Cheap or Free Summer Activities for Michigan Families 

The weather is about to heat up and the kids are about to be home from school, so parents may want to start filling up the calendar with fun things to do this summer.   

If you want to create family memories at every turn this summer without breaking the bank, here are 12 family-friendly activities you can enjoy on the cheap:  

Summer activities to plan at home or in your neighborhood  

Go on hikes or nature walks  

If there are trails near your neighborhood, throw on some boots or athletic shoes and soak in the sights and scents of summertime nature with the whole family.  

Paint rocks  

The creative possibilities are endless with rock painting. The only cost associated with this idea is craft acrylic paint and painting supplies. Acrylic paint is cheap, fast-drying and has a thin consistency to it, making it perfect for rock art.  

Have a picnic in the park  

Break up the routine of dinner in the dining room by making a travel-friendly meal and enjoying it with the family at a local park.  

Play water balloon baseball 

If you’re not afraid of getting wet, you can really make a splash by organizing this backyard or park activity this summer. Even older children might like the idea of blasting a water balloon with a plastic bat. Maybe the losing team has to pick up the balloon pieces after the game?  

Set up an outdoor relay race or obstacle course 

An outdoor relay race with household items is another way to break a sweat in the backyard. Get creative with clothes hampers, hula hoops, pool noodles and floaties and more, and let the games begin! 

Plant an herb or vegetable garden 

Disguise a potential life skill as a family activity by planting an herb garden outside. Starting herbs from seeds is relatively easy and can be done on a budget. Plus, it’s a cheap way to fill up your spice rack later. Common herbs like basil, rosemary, oregano, dill and sage are all in play here.  

Camp outside and star gaze 

Camping on Michigan campgrounds can be a blast, but you can save money by pitching a tent outside, rolling out the sleeping bags and engaging in some good old fashioned summer star gazing with the kids.  

Request a fire station tour or visit 

Did you know that a lot of cities offer fire station tours to the public? No one is too old or too young to learn about the inner workings of a fire station and see what the day in the life of a firefighter is like. Kids can even get an education outside of the classroom and learn a little about fire safety.  

Cheap or free summer activities that are specific to Michigan  

Bike the Detroit International RiverWalk 

If your car is equipped to transport bikes, get immersed with downtown Detroit by biking the Detroit International Riverwalk, which spans more than three miles between Rosa Parks Boulevard and the Belle Isle Bridge.  

Go Yooperlite hunting 

If you haven’t heard of Yooperlites, you must be living under a…Yooperlite.  

These gray rocks of varying sizes are a type of fluorescent syenite, with the fluorescent material contained inside identified as sodalite. If you shine a UV light on them in the dark, they’ll give off a yellow-orange glow that makes it look like they are lit from the inside. 

They can be found on both peninsulas of Michigan, from the shores of Lake Superior all the way down to Point Betsie. Click here to learn more about Yooperlites and what to bring on your Yooperlite adventure 

Head to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum 

Home to one of the largest collections of art in the country, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Museum is free to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties 

Otherwise, adults only pay $14 for admission and kids aged 6-17 get in for $6. Children aged 5 and under can lay their eyes on these must-see masterpieces for free.  

Go on a guided or self-guided Michigan Capitol Tour 

The Michigan State Capitol in Lansing gives guests the opportunity to watch the legislature meet for session, admire nine acres of hand-painted decorative art, and learn stories from Michigan’s past.  

And you don’t even have to whip out the credit card to take in all the history.   

Guided, self-guided and virtual tours are free service provided by the State of Michigan. Learn more on the Capitol’s website, here 


Photo credit: Getty Images

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