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Kalamazoo, MI (Population: 77,145)

The city of Kalamazoo is located in southwest Michigan, and has a population of roughly 77,145, making it the largest city in the region. Kalamazoo is home to four higher learning institutions, 36 parks, and the best arts and entertainment in southwest Michigan. A major benefit of living in the city is the Kalamazoo Promise, the only school system where students can obtain up to 100 percent of their college tuition. The city is named for the Kalamazoo River, but there is controversy surrounding the actual origins of the word. Generally, it is thought that the name comes from the language of either the Potawatomi or Odawa peoples who were native to the area prior to European settlement.

Primarily due to its college town status, Kalamazoo is a notable center for culture and the arts. There are a number of art galleries, with the most popular being the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The city is also home to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, Kalamazoo hosts annual Keyboard and Bach festivals, which are famous in the region. A variety of big musical artists and groups include Kalamazoo on their touring circuits, often performing at the Stage Theatre, Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium, and Wings Stadium. Since the founding of the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Kalamazoo in 1902, the city has boasted a vibrant and diverse music scene. The corporation's opening triggered the ambitions of many local and independent musical artists specializing in genres ranging from classical to modern rock. Acoustic, folk, bluegrass, world, blues, and hip-hop genres have also staked their claims in the Kalamazoo Music Scene.

There are endless activities for both residents and visitors of Kalamazoo. Whether you're into music, theater, art, sports, or just want to enjoy the shopping and dining opportunities the city has to offer, you're sure to be endlessly entertained in Kalamazoo. The city plays host to four popular breweries and brewpubs producing a range of beer varieties from wheat ales to barley wines. Bell's is probably the most popular brewery, with the Eccentric Cafe housed in its original location. The Kraftbrau Brewery is another great place for local entertainment in a brewery atmosphere. The downtown brewpub Olde Penninsula features a diverse menu accompanied by a small selection of craft beers. A popular annual event marking the end of fall semester finals at Western Michigan University is “Eccentric Day,” which is held at Bell's Eccentric Cafe to celebrate the brewery's Eccentric Ale.

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum downtown is a great hands-on museum for kids. It features a planetarium and a nationally renowned Challenger Learning Center. The Gilmore Car Museum, in the northeast part of town, includes cars that were used in Walt Disney movies. For sports fans, this home town of Derek Jeter has what you're looking for. The Western Michigan University Broncos compete in NCAA Division I in the Mid-American Conference in football, hockey, basketball, baseball, and volleyball. The city also has three non-collegiate teams: minor league basketball, minor-league hockey, and amateur-league soccer. Golf lovers also enjoy a round of 18 holes at the Milham Park Golf Course, which is rated among the best municipal courses in the country.