One of the biggest criticisms I hear about the wonderful city of Kalamazoo is that there are simply not enough fun things to do in the city, so many residents travel or even relocate in search of more fun and excitement in their lives. Kalamazoo does have escape rooms, movie theaters and even Chuck E. Cheese and countless parks and nature preserves. But it’s really not a very long list for a city this size. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate what we have and work to improve the liveliness of the area.

It's Going Up in the Club

One of the first things that comes to mind when people think about having fun involves some kind of drinking. It is true that Kalamazoo has what seems like a thousand and one breweries, wineries, and distilleries along with restaurants and other bars. It is a college town, after all, and I’m not suggesting that we add more of these kinds of places, but we do lack clubs in the city. Frazier’s nightclub was a great spot, but since it has been shuttered, there hasn’t been an alternative.

I would argue that the club scene should make a return to Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Western Michigan University, and Kalamazoo College are all in the city and “College Night” would flourish here, both Thursdays and on weekends. It would be great for both college students and anyone else looking for something different from breweries and restaurants.

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Cruise to Craig's

Kalamazoo has a few bowling alleys—Airways Lanes on Portage Road, Revel and Roll on Stadium Drive, and Eastland Bowl on Gull Road—to name a few. Bowling is one of those pastimes that almost every American has found themselves enjoying from time to time. In addition to food, drinks and fun, there are added attractions such as go-karts, laser tag, axe throwing and more.

While Kalamazoo has the bowling community covered, every time I head out to bowl, Craig’s Cruisers comes to mind. Craig’s Cruisers embodies everything about a bowling alley that isn’t a bowling alley. They have indoor and outdoor go-karts, laser tag, virtual reality and so much more to provide fun diversions for all ages from the smallest children to the biggest adults. They also boast an amazing buffet and arcade room to suit any taste.

The Three Seasons Fair

Another idea for entertainment focuses on the county fair. Like many of Michigan’s other 82 counties, Kalamazoo hosts the Kalamazoo County Fair. For a few days every August, the county fairgrounds are flooded with folks from all over the county and beyond. They love the games, the rides, and most importantly all of the fair cuisine that we ingest and then regret a week later. It’s not too much different than an amusement park, which I would love to bring to Kalamazoo, but realistically that’s not possible. The next best option? Build a fair that’s open during spring, summer, and fall! Great for entertainment and for our local economy.

Busters for Dave

This next attraction is an idea that I've pondered for some time. Why not replace Chuck E. Cheese with Dave and Buster’s? Hear me out here. Everyone thinks of Dave and Buster’s as an adult Chuck E. Cheese, right? Yet, nothing says you can’t take your kids to Dave and Buster’s. It’s a place where both dad and son, mom and daughter, or any variation of family or friends could enjoy themselves.

There are adult beverages for those of age, games for all ages, and a full menu of grub to tempt any palate. Of course, Chuck E. Cheese would be a loss as an iconic arcade place for children—with some of the best pizza—but Dave and Buster’s is elite with its upgraded games and food options. Chuck E. Cheese appeals to children, but Dave and Buster’s appeals to everyone.

Cross the Roads to the Mall

Lastly, one idea that some people might disagree with and others would call a hot take, let’s bring back Crossroads Mall. I believe it should receive a full overhaul and make a return. One of my favorite things to do in middle school was to go to the mall with my friends with nothing but twenty dollars in my pocket. We would walk around in just about every store, even the ones we probably shouldn’t have been in like Victoria’s Secret and Spencer’s.

Trying on shoes that I had no intention of buying , looking at hoodies my mother would never let me purchase, and causing mischief in the large department stores like JC Penney were some of the best Saturdays of my youth. The best part was the food court, which is where I always spent the crisp $20 bill I had in my pocket, ordering orange chicken, fried rice, a crab meat rangoon, and a lemonade to go— please. To think that middle school and high school kids now don’t get that same mall experience makes me a little sad. More importantly, everyone benefits from returning to shopping at storefronts instead of getting everything online.

Kalamazoo isn’t the worst place to live—there are some fun attractions already in place, but there is an overall consensus that the city could use more. The breweries, bars, bowling alleys, and others give the city a name but adding more entertainment would help it really come alive.  A club, a Craig’s Cruisers or Dave and Buster’s, expanding the fair and reinvesting in the mall could change the way citizens and visitors view Kalamazoo.

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