Population: 76,000 in the city of Kalamazoo; 265,000 in Kalamazoo County
Transportation: Located halfway between Detroit and Chicago, Kalamazoo is a convenient destination for meetings. Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport serves American and Delta airlines for connections to destinations farther away.
Vibe: “Kalamazoo is a beautifully diverse community for our size and is home to many entrepreneurs and innovators,” says Dana Wagner, director of marketing and communications for Discover Kalamazoo. “We’re passionate about supporting local businesses and experiences. We have an approachable urban environment, with a downtown full of eateries, breweries, arts and entertainment, and we have plenty of great ways to enjoy the natural environment.”
Hotels: Kalamazoo County has 53 hotel properties with a total of 3,792 guestrooms. The largest full-service hotels are Radisson Plaza Hotel & Suites, in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo (340 guest rooms, 44,000 square feet of meeting space), and Delta Hotels by Marriott Kalamazoo Conference Center (180 guest rooms, 42,000 square feet of meeting space).
Restaurants: “Like our population, our restaurant scene is eclectic,” says Wagner. It includes global cuisine, food trucks, fine dining, burgers (including plant-based options), breweries and wine-focused spots. Two standouts that accommodate group dining are 600 Kitchen & Bar, with bread, dairy, produce and meat sourced from Michigan farmers and artisans, and the newly opened Brick and Brine in the lobby of Radisson Plaza. Brick and Brine features new American fare, private event spaces and sliding glass walls that create an open-air dining experience.
Venues: Kalamazoo offers a wide range of venues beyond hotels and restaurants. The Foundry, which encompasses 52,000 square feet and describes itself as “Kalamazoo’s first Living Office,” offers seamless built-in technology in industrial-chic meeting spaces that include The Workshop (capacity 16), The Forum (capacity 60), The Plaza (capacity 250) and The Veranda (capacity 150). Bell’s Eccentric Café and Store, Michigan’s oldest craft brewery, has space available for private events of 30 to 370 guests. Kalamazoo County Expo Center & Fairgrounds has sprawling space, including a 4,500-seat grandstand, for gatherings like trade shows, festivals and car shows. Wings Event Center, home to Kalamazoo Wings ice hockey team, has three full-size arenas and can host events for up to 6,400 people.
Kalamazoo’s cultural venues are also available for private gatherings. Kalamazoo Air Zoo showcases more than 100 rare air and space artifacts; offers amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators and a newly renovated Quonset hut-style Missions Theater; and has event space for groups of 10 to 2,000. “They’re able to set up right on the museum floor,” Wagner says, “so you can actually hold your meeting next to a very rare SR-71 Blackbird aircraft.”
Right outside Kalamazoo, in Hickory Corners, is North America’s largest auto museum. The 90-acre Gilmore Car Museum features 435 unique vehicles and has nearly 220,000 square feet of exhibit space. With a 90-acre campus and dozens of facilities, the Gilmore can host events of all sizes and offers group experiences that include private museum tours, a Model T driving experience and behind-the-scenes vault tours.
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, well known for its beautiful sculpture garden and a recently acquired, stunning glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly that hangs in the foyer, is available for cocktail receptions, dinners, product launches, film premieres and more.
Shop: Kalamazoo Mall, located downtown, was the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the U.S. It features revitalized Art Deco buildings, restaurants, coffee shops, brewpubs and shops that offer wares by local makers and artisans.
DIY: For scent-sensational team-building experiences, groups can visit The Aroma Labs and Kalamazoo Candle Company to create custom fragrances and candles. Groups also can visit Mason Jar Plant Shop and make their own terrarium or take an interactive class in kokedama (a moss ball style of Japanese bonsai).
Get outdoors: Kal-Haven Trail and the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail are part of the 275-mile Great Lake-to-Lake Trails, and both run directly through Kalamazoo. The marked trails are great for walking, running or cycling and also offer historic points of interest along the way. Another outdoor option is Kalamazoo Nature Center, home to more than 14 miles of trails that wind through woods, wetlands and prairies.
Sip and Stroll: At Downtown Social District and the new Central Commons Refreshment Area, grab an alcoholic beverage from one of the participating restaurants, bars, wineries or breweries and enjoy while you explore downtown.
How the CVB Helps: “We want Discover Kalamazoo to be your one-stop shop,” says Wagner. “We can help meeting and event planners with bid proposals, hotel selection, off-site venues, catering, itinerary planning, promotion and marketing. We provide our services free of charge to make the planning process not just easier but also enjoyable, all so both the planner and attendees have a memorable experience and will want to return to Kalamazoo for their meetings and events for years to come.