Ope! We Just Discovered 102 Free Things to do in Michigan With Kids

Mackinac Bridge Dentler

How to Experience 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 thousands of miles of freshwater shoreline?

things to do in michigan : whitefish point on lake superior
Lake Superior – Whitefish Point

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 nearly free or FREE things to do in Michigan with kids.  

Detroit Fist Brooks kids Monument to Joe Louis

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 With Kids: Statewide

Drive the Great Lakes Circle Tour

Michigan Driving Tour

Road trip! Pick a portion or enjoy the entire 6,500 miles!

Follow the Great Lakes Circle Tour, a scenic road system connecting all of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Explore a Lighthouse

Various Michigan Locations

Visit one of Michigan’s 92 lighthouses.
The exterior views are FREE, but admission rates may apply if you want to go inside.
Some lighthouses host free community days throughout the year. Watch for them!

West Michigan Stays Little Sable Lighthouse
Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Go Fishing

Various Michigan Lakes

The Michigan DNR offers Free Fishing Weekends twice each year, once in the winter, and once in the summer.

Stop by a Michigan Farmers Market

Various Michigan Markets

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.

Homegrown produce and other treats await at Michigan farmer’s markets

Play a Round of Disc Golf

Michigan’s 400+ courses (and counting)

Getting Outside + Fun For All Ages = A Family Outing Win-Win
Whether you are looking to try your hand at Disc Golf in GR or elsewhere in Michigan, you’ll find a way to enjoy the great outdoors all while keeping everyone active.

disc golf grand rapids
Disc golf courses are all over Michigan

Ride a Bike

Various Michigan Locations

Ride your bike on the masses of beautiful Bike Trails Michigan has to offer!

Explore a Beach Town

Various Michigan Locations

As the Great Lake State, one of our greatest features is our beaches.
Fly kites, build sandcastles, explore local shops, splash in the water, or take in the wonder of winter water at one of Michigan’s beach towns.

Aloha State Park Beach in cheboygan
Aloha State Park Beach in Cheboygan

Try Geocaching

Various Michigan Locations

Play a game of hide and seek with geocaching or letterboxing! Go on a treasure hunt using GPS or an app on your smart phone.
Ready, Set, Go!

Take a Hike

Various Michigan Locations

Go hiking! The North Country National Trail connects seven states and is headquartered in Lowell, MI!
Don’t miss our list of favorite west Michigan trails.

Buck Creek Nature Trail Wyoming Pearson
Buck Creek Nature Preserve in Wyoming, MI, is one of many hiking trails in Michigan

Check out a Michigan Activity Pass

450 partner destinations across Michigan

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.

Visit a Fair or Festival

Various Michigan Locations

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!

Enjoy a Free Movie

Various Michigan Locations

Enjoy Celebration Cinema’s Free Kid Flicks periodically throughout the year with FREE admission for kids 12 and under to select movies.
Or take the fun outside for free outdoor movies during the summer in West Michigan.

Go Bowling or Skating

Various Michigan Locations

Go bowling…or roller skating…FREE!
Bowling and Skating are great activities when Michigan weather makes it a challenge to be outside.
Kids Bowl FREE all summer long and Kids Skate FREE all year long at participating alleys and rinks all over the state!

Kids Bowl Free Kid getting bowling ball Lansing
Bowling is a favorite among summertime free things to do in Michigan

Build Something

Various Michigan Locations

Build something together at a Home Depot’s Kids Workshop.
Pick up your free Kids Workshop Kit on the first Saturday of each month between 9AM – 12PM from your local store while supplies last.

Visit a State Park

101 Michigan Locations

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.

silver lake sand dunes beach lake michigan
Silver Lake Sand Dunes

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Grand Rapids

Stop by Rosa Parks Circle

 135 Monroe Center St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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.

Go on a Tag Tour

 Various Grand Rapids Locations

Strap on your walking shoes and choose one of two interactive Grand Rapids Tag Tours. 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 and choose from a variety of tour options, including a beer tour, black history tour, heritage tour and much more.

Hang Out at Millennium Park

1415 Maynard Ave SW, Walker, MI 49534

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.

american ninja warrior playground millennium park 1
The ninja warrior playground in Walker, MI

Ride the Tire Swing

 Behind the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building, 110 Michigan St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Take a ride on Motu Viget, a giant tire swing.
This large, interactive sculpture, originally installed in 1977, was named after Grand Rapids’ moto, “strength in activity”.

Visit the GRAM

 101 Monroe Center St NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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.
Both kids and adults will enjoy exploring all three floors of the museum’s collections and exhibits.

Grand Rapids kids and adults love the Grand Rapids Art Museum

Watch the Fish

624 Front Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Visit Fish Ladder Park. Observe salmon, steelhead, trout and many other species of fish travel up the fish ladder.
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!

View the Planes

4820 Kraft Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

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.

airport observation park grand rapids
Pack a lunch and watch the planes come and go from GRR

Spend Time Outdoors

1750 E Beltline Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Foster a natural curiosity in your family for the great outdoors by joining one of Calvin Ecosystem Preserve Education Programs for families with guided walks, lawn games or animal encounters.
Or check out a Discovery Field Pack while you are there, filled with exploration guides and tools, letting you explore the preserve with a little extra insight, all at your at your own pace.

Be Awed at ArtPrize

Various Grand Rapids Locations

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.

Go on a Mural Crawl

Various Grand Rapids Locations

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.

Murals Feature image EECO X Ave4Art Sneller
EECO X Ave4Art

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Muskegon


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!

best lake michigan beaches - duck lake channel
Duck Lake State Park in Muskegon, MI, is always a popular place

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!


Learn African American History

Explore the important roles African Americans played, that shaped Muskegon County at the  James Jackson Museum of African American History.


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.


Explore the Universe

Explore the universe at the Carr-Fles Planetarium.

Free Things to Do in Michigan: West Coast Lakeshore


Ride the Chain Ferry

For just $1 per person (almost free), cross the Kalamazoo River by a hand-cranked Chain Ferry in Saugatuck.


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.

Critter Barn Birthday with Chicken
Visit with chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and more at the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI

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.


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.

Grand Haven musical fountain
The musical fountain in Grand Haven, MI, has different theme nights throughout the summer

Get Lost in a Lavender Labyrinth

Wander through a giant lavender labyrinth at the Cherry Point Farm and Market.


Meet an Alpaca

Make a new friend at the Crystal Lake Alpaca Farm in Frankfort.


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.


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.

glen arbor cherry republic
Stop by the Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor, MI

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.


Eat All the Chocolate

Tour Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen and enjoy free samples at their headquarters in Petoskey.


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!

silver beach st jospeh best beaches in michigan
Silver Beach Fountain in St. Joseph, MI

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Kalamazoo


Learn While You Play

The Kalamazoo Valley Museum is a hidden treasure located in Kalamazoo, full of family-friendly exhibits, play areas and demonstrations.

Kalamazoo Valley Museum free things to do in Michigan
There’s so much to do at Kalamazoo Valley Museum

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.


Visit a Farm

Visit the robotic milking viewing area and Michigan Garden at the Dairy Center Kellogg Biological Station in Gull Lake, or visit MSU’s Farms on campus.


Enjoy Nature’s Beauty

Hike the Lillian Anderson Arboretum; 140 acres of marsh, meadow, pine, and deciduous forest in Kalamazoo.


View the Cars

Attend a Wednesday Night Cruise-In at the Gilmore Car Museum.

Gilmore Car Museum Cruise In Event free things to do in michigan
Cruise-In Events at Gilmore Car Museum in Kalamazoo, MI, are a fun free thing to do in Michigan

Walk the Historic Streets

Take a Walking Tour of Historic Marshall.


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.

Charlton Park Kalamazoo free things to do in michigan
Tour historic homes in Charlton Park in Hastings, MI

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!

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Kalamazoo free things to do in michigan
Take a tour or catch a fish at the Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in Mattawan, MI

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.


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!

Leila Arboretum Battle Creek free things to do in Michigan
Be surrounded by beauty at Leila Arboretum and Children’s Garden in Battle Creek, MI

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Lansing


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!

Tour the Capitol building in Lansing, MI

Soak in the Arts

Head to the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, a showplace dedicated to promoting the works of Michigan artists.


Surround Yourself with Beauty in MSU Gardens

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.

MSU Childrens garden 1 1 1
Cool sculptures are just one of many free things to do at the MSU Children’s Garden in East Lansing

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.


Find Your Inner Artist

Visit the architecturally awesome MSU Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

Lansing Broad Art Museum
Everyone will love visiting the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, MI

Go for a Hike

Take a hike on over 4 miles of paved, handicapped accessible trails at the Carl G. Fenner Nature Center.


Explore the Ledges

Climb the ledges, swing on the playground, watch for a train on the trestle, play a round of disc golf and so much more at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge.

Ledges Park Fitzgerald Park Michigan
Hike through the ledges at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge, MI

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Bay Area and the Thumb


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.


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.


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!

free michigan travel : bronners
It’s always Christmas at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, MI

View a Mammoth

Take in larger-than-life exhibits and study mammoth bones unearthed in Huron County, at the Nasr Natural Science Museum.


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.


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.


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.

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Ann Arbor


Find a Fairy Door

Go on a Fairy Door hunt – there are 10 located throughout the city of Ann Arbor.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


Learn About Railroads

Learn about the railroads, military and Underground Railroad through photos, documents and more at the Lenawee County Historical Museum and Archives.


Tour a Factory

Tour the Jiffy Mix Factory in Chelsea, while sampling products and other refreshments.

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Detroit


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!


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.


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.

Fountain at Belle Isle
Intricate fountains are just part of the beauty at Belle Isle in Detroit, MI

Tour Detroit

Pick a Self-Guided Tour of Detroit or a section of the beautifully transformed Detroit Riverfront, and explore.

Detroit lounge seating riverfront
Take in the beauty of the Detroit Riverfront

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.


Indulge in Treats

Watch expert candy makers create luscious treats, while you indulge in them, at the Sanders Candy Factory Tour in Clinton Township.


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.

Dequindre Cut Greenway Space Rails to Trails family biking
Watch for murals along Dequindre Cut Greenway in Detroit, MI

Enjoy Delicious Aromas

Enjoy the sights, sounds, aromas and scenery of Yates Cider Mill in Rochester Hills, or check out its store in the charming Olde World Canterbury Village in Lake Orion.

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Northern Michigan

Northern Michigan and Mackinac


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.


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!


Make Music

Make music in Cadillac’s Sound Garden, rustic metal sculptures that double as instruments.


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.


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.


Explore the Galaxy

Witness the galaxy at Dark Sky Park in Mackinaw City, open year round every day (and night).


Visit the Mighty Mac

Visit our state’s crown jewel and the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world, the ‘Mighty Mac’ and learn all about it at the Mackinac Bridge Museum.

Mackinac Bridge Pearson
Take in the views of the Mackinac Bridge from Mackinaw City, MI

Enjoy a Laser Light Show

Enjoy a Laser Light Show at Mackinaw Crossings nightly, all summer long.


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.

Free Things to Do in Michigan: Upper Peninsula


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.

pictured rocks upper peninsula boat tour
The best way to see the Pictured Rocks in Munising, MI, is from the water

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.


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.

Your trip starts at the Woollam Nature Preserve.

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.

Narnia Trail Les Cheneaux Cedarville Hunt
Hike to Narnia at Les Cheneaux in Cedarville, MI

Be Brave

Test your bravery as you jump off the Black Rocks at Presque Isle Park in Marquette.

black rocks marquette upper peninsula michigan
Jump off the Black Rocks in Marquette, MI

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.


Ride Over a Double Decker Lift Bridge

Ride over the world’s widest and heaviest double-decker vertical lift bridge on Portage Lake.


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.

Soo Locks Sault Ste Marie Scripps
Watch the ships at the Soo Locks in Sault Ste Marie, MI

Tour a Factory

Take a Stormy Kromer Factory Tour, in Ironwood, home to their signature cap. While in town, learn about it’s history a the Historic Depot Museum.


Discover Junk Yard Art

Find a unique collection of ‘Junkyard Art’ at Lakenenland Sculpture Park, near Marquette.

lakenland marquette
Amazing art from “junk” awaits at Lakenland Sculpture Park near Marquette, MI

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.


Ride a Self-Operated Raft

Cross Michigan’s largest spring, Kitch-iti-kipi in Manistique, on its self operated observation raft.

the big spring kitchitikipi
Ride a glass bottom raft on Kitch-iti-kipi in Manistique, MI

Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments so our readers can check it out, too!

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162 thoughts on “Ope! We Just Discovered 102 Free Things to do in Michigan With Kids”

  1. This seems to be a great place for spending holidays and fun. Waiting for weekends so I can enjoy with my family and must visit this place.

  2. Just came across this list for the first time through Google and I love it! Thanks for compiling it. For the sake of participating in commenting, I’ll throw in a childhood favorite of mine (it’s still around) in Lake Orion/Orion Township – Canterbury Village. There’s a lot of shopping, so technically not “free” in that sense. But we always just liked to walk around the grounds and play on the giant rock.

    (And I’m now dying to go to Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, whether or not I can get a kid to go with me! 😉 )

  3. I love the list each year….but do not understand for a moment the wonderful places in the the Flint area that are always left from the list.

  4. I recommend the Henry Ford Museum, also Greenfield Village both are in Detroit. don’t forget the Detroit Zoo either. Another recommendation is in Manistee, MI, two beautiful beaches, Ramsdell Theater Opera House, as a child I loved going to the Wednesday afternoon shows for children. I have lived in Arizona for a good number of years, the above places I love to spend time at when I’m in Michigan.

  5. Sandra E. Kennedy

    I recommend adding The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI, to your list of vacationing, sight-seeing, and/or things to do in Michigan. It is also extremely educational, interesting, and fun. I have been there three times and there is always something new to see and learn. It also has a fantastic gift shop.

  6. In central Michigan, on M-66, just north of Stanton, is a place called Anderson’s Orchard. They have an amazing zoo! It started off with goats and other petting zoo type animals. Now there are camels, zebras, marmosets, sloths, lemurs, kangaroos, wallabies, prairie dogs, an arctic Fox, a giant tortoise, several tropical birds, including a room where parakeets fly freely and will land on you, pigs, sheep, rabbits, and more!

  7. Lansing has a Planet Walk – replica of solar system, 2 mile walk starting at Impression 5 Museum and ending at Potter Park Zoo. Not something to cause a trip, but a great free add-on to something you have going on!

  8. There is a raft you can ride on in the upper peninsula which is called Big Springs(Kitchi-Kitipi). You ride across the water on a raft which is above 3 freshwater springs located 7 miles west of Manistique, Mi. A great place to take your kids. The water is stocked with some of the biggest trout and salmon in the state. And the water is crystal clear.

    1. Hi Eva! On the front page of what? I’m not sure what page you’re referencing. If you can point me to the URL you’re interested in, we can get you an answer. Thanks!

  9. Jessica Yenchar

    Jiffy baking co. factory tour in Chelsea (near Ann Arbor) is free. They also give you a goodie bag.

  10. Although I hate to encourage more public attendance (it is such a peaceful place I want to keep it all to myself!), anyone who loves the outdoors will enjoy Shiawassee Natural Wildlife Refuge and many similar state game areas.and area metro-parks.

  11. Although its not Free, its very cheap, but Tawas City has a Zoo. They have a lion named Damba, 2 bears, a coyote, 2 wolves, a bob cat, and farm animals. Last time i was there its $5 for and under 3 was free. Also In Hale there is the Bear Store, they have a bear named Sophie, 2 peruvian Cavy’s, a wallaby, rabbits, horses and 2 fox. Also in Tawas is Lumbermans Monument and Iargo Springs

  12. Jessica Marienthal

    There’s also The Cross In The Woods in Indian River. It’s very beautiful there and one of my favorite places. And it’s free!

  13. Take time to drive up to copper harbor, at the top of the Keweenaw. Brockway mountain drive is only one of the breath taking sights to be enjoyed along the way. Many waterfalls, light houses, and gorgeous sunsets from the west shore drive. All easily accessed from, or within a short walk, of your car. Check out the web sites numbered map. So many attractions to choose from. You won’t be disappointed. http://www.keweenaw.info/attractions-7/

  14. Wow – this list is Fantastic! Thank you and I also admire your wannabe list…I too have those same interests. Extra tidbit for #70 – Frankenmuth. Stop in the Visitor Center on Main Street, and pick up a “map” that gives all the participating shops in the hunt for “Gnomes.” The kids love the game as do the workers when they get to help locate it within their establishment. There was no purchase required, and this “event” is year round. Great fun for the kids and parents, while exploring all of Frankenmuth. 🙂

  15. FREE – chocolate/candy/history tour at main Kilwins headquarters in Petoskey, MI… with a free sample at the end!

  16. Great list! Up past Marquette there is a great view of Lake Superior from high up Sugar Loaf Mountain. There are stairs (and resting benches! ) for easy access.

  17. Everything at your local library is FREE! Books, movies, storytimes, special events, concerts, parties, summer reading, etc. Libraries often have FREE tickets to community events, too! Be sure to check out your library this summer.

  18. Constance Waid

    Grand Rapids: Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. Check out the Children’s Garden, The Farm Garden, etc….

  19. Love this article! Love Michigan! One question – where are the water slides that show up as the picture? I’m dying for some water slide fun! Thank you so much for posting!

  20. Touted as the “world’s largest gemstone”, few people are familiar with Jasper Knob in (almost) downtown Ishpeming (Yooper-Land). This is a must-see for budding geologists. It is private land (Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company) but it is publicly accessible — read the supplied link.

    1. Deb,
      Thank you for asking! We’d love for you to share this with your friends! You can share on facebook by clicking the facebook link above, or tweet by pressing on the twitter link. If you click on the plus sign you’ll get a list of dozens of other social media platforms you can use to share this post. You can also copy this link http://grkids.com/101-free-things-to-do-with-kids-in-michigan/ and email it to your friends. We’ve also made available to you a printable version: http://grkids.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2015/01/101-Things-to-Do-in-Michigan-with-Kids-Printable.pdf Thank you for visiting grkids.com!


  21. we are Ruby Campground and we have a lot to offer but not only what we offer we are close to Port Huron where there is rails-to-trails walk ride your bike or horse trails to Avoca. The Blue Water Bridge goes over to Sarnia, beautiful blue waters beautiful beaches and close to the casinos.

  22. Martine Payment

    In mackinaw city. Where you can ferry to the island there is also a nightly light show on the walls of the mall on the water. I believe its just weekends but a very good tourism spot for a road trip andsome of the best eats you will find. You can also go to the black bear safe haven in Paradise and see black bears close up. I dont remember the name of the conservatory but its gorgeous and when we went a few years ago we got to pet a cub named Molly. She was a sweetie.

  23. One more thing to add to Traverse City…..we have an observatory with high power telescopes looking into space. They have a list of viewing nights to show what will be visible each month. It is only open when something is worth of viewing but I believe it’s free. Check out their list online Traverse city observatory schedule. The kids will love it!!!

  24. Jodi VanderKooi

    There is also Whitefish Point in the UP. They have a ship wreck museum and lighthouse and one of the best beaches to walk and find beautiful rocks to collect.

    1. Whitefish Point is beautiful and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is amazing, but the museum is not free – actually pretty pricey.

  25. If your kids are the gamer types in the SE/Ann Arbor area, U of M’s North Campus Library (2281 Bonisteel Blvd) has, in its basement, the Computer and Video Game Archive, a “Library” of hundreds upon hundreds of video games from every era including the newest systems and the oldest, free to play on site, and fully open to the public. Summer hours are weekdays noon to seven.

  26. There is WAY more free stuff to do in Southwest Michigan – check out the visitor bureau sites,

    Just one example, the World’s Largest Breakfast Table in the Cereal City, Battle Creek MI. This year is June 13th!

    1. Hi Christy,
      There are many awesome free events…it was hard to pick 101! We did try to limit them to things that were at least seasonal or year-round, eliminating many 1-day events…but thanks for sharing! 😀

  27. Thanks for the great list. Michigan is great place. Lived here all of my 64yrs but 1. How can I get a printed list. Thought the Grandkids could mark things off. Thanks for caring about MI and it’s people. Especially the little ones.

  28. Hi Stephanie – a quick update to #49: could you change it to “hike the Lillian Anderson Arboretum?” Bikes are not allowed to help minimize trail damage/erosion. Thanks!!

  29. Don’t forget the 3mile Detroit River Walk where you can watch ships cruise by. There’s a merrygoround for $1 and a free play water jet area.

  30. Dorothy Johnson

    see the world’s largest bronze/wood crucifix at the National Catholic shrine in Indian River, Cross in the Woods

  31. Cindy Krueger

    Regarding number 11: At the end of May 2015 the Park and Read program is being rolled into Michigan Activity Pass program available from your local library. MAP includes one day free or discounted entry to more than 200 locations around the state.

    THE Henry Ford both village and museum (use ro be greenfield village)
    Down river Calder farm see milking and ice cream making

    1. Thanks, Sharon. They are both great places to visit in Michigan, BUT sadly neither are free.

  33. i would also add that people should check out the libraries wherever they’re going. Often they will have free programs (especially during the summer reading program months). Your local library card will also give you free or reduced access to a ton of museums and other sites throughout michigan through the MIchigan activity pass program (MAP)…you can find out the discounts by going to this link….http://www.eventkeeper.com/prmaps/code/index.cfm?mn=628322 . Last, but not least, St. Joseph has a fabulous compass fountain that is free, and fun, all summer long AND free movies outside on Friday or Saturday nights all summer long as well.

    1. Yes! Our local libraries are wonderful, aren’t they? We do cover this a little bit in number 11, but you’re right, there are many awesome free programs that take place daily! And, we’ll be sure to look into the Compass Fountain and the other fun free things St. Joseph has to offer – it might be worth a 1 tank trip post of it’s own 🙂 Thanks, Stephanie!

  34. MSU has one of the oldest and most successful breeding programs for Arabian horses in the country. The barns and surrounding pastures are open to the public. From April – June, the babies make for a very fun visit (bring carrots)! There are other barns open to visitors as well (cows, sheep, etc.) but we have never made it past the horses. I’ve brought my own as well as daycare children and seriously – we couldn’t get enough. Very fun and a great experience for kids – it’s pretty amazing to see those big horses interact with tiny people. http://www.tour.msu.edu/locations/farms

    1. I LOVE this Mandy, and had NO idea that free tours were available, or that these farms even existed! Thank you so much for sharing!! 😀
      – Stephanie

    2. My daughter loves the dairy barn. There is a maternity barn with births happening almost daily. We have seen six births. If you are there when it happens you can help name the new female calfs.

  35. When i lived there, Battle Creek had a place on Kelloggs history, cool place, there was a theatre presentation, and a walk line you could see how the grain is transformed into cereal, and you could put your picture on a box of corn flakes or wheaties AND you did not mention the automotive/motown tours or Henry Ford Museum/ Greenfield Village, sad but true, not everybody knows about them

    1. Hi Susie,
      Unfortunately, Kellogg’s no longer offers a plant tour and Cereal City is closed…and, although the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are great places to visit, they are not free, nor is the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. 🙁
      – Stephanie

  36. Didn’t see the air zoo in Kalamazoo or holland or frankenmuth all fun places your kids need to see or the binder zoo in battle creek or really any zoo or the impressions 5 science center in Lansing

    1. Hi Jamie,
      Frankenmuth and Holland are on the list…and although the other places you listed are all great…none are free. Thanks for the note.
      – Stephanie

  37. The Cascades in Jackson. As a kid I use to love watching them light up at night. I believe it every night in the summer and free for the whole family.

      1. The good news is that now the view blocking wall has been taken down, so the falls are visible, even if one doesn’t go inside to walk around them…there is also a great ice cream stand nearby and lots of walking areas, fishing, and playgrounds in the park which are all free.

  38. What a great list thank you! I am wondering why you listed the number 34 lighthouses. Michigan has many, many more than that for the public to view and tour.MI actually has 126 lighthouses to see. Some are not viewable from land. But the number 34 would not be correct. I have seen 43 of them so far and all of those were free to see.

  39. The science/art museum in midland is not free, it’s $5pp. But if you need something to replace that, in the winter city forest has sledding on a groomed hill (with snow-making), ice skating, lit trails for cross country skiing and a fire pit, all free. Can rent skis, skates, sleds, and toboggans for a toboggan run (for a cost, $2-$6)

    1. Thanks for the catch, Karen. I see now that only the aquarium is free (bummer), and have since updated. I just took a peek at City Forest as well. What a great park – thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Annette,
      Yes, Belle Isle is a State Park…however, admission is still free for pedestrians, bicyclist and those who use public transportation to enter the park. I’ll be sure to note that on the list – thank you! 🙂

  40. I felt that St Clair County has been over looked (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2d5hgBhFBg). How about viewing our beautiful bridges to Canada in Port Huron while watching the freighters go up and down the St Clair River into Lake Huron, the Port Huron Float Down (http://www.porthuronfloatdown.com) from Lake Huron into the St Clair River and Port Huron’s biggest draw of people from all over the world is Boat Night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Huron_to_Mackinac_Boat_Race) in which the sail boats line up the next day for the Race to Macinaw Island. There is Cruise Night, shared between Port Huron and Fort Gratiot Twp over the years (http://bluewatercruiseweekend.com/) which is not as large as the Dream Cruise on 8 Mile but ours is getting bigger every year. Please come visit and enjoy our pristine blue water ways.

    1. Finally, someone mentioned the East side of our beautiful state! Thank you ,Lisa. But let’s not stop at Port Huron. Stay on M-25 and keep going north along the shore of Lake Huron. I am partial to Lexington, “The first resort north”. Free music in the park on Friday nights, live music in four venues every weekend, great acts in the Village Theater, Fine Arts Fair, and craft shows and antiques! Come see us!

  41. I am so glad to see geocaching on this list! It is an activity that can be done all over Michigan . It’s FREE. Kids and adults of all ages enjoy it. I take my 12 year old and her friends all the time. I have also taken my nephews age 4-7. Very kid friendly activity. I can’t wait to check out some of the other activities on this list. Thank you for creating it!

    1. How do you geocache? I have a cousin and her son coming this weekend and would like to know how. Do you need any special equipment? Will a smartphine do the job?

  42. Whirlpool Splash Pad in St Joseph is free. Michigan Flywheelers Museum in South Haven is free except for special events. They do accept donations for tours though.

  43. Looking for something to do with the kids on a Saturday morning?

    Young Modelers Club continues through April 25th!

    It’s FREE!!

    The Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society (MTHS) and the Warren Chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS) are happy to announce the return of the Young Modelers Club
    When: Every Saturday Morning, starting until
    April 25, 2015
    What Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
    Where: The Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society Museum
    16600 Stephens, Eastpointe, MI

    For Ages 8 to 16, (younger than 8 are welcome with parental supervision)

    First time builders receive a free snap-together kit to build and take home!

    Feel Free to bring your own kit to build! All supplies such as tools, paint, glue, etc. will be provided FREE.

    Members of IPMS Warren model club will be there to help and teach modeling techniques

    For more info, contact Jim Ashford, 248-399-2386, or [email protected]

  44. Saginaw is home of the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum, a great place for kids and parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sitters, nannys… anyone to spend time Playing and Learning togeather!

    1. you need a park pass for the falls. when its summer they have a dnr person there to check for the pass on your license

      1. Most of the time the tickets for the glass bottom boat tour in Alpena is $30 for adults and $10 for 12 and under. July 4th for the fire works tour usually when the tickets cost a little more!

  45. On MSU’s campus in E. Lansing, Abrams Planetarium is almost free ($2-$3, I think) and a neat experience for everyone! Also, in April-Oct, MSU Observatory offers free public viewing one weekend a month.

  46. MSUStudent/ParkingAttendant

    You most definitely CANNOT park on the lawn by the Beaumont tower nor can you park for free near the tower from 7am-6pm on weekdays even during the Summer. I cannot stress enough of how little parking in EL is there period and absolutely none of it is free during the daytime.

    1. Jennifer Grivins

      There is a large parking garage on Circle drive that is paid but only a short walk from the tower, the botanical gardens and MSU Musuem which is a very cool free 3 story natural and cultural history museum.

  47. Wolf Lake Fish Hatchery in Mattawan has free learning to fish programs for kids on weekends through spring and summer. They also have free tours.

    Critter Barn in Zeeland Michigan is great family destination.

    Skidmore Park Petting Zoo in Three Rivers. Weekends only in June through August.

    1. No, that’s a great one, Deb! We tried to limit the list to things that you could do year round, or at least seasonally…but I’m glad you shared!

  48. 1.Presque Isle in Marquette, 2 mile hike paved or can walk entire inside of island, around Lake Superior
    2.drive up Mt. Marquette, at top view city of Marquette, beautiful
    3.Many very nice hikes, viewing water falls

    1. We did the Mackinaw Bridge Walk for the first time last Labor Day. It was a blast. Going again this year!

  49. Hastings has become a true destination spot, including fun and free activities for families. We now have a Spray Plaza for kids to play in during warmer months, with an adjoining outdoor amphitheater featuring some of our great Michigan/West Michigan local talent, including some special acts for kids. The Hastings Sculpture Tour is another exciting, free year round attraction that draws families to Hastings. The number of sculptures is growing, I believe we are up to 24 or more. View them as you walk downtown and take time to visit the shops and restaurants along the way. Hastings also has many other fun events that draw people in throughout the year, visit http://downtownhastings.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/City-of-Hastings-Michigan/172713452898567?sk=timeline to view more events and photos.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Cindy. I don’t live too far from Hastings, and will be sure to check these things out this summer! 😀

  50. I would love to print this article out, but it won’t print. I’ve tried everything and only get the very first page printed. I even tried to “save as” but only got the ads. Seems like so many great ideas, that it should be printable…thanks for any other suggestions on how to print this wonderful article out! THANKS!

    1. Mary – try copying the information you want, then go to Word and paste “special”, select unformatted text. That almost always works for me.

  51. Stephanie:
    Not far from Fayette in the UP, about six miles from Manistique in the Palms Book state park there is the Big Spring, or Kitch-iti-kipi. 10,000 gallons of water flow into it every minute. It is forty feet deep and you can see the bottom clearly. There are lots of huge fish. Trout that are at least three feet long. There is a wooden raft that can hold a crowd (30 or so) that is propelled across the spring via a cable strung from one side to the other. It is very cool for both kids and adults.

        1. Been there!! Beautiful and the kids love to pull the raft across to the deepest spot!! They were amazed of seeing all the way to the bottom!!

      1. I was also going to mention Kitchitkippee “big spring”. It is by far the most profound place in mich, will blow you away. There are areas for picnicking as well and restroom facilities. It is a State Park, so all that’s needed is your sticker from Sec of State to visit all state parks, I believe you can do a day fee as well. Look up the old Indian legend to it as well. You can’t miss this spot!!!

  52. Coming from MI, I know that has some of the Greatest places. I still believe that MI has the BEST STATE PARKS for camping in all 50 states!!!

  53. I may have missed the Detroit Institute of Arts on your list. ( Free except for special attractions that MAY have a fee. ) How about original Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor MI where the beauty of the flowers in Spring and Summer make for wonderful family pictures, not to mention the fall leaves for the same reason. Also driving on over to Glen Arbor (west) from TC is the quaint Christmas Shop. Open for browsing (shopping) beautiful Christmas Items many made by MI residents. So many more free, wonderful places on the Leelanau Peninsula. Our favorite is Friday nights in July and August at the fire pit behind the Leelanau School, where the conch shell is sounded calling all story tellers, poetry, prose and song smiths to share their talents. It begins around the bonfire with a children’s hour followed by extended time for adults. The Beach Bard’s Bonfire is the BEST summer free fun for our family.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for the great additions – it sounds like the Leelanau Peninsula/Glen Arbor area has a lot of free fun to offer! And the DIA is wonderful…although, I believe it is only free for residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties, so we chose to leave it off the list…but I’m glad you noted it here. Thanks again!

    1. Another one I looked at Suzanne – I used to LOVE walking around Cranbrook! I’ll be sure to add it to the list. Thank you!

  54. In Lansing, the Michigan Historical Museum is free every Sunday. I’ve been many times and have never paid a dine! It’s huge and quite kid friendly. One of my favorite Sunday activities!

    1. Thanks for the information, Rose! I did look up the Michigan Historical Museum, but missed that admission was free on Sundays – good to know. My son loves it there! 😀

  55. Krispy Kreme does not give away free doughnuts. You can get one free doughnut for downloading their app to your cell phone but the app and the red light in the store only indicate they have fresh doughnuts coming out of the cooker.

    1. Hi Joe!
      Participating locations do give away free doughnuts when the red light is on, including the one in Grand Rapids (sadly, we’re regulars) 🙂 I have not yet confirmed whether the Troy and Allen Park locations participate, but thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    2. you are WRONG every time the red light is on I go in and they DO give you a fresh hot off the line glazed donut!!!!! have done it many times

      1. Terry, Please tell my hips that Krispy Kreme doesn’t give away free donuts. I was in Grand Rapids last week and not only received a free original donut but a free donut hole as well. Not all in one day, but whenever the light was on!

    1. Hell Michigan was interesting the kids had some fun there but, there wasn’t a lot to do and some of it did cost but, it was a unique experience. The drive from erie to their was also beautiful.

  56. Due to the popularity of this very article, our site was down yesterday and into this morning. We apologize for the inconvenience. The site is live again, and this article is now viewable! Victoria Worden, Tanya Mitz, Nicole Looks.

    1. Theirs also the metro parks. They do cost to enter unless your on foot rollarblades,bikes.and theirs nature center.
      Also in sterling heights they have music in the park is free also the park& nature walking trails. My kids love going there in the summer

    2. What about the western end of the UP? In the UP there is great skiing, hunting, fishing, Black River Harbor and the Lake Superior coast up there is beautiful. And the best rocks on the planet are found in those waters.

      I grew up there when it was thriving.

    3. Valerie Robinson

      The Vesper Cruises out of St Ignace and Mackinaw City during the summer on the week-ends are free. Great opportunity to take one of the ferries and go under the Mackinac Bridge.

      1. We’ve taken the Vesper Cruises several times and everyone from the children to the grandparents have loved them!

    4. I would add GWEN FROSTIC — she was an artist who did would cutting/carving to create stationery. The old printing presses still run, and there is a gift shoppe associated with the whole area. (Also it is now down the street from a Llama farm, of great interest) in Benzonia. (Nature preserve is all around, as well)

      1. I love Gwen Frostic’s, have been there many times. However, I was very disappointed when there last summer. It is NOT kid friendly as they no longer have a public bathroom. I had to quickly leave and pack up my 3 toddlers and go to McDonald’s to use the facilities. They told me they have no plans of re-opening the bathroom. 🙁

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