15 Free Summer Things To Do in Grand Rapids

free summer fun kids playing with hose and squirt guns

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 events and see what’s happening today!

15 Free Summer Activities Around GR

Here are a lot of great things to do around town that will let those adventurous kids explore all they want. If they happen to change their mind halfway through, it’s okay because you’re not out any money!

1 – Watch a Free Movie or Concert in the Park

Bring your blankets and lawn chairs for an afternoon or an evening of free family entertainment at a concert or movie in the park!

Communities from Ada to Zeeland and all over West Michigan host talented musicians or feature popular family films throughout the summer.

2 – Visit a Public Splash Pad or Pool

One of our favs 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.

For other great places to get wet try this huge list of splash pads and pools.

Millennium Park Splash Pad

3 – Attend a Fair, Festival or Carnival

Whether you’re looking for carnival rides, games of chance or skill, funnel cake, 4-H shows, or concerts on the fairgrounds, 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.

festivals in michigan - swings

4 – Explore a New Park

Some favorites include Hager Park in Jenison, and Frog Hollow Park in Wyoming and of course the popular Millennium Park in Grand Rapids.

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!

MLK Park in Southeast Grand Rapids

5 – Stay Cool at an Indoor Play Area

Summer days in Michigan can get hot and muggy, so why not stay indoors and let the kids play — for free!

Head to your local library to find designated play areas full of toys and books just for kids.

Kent District Library’s 20 branches have “WonderKnooks”, and each one sports its own theme. Make it a game this summer to see how many libraries you can visit!

Stop by KDL Grandville and play a tune in the outdoor Musical Garden.

Kent District Library WonderKnook Cascade Township - Austin
WonderKnook at Kent District Library Cascade Township
Musical Garden at KDL Grandville

6 – Discover Hidden Gems on a Downtown Grand Rapids Hike

There are a lot of exciting sculptures and murals to discover throughout downtown Grand Rapids.

Pair it with colorful bridges over the scenic Grand River, and you’ve got an easy afternoon of free fun. Here’s how to find these hidden gems on a walkable adventure for kids.

7 – 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.

8 – Sign Up for VBS – Vacation Bible School

Local VBS Programs are a great type of summer camp for kids. Most are free, though some come with a small fee.

9 – Catch a Show at Grand Haven’s Musical Fountain

Stake out your spot along the river across from the fountain and 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, Christmas in July and Jimmy Buffett.

10 – Go Bowling

Kids can bowl two free games per day throughout West Michigan this summer.

11 – Have a Picnic While you Watch Planes Land

The Gerald R. Ford airport sports a really nice 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. Pop by on a Wednesday during the summer to catch the food trucks!

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

grand rapids summer activities - airport viewing park

12 – Travel the State with 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.

Kalamazoo Nature Center

13 – Stroll the Rogue River and see the Rockford Dam

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!

Rockford Dam – along White Pine Trail

14 – Take a Scenic Hike

Most trails in the mega trails directory are free.

Pack some water, a snack and a nature guidebook 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.)

Buck Creek Nature Preserve

15 – Reel in the Big One

Load up the tackle box, grab your poles and go fishing. Several area parks have fishing ponds and most don’t require an admission fee.

Plus, every summer, the state has one free fishing weekend. This year’s is June 8-9, 2024.

Any West Michigan Free Summer Activities to Add?

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

9 thoughts on “15 Free Summer Things To Do in Grand Rapids”

  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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