I’m embarrased to admit that it took me six years of living in South Bend before I visited Kalamazoo. I had heard many great things about Kalamazoo over the years – Meg loves the art theatre and bike paths, my friend loves the Beer Exchange, my former coworker’s husband is obsessed with Bell’s Brewery and Eccentric Cafe, and my other coworker told me the Air Zoo is the best attraction within a two hour drive. After hearing all of these rave reviews about Kalamazoo, I decided it was time to take a drive up north and form my own opinion.
Kalamazoo is located only an hour and 20 minutes north of South Bend. It’s a fairly scenic and uneventful drive up 131, and consists mostly of farmland. Our first stop was the Air Zoo, an aviation museum and amusement park located in Portage, MI, just outside of Kalamazoo. (Yes, the place is as bizarre as it sounds.)
The exterior of the Air Zoo is less than impressive. It looks like you’re driving up to a corporate building from the 1990s. I couldn’t imagine how the interior of this place could house an aviation museum, let alone rides. We hopped out of the car and got in line to buy tickets – it’s $13 for adults and $12.50 for children. At this point, I was still wondering if I had mistakenly ended up in a corporate office somewhere in Michigan. Was I suddenly trapped in the film Office Space?
After buying our tickets, we were directed down a hallway of clouds. The hallway suddenly opened up into a massive hangar filled with dozens of planes, including a replica of the Wright brothers’ plane, World War II bombers and the fastest plane ever built, the SR-71B Blackbird. The walls were painted with beautiful murals and a balloon ride and ferris wheel sat off in the corner. On the other side of the room you could hear the screams coming from 3D fight plane simulators, where guests had the opportunity test a plane in a virtual environment, complete with upside-down turns.
The balloon ride was a blast from the past and my husband loved checking out the planes. All the kids seemed to be in heaven – unlimited rides are included in admission. As you progress through the museum, you learn about the history of flight, including space travel. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
The Air Zoo is open Monday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m. After the Air Zoo, we headed over to downtown Kalamazoo and Bell’s Eccentric Cafe for an ice cold beer, which I’ll tell you about in a later post.