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.
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
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
And usually larger cities like Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids, have local Cultural or City passes.
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:
Patrons may check out one MAP pass per library card every 7 days.
When you print out a MAP pass, you have 7 days from the date it was reserved to use it.
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.
Photocopies of MAP passes will not be accepted at MAP destinations. Only passes printed from the MAP website can be redeemed at MAP destinations.
Prior to your visit, please call ahead or check the museum’s website in order to verify hours of operation, etc.
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.
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.
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.
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 theTop Free Things to do With Kids in Detroitwill 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.
April is a stay-at-home-working-mom hybrid who balances her time between managing a household and using her editor brain to find all the typos in her friends’ emails. In her occasional free time she enjoys reading, quilting, antiquing and photography. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and three children.