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Move to and Live in Kalamazoo, Michigan? I'm Glad I Did

Brian and his wife moved to Kalamazoo MI in July 2011. Brian moved in fall 2018 to 98110. He hopes eventually to live in Kalamazoo again.

Kalamazoo city and county have much to offer persons of all ages. I recommend it as a place to grow up, attend school, have a career, raise a family, host visitors, be an active citizen and community member, and retire. I say why in this article (and in a separate article on retiring here) using personal and observed examples.

Looking toward downtown Kalamazoo from Arcadia Festival Park

Looking toward downtown Kalamazoo from Arcadia Festival Park

Personal Impressions: Kalamazoo Is Harmoniously Diverse

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 both of pale skin 'white' European descent and of dark skin 'black' African descent, as well as biracial couples, mowing their lawns or raking fallen leaves or shoveling snow (depending on the season), watching their children playing outside, walking their dogs, and patronizing nearby eateries and shops. I'm not saying that systemic racism has evaporated from Kalamazoo society. Statistics and many personal stories say otherwise. I'm just pleased by my impression that to a substantial (less than 100%) degree Kalamazooians, whatever their race and ethnicity, relate to one another as fellow humans and neighbors, with equitable fellow feeling, without suspicion or bias.

Kalamazoo neighborhoods range the gamut from wealthy to well-to-do to middle-middle-class to lower-middle-class to the poor, with few if any neighborhoods being all of one wealth-level class. Kayle and I live at the south edge of the Westnedge Hill neighborhood in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. It was a lucky find. Our rent, cheaper than we would pay for subsidized senior housing, is affordable on our lower-middle-class budget. From home, we can stroll up and about the hill, past large, charming houses owned and occupied by professors, other professionals, and businesspersons.

One of my wife's relations owns two businesses and lives with her retired engineer-manager husband in a neighborhood of mansions and huge yards. They are good-hearted, and their house and its interior decorations are beautiful.

Kalamazoo is ethnically and culturally diverse and cosmopolitan, and yet it has a small-town feel. The many annual festivals give a sense of this diversity.

Kalamazoo Annual Festivals

Name of FestivalTime of YearTheme

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

Personal Impressions: I Love to Hangout in Downtown Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo's downtown is a vibrant place for shopping, entertainment, work, and leisure. My wife and I each enjoy spending time at:

the central public library, whether to browse and borrow books, movies, or music, use a computer, shop in the Friends of the Library bookshop, attend a lecture, meet an author, or get help finding information.

Kalamazoo Central Public Library

Kalamazoo Central Public Library

Water Street Coffee Joint, to lounge with a good cup of plain or specialty coffee and a choice of bakery and deli snacks while we read, write, or chat, the charm enhanced by the fact that, when she was little, this very building was Kayle's grandfather's gas station—though we like lounging in other coffeehouses and coffee shops downtown almost as much.

cup from Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo

cup from Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Mall, to shop and window shop. This isn't a mall at all. It's a north-south street that north and south of downtown is called Burdick Street. Starting in 1959, four blocks got closed to cars and turned into a pedestrian unenclosed "mall." In 1998, two blocks were reopened to car traffic, one lane one way. This is an enjoyable place to stroll and shop, especially in the warm weather months. The sidewalks are extra-wide, and there are lots of outdoor benches and tables with seats.

Ever since she got on a keto diet and became a running enthusiast, Kayle's favorite Kalamazoo Mall shop has been Gazelle Sports.

We both like to stop for lunch or a snack at Irving's Market and Deli. The Spirit of Kalamazoo is a shop specializing in touristy stuff related to Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University. And they sell Plainwell ice cream cones, which I highly recommend. Caffe Casa is a favorite place for a coffee break.

And Kalamazoo Mall has boutiques, special interest shops, fancy and plain restaurants and eateries, and more. The Kalamazoo Mall blocks that are still closed to car traffic go past the Radisson Hotel and the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Arcadia Commons Campus.

One side of a portion of Kalamazoo Mall

One side of a portion of Kalamazoo Mall

Many (not all) of the views in the following video are of downtown Kalamazoo:

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 anonymous local philanthropists, the "Kalamazoo promise" is a scholarship program whereby every student who completes K-12 grades in the Kalamazoo public school system gets to go to any Michigan state college or university or to any member of the Michigan College Alliance or to any Michigan public community college for free, tuition and required fees paid, with a smaller percent paid if a student moves to town after starting school elsewhere—65% if they go through high school in Kalamazoo.

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 schooling association.

Professionals—teachers, counselors, librarians, social workers, psychologists, and so on—employed by the Kalamazoo Public School District are represented by the Kalamazoo Education Association.

What to Do in Kalamazoo and Vicinity

  • Visit Air Zoo theme park and aircraft museum.
  • Visit Kalamazoo Valley Museum.
  • Visit the Kalamazoo Nature Center.
  • Watch a Kalamazoo Growlers baseball game.
  • Watch a Kalamazoo Wings hockey game.
  • Attend summertime Saturday afternoons free concerts downtown in Bronson Park
  • Dine in local restaurants reviewed in the Kalamazoo Foodies blog.
  • Go occasionally to Art Hop, which happens monthly on 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, formerly a factory and now home to many artist studios.) Learn more at the Art Hop webpage of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.
  • Visit the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.
  • Get season tickets to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and tickets to the biennial Gilmore Keyboard Festival events.
  • Visit the Gilmore Car Museum.
  • Join the Kalamazoo Public Library and use any of its many branches to borrow books, music, and movies, to attend events for children and adults, such as storytelling and author appearances, and to research local history and organizations.
  • Get season tickets to any of the several live theatres in Kalamazoo.
  • Attend a Western Michigan University sports, educational, or cultural event.

Consult these sites for more information about Kalamazoo city and county

Kalamazoo by Bryan Klinesteker

Questions & Answers

Question: Is Michigan an affordable place to live?

Answer: Yes, relatively speaking. For instance, the site Best Places says Kalamazoo is 40% less expensive than Chicago overall, with housing nearly 150% less expensive. On the other hand, Kalamazoo is 4% more expensive than Tohatchi, NM, with housing nearly 25% more expensive. There are a number of websites that compare the cost of living. Of course, a low cost of living can still be expensive for someone with a low income when compared to things like the percentage of income paid for rent, etc.

© 2011 Brian Leekley


Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 18, 2017:

It is! Thanks, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 11, 2017:

Thanks for telling us so much about Kalamazoo in terms of statistics as well as your experiences in living there. Enjoyed your wife's photos. Sounds like a great place to live!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 11, 2017:

Thanks, Bill. I'm past due updating that hub. I'm still living in Kalamazoo and loving it.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 07, 2017:

I'm not sure how I missed this one. I always enjoy travelogues, and since my total Michigan experience lasted one hour, it was nice to read about a city I've never seen and probably never will see. Thanks for the tour, my friend.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 15, 2016:

Thanks, Happymommy

Amy from East Coast on November 22, 2016:

It's always nice to read Hubs about other places to live in the U.S. Your Hub is very well outlined and written. You hit a lot good points about the place you live. I look forward to reading more of your work!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 06, 2016:

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.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on April 03, 2016:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 22, 2014:

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.

ologsinquito from USA on July 18, 2014:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 09, 2014:

Thanks, Arun Kanti.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 09, 2014:

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.


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

C E Clark from North Texas on July 05, 2014:

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!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 10, 2014:

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.

Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on April 07, 2014:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on February 10, 2014:

Thanks, Sujaya.

sujaya venkatesh on February 08, 2014:

good account of a place lee

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on February 08, 2014:

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

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on February 08, 2014:

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!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 26, 2013:

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.

CraftytotheCore on September 26, 2013:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 25, 2013:

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

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on September 24, 2013:

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.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 17, 2013:

Thanks, McDora.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 16, 2013:

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!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on December 31, 2012:

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.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on December 31, 2012:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on September 11, 2012:

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

Anna from New York, NY on September 04, 2012:

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!

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 28, 2012:

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?

Bev G from Wales, UK on July 27, 2012:

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.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on July 24, 2012:

Thanks, rjsadowski.

rjsadowski on July 19, 2012:

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.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on April 07, 2012:

Thanks alocsin.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on April 05, 2012:

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.

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on November 26, 2011:

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.

Finnegan Dinow on November 26, 2011:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on November 23, 2011:

Keith, thanks!

Keith Matyi from Denton, TX on November 23, 2011:

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

Brian Leekley (author) from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on November 23, 2011:

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

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 22, 2011:

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