Kalamazoo Winter
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A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo

Mother Nature definitely had other plans for me on a recent day trip to downtown Kalamazoo Michigan when a planned, self-guided outside tour was for naught because of snow, temperatures gravitating toward zero, and blizzard-like conditions.

All that and the snow-covered roads could have derailed me completely, but it was time to adapt. Not being able to be outdoors safely for a long period of time lends the adventure to a lot more unplanned opportunities and strolling inside.

The Awesome Mitten - A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Sipping on Coffee & Beer

Arriving in the morning, the perfect early-day remedy to warm up and wake up was a hot coffee beverage from the popular Water Street Coffee. I chose a latte with Water Street’s homemade hazelnut syrup to enjoy in the warmth and coziness of the original location.

Besides plenty of coffee, tea, and food options, you will find decorations throughout the space. On the day I was there, there were tons of flowers because it was Valentine’s Day. The customer service goes above and beyond.

Tasting Beer at the First Michigan Microbrewery

Later in the day, I was across the street from the coffee shop experiencing a different kind of brew — beer from the Eccentric Cafe within Bell’s Brewery. You can hang out in the beer garden and enjoy some of the 20+ brews currently in production — I enjoyed a Sparkling Ale.

Bell’s was actually the first Michigan brewery of the modern microbrewery resurgence where you could walk in and grab a beer by the glass. It also has a general store where you can buy souvenirs and home brewing supplies, and the brewery offers tours on the weekend.

The Awesome Mitten - A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Foodie Time With Historic Favorites

In between all the different kinds of brew consumption, I got out of the cold and into one of the historic foodie spots in town — Coney Island. Celebrating its 100th anniversary at the time, it has its own unique version of the Coney Island hot dog for which Detroit and the state of Michigan are known.

After ordering, you can watch as the staff piles the meat-filled sauce, onions, and mustard on your hot dog in the open atmosphere. More hot dogs than I could count sat at the window up front, waiting for people to pass by, get intrigued, and stop in.

The Awesome Mitten - A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Walking the Downtown Area

Of course, to get from one place or another, I had to be outside. While walking briskly, I grabbed pictures of deserted streets and buildings of interest. Through that process, The Kalamazoo Building and Star Paper Company building stood out.

As I captured each photo, I was intrigued to learn more about how the former turned out to be the first skyscraper in town, while the latter is historic and now the home of the Old Dog Tavern.

Kalamazoo Winter
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

Enjoying Winter in the Park

I swiftly cut through two parks during my wintry trek — Arcadia Creek Festival Place and Bronson Park.

I couldn’t tell on this day, but Arcadia is a vast outdoor space for concerts and special events. You’ll find playgrounds for kids to play on and people eating outdoors throughout the space in the warmer months. And, you can see great skyline views at the northeast entrance.

Bronson Park goes back generations with statues throughout and is surrounded by churches, the local library, the civic theater, and the county courthouse. Abraham Lincoln actually spoke at the park once.

The white of winter was fun to capture in both parks regardless of trudging through snow drifts.

The Awesome Mitten - A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

A Day of Unexpected Opportunities

This day trip did not go as planned. Despite that, the winter stroll — both inside and outside — in downtown Kalamazoo led to a lot of discovery, learning of history, and also coming across places I might go to (or return to) next time I’m in town.

What are your favorite spots while walking around outside or hanging out in downtown Kalamazoo?

The Awesome Mitten - A Wintry Stroll Around Downtown Kalamazoo
Photo courtesy of Aaron Cruz

More Winter Things to Do Near Kalamazoo Michigan

When going for a wintry stroll around downtown Kalamazoo Michigan, you can attend other events and nearby attractions as well. Here are some top picks!

Ice Skating at Millennium Park in Portage

Ice skating outside during the winter is one of the coolest experiences (pun intended) that you can have while visiting Kalamazoo Michigan. The Millennium Park ice skating rink offers skate rentals and blade sharpening services, as well as concessions, lockers, and a warming house.

During the winter, Millennium Park is one of the most popular outdoor ice rinks in the state. But, it’s not the only thing to explore at the park. It also has a bike trail and beautiful scenery that’s perfect for a little family recreation.

Air Zoo In Kalamazoo
Air Zoo | photo via Rebecca Calkins

Museums in Portage & Hickory Corners

If you’re looking for educational experiences in the Kalamazoo area, there are several museums nearby. Two that are really worth checking out are the Kalamazoo Air Zoo and the Gilmore Car Museum.

Kalamazoo Air Zoo

Blending educational and interactive exhibits, the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science Museum is like an amusement park. The massive 50,000-square-foot facility has three floors dedicated to telling the stories of flight, space, and time.

One of the most interesting areas is the aircraft exhibit, which features more than 40 aircraft, showcasing the aviation industry over the years. And in amusement park fashion, the museum has indoor rides, activities, and other experiences.

Gilmore Car Museum

Just north of Kalamazoo, the Gilmore Car Museum is a 90-acre campus with six independent museums that feature hundreds of vintage and collector vehicles, from motorcycles to trucks. Each museum is home to different kinds of vehicles, and they take about four to six hours to explore.

The museum campus features a replica 1930s Shell station with memorabilia too. Plus, you can order bygone-era fare at the 1941 Blue Moon Diner from Connecticut.

During the winter, the Gilmore Car Museum hosts a special exhibit of snowmobiles from 1992 and older. The sleds are paraded around the circular track, and scenic rides are offered in some of the vintage vehicles. The event also includes ice carving competitions, outdoor games, and more.

Bittersweet Ski Resort, Otsego - Southern Michigan Downhill Ski, Winter In Southwest Michigan
Bittersweet Ski Resort | photo via @hailno_98_photo

Skiing & Snowboarding at Bittersweet Ski Resort

For some outdoor winter sports, head to Bittersweet Ski Resort, one of the best downhill ski destinations in South Michigan. The resort has 21 trails with a mix of terrain for visitors of all skill levels. Also, it has decent season packages if you plan to visit multiple times.

Walking Christmas Card Lane in Kalamazoo

If you’re visiting Kalamazoo Michigan during December and love Christmas-related things, visit Christmas Card Lane. This street of 43 houses has continued a tradition of lighting larger-than-life plywood Christmas cards since 1965. You’ll see festive light displays as well.

More Nearby Things to Do in Southwest Michigan

Just because you’re visiting Kalamazoo doesn’t mean that you can’t take a day trip to other Southwest Michigan destinations. Here are a few recommended places, festivals, and activities.

South Beach on Lake Michigan in South Haven

Even though the water is too cold for swimming (or even just dipping your toes), visiting a beach along Lake Michigan can be a magical experience during the winter, especially when ice forms. Many of these ice formations have special names, such as pancake ice and ice volcanoes.

South Beach is one of the most family-friendly spots to explore on the lake. The most attractive aspect is the brilliant red South Haven Light, which is absolutely stunning when the ice forms all around it and the pier that leads to it. You won’t be able to keep yourself from snapping photos.

Winter Beer Fest in St. Joseph

In late January, the city of St. Joseph hosts the Winter Beer Fest, an outdoor festival of craft beer made by Michigan breweries. About 20 different breweries participate. General admission includes 12 tokens — each for a 4-ounce sample — a sample cup, and fun music.

VIP tickets are available and include early entry, additional sample tokens, and a commemorative T-shirt. On top of that, everyone gets to enjoy the camaraderie of craft beer enthusiasts who don’t mind bundling up to drink on the icy streets of St. Joseph while tasting local brews.

Round Barn Winery’s Winter Village in Baroda

If you’re looking for a romantic experience near Kalamazoo Michigan, head to Round Barn Winery’s Winter Village. This winter wonderland features heated igloos where you can dine and sip on hot chocolate and mulled wine.

Or, you can order comfort food from the food truck, and choose drinks from the wine, beer, and cocktail menu. Preselected wine, beer, and spirit flights are available as well.

And, you can walk more than 3.5 miles of Mt. Tabor Trails through the vineyards and woods. After stretching your legs, bundle up with a cozy blanket under the stars by one of the fire pits.

Kalamazoo Curling Club, Kalamazoo - Winter Olympic Sports
Kalamazoo Curling Club | photo via @mgleaton1

Plan Your Itinerary for Visiting Downtown Kalamazoo Michigan

No matter what you like doing on a winter getaway, Kalamazoo Michigan has a little bit of everything. You can even try curling like an Olympian. Plus, there are even more winter things to do in Southwest Michigan than we listed above.

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