40 Must-See Greater Grand Rapids Museums, Zoos, Gardens & Cultural Attractions, Plus How to Get in Free!

grand rapids childrens museum

Museums in Michigan Offer a World of Learning Right in Your Backyard

I grew up in rural Michigan and going to a museum or zoo wasn’t an option when there was a farm to run!

While I miss the country, growing up in Grand Rapids means my kids have dozens of high-quality museums, zoos, and other attractions to explore.

Over the years we’ve had memberships to John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and Frederik Meijer Gardens. We have visited the Grand Rapids Art Museum, UICA and more.

There are exciting learning opportunities spread across West Michigan, and if you know how to access them, ways to get into these attractions and museums for free.


Want to go again and again? Check out the perks these local museum and zoo memberships offer.


Navigate the List

To make browsing easier, we broke the list into sections.

Museums
Zoos
Science
Gardens

GREATER GRAND RAPIDS MUSEUM LIST 

Air Zoo
6151 Portage Road, Portage, MI 49002
The Air Zoo is a highly charged, multi-sensory aviation and science museum that goes beyond anything you’ve ever seen. It’s like no place else on Earth! With over 50 historic and rare aircraft & spacecraft, amusement park-style rides, interactive exhibits, flight simulators, a 4D theater, and much, much, more, there’s truly something for everyone! Admission is FREE for children 4 and under.
269-382-6555
Website | Our Review

AirZoo View from Balcony Looking West Feature image

Air Zoo, Kalamazoo Michigan


Averill Historical Museum of Ada
7144 Headley Street, Ada, MI 49301
The Ada Historical Society operates the Averill Historical Museum of Ada in an 1870s farmhouse and barn owned by Ada Township.  AHS displays collections in exhibits about the area’s original inhabitants, Rix Robinson and the fur trade, Ada’s military history, life in a farming community, the business of Ada, children’s toys, the railroad in Ada, and local schools. Admission is FREE, but donations are always welcomed.
616-676-9346
Website


The Bailey Museum

903 S Bailey Ave, South Haven, MI 49090 | 269-637-3251 | Website

Cascade Museum

2839 Thornapple River Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 | 616-956-1228

Coopersville Farm Museum

375 Main Street, Coopersville, MI 49404 | 616-997-8555 | Website

Curious Kids’ Museum

415 Lake Boulevard, St. Joseph, MI 49085 | 269-983-2543 | Website

The Dekker Huis/Zeeland Historical Museum

37 E Main Ave, Zeeland, MI 49464 | 616-772-4079 | Website

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

547 East Circle Drive, East Lansing, MI 48824 | 517-884-4800 | Website

Lansing Broad Art Museum

Engine House No. 5 Museum

6610 Lake Michigan Dr, Allendale, MI 49401 | 616-895-8121 | Website

Forever Curious Children’s Museum

202 E Main St, Fennville, MI 49408 | 269-561-8494 | Website

Gerald R. Ford Museum

303 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 | 616-254-0400 | Website

Gerald R Ford Museum boys in office

Grand Rapids Art Museum

101 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | 616-831-1000 | Website

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

11 Sheldon Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | 616-235-4728 | Website

Boys at Free Museums near me like GR Children's Museum

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids Public Museum

272 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids MI 49504 | 616-929-1700 | Website

GRPM Public Museum Carousel Hunt

Holland Museum

31 W 10th Street, Holland, MI 49423 | 616-392-9084 | Website

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

314 S Park St, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 | Website

Kalamazoo Valley Museum

230 North Rose Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 | Website

Kingman Museum

175 Limit St, Battle Creek, MI 49037 | 269-965-5117 | Website

Lakeshore Museum Center

430 W Clay Ave, Muskegon, MI 49440 | 231-722-0278 | Website

Lowell Area Historical Museum

325 W Main Street, Lowell, MI 49331 | 616-897-7688 | Website

Michigan History Center

702 W Kalamazoo St, Lansing, MI 48915 | 517-373-3559 | Website

Michigan History Center Lansing Brooks Boy

Michigan Maritime Museum

260 Dyckman Avenue, South Haven, MI 49090 | 269-637-8078 | Website

MSU Museum

409 W Circle Drive, East Lansing, MI 48824 | 517-355-2370 | Website

Muskegon Museum of Art

296 W Webster Avenue, Muskegon, MI 49440 | 231-720-2570 | Website

Tri-Cities Historical Museum

200 Washington Ave, Grand Haven, MI 49417 | 616-842-0700 | Website

UICA

2 Fulton West, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | 616-454-7000 | Website

USS LST 393 Veterans Museum

560 Mart Street, Muskegon, MI 49440 | 231-730-1477 | Website

USS Silversides Submarine Museum

1346 Bluff St, Muskegon, MI 49441 | Website

LOWER PENINSULA MICHIGAN ZOOS 

John Ball Zoo budgies girl birds

Binder Park Zoo

7400 Division Drive, Battle Creek, MI 49014 | 269-979-1351 | Website

Boulder Ridge

8313 Pratt Lake SE, Alto, MI 49302 | 616-868-6711 | Website

boulder ridge kids feed giraffe feature image

John Ball Zoo

1300 W Fulton St, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 | 616-336-4300 | Website

Potter Park Zoo

1301 S Pennsylvania Ave, Lansing, MI 48912 | 517-483-4222 | Website

Lansing Potter Park zoo feature image

WEST MI SCIENCE CENTERS 

Impression 5 Science Center

200 Museum Drive, Lansing, MI 48933 | 517-485-8116 | Website

Lansing Impressions 5

MSU Department of Entomology Bug House

Natural Science Building, 288 Farm Lane Room 147, East Lansing, MI 48824 | 517-355-4662 | Website

W.K. Kellogg Biological Station Bird Sanctuary

12685 East C Avenue, Augusta, MI 49012 | Website

GREATER GRAND RAPIDS GARDENS 

Blandford Nature Center

1715 Hillburn Ave NW | Grand Rapids, MI 49504 |616-735-6240 | Website

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

1000 East Beltline Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525 | 888-957-1580 | Website

FMG Butterflies1

MSU Horticulture Gardens

1066 Bogue Street, East Lansing, MI 48824 | 517-353-0359 | Website

Windmill Island Gardens

1 Lincoln Ave, Holland, MI 49423 | 616-355-1030 | Website

Holland Windmill Kamphuis

W.J. Beal Botanical Garden

412 Olds Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824 | Website

FREE MUSEUM VISITS 

Exploring Michigan Museums, Science Centers & Gardens Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

When you think about family time, what comes to mind? Some might say playing board games or attending sporting events together. Heck it might even just be dinner together – every family is different.

To us, museums and other permanent public exhibits are our go-to for family together time. And, when we travel around Michigan, we often find ourselves researching new places we can visit.

We have had some of our best family moments exploring museums, hiking through gardens, and watching science experiments.

I am always checking for the best deal. Below are the different ways my family and I explore all the wonderful opportunities in Michigan, without paying an arm and leg.

1) Use Reciprocal Memberships 

I absolutely love receiving memberships to local museums, gardens, and zoos as gifts.  It’s a gift your family can take advantage of year-round, rain or shine.

Being a family of five, this usually means we have to go to a museum at least three times a year to get our money’s worth, but that is easily accomplished within the first six months.

Usually, memberships also come with other reciprocal memberships and/or discounts to other places around town, which makes this mom more excited.

Most of the time when buying these memberships, we are only thinking of local places to go, but did you know that there are reciprocal memberships all across Michigan?

If your kids are older, or if you are adventurous enough to not let toddlers stop you from traveling, let this article be your guide to planning your next journey.

In Michigan, there are a few memberships that I would highly recommend buying, giving you access to multiple locations across the state where the reciprocal admissions are available:

2) Use Your Library Card to Access the Michigan Activity Pass

If you think that you have seen most of your city, and your kids are starting to get a little bored with the “usual” places, you might want to start exploring a little farther around the state. The Michigan Activity Pass is the perfect place to start.

The Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) is a seven-day pass you can check out using your library card for one of Michigan’s cultural attractions, state parks, or recreation areas.  This pass gives you so much more to offer than just museums. We are talking fish hatcheries, railroads, and lighthouses.

There are 470 MAP destinations right now, and that means there is truly something for everyone in your family. And, each year it gets better. Just this year, 38 new places were added to the MAP.

The MAP website is a great resource to use to find places to explore.  It is set up for you to type in your home city, local library, how far you want to travel, and then you can check any specific destinations you are looking for. Once you hit enter, a list and map will display your possible adventures.

Here are five simple tips to remember before you check out a pass:

  1. Patrons may check out one MAP pass per library card every 7 days.
  2. When you print out a MAP pass, you have 7 days from the date it was reserved to use it.
  3. Please note that if you choose to print your MAP pass on a library printer, you may be charged the regular fee that is assessed by the library for printing.
  4. Photocopies of MAP passes will not be accepted at MAP destinations. Only passes printed from the MAP website can be redeemed at MAP destinations.
  5. Prior to your visit, please call ahead or check the museum’s website in order to verify hours of operation, etc.

Kids at UM Museum of Natural History is part of free museums near me

U of M Natural History Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan

3) Find Your Local Free Museum Day

There are so many museum options in Michigan, and we encourage all of you to research if your local museum has any “free days.”  When researching, we found many museums have discounts for county residents or once-a-month sponsored free days. So research around your town, and let us know what you find! Below are some options we found:

Here is a list of museums:

Henry Ford Museum: Active U.S. military get free admission year-round to Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation or Greenfield Village.

Henry Ford Museum Kamphuis car

Detroit Institute of Arts: Residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties receive free, unlimited general museum admission.

Grand Rapids Art Museum: Meijer Free Tuesdays and Meijer Free Thursday Nights are made possible by The Meijer Foundation. This gift supports free admission for the public from 10 am – 5 pm each Tuesday and free general admission Thursday Nights from 5 pm – 9 pm.

kid at Grand Rapids Art Museum at free museum day

Flint Institute of Arts: Huntington celebrates the Flint Institute of Arts by providing everyone access free of charge every Saturday. Also, thanks to the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage, Genesee County residents receive free museum admission every day at the Flint Institute of Arts.

4) More Free Museum Admission Options

Additional programs that provide free museum days:

EBT Card Holders: Those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can gain free (up to 4 persons) or reduced admission to more than 300 museums throughout the United States simply by presenting their EBT card. Click this link to find out which museums in Michigan participate.

Bank of America Museums on Us Program: Museums on Us® offers one free admission to more than 220 cultural institutions nationwide during the first full weekend of every month. There are eight locations throughout Michigan.

Other Ways to Find Free Museum & Cultural Center Fun Around Michigan

We all know kids are expensive, but we love them so dearly, and we want to give them the best childhood ever, right?  I constantly feel the need to take them to events all over town. Or when we are camping for the weekend, we need to explore the nearby town.

There are a few resources I use to find where we can get in free or at a discounted price by using our existing memberships.

Grand Rapids Kids has put together The Big List of Zoo, Museum, and Nature Center Memberships Within One Hour of Grand Rapids.  The list is great and there are pro tips to read before you plan your trip. They also have a list of One Thing you Must Do in Each County, and most on that list are free.

Lansing Family Fun’s list of Free or Affordable Fun Ideas to do with Kids in the Greater Lansing Area has dozens of recommendations. The Capital Region is full of history and can be a great learning experience for all ages of children.  The best trips are usually when you can learn and play all at the same time.

Lansing Big Tree Michigan History Center downtown kids outside

Michigan History Center, Lansing, Michigan

Kalamazoo Kids has also put together a great article about the Southwest Michigan Cultural Membership Exchange that describes all six organizations that participate.  Places include the Air Zoo and Kalamazoo Nature Center,  to name a few.

Let’s not forget about Motown. LittleGuide Detroit is Metro Detroit’s guide for family fun. Here you will find classes, events, and activities taking place on the southeast side of the state. Their list of the Top Free Things to do With Kids in Detroit will help you plan your next visit.

And, again always read those pro-tips, find out where those reciprocity agreements are.

Get out and Explore

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has the Recreation Passport available to buy, which will then get you into state parks and campgrounds, recreation areas, state boat launches, and state trail parking lots.  The pass is relatively cheap, and the pass is good for a whole year.

Most people think just about using the pass in the summertime, but the wintertime is also great for using the pass.  There are trails that are designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and let’s not forget about ice fishing.  Take advantage of where we live and plan your next outing literally outside.

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