Living in and Loving Kalamazoo Michigan

About Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is a county, a city, a township, a river, and a college in the state of Michigan in the United States of America.

The city of Kalamazoo is the seat of Kalamazoo County. With a 2010 population of 74,262, Kalamazoo is the largest city in the southwest area of Michigan. It is the home of Western Michigan University (WMU).

Kalamazoo is in the Eastern Time Zone. By car the city is located 147 miles east of Chicago, Illinois; 140 miles west of Detroit, Michigan, and 201 miles north of Indianapolis, Indiana, according to Google Maps. The National Weather Service coordinates for Kalamazoo are 42.29°N 85.58°W (Elev. 781 ft).

Kalamazoo has an Amtrak train station, a Greyhound bus station, and an Indian Trails bus station. All of these, and the main terminal of the Metro Transit city bus service, are located at the downtown Kalamazoo Transportation Center. The Kalamazoo / Battle Creek International Airport (AZO) is in the adjacent city of Portage. Kalamazoo is on Interstate Highway 94.

Southeast Michigan has humid, warm to hot summers and cold winters. Winter precipitation is usually in the form a snow. In Kalamazoo, January's average high temperature is 33F (.56C) and average low is 18F (-8C); July's average high is 86F (30C) and average low is 61F (16C). Average precipitation ranges from circa 2 inches in January and February to circa 4.6 inches in September. In Kalamazoo, a little less than half of the days in the year have some sunshine. The average annual humidity is 72.3%. Climate scientists expect the average air temperature in the area to go up in coming decades, affecting the economy.

While some products formerly made in Kalamazoo no longer are, such as paper from pulp wood, due to depleted resources, manufacturing is still an important part of the local economy.

Kalamazoo 2012 median household income was $44,326; the national figure was $51,371.

As of March 2012, the cost of living index in Kalamazoo was 83.6, with 100 representing the US average.

By race/ethnicity, Kalamazoo is 65.6% white, 21.7% black, 6.4% hispanic, 1.7% Asian, .4% American Indian, .2% other races, .03% Pacific Islander, and 3.9% two or more races. 91.4% of residents speak English at home and 3.8% speak Spanish at home.

Learn more about: Kalamazoo statistics, facts, figures, and data.

Kalamazoo on I94 between Chicago and Detroit

Kalamazoo  Michigan  (MI) (Images of America)
Kalamazoo Michigan (MI) (Images of America)

This book is a pictorial history of Kalamazoo by a lifelong resident of the area.


Personal Impressions of Kalamazoo

My wife and I have been Kalamazooans since July 2011. My wife was born in Kalamazoo and raised here and in the adjacent city of Portage. She received both her Bachelor degree and her second Masters degree in Kalamazoo at Western Michigan University. She delights in showing me her favorite Kalamazoo and environs traditional events, landmarks, parks, shops, and hangouts. From her I have learned some of Kalamazoo's history -- that a popular coffeehouse used to be her grandfather's gas station; that an elementary school near us used to be a school to teach deaf children to lip read; that a used book store near us looks about the same as when it was run by the current owner's father, and so on.

An early and lasting impression for me has been that Kalamazoo, as I've experienced it, is harmoniously racially integrated. When I go for a stroll, I see neighbors of both 'white' European descent and 'black' African descent, or mixed, mowing their lawns or raking fallen leaves or shoveling snow, walking their dogs, watching their children at play, and patronizing local eateries and shops.

Kalamazoo is ethnically and culturally diverse and cosmopolitan, and yet it has a small town feel.

The downtown is a vibrant place for shopping, entertainment and leisure, with an excellent main public library, lots of dining options, and a monthly "art hop". Many of the older buildings were built in the art deco architecture style.

The economy is diverse, with major employers in manufacturing, education, health services, government services, and (in the nearby rural areas) agriculture., and there are numerous shops, both locally owned and chains and franchises. While the poverty rate is relatively high (38.8% in 2010 by US census standards), I think that the city has upbeat, creative vibes. It's a good place to retire, with lots of services and accommodations for seniors.The city has an abundance of live music venues, festivals, and cultural events.

Kalamazooans face social problems with a we're in this together, community spirit. This is reflected in the public library's extensive online database of local organizations. Some of these are: Loaves & Fishes, which feeds the hungry; Ministry with Community, which helps the homeless, and ISAAC, an interfaith community organizing network.

Kalamazoo by Bryan Klinesteker

Kalamazoo Park Trades Center

What to Do in Kalamazoo

* Visit Air Zoo theme park and aircraft museum

* Watch the Doo Dah Parade

* Visit Kalamazoo Valley Museum

* Watch a Kalamazoo Growlers baseball game

* Watch a Kalamazoo Wings hockey game

* Visit the Nature Center

* Go to Bronco Bash

* Learn to curl at Kalamazoo Curling Club

* Watch the Killamazoo Derby Darlins

* Attend the summertime Saturday afternoons free concerts in Bronson Park, downtown kitty-corner from the public library

* Dine in local restaurants, reviewed in Kalamazoo Foodies blog

* Go occasionally or often to Art Hop, which happens monthly on (usually) first Fridays 5 to 9 p.m.. Many downtown businesses exhibit works by local artists, as do various art galleries and studios.My favorite place to visit during Kalamazoo Art Hop is the Park Trades Center. Learn more at: the Art Hop webpage of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo

Learn more about: things to do in Kalamazoo and available resources.

Kalamazoo Annual Festivals

Name of Festival
Time of Year
Maple Sugar Festival
at the Nature Center
WMU International Festival
at Western Michigan University
Cinco De Mayo Festival
Mexican culture
Kalamazoo Pride
celebrates diversity
Irish Fest
Irish culture
Black Arts Festival
Black culture
Blues Festival
Blues music
Boiling Pot Music Festival
Music, food and culture of various nations
Taste of Kalamazoo
Food festival
Arc fundraiser
Collectible cars
Russian Festival
Russian culture

Culture in Kalamazoo

The Kalamazoo Public Library has a central downtown library and four branch libraries.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts includes an art museum and an art school.

Kalamazoo has a symphony orchestra and is the location of the Gilmore Keyboard Festival.

Kalamazoo has more than a dozen theatres that present live productions.

The Kalamazoo Promise

Education in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is a university town. It is the home of Western Michigan University (WMU), Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC).

In the Kalamazoo public school system, there are 17 elementary schools, including some magnet schools—one focusing on international studies, another of which is a Montessori school, another focusing on writing, and another focusing on science and technology. There are five middle schools, of which one is an alternative learning school and two are magnet schools. There are four high schools, one of which is a "mathematics and science center". Thanks to an anonymous philanthropist, the "Kalamazoo promise" is that every student who completes K-12 grades in the Kalamazoo public school system gets to go to college for free. Go to this link to learn more about Kalamazoo public schools.

Kalamazoo also has two Catholic elementary schools and a Catholic high school. The Kalamazoo Christian Schools Association has an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. There are additional Christian schools and other private schools, such as Gagie School. And there is more than one Kalamazoo home school association.

Kalamazoo is famous for being:

the birthplace of Edna Ferber;

in the title of the Glen Miller song I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo;

the original home of the Gibson guitar company

the site of the first (1959) outdoor pedestrian shopping mall in the US;

damaged by a May 13, 1980 tornado.

Kalamazoo Photos by Kayle Rice (my wife)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kalamazoo Amtrak StationKalamazoo Public LibraryKalamazoo County BuildingKalamazoo Civic AuditoriumKalamazoo Valley MuseumPark Trades Center in Kalamazoo -- where some of the local artists have their studiosKalamazoo Radisson Plaza HotelA Kalamazoo downtown street scene
Kalamazoo Amtrak Station
Kalamazoo Amtrak Station
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kalamazoo County Building
Kalamazoo County Building
Kalamazoo Civic Auditorium
Kalamazoo Civic Auditorium
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo -- where some of the local artists have their studios
Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo -- where some of the local artists have their studios
Kalamazoo Radisson Plaza Hotel
Kalamazoo Radisson Plaza Hotel
A Kalamazoo downtown street scene
A Kalamazoo downtown street scene

More by this Author

COMMENTS 36 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I like the looks of the houses, Michigan is a neighbor to us in Wisconsin.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for commenting,dahoglund. Maybe when I get to it I'll add some more residential streets in Kalamazoo photos.

Keith Matyi profile image

Keith Matyi 4 years ago from Denton, TX

I've been in Kalamazoo being I am from Toledo, Ohio. Good pictures and good story!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Keith, thanks!

Finnegan Dinow 4 years ago

Loved it! The quiz had me laughing out loud. Write more, please.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Finnegan. I'm thinking of doing an "Introduction To ..." series. I hope you like that whole group as I add pages to it. One problem I'm having is budgeting my time between writing notes on all the ideas I have for hubs and getting hubs written, polished, and published.

alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

I've always wanted to visit Kalamazoo, just because it's part of the saying "Timbuktu to Kalamazoo." I love the train station since model trains are a hobby of mine. Voting this Up and Interesting.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks alocsin.

rjsadowski profile image

rjsadowski 4 years ago

I used to live in Michigan and I frequently drove by Kalamazoo but I never had any good reason to stop. Your Hub is awesome.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, rjsadowski.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 4 years ago from Wales

I used to wonder why, in the several companies I worked for in the 70s and 80s (here in the UK) always had 'Kalamazoo' printed on the payslips. I used to ask but no-one knew. Thank goodness for the internet! Lovely hub. Voted up.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, theraggededge. Small world. I wonder if a printing company in Kalamazoo specializes in printing payslips? Or if one of those companies that handle the payroll details for small companies is in Kalamazoo? Or if you worked for subsidiaries of a company with its head office in Kalamazoo? Or?

Global-Chica profile image

Global-Chica 4 years ago from New York, NY

Kalamzoo seems like a nice small town - I really enjoyed reading your take on it, your pictures, and the quiz is both funny and informative. Voted up and awesome!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks very much, Global-Chica. I've got to be conscientious about keeping that hub up to date.

unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

sounds like an amazing place.. wished i could visit all beautiful palces in the world :)

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, unknown spy. I hope you will write about the beautiful places you do experience. Some places are obviously and inescapably beautiful -- quaint towns set in awesome landscapes --, while in other towns, like Kalamazoo, beauty is there if you watch for it.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Great article, and lovely pictures by your wife. I have seen a little of Kalamazoo (always loved the name), and appreciate the interesting information you give. Voted Up!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, McDora.

Marie Flint profile image

Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

Inasmuch as Michigan is my home state, I chose to read this one. Lots of information! (Whew!)

My favorite part of the hub was when you began to set aside the statistics and began talking about the history through your wife's knowledge. And, your title expresses this type of slant.

By the way, a thought just came to me . . . Kalamazoo rhymes with kazoo, the little instrument for humming. (How fun!)

Thank you for sharing.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Marie. Kazoo is a favorite nickname for Kalamazoo. For instance, a book store in town with two shops is Kazoo Books.

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

Very nicely written. I've never visited Michigan before but have often thought about doing so.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for your nice comment, CraftytotheCore. I hope you like Michigan when you get around to visiting. My favorite area is the upper peninsula. I included a little about it in my hub about Marquette. Southwest Michigan, where I live now, has, besides Kalamazoo and Portage, lots of quaint little country towns, touristy towns along Lake Michigan, and fruit orchards.

word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Looks good, sounds good, good educational system and nice things to do. I've been through Kal once. It's as amazing as you have said. I've been to Barren Springs a few times too and even Three Rivers a few times. I know people in Grand Rapids. Of course, Michigan's Detroit was labeled The Motor City back in the days of car making. I like the Kalamazoo song too. Thanks for sharing. Yep, not too far from Chy-town. Great hub! voted up!

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, word55. I like Kalamazoo a lot, but Chicago is still my favorite city of all.

sujaya venkatesh profile image

sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

good account of a place lee

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Sujaya.

Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 2 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

It sounds like a wonderful place. I've never been to that part of the country much.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Sherry. I have relations in CA and have visited there a few times and like it a lot. A sister and a brother both lived for many years in LA county. Now the one is in San Francisco and the other is in Soquel, near Santa Cruz. I look forward to visiting CA again one of these years. I've been content in Kalamazoo.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

Lots of statistics and details about Kalamazoo! You're only 50,000 population less than here where I live in North Texas about 45 miles north of Dallas/Fort Worth, but you have a Greyhound bus station and we don't, but of course we're just a half hour or so from DFW Airport, depending on traffic. You have one more public library than we have, too.

I know most of this information is easily accessible for most cities of any size, but I found it interesting that you have collected it all into one place. I don't begin to know all those things about here where I'm living and I know I should after all these years. Of course some of it was from yours and your wife's own experience, which was best of all. The photos were excellent. Knowing you enjoy living there makes Kalamazoo look better than anything else you could say about it. Learning about a place one has never been from a credible person can make all the difference in how people think about a business, restaurant, city, etc. Certainly far better than cold statistics.

I miss the cool temperatures of Wisconsin where I'm from. Not the below zero temps, mind you, that are common in winter up there, but the usually civilized temperatures of summer and fall.

Today it is only 90 F. but my a/c acts like it's 100. It's been very strange this year, cooler than usual according to the meteorologists. My a/c doesn't usually get tired until late afternoon around 99 F., but this year it's getting tired around 89 F, and the hottest recorded temperature has been only 94 this year, and rarely that high. I'm wondering if they have a different way of measuring the temperature to make it seem cooler than it is? If so, my a/c isn't fooled.

A very nice article and I enjoyed reading it and seeing the pictures. Voted up!

ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 2 years ago from KOLKATA

How nicely you have portrayed the wonderful township with beautiful photographs and necessary information! Thank you very much for sharing.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for your comment, Au fait. Your feedback will be helpful when I now and then update this hug. I'll emphasize personal experiences and original photos. Texas sounds like a very hot place. This summer is a little cooler than usual here in Kalamazoo. Our window air conditioner is still stored in the basement.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks, Arun Kanti.

ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

I'd really love to visit Michigan someday, and, if I do, Kalamazoo will likely be on the list.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Let us know when you'll be in town, ologsinquito, and maybe Kayle and I will take you to a Growlers baseball game or a Wings hockey game or to a nearby pick-your-own blueberries farm.

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 6 months ago from Essex, UK

It's a joy to see the pride that you, and more especially your wife, have in this 'small town' city. The information and descriptions you provide, as well as the links, would be invaluable to anyone visiting for the first time and spending any time there.

And what a name! A name which ensures that the city is known throughout the world. I'd love to live in a place with a name like Kalamazoo! I'd have to work it into every conversation I had with anyone I met. The best I can do is my birth place - though British, I was born on the island of Trinidad in a district called Gasparillo (I used to think it was Sasparilla - sounding like the drink), so I have to work the exotic sounding Gasparillo Trinidad into any conversation I have - just as I've done here :)

Seriously, a useful page about what sounds like a nice place to live. I like the song too! Alun

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 6 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Author

Thanks for your nice comment, Alun. I am embarrassed that I have not updated my Kalamazoo hub in a long time and am glad that, even so, you have found it useful and interesting. I like living here more than ever. But I am easy to please and have liked every place I have lived. That's interesting that you were born in Trinidad and lived there long enough to have memories of it.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article