Show Your Friends how to Enjoy 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
Families can now explore the history and innovation of flight, space exploration, and out-of-this-world STEAM education programming together with an onsite visit to the recently re-opened Air Zoo. Or explore from the comfort and safety of their own home through the Air Zoo’s Launchpad to Learning center.
Let’s imagine, explore & discover – together!
6151 Portage RdPortage, MI, 49002
STATEWIDE Free Things to Do in Michigan
01 – 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!
02 – Explore a Lighthouse
Visit one of Michigan’s 92 lighthouses. The exterior views are FREE, but admission rates may apply if you want to go inside.
03 – Go Fishing
The Michigan DNR offers Free Fishing Weekends twice each year, once in the winter, and once in the summer.
04 – 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.
05 – Play a Round of Disc Golf
06 – Ride a Bike
Ride your bike on the masses of beautiful Bike Trails Michigan has to offer!
07 – Explore a Beach Town
Fly kites, build sandcastles, splash in the water, or take in the wonder of winter water at one of Michigan’s beach towns.
08 – Go on a Color Tour
Enjoy the dynamic fall colors of a trillion trees by taking a Michigan color tour.
09 – Try Geocaching
Go on a real-life treasure hunt – try geocaching or letterboxing!
10 – Take a Hike
11 – 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.
12 – Visit a Fair or Festival
13 – Enjoy a Cheap Movie
Enjoy Celebration Cinema’s Free Kid Flicks – 10 weeks throughout the summer, enjoy FREE admission for kids 12 and under to select movies.
14 – Go Bowling or Skating
15 – Build Something
Build something at a Home Depot’s Kids Workshop. The events are FREE, but pre-registration is required (and they fill up fast).
16 – 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.
GRAND RAPIDS Free Things to Do
17 – 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.
18 – Go on a Tag Tour
Strap on your walking shoes and go on a Grand Rapids Tag Tour. Want to see more? Download the GR Walks app, and have FREE guided walking tours in the palm of your hand or visit Experience Grand Rapids.
19 – 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.
20 – Ride the Tire Swing
Take a ride on Motu Viget, a giant tire swing.
21 – Visit the GRAM
Visit the World’s first LEED certified art museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and enjoy FREE admission all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings.
22 – Watch the Fish
Visit Fish Ladder Park. Get up close to the Grand River, and watch the fish jump up the ladder in a seasonal migration in the spring and late summer!
23 – 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.
24 – Spend Time Outdoors
Foster a natural curiosity in your family for the great outdoors by joining one of Calvin Ecosystem Preserve Education Programs for families.
25 – 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.
26 – 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.
27 – Hit the Beach
Go to the beach! While there are many options, if you have the Recreation Passport, definitely check out Duck Lake State Park, it’s the perfect size for kids!
28 – Visit a Museum
View an antique collection of fire fighting apparatus at the Fire Barn Museum and take a look inside the Scolnik House, a living museum that highlights the lives of those who lived in Muskegon during the Great Depression. Both of these Lakeshore Museum Center gems have FREE admission!
29 – Learn African American History
Explore the important roles African Americans played, that shaped Muskegon County at the James Jackson Museum of African American History
30 – Watch a Movie on a Ship
Enjoy a movie on the deck of the USS LST 393, a historic warship located in Muskegon. Movies are shown on Friday nights all summer long.
31 – Explore the Universe
Explore the universe at the Carr-Fles Planetarium.
32 – Ride the Chain Ferry
For just $1 per person (almost free), cross the Kalamazoo River by a hand-cranked Chain Ferry in Saugatuck.
33 – Hang Out at the Farm
Keep ‘moo-ving’ up the lakeshore and stop by the Critter Barn, an educational farm that is home to a variety of animals available to watch, interact with and learn from.
34 – Visit the Dutch
Visit the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delftware Factory in Holland and talk with artists as they produce wooden shoes and paint Dutch pottery right in front of your eyes.
35 – Be Dazzled by the Musical Fountain
Take in the sights and sounds of the World’s Largest Musical Fountain in Grand Haven. These shows run nightly at sunset each year between Memorial and Labor Day.
36 – Get Lost in a Lavender Labyrinth
Wander through a giant lavender labyrinth at the Cherry Point Farm and Market.
37 – Meet an Alpaca
Make a new friend at the Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm in Frankfort.
38 – 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.
39 – Eat All the Cherries
Visit Cherry Republic, at its home base in Glen Arbor or in downtown Traverse City, and enjoy FREE samples of all things cherry.
40 – Watch a Movie
Take in an (almost) free, $0.25 kids matinee, every Saturday at 10 AM (and Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer) at the State Theatre in Downtown Traverse City.
41 – Eat All the Chocolate
Tour Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen and enjoy free samples at their headquarters in Petoskey.
42 – Visit an Historic Park
Explore the Silver Beach Center in St. Joseph, experience the delightful past of the park that graced the shores of Lake Michigan from 1891-1971. If you’re visiting in the summer, head next door to the Whirlpool Compass Fountain, Michigan’s largest splash-pad!
43 – Learn While You Play
The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is a hidden treasure located in Kalamazoo, full of family-friendly exhibits, play areas and demonstrations.
44 – Ride a Trolley
If you’re in downtown Kalamazoo during the holiday season, hop aboard the San-Francisco style Holly Jolly Trolley. It runs every Friday-Sunday in December.
45 – Visit a Farm
46 – Enjoy Nature’s Beauty
Hike the Lillian Anderson Arboretum; 140 acres of marsh, meadow, pine, and deciduous forest in Kalamazoo.
47 – View the Cars
Attend a Wednesday Night Cruise-In at the Gilmore Car Museum.
48 – Be Amazed by Miniatures
Be amazed at lifelike houses, dolls, toys and more, on a miniature scale at the Midwest Miniatures Museum in Hickory Corners.
49 – Walk the Historic Streets
50 – Stroll More Historic Streets
Explore Historic Charlton Park in Hastings, including 25 historic residences, businesses and community buildings moved from locations throughout Barry County. Have extra time, walk the city, and then cool off in their splash pad.
51 – 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!
52 – 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.
53 – Walk Through a Garden
Take a walk through the Leila Arboretum and Children’s Garden in Battle Creek and discover 2,500 marked trees and plants, dozens of gardens and walkways, art and more!
54 – 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!
55 – Soak in the Arts
Head to the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, a showplace dedicated to promoting the works of Michigan artists.
56 – Surround Yourself with Beauty
Learn about and enjoy plants in a beautiful setting at the MSU Beal Botanical Gardens, or explore the MSU Children’s Garden. In addition to a large variety of plants, you’ll find compilations of mazes and play structures.
57 – Visit MSU
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.
58 – Find Your Inner Artist
Visit the architecturally awesome MSU Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.
59 – Go for a Hike
Take a hike on over 4 miles of paved, handicapped accessible trails at the Carl G. Fenner Nature Center.
BAY AREA & THE THUMB
60 – 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.
61 – Appreciate Sculptures
Check out a unique, fun collection of over 2,000 works by Marshall M. Fredericks, Detroit-based public sculptor, at his museum in University Center.
62 – Celebrate Christmas Any Day
Visit Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth. Be sure to stop in the Visitor’s Center and pick up a Gnome Hunt log, one of the many free things to do in the city. Don’t forget to stop at the world’s largest Christmas Store, Bronners, where it’s Christmas year-round!
63 – View a Mammoth
Take in larger-than-life exhibits and study mammoth bones unearthed in Huron County, at the Nasr Natural Science Museum.
64 – 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.
65 – Visit an Orchard
Have fun on the farm at the Anderson & Girls Orchard in Stanton. In addition to seasonal events, the farm is home to a variety of barnyard animals, ranging from camels to hedgehogs.
66 – Be a Good Steward
Enjoy and learn about the environment and how to be responsible stewards of the land, water and air at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland.
67 – Find a Fairy Door
Go on a Fairy Door hunt – there are 10 located throughout the city of Ann Arbor.
68 – 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.
69 – Uncover Habitats
Uncover a wide variety of habitats, trails, formal gardens, a conservatory and a great Children’s Garden at the University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens, or see what’s in bloom at the Nichols Arboretum.
70 – Appreciate Art
Stop in The University of Michigan Museum of Art, a small, but architecturally beautiful building that contains the works of Rodin, Picasso, Monet and more!
71 – Be an Archaeologist
Enter the ancient world at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, where you’ll find an Egyptian mummy coffin, magical amulets, Greek pottery and more.
72 – Watch Vintage Baseball
Watch a vintage Walker Wheels Baseball Game where the players don old-fashion jerseys and play under 1860 rules. The event is FREE, though a Recreational Passport is required to enter the Cambridge Junction Historic Park, where it is played.
73 – Learn About Railroads
Learn about the railroads, military and Underground Railroad through photos, documents and more at the Lenawee County Historical Museum and Archives.
74 – Tour a Factory
Tour the Jiffy Mix Factory in Chelsea, while sampling products and other refreshments.
75 – Appreciate History
Visit the Detroit Historical Museum and take a trip through America’s Motor City, the Underground Railroad, the Kid Rock Music Lab and more!
76 – Celebrate Diversity
Open your mind to a world of adversity and achievement at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The second Sunday of each month is FREE.
77 – 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.
78 – Tour Detroit
79 – Be Amazed by the Heidelberg Project
Take in an open-air art environment in the heart of an urban community and be amazed – explore The Heidelberg Project.
80 – Indulge in Treats
Watch expert candy makers create luscious treats, while you indulge in them, at the Sanders Candy Factory Tour in Clinton Township.
81 – 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.
82 – Enjoy Delicious Aromas
Northern Michigan and Mackinac
83 – 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.
84 – 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!
85 – Make Music
Make music in Cadillac’s Sound Garden, rustic metal sculptures that double as instruments.
86 – Visit the Cross in the Woods
Visit the Cross in the Woods National Shrine in Indian River, home to one of the largest crucifixes in the world.
87 – 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.
88 – Explore the Galaxy
Witness the galaxy at Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, open year round every day (and night).
89 – Visit the Mighty Mac
90 – Enjoy a Laser Light Show
Enjoy a Laser Light Show at Mackinaw Crossings nightly, all summer long.
91 – Be a Lumberman
Learn about the industry that helped develop northern Michigan through hands-on activities, video displays, and trails at the Lumberman’s Monument Visitor Center in Oscoda.
UPPER PENINSULA – Free Things to Do in Michigan
92 -Discover Waterfalls and Incredible Views
Take in the splendor of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Alger and the numerous waterfalls around it. In winter, head down the road to check out the Eben Ice Caves in Hiawatha National Forest Rock River Canyon Wilderness Area.
93 – Learn About Mining
Discover Calumet’s beginnings and its explosion into a major copper mining boomtown, by checking out the Calumet Visitor Center, or head west and learn about the state’s iron mining history at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee.
94 – 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. 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. Your trip starts at the Woollam Nature Preserve.
95 – Be Brave
Test your bravery as you jump off the Black Rocks at Presque Isle Park in Marquette.
96 – Visit a Refuge
Fish, hike, ski or drive through the Seney National Wildlife Refuge; 95,000 acres of diverse habitats which provide a home to a wide variety of plant and wildlife species.
97 – Ride Over a Double Decker Lift Bridge
Ride over the world’s widest and heaviest double-decker vertical lift bridge on Portage Lake.
98 – Observe Ships at the Soo Locks
Observe ships at Soo Locks Observation Platform and Visitor Center in Sault Ste. Marie. On the way up, stop by Castle Rock in St Ignace and snap a picture with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. While you’re there, pay the (almost) free $1 fee and climb to the top.
99 – Tour a Factory
100 – Discover Junk Yard Art
Find a unique collection of ‘Junkyard Art’ at Lakenenland Sculpture Park, near Marquette.
101 – Climb a Mountain
Take in a spectacular sunset view of Pine Mountain, well worth the 500 steep steps it takes to get there, then head to the Millie Mine Bat Viewing Area, and watch as one of the largest bat colonies in North America, depart at dusk.
102 – Ride a Self-Operated Raft
Cross Michigan’s largest spring, Kitch-iti-kipi in Manistique, on its self operated observation raft.
Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments so our readers can check it out, too!