Navigating Downtown on a “See-food Diet”

By Jennifer Ward, Owner of The Station

Food Dance, artisan cheese

Food Dance, artisan cheese

Our family has had the opportunity to visit many cities with our children in tow. Perhaps that is why we are naturally drawn to an urban environment for entertainment,dining and exploration. Cities fit neatly inside our comfort zone. Cities are easy. Cities offer flexibility. Cities don’t require massive planning for an outing with the kids, if you follow a “See-Food Diet.”

We started our travel diet when our kids were pretty young. Now that the kids are older, it still works, so we are sticking to it! The diet is very simple to follow:

  • If you are planning a whole day out: Have breakfast, have a plan for one or two more main meals (by plan, I mean, decide approximate timing and keep your eyes open for options as you move through the day. Make reservations for special restaurants that are likely to be busy).
  • As you experience your city: if you “see food” that looks interesting, tasty or one-of-a-kind, stop for a snack.

Bakeries, cafes, cheese shops, farmers markets and gelato stands have all been part of our master plan of exposing our kids to the world. Our food experience is part of the fabric of our vacations.

The great thing about the “See-Food Diet” is that the kids don’t even know that they have been played. The kids get to have special treats that are out of the norm. They stay happier about following Mom and Dad’s plan because we take regular breaks and avoid the low-blood-sugar meltdowns.

Downtown Kalamazoo’s revitalization means that we can recreate our urban exploration, right here at home. For a city of its size, Kalamazoo has a lot to offer in attractions and “See-Food.”

Some downtown attractions that work for families:

  • Kalamazoo Institute of Arts: Reasonable admission fee and rotating exhibitions. Interactive gallery for kids.


    Kalamazoo Valley Museum

  • Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Planetarium: Can you believe all the programs they put on for kids here? For free? Planetarium tickets are $3 and the programs change often.
  • Kalamazoo Public Library: Free programs for kids of all ages!
  • Concert in the Park: Bring a picnic and a blanket for a picnic. The concerts are free, so you can always leave when your kids (or you) need to go to bed.
  • Downtown shopping: If I have a quick shopping mission, I can visit the shops with kids because there are so many interesting things to see in so many of the shops.
  • Climb Kalamazoo: The whole family can do it!
  • Weekend morning bike ride: The traffic is quiet on weekend mornings and there are plenty of bike racks.

After you do something for the mind or body, it might be time for some “See Food”

  • Garden Gate Café: Children’s meals come with veggies! And, if the kids want the fabulous cupcakes in the cases, they better eat up!
  • Casa Bolero: Casa Bolero’s outdoor seating rivals any café abroad! There is kid-friendly fare on the menu, but watch out… your kids will start ordering the small plates from the regular menu and won’t share!
  • Nature’s Connection: Lots of kid-friendly items here and they sell Kalamazoo Kettle Corn.


    Pop CIty Popcorn

  • Pop City Popcorn: Gourmet popcorn flavors… need I say more?
  • Tudor House Tea and Spice: Confection and baked good cases are irresistible. Give you kids an introduction to what good spices smell like while you stop.
  • Irving’s Deli: Nice stop for lunch and the baked goods case is awesome “See Food”. Try the Southern Butter Cake or the French Macaroons.
  • Bimbo’s Pizza: Great pizza, and you can call ahead to get your pizza started so you don’t have to wait too long once you sit down. Our kids feel special when they get their own little pizza.
  • Food Dance: You can order anything off of the menu to go. Perfect for your concert or picnic in Bronson Park. Try some cheese while you are there.
  • Festivals: Our favorites with the kids are the Greek Fest, Rib Fest, and Taste and     Brew…. Hmmm, they all are food-themed… go figure!

For us, nearly all evenings end at the Spirit of Kalamazoo for ice cream!

Urban explorers: bring your kids downtown! You will be surprised by all you can see, do and eat in Downtown Kalamazoo!


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