The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour

The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

I know I sound like a total creeper when I say this, but there really isn’t anything I enjoy more than wandering around neighborhoods, peeking into stranger’s windows to see how they live and work. If there was no such thing as a restraining order, I would totally walk right into people’s houses and start going through their cupboards. That’s just how nosy I am.

And that’s exactly why I loved going on the Hidden Kalamazoo Tour. Offered once a year by the Kalamazoo Historic Preservation Commission, the Hidden Kalamazoo Tour offers participants a unique, behind-the-scenes look at a handful of old buildings in Kalamazoo, under the guidance of volunteer tour guides.

This year’s tour featured six downtown buildings, including the stunning American National Bank. Seriously, you guys, this bank is so flashy even the water fountain looks like it should be charging admission.

The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

The tour offered an exclusive look into some of the bank’s offices on the main floor, a chance to check out the view from the building’s fifteenth floor and even a peek into the bank’s vaults. (Sorry, guys, only looking, no touching — at least as far as the bank vault was concerned!).

Also on the tour was the majestic, State Theatre. Opened in 1927, this former cinema and vaudeville house harks back to a time when it was totally normal to watch a movie while surrounded by Grecian style statues and candelabras. Man, those were the days, huh?

The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

Another fun stop on the tour was the soon-to-be-reopened bar and lounge, The Dynamic Mr. President. I mean, with a name like that, how could it not be fun?

The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

As amazing as all of these places were, probably my most favorite stops on the tour were the kinds of places I wouldn’t usually have access to. At least, you know, not legally. There was the former Arlington Hotel above Bimbo’s Pizza Restaurant, which is currently being converted into some fancy-pants, urban-style lofts. We also visited the second floor of the Van Kersen Building, which houses the coolest office space ever. I just wanted to sit down at one of the desks and act like I worked there already.

The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

And there was a crusty, old apartment and former photo studio in the Stevens Building above Studio Grill. With its peeling paint and exposed wiring, this place definitely felt like it wasn’t fit for the public to be touring around it. Which meant I totally loved it because it felt almost exactly like trespassing. Except better because I didn’t have to worry about getting arrested.

The Awesome Mitten - The Hidden Kalamazoo Tour
Photo courtesy of Sally Thelen

I’m already looking forward to next year’s tour. Until then, I’ll be creeping around Kalamazoo, engaging in my favorite pastime: staring into people’s windows while pretending I’m totally not staring into their windows.

Tour Info:

This year’s Hidden Kalamazoo Tour ran from June 14 to 15. Tickets were $15 and were available for presale only. You could take the tour at your own pace — starting at any site and finishing at any site.

The tour is scheduled to run again next summer. The dates, ticket price and venues are yet to be determined. To find out more information about the tour, email 1884@kalamazoocity.org. or visit the Hidden Kalamazoo Facebook Page. 

Have you ever been on a behind-the-scenes kind of tour before?

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Sally Thelen is a blogger, teacher, traveler, bacon-eater, beer-drinker, and self-professed scaredy cat. Sally grew up in Buffalo, NY, and then bounced around the globe for fifteen years -- taking up residence everywhere from Washington, DC to Brazil to Japan. In 2013, she moved to Kalamazoo, where she has made it her mission to drink ALL THE BEER. Her blog, Unbrave Girl (www.unbravegirl.com) has been featured on Huffington Post and TravelChannel.com and won the 2014 Weblog Award for Most Humorous Weblog.