8 Free Summer Activities for Kids in GR This Year

fishing michigan free things to do in summer Vander

Grand Rapids Free Summer Activities to do With Kids

Finding summer things to do with kids 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 summer activities around West Michigan, there’s no need to spend a lot of money. We’ve complied a list of some of our favorite summer things to do that won’t break the bank.

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


John Ball Zoo

Take a day trip to John Ball Zoo! Visit meerkats, tigers, chimpanzees, penguins, red pandas, otters, and more. Plus, don’t miss BRICKLIVE Animal Paradise – featuring over 40 life-sized animal sculptures created with over 1.8 million individually colored toy building bricks!

JBZ title sponsor summer 2020

1300 W. Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI, 49504

(616) 336-4300



Grand Rapids Free Summer Things to Do With Kids

Summer is different this year, but there’s still plenty of things to do.  We’ve confirmed that these options are up and running for 2020.

01) 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.

02) 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 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.

03) 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!

grand rapids free summer activities: rockford dam

04) 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.

Stay tuned to their website and Facebook page for re-opening info for 2020. 

05) 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.

grand rapids summer things to do - grand rapids free summer activities: splash pad

06) Explore Beautiful Parks & Playgrounds

Some 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.

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

free summer activities
Frog Hollow Park

07) Join a Summer Reading Program

Not only are these summer reading 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.

summer things to do: grand rapids free summer activities: reading

08) 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.)

summer things to do: grand rapids free summer activities: hiking

  SEE YOU IN 2021! 

Many of our favorite free summer activities aren’t running for 2020. Some may be open later in the summer, so be sure to check directly with the venue for updates.

We are excited to do these free and nearly free summer activities next year!

09) Watch Movies on Monroe

Movies on Monroe 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!

grand rapids free summer activities: movies on monroe

10) Listen to Concerts in the Park

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

11) 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.

12) 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!

13) 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).

14) Or Score a Strike at a Nearby Bowling Alley

Similar to 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.

summer things to do - grand rapids free summer activities: Father and Young Boy Bowling

15) 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.

Some fairs are going virtual for 2020 and there may be some festivals and fairs running as scheduled in late summer. Visit our fairs and festivals page for updates.

summer things to do - grand rapids free activities: Festival of the arts performance

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 $3 per person every Thursday evening. This is a great chance to check out their new exhibits!

summer things to do: grand rapids free summer activities: grcm

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

9 thoughts on “8 Free Summer Activities for Kids in GR This Year”

  1. Do you have very clean rooms for a 8 year old that has cancer. By great for this family to get out but not leave grand ma GiGi behind. Dunes sound great. We never been there. Daughters email, please.

  2. Valencia Sanders

    Love your site. Just wanted to say Rosey Mounds cost $7 for parking. They have a little kiosk when you pull up to park.

  3. Thanks for the ideas. I’m a Gram to a six yr. girl. We went to the Civic and saw The Princess. The acting was terrific but watching my granddaughter enjoying the play was priceless.

  4. My grandson is very, very interested in Classical Orchestras. Anything going on during the summer along this line?

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