Introduction to Kalamazoo, Michigan
The Michigan city of Kalamazoo, home to Western Michigan University, is located in the southwestern part of the state, about 57 miles south of Grand Rapids, 140 miles west of Detroit, and 145 miles east of Chicago, Illinois. The city is situated in the heart of the Great Lakes region at the intersection of Interstate I-94 and U.S. Route 131. Kalamazoo is also serviced by Michigan State Highways 43 and 96. In addition to Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo is also the home of Kalamazoo College (the oldest college in the state), Davenport University, Cornerstone University, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Founded by Titus Bronson in 1829, the city was originally named Bronson but the name was officially changed to Kalamazoo in 1836 concurrent with Bronson's exodus from the city. Incorporated as a village in 1838 and later as a city in 1883, Kalamazoo is believed to have gotten its name from an Indian word meaning boiling water. Kalamazoo's major industries have traditionally included agriculture and paper products; however, several notable businesses have their origins in the city including the Gibson Guitar Corporation, Checker Cabs, Kalamazoo Stoves, Stryker hospital beds, and Shakespeare fishing rods and reels. Another notable company native to Kalamazoo was the Upjohn Company, founded in the late 1800s by W. E. Upjohn. The company is now part of Pfizer Corporation, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company and a major employer in the city. Kalamazoo is often referred to as the "Mall City," in honor of its status as the site of the nation's first pedestrian mall, designed in 1959.
Arts, Culture, and Attractions in Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo is home to a wide variety of cultural and artistic sites. Nature, art, and education are embodied in the city’s numerous museums and attractions. The Air Zoo, also known as the Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, can best be described as a theme park disguised as a museum. Visitors can participate in a multi-sensory experience savoring the wonders of man-made flight, including exhibits which celebrate everything from the history of flight to its inner workings. The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is a largely interactive small museum which features a planetarium, an interactive history gallery, and simulated missions to space via the Challenger Learning Center. The Gilmore Car Museum features 90 landscaped acres of restored historic barns filled with a large variety of extraordinary vehicles spanning more than 100 years of automotive heritage. The Kalamazoo Nature Center has indoor and outdoor activities for all ages, including state-of-the-art interactive exhibits, a three-story tropical rainforest, and 11 nature trails filled with wildlife. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) offers a stunning variety of permanent collection works in rotating shows and a new community cultural center auditorium. Kalamazoo Mall, the first outdoor pedestrian mall in the United States, has something for everyone: parades, sidewalk sales, seasonal holiday festivities, specialty shops, chic restaurants and lively brewpubs. The nearby city of Battle Creek (27 miles to the east) is home to Kellogg’s Cereal City, which offers a 1930's-themed restaurant and tours chronicling the history and manufacturing process of cereal.
NCAA Division I-A college sports in Kalamazoo are provided by the Western Michigan University Broncos. The University's athletic program offers 16 varsity sports including basketball, football, hockey, baseball, and volleyball. The school is a member of the Mid-American Conference. Division III sports are offered by Kalamazoo College, home of the Hornets. The College has teams in 8 men's varsity sports and 8 women's varsity sports, and they all compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). The men's tennis team has had incredible success, having captured well over 60 MIAA conference championships.
Kalamazoo has three minor-league professional sports teams. The Kalamazoo Kings are a minor league baseball team playing in the independent Frontier League, not associated with any Major League Baseball team. Hockey's Kalamazoo Wings are a minor-league team playing in the United Hockey League (UHL), and the Kalamazoo Kingdom professional soccer team is a member of United Soccer League's Premier Development League (PDL).