Top Free Things To Do In Michigan | Midwest Living

Top Free Things To Do In Michigan

The Detroit Historical Museum, Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, Seney National Wildlife Refuge and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home are just a few of the free things to do in Michigan.
  • Guardian skyscraper


    Downtown walking tours Experience Factory and Pure Detroit both lead free tours of downtown landmarks, including the lavishly decorated 1929 Guardian skyscraper (pictured).

    Detroit Historical Museum The Streets of Old Detroit provides a look back at life in the 1840s, 1870s and 1900s. Visitors create music tracks at the energetic Kid Rock Music Lab.

    GM Renaissance Center One-hour tours at the General Motors headquarters in Detroit detail GM’s symbiotic relationship with the city. Check out the latest car models in the showroom before drinking in skyline views from the 72nd floor.

     Detroit International RiverWalk So far, 4 miles of riverfront link parks, gardens and an adventure center.

  • Meyer May House
    Photo courtesy of The Meyer May House/Steelcase

    Grand Rapids

    Meyer May House (pictured) Considered one of the country’s most complete Frank Lloyd Wright restorations, the 1909 Meyer May House was designed for a prominent clothier. Steelcase Inc. purchased the home in 1985 and opened it to the public in 1987 after extensive restoration.

    ArtPrize Put on your tennies. To see the 1,500-plus paintings, sculptures and installations, you’ll have to hit 160-plus venues: bars, coffeehouses, restaurants, churches, parks … . And you’ll want to see as many as possible to make an educated choice about your fave because your vote helps chose the winner of a $200,000 grand prize.

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

    Upper Peninsula

    Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising (pictured) Miles of colorful sandstone cliffs and long stretches of sandy beaches draw hikers, campers and kayakers to this 73,000-acre preserve. Cliffs rise 50 to 200 feet above Lake Superior, sheer rock faces are streaked with shades of red, yellow, blue and green, the work of mineral-rich water seeping from the stone. The lake has added its own artwork, carving sculptures such as the turreted Miners Castle, plus arches and caves. Trails are of varying difficulty and lead to vistas of lakes, cliffs, dunes and waterfalls.

    Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney A mosaic of wetlands, bog and forests supports more than 200 bird species. Hike the 1.4-mile Pine Ridge Nature Trail to see songbirds and beavers. Backcountry roads are open to bikes, or paddle the Manistique River.


  • Little Traverse Wheelway

    Traverse City

    Little Traverse Wheelway (pictured) Life eases to a slow pedal along the family-friendly, 26-mile trail linking Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs. The paved path hugs the Lake Michigan shore for panoramas of sparkling blue water and for opportunities to stop and explore the shore.

    Interlochen Center for the Arts Students, faculty and guest artists present more than 600 events each year. Motion-picture screenings, visual art exhibitions and music recitals are usually free; other performances are low-cost.

    Traverse City Beaches Spend a day in the sun at one of the city’s six public sandy spots. Popular Clinch Park sits downtown.

  • Michigan Lighthouses

    Lake Huron shore

    Lighthouses Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state, and several impressive structures dot Lake Huron’s shores. Most notable: 40 Mile Point (Rogers City), Old Presque Isle and New Presque Isle (Presque Isle), Pointe aux Barques (Port Hope), Sturgeon Point (Harrisville, pictured) and Tawas Point (Tawas). Most are free to visit though some charge for tower access.

    Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, Alpena Kids and adults enjoy learning about old-time schooners, shipwrecks and underwater archaeology at this interactive museum in Alpena. The main exhibit is a life-size tall ship caught in a storm so severe that a few visitors have felt seasick walking its slanting deck.

    Lumberman’s Monument, Oscoda Be prepared for action. Interactive exhibits about the area’s logging history engage visitors, but it’s the climb down to the Au Sable River for views that will leave you breathless.

  • Broad Art Museum

    Michigan State University sites

    The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum (pictured) Explore contemporary art through the lens of a collection dating back to ancient Greece within a striking shell of pleated stainless-steel and glass.

    MSU Museum Tools, quilts and a fur trader’s cabin join dinosaurs and skeletons at a Smithsonian Institution affiliate.

    W.J. Beal Botanical Garden Established in 1873, the garden displays 2,000 different plant groups, including endangered and threatened species.

  • The Museum of Art

    University of Michigan sites

    University of Michigan Museum of Art (pictured) See medieval to modern works in a 1910 Beaux-Arts building and a glass-walled 2009 addition; don’t miss the impressive collection of Tiffany glass.

    The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology The museum's 100,000 finds include Latin inscriptions, artifacts of Greco-Roman daily life and ancient coins.

    The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum Enjoy magnolia groves, peonies, wetlands and a 10,000-square-foot conservatory.


  • Michigan Capitol

    More in Michigan

    Michigan State Capitol, Lansing (pictured) Highlights of the 150-year-old neoclassical-style building in Lansing include a glass floor under the rotunda dome, which is painted to resemble a starry sky.

    Grand Haven Musical Fountain, Grand Haven Colorful jets of water dance to music by the likes of Sousa and Led Zeppelin every summer night in Grand Haven.

    Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Kalamazoo Out-of-this-world exploration happens at the planetarium in this museum. Computer graphics allow visitors to view the sky from any location within three hundred light-years of Earth.

    Mackinac bridge walk, St. Ignace On Labor Day, tens of thousands of walkers gather in St. Ignace for the annual 5-mile trek across one of the world’s longest suspension bridges, which links the Lower and Upper peninsulas.

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