How to Experience the Mitten State – for Free
There are SO many FREE things to do in Michigan! I know I’m a little biased, but Michigan really is the best.
For starters, our peninsulas mean we basically have two great states in one. And who else is bordered by four out of the five Great Lakes? Or boasts so many majestic sand dunes and thousand of miles of freshwater shoreline?
Michigan is overflowing with so many fascinating things–history, nature, invention, art–that you’ll never tire of finding something to do in this great state.
And since we don’t think adventure needs to break the bank, we raised the stakes a little and compiled a list of FREE (or nearly free) things to do in Michigan.
Whether you are searching for urban adventure, rural vibes or experiences in the great outdoors, you can do that in Michigan, affordably.
All it takes is probably some transportation, a spirit of adventure and snacks. Lots of snacks.
Where Will Your Next Free Michigan Adventure Take You?
We’ve broken the list into sections of the state. After you’ve experienced the free things to do in Michigan near you, venture out to new parts of the state.
And if you find something incredible that’s not on our list, drop us a line. We’d love to share your discovery so others can enjoy it, too!
Free Things to Do in Michigan
- Free Things to Do in Michigan: Statewide
- Free Things to Do in Grand Rapids
- Free Things to Do in Muskegon
- Free Things to Do on the West Coast/Lakeshore
- Free Things to Do in Kalamazoo
- Free Things to Do in Lansing
- Free Things to Do in the Bay Area/Thumb
- Free Things to Do in Ann Arbor
- Free Things to Do in Detroit
- Free Things to Do in Northern Michigan
- Free Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Statewide
Drive the Great Lakes Circle Tour
Road trip! Follow the Great Lakes Circle Tour, a scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Pick a portion or enjoy the entire 6,500 miles!
Stop by a Michigan Farmers Market
Okay, so this one isn’t completely free, but buying food is a necessity. Experiencing the signs and scents of Michigan homegrown at a farmer’s market is free, and worth it.
Check out a Michigan Activity Pass
Use your library card to check out a Michigan Activity Pass, good for discounts and FREE passes to cultural attractions across the state! Don’t forget to take advantage of the other amazing programs our library systems have to offer.
Visit a State Park
Purchase a Recreation Passport and receive FREE admission to all state parks, state recreation areas and state boat launches including some gems such as the Warren Dunes State Park, Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Fort Custer State Park, the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic Site, Fayette Historic Townsite, Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, Tahquamenon Falls, Bond Falls or the Porcupine Mountains.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Grand Rapids
Stop by Rosa Parks Circle
Explore Rosa Parks Circle, a public art space in the heart of downtown GR by renowned artist, Maya Lin. Many FREE events and concerts take place here all year long, and (almost FREE) outdoor ice skating is offered in winter months.
Hang Out at Millennium Park
Millennium Park offers nearly 18 miles of paved and natural-surfaced trails, fishing, recreational areas, and great playgrounds. Also available is a great beach and splash pad, paddle boats and more. However please note, unlike the rest of the park, these water-based features of the park are fee-based.
View the Planes
Watch planes take off and land at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Viewing Area. Take advantage of the newly renovated pavilion with an abundance of picnic tables, and bring a sack lunch
Be Awed at ArtPrize
Although season and biennial now, ArtPrize is too good not to include. An international art competition, open to any artist and decided by public vote, it fills the city of Grand Rapids with art and visitors from all over the world. Off years will also feature fun art installments on a smaller scale.
Go on a Mural Crawl
Grand Rapids boasts over 100 street murals for all to enjoy. Some by way of ArtPrize, and many more through the Downtown Development Authority’s dedication to supporting the artist community in Grand Rapids.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Muskegon
Free Things to Do in Michigan: West Coast Lakeshore
Enjoy a Bonfire
Further up the coast, stop by the Leelanau School and pay an (almost free) $1 admission to attend the Beach Bards (community) Bonfire every Friday night in the summer. It kicks off with an 8 PM children’s hour, and continues with storytelling, music and more.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Kalamazoo
Feed the Fish
Enjoy hatchery tours, trails and fishing programs where all equipment and bait is provided, at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in Mattawan. Be sure to stop in the visitor’s center and ask for a FREE feeding token!
Learn About Prehistoric City Times
Head south to Niles and visit the Fort St Joseph Museum, featuring exhibits that tell the story of the city from the prehistoric era through the modern business and industrial era.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Lansing
Tour the Capitol
Tour public areas of the State Capitol Building, or learn about Michigan’s judicial branch by checking out the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center, filled with exhibits, a mock-courtroom, computer programs and more! Visiting on a Sunday? Head to the nearby Michigan History Museum where admission is also FREE!
Find a spot on the lawn outside Beaumont Tower, home of the MSU Carillion, and hear one of MSU’s most recognizable sounds in concert form. Weekly performances take place all year long, and concerts are held in July, when the tower also opens for tours and demonstrations.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Bay Area and the Thumb
Live Like a Pioneer
Visit Pioneer Log Village in Bad Axe, the largest collection of authentically restored pioneer log buildings in Michigan, open on Sunday afternoons between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Go on a Trolley Ride
Ride the Blue Water Trolley and get a picturesque tour of Port Huron’s historical sites, including the Blue Water Bridges. The narrated one-hour tour is (almost) FREE at a cost of only 10 cents per person.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Ann Arbor
Love Science and Nature
Visit the grounds of the Leslie Science and Nature Center and uncover trails, raptor enclosures and a great critter house where you can observes frogs, turtles, snakes and more.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Detroit
Explore Belle Isle
Take the bridge to Belle Isle and discover 200 acres of woodland, trails, swimming, recreational facilities including the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Belle Isle Aquarium, Belle Isle Nature Center and much more! Admission is free to pedestrians, bicyclists and those who take public transportation…but please note, a Recreation Passport is required when accessing the island by vehicle.
Walk a Trail
Take a walk, run, or bike ride along the Dequindre Cut Greenway. Two miles of trails to explore that used to be a section of the Grand Trunk Railway. Local artists have been known to leave their mark along the greenway since the appropriate graffiti been permitted to stay along the pathway.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Northern Michigan
Northern Michigan and Mackinac
Experience Early Logging Life
Experience life as it was in an early Michigan Logging community, at the Houghton Lake Historical Society, open Fridays and Saturday afternoons from Memorial to Labor Day.
Chase Model Trains
The Roscommon Model Train Club opens its doors every Wednesday and Saturday (the one day you can hitch a ride on their oversized model train). Stop in around the holidays and you’ll find a special exhibit featuring the Polar Express and Harry Potter!
Stay Dry While Exploring a Shipwreck
Explore a full-size replica wooden Great Lake schooner and shipwreck, without getting wet at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center in Alpena.
Free Things to Do in Michigan: Upper Peninsula
Hike to Narnia
Take a magical hike through an open forest with fern and wildflower-laden floors as you search for the secret place known to the locals as Narnia.
Your trip starts at the Woollam Nature Preserve.
Eventually, you will weave your way through moss-laden boulders that tower overhead.
Adventurous kids and adults can scramble over these sleeping giants. (And don’t forget to spot the magical lamp post!)
Your hike ends with sweeping views of Lake Huron and more boulders to climb as you watch the waters for freighters in the distance.
Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments so our readers can check it out, too!