Day trips from Chicago: Kalamazoo, Kenosha, Gary and Rockford
Nope, there wasn't a court case involved. We went to these gritty cities because we wanted to.
Four dead deer and 150 miles from Chicago lies Kalamazoo, where beer flows freely and dueling-piano bars rock hard. Aviation nerds will want to enter the city from the southeast to make a stop at the theme park–like Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum, more commonly known as the Air Zoo (6151 Portage Rd, Portage, 269-382-6555, $19.50 admission), but I skipped that detour and headed straight for the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture hanging in the impressive Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (314 S Park St, 269-349-7775, $8), where a Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition runs through September 13. The streets were eerily quiet, but it turned out that’s because whatever fringe population K-zoo has was sequestered in the lush, expansive backyard at Bell’s Eccentric Café (355 E Kalamazoo Ave, 269-382-2332), sipping plastic cups of drafts like the Rye Barley Wine and Milk Stout—each about $4 for a 16-ounce pour. On a beer kick, I walked a few blocks back to the center of town for pot roast, fried perch and a tasting of microbrews from Olde Peninsula Brew Pub (200 E Michigan Ave, 269-343-2739), then ended the day at the raging Monaco Bay (300 E Michigan Ave, 269-384-6044), where two dudes banged out Dave Matthews Band covers on dueling pianos like nobody’s business. Things got pretty crazy at the late-night club, so I was thankful to recharge with a box of face-size apple fritters and fluffy buttermilk doughnuts at the 24-hour Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (3333 Stadium Dr, 269-372-3636) on my way out of town. Plus, it was nice to have something to focus on in the car besides the roadkill. —Julia Kramer