Free. What's the catch, right? Here's the deal: there's absolutely no catch! We pinky-swear-promise there are more ways than we can even mention to have memorable adventures in the Great Lakes Bay that'll cost you (100 percent) zero dollars!
Want to sway and dance to live music? Free tunes are here! How about taking in culture and glorious eye-candy at these (free, yes, free) museums? Prepare to be wowed, no wallets needed!
For no-cost chances to see movies, witness natural splendor, hop aboard boats, and maybe even find yourself immersed in beautiful botanicals, read on for an all-out guide that will show you how to explore the Great Lakes Bay Region in carefree and flat-out-free ways!
As we welcome you back, we’ll be doing our best to keep you in the loop on what’s open & closed in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Just look for the orange banners below on our partner listings as you start planning for your next trip!
While we all navigate this new normal, some experiences may be slightly different, and some businesses may only be partially reopened. Please check with the individual businesses for their reopening status, new hours of operation, and updated policies before visiting!
Float Freely: Board the Islander excursion boat from 10 a.m. - noon, Monday through Friday in July and August, with Bay City Boat Lines and enjoy a Free Narrated History Tour of Bay City while gliding along the picturesque Saginaw River.
Complimentary Adventure: With 1,200 acres and 19 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and inline skating that are open year-round, from dawn-to-dark daily, it's hard to believe that admission into and through Midland's Chippewa Nature Center is absolutely free (not to mention experiencing their Homestead Farm, hands-on Ecosystem Gallery and, and, and ...)! Spend a day, or many days, while spending no dollars.
Free Floral Finds: Take in eight glorious terraces each April - November of more than 300 varieties and more than 3,000 blossoming beauties at Dahlia Hill, and enjoy artist Charles Breed's working studio and museum featuring original designs in cast paper, bronze and other media along with a Memorial Circle and garden sculpture on view year-round.
On the House Tunes: Boogie down to Motown, let cool jazz speak to your soul. Far beyond what's listed, there's a whole lot of music to be heard around here that costs a whole lot of nothing:
- For family-friendly fun, bring your blankets and lawn chairs on Thursday evenings from 7 - 9 p.m. to Tunes by the Tridge (June - August) and enjoy musical acts from a variety of genres with Midland's famous three-legged bridge as the backdrop.
- Head to Uptown Bay City to experience Thursdays at Uptown for free musical entertainment and unforgettable views of the scenic Saginaw River from 6 - 7:30 p.m.
- Consider Sundays at 7 p.m. your time for Concerts in the Park, and enjoy the various musical acts the Frankenmuth Women's Club presents at Memorial Park in Frankenmuth.
- Bring your comfy chair and let Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. be your chance to hear cool jazz amidst the blooming roses during Jazz in the Garden at Andersen Enrichment Center & Lucille E. Andersen Memorial Rose Garden.
- Friday nights from 5:30 - 9 p.m. can be your "free time" to shimmy and shine at Morley Plaza during Friday Night Live events (and boogie down to all kinds of weekly music choices from Latin to Rock, Country and beyond).
- Free (but accepting free-will donations), the Wednesdays in the Park Summer Concert Series brings complimentary tunes to Bay City's waterfront Wenonah Park, all the way into September.
- Pack up your own seating (and pack a cooler), then head to Tittabawassee Township Concerts in the Park, offered Wednesday evenings through late-August, 6:30 - 9 p.m.
No Moolah Movies: Catch artistic film selections projected on the side of an historic building every Sunday at dusk during the Old Saginaw City Lawn Chair Film Festival, and enjoy pre-movie musical entertainment for free, too! And, for newer releases and family-friendly flicks, head to Wenonah Park for Tuesday Free Movies in the Park 9 p.m. showings.
Gratuitous Art: Gain culture and lasting impressions that won't cost you a thing inside the following museums and galleries, to name a few: Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, University Art Gallery and Gingerblue Gallery in Saginaw; Northwood Gallery and Creative 360 in Midland; Golden Gallery and Studio 23/The Arts Center in Bay City.
Costless Nature: Explore for free within the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, part of one of the largest and most productive wetland ecosystems in Michigan. Take the Wildlife Drive Auto Tour from June 1 - September 30, sunrise to sunset, for up-close viewing from the comfort of your car, and make a date at the Green Point Environmental Learning Center for even further free exploration.
Whether oohing and ahhing and taking memorable photos underneath the glowing 3rd Street Star Bridge, or wandering about indoor, outdoor, and year-round farmers markets and marketplaces to enjoy free samples and fresh smells, or hopping aboard the Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail to forge new adventures along almost 100 miles of paths, you'll find no shortage of free things to do in the Great Lakes Bay Region that all result in priceless experiences.
Looking for even more low-cost ways to live it up on your Michigan vacation? Check out our Top 10 Things to Do Under $10 in the Great Lakes Bay!