyone. (Disclaimer: I recently became an employee of the Air Zoo. No one will or has paid me to say this. Pinky swear.)

Air Zoo

The Air Zoo is home to more than 50 rare and historic aircraft. A first-of-its kind museum, it features theme-park-style rides, a flight-motion simulator, 4-D movie theatre, space section and more!

• Favorite Kalamazoo festival/event?
New Year’s Fest has got to be my most favorite festival of the year. Don’t get me wrong – I hate Michigan winters as much as the next Michganian. There’s just something special about one night that can bring you puppets, horse-drawn hay wagon rides, yo-yo masters, jazz performances, improv comedy, tubas, Elvis and fireworks. NYF is the most wonderful event to be in the middle of. And it is STILL only $5 to attend. (Don’t forget the One One Run with Gazelle Sports the next morning! Also a whole lot of fun and a great way to kick-start that New Year’s resolution.)

Kalamazoo New Year's Fest

Kalamazoo New Year’s Fest happens every Dec. 31 in downtown Kalamazoo!

• Best late-night spot?
It’s not often that I find myself out late, but when I’m breaking curfew, I’m at the Union Cabaret & Grille for music and martinis. It’s the best after-dinner meet-up spot. Good food; good friends; good time. And if you’re the type that’s not done hanging out when everything else has shut down, Sweetwater’s Donut Mill is the place to be. Mmmmmm… donuts.

Sweetwater's Kalamazoo

Sweetwater’s Donut Mill is a must-stop in Kalamazoo. What’s better than a donut shop on Sprinkle Road? Candy-bar inspired donuts, traditional & beyond! Named “Top 10″ Donuts in U.S. on MSN City Guide & Top dozen “Best Donuts Ever” in U.S. by AOL! Plus, it’s open 24/7.

• Favorite thing about Kalamazoo?
My favorite thing about this city is Kalamazoo’s people and leaders. We make up this uniquely amazing community with a collective spirit that cannot be matched ANYWHERE. Not anywhere. Try to prove me wrong.

wmu football

Heading to Western Michigan University football games is one of Maria Suszynski’s favorite fall activities in Kalamazoo.


• Favorite thing to do in each season?
- Fall: Cooler weather means WMU football games & the Holly Jolly Trolley(!!).
- Winter: I stay warm during the cold months with Erin Fouch’s Zumba! classes at Wayside West. Wellspring/Cori Terry & DancersMidwest RAD Fest wraps up the chilly season with the hottest dance festival around.
- Spring: When things warm up, I lace up my sneaks and hit the pavement. The Borgess Run for the Health of It & the Girls on the Run 5K are my favorite spring activities. Oh… and “Oberon Day” – also a spring favorite (runners need to hydrate).
- Summer: Forget April in Paris. Bronson Park in June (and July and August) is where it’s at! Events like the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Art Fair, Sunday Concerts in the Park, Third Thursday Jazz, and Lunchtime Live are worth waiting 9 months for. (Sydney’s Summer Sidewalk Sale…worth waiting ALL YEAR for.)

• Coolest Kalamazoo-history fact?
Kalamazoo is home to the very first U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship (1963). I do love hot air balloons. And fireworks. I digress.

• Favorite place to grab a drink?
This is a tough question to answer these days. There are so many choices in the runner up for BeerCity USA! Tibb’s Brewing Company has become one of my favorite places to meet-up with friends on Art Hop Fridays. This cozy corner of Kalamazoo is a great gathering place for celebrating the end of your work week or simply celebrating. Tibbs’ Belgian Golden Strong is truly exceptional. So exceptional, that it has inspired an equally delicious dessert at the Cupcake Zoo just around the corner.

• Perfect day trip?
One of my favorite family day trips takes me to Fennville, MI for apple picking and corn mazes at Crane Orchards and dining at Su Casa. Every fall, I look forward to those warm October afternoons filled with Honeycrips and enchiladas. It’s pure Michigan.

bowling alley kalamazoo

Airway Lanes in Kalamazoo is great fun for kids and adults alike! It has bowling, laser tag, an arcade and more!

• Fun place(s) for kids/families?
There is lots of fun to be had by families in Kalamazoo. Some of my top recommendations include: Kalamazoo Valley Museum; Kalamazoo Nature Center; Echo Valley Winter Sports Park; and Airway Lanes. Indoors or outdoors, there is plenty to do in the ‘Zoo.

• Fun date?
Date night is always fun at the Alamo Drafthouse. I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun. You have to experience it yourself, and it IS an experience. Grab your lover, your bestie or your peeps… bottomless bowls of popcorn and sing-a-long movies guarantee a very good time.

Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo

Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo features a full bar with 32 draft taps, wine, mixed drinks, coffee, tea, soda, shakes and more. Get there 30 minutes before your movie to browse the menu and enjoy the custom pre-show! The theatre validates parking in the adjacent garages — just bring in your parking ticket to the front counter after the movie.

• Best pizza?
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. The best pizza is the one you can share. Or the one with mushrooms.

• Favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
Saturdays are for spending outdoors: farmers markets; U-pick farms; festivals; beaches; running; reading; performances; soccer games… If the weather is agreeable, I’m outside enjoying it.

Click for the largest database of Kalamazoo events!

Celebrating Kalamazoo Pride: Drag performers, dancing, smiles

Lori Gottschling is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo who enjoys all things related to coffee and photography. Keep an eye out for Lori at upcoming events in Kalamazoo! :)

Lori Gottschling is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo who enjoys all things related to coffee and photography. Keep an eye out for Lori at upcoming events in Kalamazoo! :)

Kalamazoo, Mich. — The second I step into line (which, by the way, stretches all the way out of the park!), I am immediately overcome with a sense of welcoming by the people around me.

There is chatting, laughter and genuine happiness filling the air! I can literally hear the buzz of excitement as strangers introduce themselves to one another and make new friends — all before they even step foot onto the festival grounds. This is going to be a good day. :)

I’m in line to attend Kalamazoo Pride (held June 13-14, 2014) in downtown Kalamazoo at Arcadia Creek Festival Place to get photos for my internship at Discover Kalamazoo.

Haven’t heard of Kalamazoo Pride? This annual festival started in 2007 to celebrate the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity, and it’s hosted by the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. Read on to get a taste of what Kalamazoo Pride has to offer!

Kalamazoo pride festival

The bridge leading into Kalamazoo Pride 2014 was lined with lots of people Friday evening before the festival gates opened!

kalamazoo pride festival

The bridge was also lined with beautiful rainbow fabric! :)

kalamazoo pride fest

Before the local drag competition started, dancers wowed the crowd with their moves!

Once I make it through the line, the real fun begins!

The night starts with a dance competition that brings the crowd to its feet! It’s so amazing to see Kalamazoo locals have no fear about jumping up on stage and showing off their funky dance moves! (I’m not sure I could do that!)

After the dance competition, it’s time for the event I’ve been excited about for weeks: the local drag competition. I’ve never been to a drag show before, but I’ve always wanted to go. So, here’s my chance!

The competition kicks off with an impeccable lip-sync performance by last year’s Ms. Kalamazoo Pride, the fabulous and beautiful, Una Legend!

kalamazoo pride fest

Ms. Kalamazoo Pride 2013 Una Legend gives the crowd a wave during the farewell performance at the 2014 Kalamazoo Pride drag competition.

After Legend’s farewell performance, the contestants give their all by showing their best lip-syncing skills and dance moves — all in hopes of becoming Miss or Mister Kalamazoo Pride 2014!

The stage is filled with loads of energy, charisma, creativity and some of the most spectacular costumes I have ever seen — not to mention, some pretty awesome lip-synced performances, too. ;)

kalamazoo pride fest kalamazoo pride fest kalamazoo pride fest kalamazoo pride fest kalamazoo pride fest kalamazoo pride festival








After the local drag competition — which will not be my last — the Chicago cover band Deja Vu rocks out on stage while I join the crowd to dance at the band’s feet!

kalamazoo pride festivalkalamazoo pride fest

Later, I wander around looking for people to chat about what pride means to them. Here’s what they had to say:

kalamazoo pride festival

“Pride is everybody being allowed to be as happy as they want to be in the open. It’s so important for everyone to feel safe expressing themselves. Everyone deserves a safe place,” said Chelsea Errante and August Smith.

kalamazoo pride

“Pride means being myself no matter the cost,” said Sabrina Alexinia Berk.





kalamazoo pride

“Love is love. It has nothing to do with gender,” said Sara Murphy and Mindi Snyder.











All in all, my experience at Kalamazoo Pride 2014 was something that I will always cherish. My biggest takeaways are we should always be proud of who we are and continue to love the people we are becoming!

kalamazoo prideSee more Kalamazoo Pride photos by visiting Discover Kalamazoo‘s Facebook or Flickr albums!

Click here to find more cool things to do in Kalamazoo!

A walk in Bronson Park

Lori Gottschling is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo who enjoys all things related to coffee and photography. Keep an eye out for Lori at upcoming events in Kalamazoo! :)

Lori Gottschling is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo who enjoys all things related to coffee and photography. Keep an eye out for Lori at upcoming events in Kalamazoo! :)

Kalamazoo, Mich. — Love animals and nature?

Then stop over to Bronson Park to check out some amazing animal topiaries!

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to venture over to Bronson Park and see some of the animal sculptures for myself. There are a number of diverse animal topiaries that were all planted by Kalamazoo in Bloom located throughout the park! Take a look at some of the fun animals I ran into on my walk through Bronson park! :)

The first animal I encountered on my adventure is the biggest sculpture in the park. Standing more than 6 feet tall, this peacock is something that you must see to believe!

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, Michigan

The animal topiaries were planted in Bronson Park by Kalamazoo in Bloom! Here is a topiary peacock stretching its neck in the sun!

The next animal I ran into on my walk through the park was a little monkey, swinging through the branches on a tree.

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, Michigan

There are also a number of animals hidden in the trees throughout the park!

In addition to a wide range of different animals, the park is filled with some gorgeous flowers. Take a look at some of my favorite buds! :)

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, MichiganExploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, MichiganExploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, Michigan




I also ran into a couple of topiaries “horsing” around during my walk. ;)

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, MichiganThere is also an array of smaller critters featured in Bronson park! You have to look closely to spot some of these tiny furry friends!

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, MichiganAfter finding some of the smaller topiaries, I ran into this crane who was hiding in the grass.

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, MichiganThe final animal I saw on my walk through Bronson park was this large moose. I don’t like to play favorites, but if I had to choose I think I would go with the moose!

Exploring Bronson Park Topiaries - Kalamazoo, Michigan

Did you know that the moose is the largest member of the deer family and a native species to Michigan?

That wraps up my walk through Bronson park! Hopefully you too can make a trip out and enjoy the animal topiaries while furthering your discovery of Kalamazoo! :)

See more photos of the topiary animals by visiting our Discover Kalamazoo Facebook or Flickr!

Click for more cool things to do in Kalamazoo!

Taste the world at Kalamazoo’s annual summer festivals

things to do in kalamazoo

Jessica Pawlik is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo and fell in love with the city ever since she became a student at Western Michigan University. She enjoys summer, exploring different attractions and finding out about all the exciting events going on in Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo, Mich. — If you’re anything like me, you love to eat!

And Kalamazoo’s summer festivals are the perfect place to enjoy awesome entertainment and the diverse Kalamazoo community while sampling some of Kalamazoo’s eclectic tastes!

Here’s a list of the foodie festivals I look forward to each year in Kalamazoo:

Dionysis Greek Festival: June 5 to 7, 2014

Experience authentic Greek food, spirits and music at Greek Festival this year. The festival has expanded over the years to a three-day event, where musicians, singers and dancers will perform and share their heritage. Choose from Dionysos main food booth, Athenian variety, and Aphrodite desserts all handmade by Stacey. The drink menu includes authentic Greek lager beers, Greek liquors, Greek wines, non-alcoholic beverages and more!

  • Where:  Arcadia Creek Festival Place
  • When: Thursday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 to 12:30 a.m.
  • Admission cost: Free admission before 4:00 p.m. each day. Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. $7.00 (Seniors Enter Free), Friday and Saturday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. $7.00 and 7:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. $10.
  • Food cost: Face value of a food/drink ticket is $1.

    Kalamazoo Island Festival

    Kalamazoo Island Fest has grown to become the largest reggae festival in the Midwest. Visit the festival’s “little Jamaica” and experience the arts and crafts vendors selling items ranging from woodcarvings to handmade drums, T-shirts to jewelry, and everything in between.

Island Festival: June 19 to 21, 2014

The 19th anniversary of Island Festival has a great musical line up with three days and nights of reggae music rocking downtown Kalamazoo! The entertainment ranges from top local talent to well-known regional and national headliners. Try Jamaican- and Caribbean-inspired cuisine, drinks, beer and wine!

  • Where: Arcadia Creek Festival Place
  • When: Thursday 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
  • Admission cost: Free Admission before 4:00 p.m. each day. Thursday is $5.00 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and $8.00 after 7:00 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, admission is $7.00 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and $10.00 after $7.00 p.m.
  • Food cost: Tickets are 50 cents each.

    Irish Fest Kalamazoo

    Irish music, dance, Arts and Crafts, cultural area, food, Whiskey tasting, beer tent.

Irish Fest: June 27 to 28, 2014

Irish Fest is back again with music, dance, arts and crafts, Irish food, drinks and more! The food court will be serving authentic Irish specialties from Gallagher’s Eatery & Pub, O’Duffy’s Pub, Bennigan’s, Kalamazoo Scottish Fest Association and Kate’s Diner. Merchandise vendors will have collections of Irish jewelry, apparel, music and gifts. There will be a whiskey tasting, beer tent, Irish cider on draught and nonalcoholic beverages. On Saturday, the children’s center will feature games, crafts, face painting, friendly competitions and prizes!

  • Where: Arcadia Creek Festival Place
  • When: Friday 4:30 p.m. to midnight and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to midnight.
  • Admission cost: Free admission Friday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Regular admission is $8.00, students with valid I.D. $4.00 and free for children 13 and under.
  • Drink cost: Beverage tickets are $1 each.

Taste of Portage: July 19, 2014

The taste of portage will feature food from participating restaurants and catering companies. Latitude 42 will host its first Taste of Portage Brewers Expo from 2 to 4 p.m., with a specialty-brew launch. Everyone will have a chance to vote on the People’s Choice Award for their favorite food. Kids can enjoy the Kidz Zone with temporary tattoos, games, art and a scavenger food hunt. You’ll have a chance to meet the fall Portage student athletes, experience a Flashmob of dancers and enjoy afternoon entertainment. You have the option of biking to Taste of Portage for free admission by using the bike path entry!

  • Where: Overlander Bandshell, 7800 Shaver Road, Portage, MI 49024.
  • Admission cost: Not yet posted

    Taste of Kalamazoo

    Enjoy the endless variety of foods prepared by Kalamazoo’s most popular eateries. Cuisine from over 30 restaurants will be available.

Taste of Kalamazoo: July 24-26, 2014

One of the most anticipated festivals of the year is the Taste of Kalamazoo! Michigan’s largest food festival will offer cuisine from over 30 restaurants. Enjoy ethnic dishes, family favorites, exotic items and local specialties from Africa, China, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Caribbean and in between! Expect to find the best craft beer from local breweries and enjoy wine bars from local wineries. Non-alcoholic beverages include fresh smoothies, healthy juices and refreshing Coca-Cola products. You won’t want to miss out on the live music line-up that runs all day ranging from emerging local talent to well-known regional and national headliners. This festival attracts nearly 30,000 attendees over the weekend!

  • Where: Arcadia Creek Festival Place
  • When: Gates open Thurs.-Sat. from 11am-12:30am.
  • Admission cost: Thursday $3 at 4:00 p.m. and $6 at 7:00 p.m. Friday $6 at 4:00 p.m. and $8 at 7:00 p.m. Saturday $5 at 2:00 p.m. and $10 at 5:00 p.m. College students receive $2 off admission with a valid college ID, children 12 and under are free.
  • Food cost: Food and beverage tickets are priced at 50 cents each.

Ribfest: August 7 to 9, 2014

Ribfest features three whole days of food, entertainment, fun and, of course, ribs! This festival is one of the oldest in downtown Kalamazoo, attracting more than 30,000 people each summer. National and local rib vendors will sell ribs and chicken coated in outstanding barbecue sauces, as well as side items and sweet treats. Listen to great entertainment such as national rock and country music artists and local bands. There will be different contests for Best Ribs in Kalamazoo, including the People’s Choice Rib Competition.

  • Where:  Arcadia Creek Festival Place
  • Thursday 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
  • Admission cost: Free Admission before 4:00 p.m. each day. $10.00 every day after 4:00 p.m.
Kalamazoo RIb Fest
The festival features three solid days of food, entertainment and fun! Ribfest is one of the oldest festivals in Downtown Kalamazoo, and it attracts over 30,000 people each summer.


Kalamazoo Scottish Festival & Highland Games: August 23, 2014

Experience Highland games, clans, bagpipes, Highland cattle, entertainment, merchandize and Scottish food at this festival!

  • Where: Flesher Field Park, S. 9th St., Kalamazoo, MI 49008.
  • Admission cost: Not yet posted

Click here if you’re looking for more Kalamazoo festivals!
Click here for a full calendar of Kalamazoo events!

College Perspective: Favorite things to do in Kalamazoo

things to do in kalamazoo

Jessica Pawlik is an intern at Discover Kalamazoo and fell in love with the city ever since she became a student at Western Michigan University. She enjoys summer, exploring different attractions and finding out about all the exciting events going on in Kalamazoo.

• Favorite restaurant?

I would say Mangia Mangia, because every entrée I’ve tried is delicious! Get the calamari as an appetizer, and I highly recommend the lobster mac and cheese. I’m also a big fan of Mangia Mangia’s bread with their dipping oil. I love the cozy Italian feel when you step inside and the location of the restaurant on the downtown Kalamazoo Mall.

I also have to add in Erbelli’s for pizza. Growing up in Chicago, I have pretty high standards for my pizza…and this restaurant exceeds my standards!

• Favorite attraction?

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. I had never before been to a movie theatre that serves you while you sit and enjoy a movie! What I like about this attraction is that it is fun for all ages. You can see a movie with your family, friends, children, etc. and order a snack, entrée or drink — without having to leave the movie. The theatre validates your parking, so it’s free, and Alamo often offers special events, such as sing-alongs, quote-alongs and dance parties!

Alamodraft house cinema Kalamazoo

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is new to downtown Kalamazoo. It is the first dine-in movie theatre in the city and opened up in Fall of 2013.

• Favorite thing about Kalamazoo?

Hands down, the people. Everyone I have met here is extremely welcoming and friendly — and you don’t find that everywhere. I was drawn to how much this town has to offer and how diverse the community is.

• Favorite Kalamazoo festival/event?

I took part in Kalamazoo Beer Week in January, and it was a blast! It was neat to see college students and adults all enjoying the wonderful breweries in Kalamazoo. I’m also excited to attend all the summer festivals in downtown Kalamazoo, including Taste of Kalamazoo and Ribfest!

entertainment district concert and drinks

There are many different events that take place downtown Kalamazoo throughout the year. The Entertainment District has great bars, drinks, music and concerts; this photo is of District Square in The Entertainment District.

• Favorite place to grab a drink?

Anywhere in the Entertainment District. Each bar has a unique feel and fun environment.

• Best late-night spot for college students?

Grotto at Capone’s. You can enjoy daily specials and Trivia on Wednesday’s. Every Sunday, all food and drinks are half off.

• Top hangout?

Pinz bowling alley. They have open bowl and weekly specials. Tuesday is the place to be for college night.

• Fun Fact about Kalamazoo:

Western Michigan University used to be farmland, then turned into a golf course and now a top 100 national university!

WMU Western Michigan Univeristy

This photo shows Western Michigan University’s beautiful campus.

• Best breakfast?

Nina’s café on W. Main Street. It is a small restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch and is always packed with people. I would recommend trying the stuffed waffle with sweetened cream cheese, pecans, strawberries and whipped cream!

• Great brunch place?

Crow’s Nest is this small, hip restaurant that offers excellent breakfast and a variety of options for lunch.

airway lanes fun center

Spend a day at Airway Lanes and enjoy bowling, mini golf, go karting, laser tag, an arcade and more.

• Fun places for kids/families?

Airway Lanes and Fun Center. I took my little cousins and the kids I used to nanny there, and they had an absolute blast. Attractions include: bowling, mini golf, bumper cars, laser tag, lasermaze, an arcade and more.

• Favorite place to get a smoothie?

Smoothie King. Monday-Friday, enjoy the best prices with happy hour from 2-4!


• Best summer treat?

Frozen yogurt at Let’s Swirl!

• Fun date?

The Beer Exchange. If you enjoy craft beer, delicious food and music this is the place to go.

kalamazoo beer exchange

The Kalamazoo Beer Exchange is a two-story multi-tap bar and grill with many different kinds of draught beer. Occasionally the market will “crash” and certain beer prices will drop to their all-time low.

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FREE family summer fun in greater Kalamazoo

things to do kalamazoo kids

Jill Piwko is the director of KZOOkids.com and mom of one active 5-year-old son. She loves being out and enjoying all of the things that Kalamazoo offers. You can often find Jill hiking, cooking and experiencing things with her family in and around Kalamazoo.

Kalamazoo, Mich. — Summertime is definitely our favorite season here in Kalamazoo.

One of the reasons we like it so much is that there are a ton of family-friendly things to do. Best of all? Many of them are free!

Take a look at these free family-friendly things to do in and around Kalamazoo this summer from Jill Piwko of KZOOkids.com:

Gilmore Car Museum: Wednesday Night Cruise-In

Every Wednesday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. May through September, the Gilmore Car Museum hosts hundreds of old-time cars. It’s a wonderful chance to wander around on a sunny evening and look at the cars or have great frozen custard at George & Sally’s Blue Moon Diner.

gilmore car museum

Photo courtesy of Jill Piwko. Stop into the Gilmore Car Museum with the family this summer! Only want to enjoy a meal at the Blue Moon Diner? You don’t need to pay the museum’s admission fee!

Kalamazoo Valley Museum: Hands-On Happenings

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum (KVM) will offer its Hands-On Happenings activities 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays from June 25 through Aug. 6. Each Hands-On Happening focuses on KVM’s two summer exhibits: The Robot Zoo (opening June 14) and Speedbump (opening June 21). There is a great variety in each week’s activities, and we attend as many Wednesday Hands-On Happenings as we can!

Kalamazoo things to do kids

Photo courtesy of Jill Piwko. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum in downtown is offering free Hands-On Happening exhibits this summer.

Bike Riding: Portage Pathway and Kalamazoo River Valley Trail

With more than 38 miles of weaving pathways, the Portage Pathway offers families a chance to get out and enjoy a family bike ride. The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail is another great option with its 17 miles of trails; we love the ride from downtown Kalamazoo to the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Both are great options to get the family together and enjoy some active time.

Kalamazoo bike trail

Photo courtesy of Jill Piwko. Take the family on a bike ride on one of Kalamazoo’s great trails!

Endless number of great parks and playgrounds

We have so many great parks for the kids to play at here in Kalamazoo County. Some of our favorites include Richland Park, Oshtemo Park and the Upjohn Park Boundless Playground. Each park is unique in what they offer. A great way to spend a sunny day!

Kalamazoo playground

Photo courtesy of Jill Piwko. Some of Jill Piwko and her son’s favorites parks include, Richland Park, Oshtemo Park and the Upjohn Park Boundless Playground.

Outdoor Summer Concerts Series at Kindleberger Park

Grab a blanket, picnic basket and your kids then head out to one of the free Kindleberger Park Summer Concerts starting 6:30 p.m. Sundays June 15 to Aug. 17. The series is family friendly and offers a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy a different style of music each week.

June Jubilee: Do-Dah Parade and Kalamazoo Institute of Arts – Art Fair

Our favorite weekend of the summer is June Jubilee. This year June Jubilee runs from June 6 through June 8. Between the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Art Fair and the crazy Do-Dah Parade, the kiddos will have a ton to do and see. More than 180 artists will be on hand for the art fair, setting up a variety of colorful artwork in 13 different media. The Do-Dah parade encourages the wacky, fun and craziness in all of their participants. This parade is a local favorite and so much fun to watch!

kalamazoo things to do

Photo courtesy of Downtown Kalamazoo, Inc. The annual Do-Dah parade brings the silly and satire to the streets of downtown Kalamazoo. Come get some laughs at this hilarious tradition!

Art Hop

On the first Friday of every month beginning at 5 p.m., the Art Hop in downtown Kalamazoo is the place to be. During Art Hop, local businesses and organizations display the work of local artists and some even offer musical performances or art demos. We love how the entire community gets involved. We love that the Art Hop is family-friendly and open to everyone.

Downtown Kalamazoo Michigan

Photo courtesy of Michael Buck. Come to downtown Kalamazoo for the free Art Hop! See and buy artwork from regional artists in downtown retail and restaurant locations. Some spots also offer a free beverage and snack! This event happens on the first Friday of every month (with some exceptions).

Summer Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market

The Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market is a wonderful community market with more than 100 vendors converging at the 1204 Bank St. location 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from May to November (and also 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from June through October). The Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market is full of everything from fruits and veggies to meats, cheeses, breads, spreads and more. Pair this variety with kids’ activities and family entertainment offered at the market, and you can see why the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market is the place to visit with the family.

kalamazoo farmers market

Photo courtesy of Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market. The Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market features more than 100 vendors and is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays May through October.

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Best Disc Golf in Greater Kalamazoo

disc golf kalamazoo

A competitor in the 2008 World Disc Golf Championships in Kalamazoo throws a disc over a pond. The tournament brought in 900 professional, amaterur, masters and women disc golf competitors.

Kayla Kiley

You can find Kayla Kiley wrapping up in the unparalleled beauty of Michigan summers, grooving to local live music, ballroom dancing, and simply exploring the world around her.

Kalamazoo, Michigan — If you’re a disc golfer, you’ve probably heard that Kalamazoo is the place to be.

In fact, in 2008, Kalamazoo hosted the World Disc Golf Championships, which included 900 professional, amaterur, masters and women competitors. In 2015, Kalamazoo will host about 700 competitors during the World Amateur Disc Golf Championships.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to play disc in Kalamazoo?

Larry LaBond, a local disc-golf enthusiast, put together the below list of courses that were utilized during the world tournaments — and you can play on them too! (Note: Certain parks may charge an entry fee.)



  • Location: 7485 W. Main St., Kalamazoo, MI (on the west side of Kalamazoo)
  • Holes: 18 Chainstar
  • Tees: short/long — all cement
  • Amenities: Two pavilions, bathroom, practice basket, tennis and basketball courts. It’s  close to shopping, restaurants and gas stations. Oshtemo Township Park is one of Michigan’s best courses. It is a well-balanced course that requires accurate drives to score well. Staying in the fairway is the way to play this course. Featuring both long and short tees, Oshtemo is able to challenge players of all abilities. The long course is a championship-caliber course and was one of the favorites of player’s in the 2008 PAW. It was the semi-final course for the Open Men in 2008. The short course offers a different look at the holes compared to the long course. What might have been a straight hole on the long course is now a right handed turnover from the short tees. Even though the short course is easier, it is still a quality course. There are just more opportunities for birdies.


  • Location: 6151 Portage Road, Portage, MI (about a mile off of 1-94 in the city of Portage, just south of Kalamazoo)
  • Holes: 18 Discatchers
  • Tees: Flypads
  • Amenities: Air Zoo museum on site. Besides the attractions in the museum, there are meeting rooms, a cafeteria, a gift shop, bathrooms and air conditioning. Shopping, gas stations, and restaurants are also just down the road. The Air Zoo course was built as a result of the 2008 World Championships. The baskets and fly pads were donated to the museum after the World Championships were over. The course itself plays easy. Most holes (if not all) are birdies for top players. The design was done to accommodate beginner and junior players. While it’s an easy course, it offers a variety of shots, including open- and wooded-holes that go both right, left and straight. This course has quickly become one of our areas busiest courses. It is well suited for Juniors, Grandmasters (and older divisions) and Women’s divisions.


  • Location: 8401 E. H Ave., Kalamazoo, MI (on the northeast side of Kalamazoo)
  • Holes: 9 Mach 2.5 and 9 Mach 2 new (both types of baskets have been modified to catch better).
  • Tees: Cement
  • Amenities: 2 Pavilions, bathrooms, lake, playground, practice basket. The park is just a couple of miles from shopping, gas stations, and restaurants. Split into 2 nine-hole courses, Robert Morris is a place where players can open up with their arms. There are some great terrain changes with a couple of big downhill and uphill holes. While mostly open, there are some very challenging wooded holes requiring players to hit their lines or take extra throws to get there. The open holes do have their share of obstacles with well placed bushes and trees forcing throws to still be accurate. Robert Morris was well used in the 2008 World Championships.


  • Location: 14590 County Highway 110, Three Rivers, MI (about 25 minutes south of Kalamazoo, a mile off of US-131)
  • Holes: 18 Chainstar Baskets on the North course, 18 Discatchers on the South course
  • Tees: Dirt tees on the North course (will have flypads at a minimum for the Worlds), Cement tees on the South course
  • Amenities: Pavilions, bathrooms, playground. Located just a mile from shopping, gas stations, and restaurants. The South course is the original course to Meyer Broadway and is the tougher of the 2 courses. There are a lot of terrain changes on just about every hole. There are also a lot of blind tee shots at the baskets requiring smart throws from the tees. This is another course where players will be able to open up with their arms. Bad throws will leave players far from the basket. Scores for amateurs will be over par, with the top players maybe just breaking par. The North course was a temporary course in the 2008 Worlds. Like the South course it features rolling hills that create terrain changes on just about every hole. The North course is the easier of the 2 courses with shorter holes and more direct routes to the basket. The North course is still a very challenging course with good use of open and wooded spaces, playing in, out, and through the woods.


  • Location: 12538 S. Sprinkle Road, Vicksburg, Ml (about 15 minutes south of Kalamazoo)
  • Holes: 18 Chainstar
  • Tees: Long/short Cement
  • Amenities: Bathrooms and concession stand. located on the North-side of the Village of Vicksburg. There is shopping, gas stations, and restaurants nearby. This course is currently in the early stages of being built. The design is currently about to be approved by the Village Board with plans on starting construction immediately after the design approval. The design is featuring both long and short tees on every hole. While there isn’t much for terrain changes, there is good use of the woods and the water in the park to challenge players. Several of the holes will require 2 good shots from the long tees to get par. Bad shots will surely cost players extra strokes on this course.


Both Cold Brook Park and Fort Custer’s courses were used in the 2008 World Disc Golf Championships. Cold Brook was a modified 18-hole course for the Worlds and Fort Custer’s disc golf course has undergone several changes since the 2008 Worlds.

disc golf kalamazoo

A competitor in the 2008 World Disc Golf Championships throws a disc.


According to the Professional Disc Golf Association‘s website, the sport was formalized in the 1970′s and shares with “ball golf” the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest throws). A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target which is the “hole”. The hole can be one of a number of disc golf targets; the most common is called a Pole Hole® an elevated metal basket. As a player progresses down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw has landed. The trees, shrubs, and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer.

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Local Spotlight: Favorite things to do in Kalamazoo

restaurant kalamazoo

Zazios Chef’s Table, located inside the Radisson hotel in downtown Kalamazoo, offers an intimate, interactive, five-course dinner and wine pairing. Enjoy an cooking demonstration while tasting the chef’s creations!

things to do in kalamazoo

Laurel Parrott is the co-owner of the Kalamazoo House Bed & Breakfast in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan.

• Favorite restaurant?  
It’s a tie. I really love Rustica. And Zazios’ Chef’s Table is always super-special.

• Best breakfast?
Of course, I think the Kalamazoo House B&B‘s breakfast can’t be beat…but on the rare occasions that we get out to breakfast, it’s Studio Grill for me. Try the Wooden Spoon Omelet.

• Favorite attraction?
Having grown up in eastern Michigan, I grew up going to antique car museums. When we moved back to Michigan to buy the B&B, I figured I had already had my fill with old cars, and so I put off going to the Gilmore Car Museum way too long. It’s truly outstanding, and the fact that the beautiful campus also features restored barns makes it all the more special for me. I particularly like to tell my guests to be sure to see the collection of “car mascots” (that’s hood ornaments, for the uninitiated.)

gilmore car museum

The Gilmore Car Museum located in Hickory Corners, Michigan, features more than 300 vehicles spanning all eras. It was named a Top 5 Car Museum by Antique Automobile magazine.

• Top hangout?
Old Dog Tavern. Comfortable, friendly, I enjoy the Sunday Bloody Mary Bar a whole lot.

kalamazoo bar

Kalamazoo’s Old Dog Tavern offers lots of live entertainment, food and drinks.

• Best late-night spot?  
B&B owners are up early, so we rarely get out late at night. Others will have to answer this one.

• Favorite thing about Kalamazoo?
The vibrant, walkable downtown Kalamazoo that keeps getting even better and better.

Downtown Kalamazoo Michigan

Photo by Michael Buck. The Kalamazoo Mall, a downtown outdoor shopping area, bustles with boutiques, unique restaurants and old-world charm.


• Favorite thing to do in each season?
- Spring: Getting my flower gardens ready and blooming. Enjoying the gardens in Bronson Park and nearby neighborhoods.
Summer: The big lake.
Fall: Apple orchards.
Winter: Long walks during the first big snows of the season. (Of course, I’m pretty over it by now).

• Coolest Kalamazoo-history fact?
Back in the late 1800s, there were more than 20 cigar-making businesses here in Kalamazoo. I know this because the Lilienfelds who built this house (Kalamazoo House B&B) had the largest one. This always surprises people.

• Favorite Kalamazoo festival/event?
I’m pretty partial to Kalamazoo Beer Week in January. Lots of good energy from folks enjoying good craft beer after the holidays.

Kalamazoo Beer Week

Kalamazoo Beer Week happens in January and is a week-long series of events that support the craft beer experience through special tastings, dinners, and interactive events.

• Favorite place to grab a drink?
You can’t beat the SkyDeck at the Entertainment District on a beautiful evening.

Kalamazoo bar

SkyDeck is a local favorite rooftop bar to grab a drink and view of the sunset over the city! It’s open during the warm months.

• Perfect day trip?
When we get time to getaway between check-out time and check-in time, it’s often a motorcycle ride to the beach at South Haven. Get some sun, maybe an ice cream cone, and then stop at some farm stands on the way home.

• Fun place(s) for kids/families?
Air Zoo and Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Air Zoo

The Air Zoo is home to more than 50 rare and historic aircraft. As a first-of-its kind museum, the Air Zoo features theme-park-style rides, a flight-motion simulator, 4-D movie theatre, space section and more! Plus it showcases one of the world’s largest hand-painted murals.

• Fun date?
See above, Chef’s Table at Zazios in the Radisson is really special.

• Best pizza?

Kalamazoo b&b

Laurel Parrott, co-owner of the Kalamazoo House Bed & Breakfast, said breakfast at the Kalamazoo House B&B can’t be beat. But if she does go out for breakfast, it’s to Studio Grill in downtown!

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