Grand Rapids Free Summer Activities to do With Kids

Finding things to do with your kids during the summer that will stimulate, educate, entertain, and keep them moving isn’t easy!

While it’s fun to do special activities with our kids in the summer, the cost of outings can add up quickly!

There are so many fun and nearly-free things to do around West Michigan, there’s no need to spend a lot of money this summer. We’ve complied a list of some of our favorite summer activities that won’t break the bank.

Click here for a full list of all no cost events and see what’s happening today!

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16 Free or Low Cost Ways to Have Fun in Grand Rapids

1: Check out a Michigan Activity Pass

Discover hundreds of Michigan’s cultural destinations and natural attractions with your Michigan library card! You can “check out” FREE or discounted admission passes (or other exclusive offers) to hundreds of Michigan state parks, campgrounds, museums, trails, arts & cultural destinations, and more.

Bonus: if you are a GRPL card holder, you have the opportunity the check-out entry to nearby venues including Frederik Meijer Gardens, the Civic Theatre, and John Ball Zoo.

2: Watch Movies on Monroe

Movies are free to all, but be sure to come early to reserve your seats! Bring your own blankets, chairs, drinks and snacks.

Local food vendors will be on site to serve up delicious treats. Pre-movie entertainment begins at 6:30 pm, first feature begins at 7:30 and and another feature at 9:30.

Movies are every other Friday from June through August. Look through this round-up to find even more outdoor movies in a neighborhood near you!

3: Listen to Concerts in the Park

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs for an afternoon or an evening of free family entertainment! Communities from Ada to Zeeland and all over west Michigan play host to talented musicians all summer long!

4: Go Plane Spotting

The Gerald R. Ford airport sports a viewing area that’s great for watching planes and a fun place to picnic! The newly renovated area includes more parking spaces — the lot has grown from 54 to 104 spots — picnic tables, permanent restrooms, a drinking fountain, more trash receptacles and a sleek, modern pavilion.

The viewing area is open daily from dawn to dusk and is located at 4820 Kraft Avenue SE.

5: Stroll the Rogue River

Rockford has a scenic boardwalk along the West side of the Rogue river and a paved bike path to the East (part of the White Pine Trail).

Additionally, the dam and bridge in Rockford are great places for watching fishermen, ducks and other wildlife, as well as taking photographs. Ice cream shops dot downtown Rockford, too!

6: Be Dazzled by the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven

Stake out your spot along the river across from the fountain, wait till just after sunset and enjoy!

Every night features a different selection of music with coordinating colorful water displays from the fountain. Specially themed evenings are very popular like The Greatest Showman, Pixar, Star Wars, and Pirates.

7: Make a Splash at a Local Splash Pad

Dress the kiddos in clothes they can get wet in!

One of our faves is Leslie E. Tassell Park, along the Thornapple River. It doesn’t sport a playground but it does have a really fun interactive water feature and is near two ice cream shops. The park also has a fire pit, two shelters and a public restroom. Picnic tables and benches are located throughout the park.

For other great places to get wet check out our Local Splash Pads and Playgrounds.

8: Broaden Your Horizons at Grand Rapids Art Museum

The GRAM is free all day on Tuesdays and on Thursday evenings! Explore the mysteries and wonders of the GRAM in Downtown Grand Rapids.

9: Explore Beautiful Parks & Playgrounds

Some recent favorites include Hager Park in Jenison, Cascade Township Park, and Frog Hollow Park in Wyoming. Find our full list, including a handy map of all the local playgrounds, trails and dog parks around West Michigan, here.

Get a coffee, grab some sunscreen, and have a fun day at the park!

free summer activities

Frog Hollow Park

10: Attend Vacation Bible School

Most VBSs are free and those that aren’t are still mighty cheap. Dropping your kiddos off for a morning, afternoon, or evening of structured fun might be just the break you need!

11: Skate Free at a Participating Rink 

Sign up for Kids Skate Free passes and kids can roller skate for free at Kentwood Fun Spot, Byron Fun Spot, and other locations (check their website for available locations).

12: Or Score a Strike at a Nearby Bowling Alley

Similar the the Kids Skate Free program you can register kids through their website to bowl two free games every day this summer at a nearby bowling center of your choice.

Father and Young Boy Bowling

13: Visit a Fair or Festival

Whether you’re looking for carnival rides, games of chance or skill, funnel cake, 4-H shows, or concerts on the fair grounds, Fairs and Festivals are a summer staple here in West Michigan!

Most fairs and festivals offer kids days with reduced admission fees. Parades and fireworks are also free festival fun.

Festival of the arts performance

14: Join a Summer Reading Program

Not only are these programs free to join, but most allow kids to earn prizes and rewards for reading. Be sure to sign up soon as most have summer sign-up periods in mid-June and conclude in August.

Summer reading programs at the library also feature magicians, concerts, special events and more. Check out your local library for details on a program near you.

15: Take a Hike

Most trails are free. Pack some water, a snack and a nature guide book from the library, and set off on an adventure! If you want to start off with a hike to the beach, consider Rosy Mound in Grand Haven. (Parking is $7, but the trail is free.)

16: Bring the Kids to Family Night at GRCM

Visit the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum on a Thursday evening, from 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, and admission is just $1.75 per person  every Thursday evening. This is a great chance to check out their new exhibits!


Did we miss an excellent free family activity around West Michigan? Let us know in the comments so we can all check it out!

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