Kalamazoo and West Michigan

Photo of downtown Kalamazoo and Arcadia Festival Place.Kalamazoo is one of the 25 best cities in the country for young college graduates, according to a 2011 national study that looked at relative affordability, housing and employment opportunities, and size of the age 22-24 population. That was one more acknowledgement of one of WMU's greatest assets—Kalamazoo and West Michigan.

Even if you haven't been to Kalamazoo, you've probably heard a lot about it.

  • It's the home of the Kalamazoo Promise that guarantees college tuition to graduates of the Kalamazoo Public Schools—the largest program of its kind anywhere.
  • Photo of Greg Jennings.Two of America's top professional athletes, Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers and Derek Jeter of the N.Y. Yankees, are both graduates of Kalamazoo Central High School. Jennings is also a proud WMU graduate.
  • In 2010, President Obama spoke in WMU's University Arena at the commencement ceremony for Kalamazoo Central after he selected the school from more than 1,000 entries as the winner in the first Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.

Photo of Abraham Lincoln in 1858.Kalamazoo is famous for a lot of things. It's a major international pharmaceutical and life sciences center; it's the original home of the Upjohn Co., Stryker Corp, Gibson Guitars, Checker Motors and Bell's Brewery, among many others; the Kalamazoo Gazette is the second oldest newspaper in Michigan; and a century ago, Kalamazoo was so famous for one crop, it was known throughout the country as the Celery City.

Abraham Lincoln spoke in the village of Kalamazoo in 1856, four years before he was elected president, his only public address in Michigan.

Kalamazoo is a center of higher education. In addition to WMU, it is home to Kalamazoo College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. The three institutions collaborate on a variety of fronts and add significantly to the cultural and educational opportunities and economic development of the region.

Photo of Michigan blueberries.With a population of more than 325,000, Kalamazoo is the sixth largest metropolitan area in Michigan and among the 150 largest in the country. It's large enough to support all the amenities and entertainment found in larger cities; and yet, you can be in the heart of farm country in 20 minutes, and Kalamazoo supports a thriving Farmers Market downtown May through November.

Photo of sign in Kalamazoo midway between Detroit and Chicago.Kalamazoo is midway between Chicago and Detroit on I-94 and offers commercial transportation by train, bus and major airline at the Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport.

Day or weekend trips by train to Chicago, the nation's third largest city, are popular and even more convenient with the continuing development of high-speed rail connecting the two cities.

Recreation

Photo of Silver Beach at St Joseph, Mich.Kalamazoo is a 40-minute drive from Lake Michigan beaches at South Haven and slightly farther from beaches at St. Joseph and Saugatuck.

Michigan’s ski country, considered the best skiing in the Midwest is three to four hours north, and excellent local skiing is only 30 minutes away.

Originally a railroad line connecting Kalamazoo and South Haven, the 33-mile Kal-Haven Trail is popular for bicycle riding, hiking and cross country skiing. In 2008, the eastern end of the trail was extended into Kalamazoo as part of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. When completed, the two trails will create a 70-mile bike path from South Haven to Battle Creek.

Kalamazoo arts and entertainment

Photo of guitarist performing at Kalamazoo Blues Festival.Local festivals—featuring live music, arts and crafts, food and drinks—many of which are held at Arcadia Creek Festival Place downtown—attract crowds in the tens of thousands. The Kalamazoo Art Fair, held annually on the first weekend in June, is the second oldest community art fair in America and attracts 60,000 visitors over two days.

WMU’s Miller Auditorium, the historic State Theater and a variety of local clubs offer a complete array of concerts featuring every kind of music and popular entertainment. Kalamazoo is a frequent stop for many of today's top comedians, musicians and other entertainers.

Monthly screenings of art cinema are presented at WMU's Little Theatre by the Kalamazoo Film Society and student-run Western Film Society.

A few of the many cultural opportunities

Places to visit while you're in town include the Kalamazoo Air Zoo, an air and space museum with amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators, 3D Missions Theater, educational activities and more than 30 aircraft on display, from World War II bombers to an SR-71B Blackbird.