Many of West Michigan’s museums and educational centers are free or very low cost. Add these to your vacation itinerary during or weekend plans.
The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph specializes in showcasing the history of the local community. It brings the past and present together in a way that’s fascinating for children, teens, and adults. They also offer free admission to the first floor of the Inner Lighthouse during regularly scheduled “Open Hours” at the St. Joseph Lighthouse. Adjacent to the Silver Beach Carousel, the Silver Beach Amusement Park Museum is free to visit. You can check out a detailed model of the Silver Beach Amusement Park that includes the attractions, sounds, and aromas from the park when it was up and running (1892-1971).
Step back in time and watch film classics on the big screen at the historic Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater, with their Classic Film Series every month from September to June. Admission to most of the events is free, with select events requiring a small fee.
Enjoy free activities and events in Battle Creek! Located within the Leila Arboretum, the Kingman Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays and offers free admission. Stop by and check out the museum, or head to the planetarium for their $2 shows. If you are looking to find your inner artist, the Art Center of Battle Creek is a good spot to check out. Admission to the gallery is free, with some exhibits and classes requiring a small fee.
Art Center of Battle Creek here as well. Some exhibits and classes there is a small entry fee, but most there is no admission into the gallery.
Forever Curious Children’s Museum in Fennville values making memories that will last a lifetime, so every Thursday, grandparents get in for free! For parents, caregivers, and their children, the low-cost admission price of $5 per person can be discounted even further when you check in on Facebook.
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts offers free admission for kids through age 12! They have ten galleries filled with art, including a “Please Touch” Kids Corner, recently updated with a black light alcove, music making stations, art books, and more.
You’ll find plenty of free or low-cost educational spots in the South Haven area. The Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum and the Historical Association is located in the birthplace and childhood home of America’s “Father of Modern Horticulture,” Liberty Hyde Bailey Jr. It is a museum, National Historic Site, garden, park, and educational outreach center. The Historical Association of South Haven has its home in the old Hartman School Building in South Haven. Visit them to view their current exhibits and learn more about South Haven’s history.
The Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven is an affordable and educational experience for the entire family. They have multiple buildings housing exhibits on Michigan’s maritime history, and you can even board their on-water vessels when available. Plan your visit to the Michigan Maritime Museum, open seven days a week from May through September with spring and winter hours varying.
Walk through history at no charge when you visit the W.K. Kellogg Manor House in Hickory Corners, which was built in the 1920s by cereal magnate W.K. Kellogg. The home overlooks Gull Lake and offers free self-guided tours, but you’ll want to call ahead and make a reservation.
The Holland Museum is free to the public the second Monday of every month. This is a great opportunity for families to experience the museum’s exhibits. This includes Spark!Lab, the museum’s hands-on space specializing in science, technology, engineering, art, history, and math.
A unique mix of culture and history awaits you at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum, located in Grand Haven. The museum is made up of two separate sites, both located in Grand Haven’s beautiful and historic downtown, with free admission at both sites. Take the short drive over to Coopersville, where the Coopersville Area Historical Museum offers free admission (donations accepted), and the Coopersville Farm Museum offers free admission to kids ages 3 and under.
You’ll find local history at no charge at the Pentwater Historical Society Museum, but check the hours before you go as it’s only open during the summer and fall months.
The new winter rates make it easy for families to enjoy the comfort of Hotel Walloon in Walloon Lake while saving money for other winter activities. The Cottage View rooms begin at $125 on weekdays and $150 on weekends, while the Lakeside rooms begin at $175 on weekdays and $200 on weekends.
You can tour the first floor of Mission Point Lighthouse and its historic keeper office at no charge during your visit to Traverse City. While you’re in the area, head over to Suttons Bay to visit the Education Center and Museum at the Inland Seas Education Association. They have invasive species exhibits, fish and turtle tanks, and a touch tank to let you get up close with the marine life.
The Raven Hill Discovery Center in East Jordan offers free admission on the second Saturday of each month. Your whole family will enjoy learning with hands-on science, history, and the arts, while exploring the museum and its grounds. Visit between noon and 4pm to take advantage of this offer.
Heading north of the Mackinac Bridge into the UP will bring you to the Fort de Buade Museum in historic downtown St. Ignace, which specializes in Native American and regional history. It features the area’s largest collection of authentic Indian and military artifacts (nearly 2,500 items) from the pre-contact period and the eras of French and British occupation, all the way to the time of the early American settlers. Admission and tours at the museum and art exhibit space are free, although donations are greatly appreciated.