If you are looking for a change in scenery but don’t want to drive too far or spend too much, then downtown Kalamazoo may be the place you visit this summer.

Downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, is just a two-hour drive from the Region and there are a few places to visit that cost $5 or less to get in.

For example, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, at 230 N. Rose St., has free admission. It also has a planetarium and tickets to see shows are only $3.

This summer the museum will be hosting a dinosaur exhibit.

“We expect the exhibit to be popular with families of all ages, and we’re pleased to be hosting this exciting exhibit during the summer and fall months. Who doesn’t get excited about the prospect of seeing a dinosaur?” Kalamazoo Valley Museum Director Bill McElhone said in a news release.

“Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice and Dinosaur Discovery” will take over the museum’s third floor between June 17 and Sept. 17.

The second floor of the museum is entirely hands-on exhibits, meant to hit all of your senses. The Children’s Landscape, a self-directed play area, is for children between ages 2 and 5. Science in Motion is an interactive exhibit for all ages that helps people explore energy, the human body and technology. For example, a visitor can test his or her reaction time or grip strength. Visitors also can design, build and race a car on a 14-foot track. Another hands-on exhibit on this floor is called Direct to You. It features the history of Kalamazoo, what it built and created — from guitars to medical devices.

The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, at 314 S. Park St., also is worth checking out. It’s a great cool-down area during the hot summer months with more than 4,500 art pieces to see. On the lower level, there is a kids' room with hands-on activities such as a pegboard wall for creating pictures, a black light craft corner, a wall-sized dry erase drawing board and a magnet play area. The museum also has a gallery shop that features local artisans. Children 12 and younger are admitted free and adult tickets are $5.

You can get some fresh air at Arcadia Creek Festival place, which is located between Kalamazoo Avenue to the north and Water Street to the south at Edwards Street. The Arcadia Creek Festival Place is a space that people use to eat lunch or picnic, play at the park or relax — for free, of course.

After working up an appetite, there are a few places to eat within walking distance to the Arcadia Creek Festival: Bell’s Brewery, Water Street Coffee Joint and Food Dance.

Bell’s Brewery, at 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., offers free tours of its brewery at its Kalamazoo location. It also has a cafe, where it hosts live music at night, and a store front.

Water Street Coffee Joint, at 315 E. Water St., roasts its own beans at its roasting facility right in Kalamazoo. The cafe offers all sorts of coffee and espresso drinks as well as tea, smoothies and homemade lemonade during the summer months.

“We offer both regular iced coffee and a cold brew iced coffee — we call it ‘Coffee with a Bang.’ It’s brewed with a custom blend of lighter to medium roasts. We love it for its sweetness and chocolate notes, not to mention a serious caffeine kick. It has two to three times more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee,” said Laura Betinis Healy, general manager.

All of the cafe’s baked goods, salads, desserts, etc., are prepared fresh in its kitchen every day.

Food Dance also makes fresh dishes every day, but its uses a farm-to-table philosophy.

“We have been working with local farmers since we opened in 1994. It has never been a question; it's necessary and important to know where our food comes from and know the people who are producing it,” said Michelle Miller, marketing and events director. “Our menus and market products are ever changing to feature the best-tasting, highest-quality ingredients as possible. Spring is the most exciting time of the year for us; it begins the active growing season in the area. We anticipate the arrival and are all so thrilled to see asparagus when it's delivered.

"We have been working with the farmer who provides it to us for years. When he walks through the back door, we know he just hand-picked it, washed it and loaded it into his truck for us.”

Because Food Dance prepares everything in-house it allows workers to accommodate most food sensitivities and allergies.

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