Air Zoo is an air and space museum near Kalamazoo, MI. We visited in April 2023.
My dad was a lifelong flight engineer and a science fiction fan, so I’ve been to A LOT of air and space museums throughout my life. And, I hate to say it, but many of them are not engaging. Many offer just a bunch of planes on a plain concrete floor, with signs that tell you the name of the plane and when it was built, but not much more.
Air Zoo was so much better than that. First, the space was gorgeous – they had a huge mural on all the walls, and decorations on the floor that really created a sense of space. In general, the signage was very good – giving information that contextualized the planes on display. I especially appreciated that they had several exhibits about women in aviation – Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Rosie the riveters. They also had multiple exhibits about Black pilots (including Bessie Coleman) which addressed how they saw aviation as a field where they could gain respect which could then influence how Blacks were seen in broader society.
Everything was gleaming – clean and in good repair. There was a nice variety of displays and equipment on display. Some air museums can feel jingoistic to me, with a big focus on military might and war. This one included info about that, but it wasn’t the only focus. (They did have one large exhibit on Guadalcanal that did have a significant deep dig on military history if that’s your interest.)
Their space exhibit was informative and well arranged. They had a focus exhibit on Apollo 11 and one on Aliens and Androids.
In addition to the museum exhibits, Air Zoo clearly works to engage kids. There were several theme park sorts of rides: like the paratrooper drop, a hot air balloon ferris wheel. They are all included in the price of admission. The museum was quiet on this Tuesday in April, so not only was there never a line for a ride – in fact, often it was only our family or our son on the ride. But each ride was staffed and always available for kids, and perfect for ages 3 to 8. They also had a motion simulator flight simulator for the older kids that was a pretty wild ride! My 12 year old LOVED it.
They had a playroom with so many great building toys – the large blue foam blocks, crates of Keva blocks, Zoob, Duplos. If I was a local parent, I’d be so tempted to get a membership just so I could bring my kid here to play in the playroom.
There’s a cafeteria upstairs – I think they had a variety of food, though we just got Dipping Dots. They had an excellent gift shop. They had a movie theater which showed short films (included in the price of admission.
There is a second building, where I think there are more aircraft and some restoration work happening, but we’d spent over 3 hours in the main museum and had to get on the road so didn’t have a chance to explore that. Definitely lots to see and enjoy here!
As my husband puts it, our family “collects” science museums. Read about these other area museums: Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, COSI in Columbus, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Michigan Science Center in Detroit. Or other science museums across the country. (See a map of some here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1bTp83RbUJdvwdXx41m_d3vC71u2nxBs&usp=sharing.)
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