Kalamazoo, or KZoo to those in the know, has an eclectic, quirky vibe that appeals to college kids and families in equal measure.

Arts and crafts are woven into the city’s personality. The Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts boasts an impressive 20th-century American painting and sculpture collection. For a more hands-on approach, head to the Book Arts Center to learn papermaking, calligraphy and letterpress, or to Glass Art Kalamazoo for a lesson in glassblowing. There’s also the popular Vintage in the Zoo events in the warmer months, where you can hunt for vintage gems and handmade artisan goods from dozens of vendors. Beer falls under the city’s crafty characteristics, too, thanks to Bell’s Brewery, the state’s oldest craft brewery. (Though newer arrivals, like Brewery Outré and Brite Eyes Brewing Co., are popular as well.) Families can burn off energy at the nearby Kalamazoo Nature Center, a 1,100-acre forest and wetlands area with interactive science displays and a butterfly garden.

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Friends at a brewery in Kalamazoo
Discover Kalamazoo

The nationally-recognized Kalamazoo Promise covers the college tuition of students who graduate from any of its public schools — a first-of-its-kind program that launched in 2005 with funding from a group of anonymous donors. Another KZoo initiative worth mentioning: The Northside Association for Community Development, an advocacy group tackling the lingering effects of racially discriminatory housing policies and other long-standing inequities in one of Kalamazoo’s majority Black neighborhoods. The Northside Association owns several blocks of city property, and is currently developing them into affordable rental and single-family housing. (The group does lots of other great work too, like hosting neighborhood family fun nights and job training for nurses.)

Live music on the street in Kalamazoo
Discover Kalamazoo

All of that comes in a city where readers say traffic isn’t bad, entertainment options abound and the price is right, with a “relatively inexpensive cost of living and decent, affordable, uncrowded housing.”