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All Things Michigan

Michigan travels, events, photos, and more

Ten Cheap Michigan Travel Ideas

Andrew Norton

With gas prices going back up and the economy in Michigan still suffering I thought it would be beneficial to point out Ten Cheap Michigan Travel Ideas. They're light on your wallet and lots of fun. 1. Buy an Annual State Park Vehicle pass - $24 resident $29 non-resident.

There are over 90 state parks and recreation areas on Michigan. You are never more than a half hour from a state park, recreation area, State Forest Campground, or State trail system. For $24 you can have a ton of cheap fun in Michigan this summer. Beaches, hiking, waterfalls, historic sites such as the Fayette ghost town in the U.P., and for a little extra - camping in Michigan's beautiful outdoors.

2. Museums – There are hundreds of museums across Michigan. Museums covering topics ranging from art, history, Yoopers (Da Yoopers Tourist Trap in Ishpeming), Michigan's mining history (Michigan Iron Mining Museum in Negaunee is a good one), and tons of cool free museum's such as the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

3. Free concerts in the park. Numerous towns, both big and small, across Michigan offer weekly “Concerts in the Park.” Bring a lawn chair and some snacks for a fun evening of family friendly entertainment. Since I'm on the west side of the state I highly recommend the Riverfront Concerts in South Haven. They are every Thursday at 7pm and typically last about an hour.

4. Visit one of Michigan's more than 120 historic lighthouses. A large number of these historic lighthouses allow you to climb up to the tower and visit their museum for a small fee. Find a lighthouse near you.

5. Every weekend there are hundreds of festivals of various themes all across Michigan. Some highlights are the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Bavarian Festival in Frankenmuth, Belleville National Strawberry Festival, and the Straits Area Car Show in St. Ignace. Find more Michigan festivals and events at

6. Farm markets & U-pick farms. You just never know what treasures or goodies you will find at one of Michigan's many farm markets. Enjoy Michigan's fruits and vegetables even more by visiting a U-Pick Farm and picking your own produce – it's a great way to show your kids the work involved in getting food beyond the grocery store, plus you're supporting local farmers. Search for Farm Markets and U-pick Farms near you at

7. The Kalamazoo Air Zoo is free from now until September 30, 2009. Normally it is $19.50 for adults and $15.50 for kids. You will have to pay for the various rides and simulators ($2 to $4), but there is a whole lot to see for free. I love talking to the Veterans who are there to help give more information on the exhibits. It makes the experience that much more incredible to speak with a man who actually flew in some of the aircraft exhibited.

8. State Fish Hatcheries are free and have numerous exhibits and activities that both kids and adults will enjoy. There are two hatcheries in the Upper Peninsula (Marquette and Thompson State Fish Hatcheries) and four hatcheries in the Lower Peninsula - Oden, Platte River, Thompson, and Wolf Lake. My favorite is the Oden Fish Hatchery which has a neat exhibit of how fish were transported via train as well as an underwater trout viewing area.

9. Michigan National Parks - Michigan is home to four National Parks with three of them in the Upper Peninsula - Isle Royale National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Keewenaw National Historic Park, and in the Lower Peninsula there is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There are no entrance fees for Pictured Rocks and Keewenaw National Historic Park. Isle Royale has a $4 daily use fee plus the cost of getting a boat to the island. Sleeping Bear Dunes charges $10 per vehicle for a seven day pass.

10. Cascades Falls in Jackson - They are open nightly from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day. $3.00 per person. $5.00 per person on a fireworks Night. Children 10 and under get inside free. Group rates are available by advanced notice. The falls are lit with colors and are controlled by computer to "play" with the music. You'll hear classics from the swing era to modern hits. I have fond memories of attending shows at the Cascades when I was a kid and look forward to taking our kids there (perhaps this summer) some day.

Cascades Park in Jackson