Michigan

Dog Friendly Guide to Kalamazoo

Being the embarrassingly proud dog “pawrents” that we are, we get overly excited when we discover a truly dog-friendly town. It’s probably the same kind of feeling (we imagine) as winning the lottery. 

“Sally (our bernedoodle) can come WITH US?!” 

“There’s MULTIPLE dog parks?!” 

“We can bring Sally to a BASEBALL GAME?!” 

There were multiple times a day that we were overcome with glee - not just because we were falling in love with Kalamazoo (it’s the coolest), but we just couldn’t get over how accommodating and welcoming this city is for dogs. Below is where we stayed, ate, drank, and played with Sally in-tow… and as you’ll see by Sally’s ever-smiling face and droopy pink tongue, she had just as much fun as we did. If not more!

STAY

Kara’s Kottages :: 95% of the time when we travel with Sally, we stay in traditional hotels. Sure, it’s tight and not always the most convenient, but we can always make it work. It’s a rare and beautiful thing when we find a bed and breakfast that’s not only cool, but dog friendly too. We were ECSTATIC to find out about Kara’s Kottages - a cozy, modern, and homey alternative to a standard hotel room. 

We stayed in the Redwood Kottage, on Kalamazoo Avenue, and we loved having so many “at home” amenities at our disposal. It had a full size kitchen (stocked with complimentary breakfast items), a living room, a washer and dryer, and even a quaint covered patio! Sally loved having so much space to roam, and with the pet fee being only $15/night, it’s an incredibly easy and affordable pet-friendly option!

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EAT & DRINK

Walnut & Park :: Summertime in Kalamazoo is magical - the weather was perfect (75 degrees and sunny) the entire time we were there, so we found ourselves sitting outside as much as we could! We loved Walnut & Park because of their relaxed and picturesque outdoor patio - and their specialty coffee and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches weren’t bad either! Plus, Sally was welcome to sit with us outside!

Factory Coffee :: We were anxious to try Factory Coffee, as there was a lot of hype surrounding this hip coffee shop, and it definitely suprassed our expectations. The coffee is strong, the ambiance is cool (it’s located in an old factory), the baristas are friendly, and the puppy-friendly outdoor patio is a great place to relax… for both humans, and pets!

Arcadia Ales :: It’s probably a good thing we didn’t discover Arcadia Ales until our last night in Kalamazoo or we’d have been tempted to come to this waterfront brewery every day! Their pet-friendly beer garden has shuffleboard, cornhole, direct access to the Kalamazoo River, and their extensive beer and food menus are some of the best in town! We highly recommend their famous wood-fired pizza - the crust is incredible. (Even Sally got to try it!)

Wax Wings Brewing :: Have you ever been to a brewery where you walk in and immediately feel like family? That’s how we felt at Wax Wings Brewing, the ambiance is relaxed, the people are friendly, and they serve some amazing beer on tap. Best part is? Dogs are welcome!! We’ll cheers to that! 

Mornings at Walnut & Park

Nice little afternoon at Factory Coffee

Sally wanted her own pizza at Arcadia Ales

PLAY

Fairmont Dog Park :: We know a dog park is a hit when Sally immediately collapses in the back of our car - exhausted, out of breath, and joyously panting for air. After a solid hour of playtime at Fairmont Dog Park, Sally did just that! It’s free to the public from 8am to sunset, and if we were Kalamazoo locals, we’d be there everyday!

Prairie View County Park :: This 210-acre lakeside park has everything from a swimming beach to picnic areas, to a super extensive, lush, and beautiful dog park! The fenced-in dog park spans over 7 acres, with plenty of room for pups to run free - and there’s even a shaded walking trail to enjoy! 

Kalamazoo Growlers Game :: Call us weird, but we’ve always thought it would be fun to bring Sally to a baseball game… and this dream came true at the Kalamazoo Growlers “Bark in the Park” night! Leashed pups of all sizes came out to watch the game with their owners, and Sally had a blast making new friends and trying a bite of Bobby’s hot dog. Check their schedule for Bark in the Park nights, it was a night we’ll never forget!

Beer and a dog. And another dog.

Don’t see your favorite dog-friendly Kalamazoo spot on our list? Leave a comment and let us know! We can’t wait to return with Sally and visit more puppy-approved places!

Where to Eat (and Drink) in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is one of those cities where the better question should be, “Where NOT to eat and drink?” … Because we can honestly say that we did not have one bad meal our entire time in Kalamazoo. If anything, we lived in a constant food coma, blitzing from spot to spot to just “try a few things” - because we were repeatedly tempted by the wide array of eateries! 

For the sake of time and efficiency, we’ve narrowed our long foodie list down to our top 3 favorite restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops in Kalamazoo. 

Warning :: this might make you hungry (and thirsty).

DINING

Crow’s Nest Restaurant :: If it’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that probably means that Crow’s Nest Restaurant is the most important restaurant in Kalamazoo. Their pro’s at everything breakfast - from their decadent french toasts to their popular eggs benedicts, everything is hearty, fresh, and totally drool-worthy. Don’t be discouraged if there’s a bit of a wait… it’s worth it.

MUST TRY :: The Banana Nut Bread French Toast and the Modern Eggs Benedict

Nonla Burger :: We’re suckers for good branding - and if we’re being honest, that’s exactly what led us to this retro order-at-the-counter burger joint. Nonla Burger serves up juicy burgers, delectable sandwiches, piping hot fries, and specialty shakes, and you better believe that everything on the menu is awesome. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a frosty bottle of Coke!

MUST TRY :: The Cheeseburger and Handcut Fries

Food Dance :: This downtown Kalamazoo restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, as it was one of the pioneers in the “Farm to Table” culinary movement - and the menu at Food Dance is still as fresh, locally sourced, and delicious as ever! They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and if we’d had more time we would’ve tried all three! 

MUST TRY :: The Food Dance Pad Thai and the Chicken Dance Sandwich

We always start the day with a hearty breakfast - thanks Crow’s Nest!

Nonla will maybe be the main reason we head back to the ‘Zoo

Food Dancing

Delicious lunch at Food Dance!

BREWERIES

Bell’s Brewery :: Arguably the most iconic (and eccentric) brewery in Kalamazoo, Bell’s Brewing is a must-visit. With ample indoor and outdoor seating, an extensive tap beer and food menu, and a welcoming staff, it’s easy to see why Bell’s is so popular. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some live music playing in their beer garden! See their events schedule for more information. 

MUST TRY :: The Official and the Lager of the Lakes

Arcadia Ales :: Located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River, we’re not sure what we love most about http://arcadiaales.com - their stunning riverfront views or their craft beer and gourmet food menu! (Oh, and did we mention their beer garden is dog friendly?!) We suggest rolling up just in time to catch the sunset, enjoy a cold beer (or two), and sample some of their famous BBQ or wood fired pizza. We know you’ll love it just as much as we do!

MUST TRY :: The Cheap Date and the Hop Rocket 

Kalamazoo Beer Exchange ::  If you love games, good beer, a bustling ambiance and cheap prices… go here! Everyday at 6pm the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange rings their opening bell, and up-to-the-minute popularity sways the price for each brew, similar to the stock exchange! (If you’re lucky, you might even experience a Market Crash - where prices plunge ridiculously low!) And don’t forget to venture downstairs to take advantage of their pool tables, pinball games, and more!

MUST TRY :: The River’s Edge Laser Raptor and The Hop Concept Citrus & Piney

The beer at Bell’s is delicious, and the charcuterie board is insane!

Pizza, beer, and Sally at Acadia Ales

Pool time at Kalamazoo Beer Exchange

COFFEE

Factory Coffee ::  Situated in a (surprise, surprise) old factory, Factory Coffee boasts a modern and quirky ambiance and a sophisticated and cultivated coffee menu. It’s a little off the beaten path, and that’s exactly why we like it - it’s quiet and unpretentious. Plus, they have a quaint (and dog friendly) patio that’s perfect for soaking in some Kalamazoo sunshine!

MUST TRY :: The Pour Over and Chai Latte with Almond Milk

Civil House Coffee ::  The folks at Civil House Coffee focus on quality and education, and it shows. With every cup they serve, they aim to make the most out of their customers coffee experience, and the baristas are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and eager to chat! Bobby could have spent all day nerding out over pour over techniques with their staff, but we were on a little bit of a time crunch. Next time, Bobby. ;)

MUST TRY :: The Cortado and the Cappuccino

Fido Motors Cafe :: Have you ever been to a coffee shop that specializes in electric scooters too? We hadn’t - until we stopped by Fido Motors Cafe! This industrial coffee shop meets electric scooter warehouse is unconventional in every way, and that’s what makes it so cool! If you’ve got a sweet tooth, don’t leave without one of their vegan no bake cookies!

MUST TRY :: The Cold Brew and the Cafe Miel

Factory Coffee has a great outdoor area!

We loved the coffee at Civil House!

Getting creative at Fido Motors Coffee :)

Did we miss one of your favorite Kalamazoo spots? Leave a comment and let us know!







What You Probably Didn't Know About 'The Zoo" (aka Kalamazoo)

Kalamazoo, Michigan. With a name as fun and quirky as that, how could this city NOT be cool?! 

Located just 45 minutes south of Grand Rapids, this booming and surprisingly urban town doesn’t always get the same recognition of its other neighboring metropolises... but it should. Kalamazoo is hip and trendy in all of the best ways (think cool coffee shops, craft breweries, local boutiques), and yet it’s warm and inviting and unpretentious AND distinctly midwestern. 

We didn’t know much about “The Zoo” (as Kalamazoo locals like to call it) upon arriving, but we left with new friendships, countless memories, and a deep love for this bustling Michigan town. Here’s what we discovered about Kalamazoo, and why we’ll be back:

The Downtown is SWEET

We tend to judge a city based on their downtown. Is it hopping? Are their cool places to eat/drink? Do we immediately want to jump out of the car and go exploring? It was a big YES to all of those questions as soon as we drove into Kalamazoo. The downtown is easily walkable, surprisingly sophisticated, and filled with charming streets, art-filled alleyways, and lively shops and restaurants. 

Bates Alley was a little known alleyway in downtown Kalamazoo that was recently revitalized with a painted pathway, new decks, twinkly lights, and more. The result is breathtaking… even our puppy Sally thought so!

The historic Kalamazoo Walking Mall is not only an incredibly picturesque street to explore, it’s the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States! It’s filled with local shops, vibrant restaurants, brewpubs, coffee shops, and more - you could easily spend an entire afternoon here!

In our opinion, it’s not a downtown until you have a trendy rooftop bar - and Kalamazoo has just that! SkyDeck has 360 views of downtown Kalamazoo, plenty of places to sit and hang out, and wide variety of tantalizing mixed drinks. (If you’re feeling really adventurous, we suggest taking the stairs to the top! It’s a great way to get some exercise!)

Sally loves Bates Alley too!

Of course we stopped for ice cream in the Kalamazoo Mall

Best views in town from the SkyDeck

There’s A LOT to see and do

There’s no shortage of fun activities in Kalamazoo, no matter the season! We visited in early August, when the high temperature was 82 degrees, and the low was in the 70’s… absolutely perfect, if you ask us! Now having seen photos of Kalamazoo in the fall, we’re anxious to plan a trip to see the autumn leaves, and the winter looks absolutely dreamy too! But we digress… Even though our time was short, we packed in as many “must see” spots as we could (but there is still SO much more we’ve yet to explore)!

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum shares the history of Kalamazoo in a fun and “hands on” approach, with exhibits focusing on science, technology, and more! It’s fun for the whole family, and we had a great time learning more about Kalamazoo - and the best part is? Admission is FREE! (While we were visiting in the height of summer, this would be a perfect rainy day activity!)

Located in the iconic Kalamazoo Walking Mall, the Kalamazoo Candle Company is a family owned and operated candle shop with walk-in candle making! Visitors are encouraged to walk in anytime during store hours and craft their very own scented candle! The candle making process only takes about 30 minutes, and then they need about 60 minutes to cool. We had so much fun concocting our candle scents, we each made two! (This would also be a great rainy day activity!)

If you’re visiting Kalamazoo in the summer months, like us, we highly suggest attending a Kalamazoo Growler Game! The Growlers play in the Northwoods League, a summer collegiate baseball league, and they’re REALLY fun to watch. They’re very interactive with games, dance cams, contests, and more… And if you’re traveling with your pup, you might even be able to catch a “Bark in the Park” game, where dogs can come too! Check the schedule here

The checker cab started in Kalamazoo! There’s one in the Kalamazoo Valley Museum!

Making candles!

They have a RAD Farmers Market

We can never pass up a good farmers market, and if you’ve been following us for awhile, you’ve seen us hit up dozens across the country. We can easily say that Kalamazoo’s is one of the biggest and the best, as they have over 100 businesses represented! With everything from fresh produce to locally made accessories and wellness products, they truly have something for everyone. Days and hours change based on the time of the year, check the schedule here

It’s REALLY pretty in the Summer

Both of us were born and raised in California, with little (if any) knowledge about Michigan. We knew there were a lot of lakes… but that was about it! We were amazed by the beauty in and around Kalamazoo in early August  - it’s green and lush, the lakes are sparkling, and wildflowers everywhere are blooming. Michigan friends, we understand the hype now

Our first evening in Kalamazoo was spent at the scenic Gull Meadow Farms, where we got to frolick, play, and photograph our way through sunflower fields during their first annual Sunflower Festival. Does it get any dreamier (or more romantic) than this?! 

Located about twenty minutes outside of Kalamazoo is Prairie View County Park, which features 210 acres of lakes, picnic spots, a swimming beach, dog park, and SO much more! The scenery is stunning and the activities are endless (fishing, hiking, disc golf, boating, you name it- they have it), making it fun for the whole family. (Including your pup!)

Even downtown Kalamazoo has some charming parks, our favorite being Bronson Park. It’s grassy lawns, colorful flowers, and striking fountains make it a perfect place to break for lunch. And conveniently enough, during the summer it’s the location of Lunchtime Live! Lunchtime Live! is a seasonal food truck and music festival every Friday from 11:30am to 1:30pm during the summer, and it’s just as much fun as it sounds!

While we’re no experts on Kalamazoo by any means, we experienced enough to know that this city is something special. It’s a place that surprised us in so many ways, and we hope that at the very least, we piqued your interest in this vibrant and energetic city. 

We’re not sure when we’ll be back (hopefully soon!), but one thing we know for sure... it’s only going to get better