Michigan may be lacking in mountainous landscapes, but it far makes up for that in amazing forest water-based activities. It is named the Great Lakes State because it shares its border with nearly all of them.
If you’re on a budget, Michigan is for you. Whether your travels bring you only to the area around Camp Cadillac or further north into the Upper Peninsula, here are a few top choices for free things to do while you’re here.
Bike Around Belle Isle
Biking around Belle Isle during the summer can yield surprises: hidden walking paths and architecturally striking red bridges can be found, as well as stops at the Nature Center to observe native and migratory birds through an observation window. Children will love foraging for ants at insect tunnels while older kids can engage with its beehive hive and turtle pond.
Go Museum Hopping in Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum provides the ideal environment for discovery through play. Ranging from native lake fish, geodes, and soil samples – to interactive exhibits designed specifically to engage children – there’s plenty to keep both adults and children alike engrossed for hours!
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology should be included on your itinerary when visiting Ann Arbor. This unparalleled museum houses rare artifacts from across the globe such as Greek coins, Iraqi pottery and even ancient toilets – must-see exhibits for visitors!
Animal lovers are sure to appreciate Domino’s Petting Farm on the edge of town. Here, there are tons of furry animals for visitors to pet and hug. Take part in a fairy door hunt or family “mewvie” night for added entertainment!
Visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland
Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Michigan is one of the state’s premier holiday attractions, touted as “the world’s largest Christmas store”. Offering ornaments, gifts, food and events as well as a chapel replicating Austria’s Oberndorf church where Silent Night first premiered during its 125-year history.
Families will love exploring Frankenmuth for its Bavarian charm and to indulge in Zehnder’s world-renowned fried chicken, or by visiting its museum and store. For an afternoon or weekend trip getaway, Frankenmuth makes for the ideal stopover destination! For those interested in Wally Bronner and his entrepreneurial skills, check out this museum.
Build a Sand Castle on a Lake Michigan Beach
Michigan boasts four out of five Great Lakes shoreline, providing miles of beaches ideal for building a sand castle. Gather the kids together and dig your own masterpiece in the sand! Sculpting tools like plastic knives help create details, while pencils highlight lines and shapes. Driftwood, seaweed and rocks add natural flair to castle designs.
Bring your young ones for an exhilarating adventure at Allegan Event. Scale the heart-pumping bi-level Sky Trail ropes course at heights up to 35 feet or explore the Sky Tykes course designed specifically for younger children.
Go Birdwatching at Mackinac Island
Michigan’s Thumb is home to an abundance of free family-friendly activities. From visiting animals at the local zoo or visiting local Michigan fish at an aquarium to enjoying playgrounds or walking the boardwalk – Michigan has something fun for all!
Birdwatching on Mackinac Island is easy! All it requires is a pair of binoculars and an accurate bird book; using an app like eBird on your phone may also come in handy when trying to identify birds in the field.
Catch a Show at Interlochen
Your kids are sure to love taking in a show at Interlochen Center for the Arts – a prestigious performing arts high school that hosts hundreds of free productions, concerts and recitals every year!
Interlochen Arts Camp is an inspiring place for creativity to bloom, as well as being home to Interlochen Arts Academy where students turn passion into purpose through an extensive curriculum in music, dance, theatre and visual arts – while being supported by a global alumni network, future students and lifelong learners.
Interlochen wouldn’t be complete without visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and experiencing its incredible towering sand dunes that overlook Lake Michigan. The entire area is stunning, perfect for hiking, swimming and just relaxing on its sandy shores.