Kalamazoo got its current name in 1836 after an incident involving a stolen cherry tree. It was originally called the Village of Bronson after its founder, Titus Bronson.
This is just one of the quirky aspects of this diverse and interesting city in southwest Michigan, recently nominated as one of the coolest places to live in the USA. It’s famous as the home of Gibson Guitars, Checkers Motors, and celery.
If you’re planning a move to Kalamazoo, or you’ve recently spent some time there, you might wonder, ‘What is it like living in Kalamazoo MI?’. Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of living in Kalamazoo, MI.
Kalamazoo has a temperate, cold climate with some sort of precipitation 139 days of the year. It receives a lot more snow than most places in the US, with an average of 60 inches per year.
It’s more comfortable weather-wise than most other places in Michigan with June, July, and August featuring the best weather. January and December are the coldest months of the year in Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo experienced a devastating tornado in 1980, but it doesn’t often experience serious weather events, apart from occasional severe storms.
Kalamazoo Cost of Living
The cost of living in Kalamazoo s well below the national average in every area except transportation. In a recent study involving 265 urban areas, Kalamazoo took the top spot for cheapest places to live.
The study centered on six major living expenses, namely:
- Transportation health care
- Miscellaneous goods and services
Overall, the cost of living in Kalamazoo is 13% cheaper than the national average, and 7% cheaper than the Michigan average. This makes Kalamazoo the 266th most expensive city in the state.
If you’re looking for a quirky, lively, and affordable new home, Kalamazoo is a good choice for you.
Finding a Job in Kalamazoo
The current unemployment rate in Kalamazoo is 5.5% and the average salary is around $62,000 per year. Project managers are among the highest-paid professionals in this city, earning a median salary of $74,152 annually.
The main industries in Kalamazoo are education, health care, and social assistance.
Some of the biggest employers in the city include:
Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies. It’s a front-runner in the realms of medical and surgical products, orthopedic supplies, neurotechnology, and spine-related services.
Western Michigan University
This top research institution offers 125 undergraduate programs and almost 100 graduate programs. Most degrees center on liberal arts, health fields, sciences, and professional programs.
Poch Staffing offers professional placement services in areas of IT, engineering, HR, management, human resources, science, construction, and more.
It also provides ancillary services like onsite HR management, skills testing, training, screening, interviews, and consultation services.
Real Estate in Kalamazoo
Once you’ve found a job, the next most important thing is finding somewhere to stay. Real estate in Kalamazoo is affordable when compared to the skyrocketing prices nationwide.
The average price of a home in Kalamazoo is $201,045, and you can expect to pay around $542 to rent an apartment in this area.
The most popular places to live in Kalamazoo include:
Single-detached homes are the most common type of housing in Oakland Winchell, but there are several large apartment buildings in this area too. You can expect to pay about $250,000 for a three-bedroom home in this area.
West Main Hill
West Main Hill is an upmarket area in Kalamazoo, with home prices in the range of $267,000. There are many apartment buildings in this area that cater to students studying at nearby universities.
Hill N‘ Brook
This area features spacious, luxurious homes with large lots. The average price of a home in this plush neighborhood is $302,000.
Some of the more affordable areas to set up a home in Kalamazoo include:
- West Douglas
Some city suburbs in Kalamazoo are quite congested and parking is at a premium, so make sure you don’t forget this vital aspect on moving day.
Kalamazoo has a relatively high crime rate of 29 per 1,000 residents. Burglary and theft are the main crimes in Kalamazoo.
Most residents consider southwest Kalamazoo as the safer part of town. This includes areas like:
- Western Michigan U / Stadium Dr.
- Dougherty’s Corners
The best places for students include Oakland Winchell, Parkview Hills, Colony Farm, and West main Hills.
Schools in Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo is home to several great universities, namely Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Due to this, the city is abuzz with students from late August to early June every year.
The Kalamazoo public school system, has a rating of 8/10, placing it in the top 30% of Michigan’s public school districts. There are 17 elementary schools, five middle schools, and four high schools.
Some specialized institutions include a Montessori school, one focused on writing, another centered on international studies, and one emphasizing science and technology.
One of the high schools is a mathematics and science center, while one middle school specializes in alternative learning.
The Kalamazoo Promise is a huge drawcard when telling your children about your move to Kalamazoo. This scholarship program guarantees that every Kalamazoo public school student who completes K-12 grades in the system gets free tuition at a Michigan college of their choice.
These colleges include Michigan state colleges and universities, members of the Michigan College Alliance, and Michigan public community colleges.
Kalamazoo private schools include two Catholic elementary schools, a Catholic high school, and various other Christian schools. If preferred, you can home school your children in Kalamazoo, too.
Things to Do in Kalamazoo
As a student city, Kalamazoo is abuzz with youthful fun and energy. There’s always something on the go in this vibrant, quirky, uber-cool town.
If you prefer a quieter way of life, it’s best to steer clear of the main student areas. Kalamazoo also has a large population of retired people and activities to suit those who suit a more relaxed pace.
These are some of the main attractions in Kalamazoo:
Kalamazoo is famous for hosting the United States Tennis Association 18s and 16s Championship for Boys for over seventy years.
Stowe Stadium also hosts the NCAA Division III Men’s & Women’s Tennis Championships and the high school state championships.
Wings Event Center is the epicenter of curling, roller derby, wrestling, synchronized skating, and hockey, with three NHL-sized rinks.
The 330-acre River Oaks County Park, on the banks of Morrow Lake, has 20 multipurpose fields used for soccer and lacrosse. It also has a splash park, hiking trails, softball fields, beach volleyball, and picnic facilities.
The Homer Stryker Field is the center of college-level baseball featuring a host of family-friendly entertainment between innings. It’s the perfect day for an outing with the kids with plenty of food and drinks up for grabs.
You can admire nature all around Kalamazoo in 45 city parks, and there are plenty of hiking and walking opportunities near the city. These are some of the best ways to get out and about in the heart of the Great Lakes region:
Spring Valley Park
This 186-acre park boasts abundant wildlife and natural beauty, with 3.2 miles of paved trails to explore. It also has a 24-hole disc golf course on site.
Kalamazoo Nature Center
Kalamazoo Nature Center is a private nature reserve offering Winter camps, habitat painting, and writing courses, as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at the De Lano Farms portion of the park.
Located at Kalamazoo College, the Arboretum has 180 acres of lovely flowers and trees. It’s a wonderful place to walk your dog and spend some time lapping up the peaceful surroundings all year round.
Kalamazoo River Valley Trail
This wide, paved trail is ideal for biking, while the hilly areas suit walkers best. You can hire a bike on-site or head out on foot to admire the prairie, wooded, and urban areas along the route.
Museums and Galleries
There are plenty of historic buildings in Kalamazoo and the streets are alive with colorful murals to admire. You can enjoy more formal displays of art and culture at the following venues:
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
This historic visual arts center dates back to 1924 and offers lectures, special events, art exhibitions, and a remarkable permanent collection.
The Institute attracts over 100,000 visitors every year with its exciting temporary exhibitions and events like the December Holiday Art Sale and June Arts Fair.
Kalamazoo Valley Museum
This free hands-on family-centered museum focuses on science, history, and technology. There’s a state-of-the-art, 109-seat planetarium on site too.
Gilmore Car Museum
This is among Michigan’s largest collections of cars and stands out as one of the state’s greatest historic attractions. Here, you can admire over 400 collectors and vintage vehicles housed in over two dozen buildings at the Gilmore Car Museum.
This historic building boasts an inn, restaurant, rooftop hot tub, wine tastings, historic tours, and a massage spa. The venue hosts princess tea parties, murder mystery dinners, high tea, and daily guided tours.
Food and Drink in Kalamazoo
Cherries, pizza, and pasties are the stand-out foods in Kalamazoo, but you’ll find anything you want to fulfill your culinary fantasies in the city. Some of the most popular local restaurants include:
- Crow’s Nest for breakfast and brunch
- Cosmo’s Cucina serves seasonal bistro meals
- O’Duffy’s Pub for American and Irish pub grub
- Food Dance dishes up home-style meals daily
- Bell’s Eccentric Café for eclectic pub grub and live tunes
For coffee and dessert, you can’t go wrong when you pop into the Water Street Coffee Joint and Sweetwater’s Donuts.
Do you prefer home cooking? The Kalamazoo Farmer’s Market at the fairground in the north of the city overflows with fresh farm produce all summer long.
Bell’s Brewing Company kick-started the nationwide trend toward craft beer in 1985, inspiring another 16 breweries to fire up their engines in Kalamazoo. It’s rated the best brewpub in Southwest Michigan and the home of Two-Hearted Ales, Third Coast, and Porter.
Everyone awaits Bell’s seasonal release of Oberon, which signifies the start of summer fun in Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo is halfway between Detroit and Chicago along the I-94, with a two-hour drive to visit any of these cities. Nearby towns include Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, and Portage.
Some of the things to enjoy nearby include:
Binder Park Zoo
Located in Battle Creek, this animal wonderland is home to creatures from around the world, including African lions. It occupies 400-acres and is Michigan’s largest zoo.
Fort Custer Recreation Area
This 3,033-acre park is midway between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. It boasts wonderful prairie landscapes and opportunities to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and winter sports, including dog sledding.
Portage Farmer’s Market
The Portage Farmers Market is open every Sunday from May through October. It’s a great place for a family outing featuring food, drinks, gifts, crafts, and fresh farm produce.
The Air Zoo is a unique aircraft museum located in Portage. It offers flight simulators, movies, flight rides, and fascinating showcases of the planes and pilots who flew them.
Events in Kalamazoo
The city bustles with events all year round. Some of the main annual spectacles include:
- Maple Sugar Festival in March
- WMU International Festival in March
- Cinco de Mayo Festival in May
- Kalamazoo Pride in June
- Irish Fest in June
- Black Arts Festival in July
- Blues Festival in July
- Boiling Pot Music Festival in July
- Taste of Kalamazoo in July
- Ribfest in August
- Carfest in August
- Russian Festival in November
You’ll also get to enjoy various smaller neighborhood and community events when you live in Kalamazoo. These include free Saturday music concerts in Bronson Park and the monthly Kalamazoo Art Hop.
Planning Your Move to Kalamazoo
Now that you’re familiar with where to stay, what to do, and what to expect you’re ready to get packing for your big move. You can browse our blog for the best advice on planning and pulling off an effortless move.
Whether you’re moving to Kalamazoo from another state or another town, we can help. Get in touch for assistance with a hassle-free move to Kalamazoo.