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!
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.
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
Visit a local fair or festival. Whether it be music, art, ice, syrup, tulips, chocolate, kites, cherries, or magic, you can find one that suits you in Michigan…and many are FREE!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
KALAMAZOO & BEYOND
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 over-sized model train). Stop in around the holidays and you’ll find a special exhibit featuring the Polar Express and Harry Potter!
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.
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!