When the question isn't necessarily, "What's there to do?" but more like, "What can we afford to do?", the answer lies here in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region: you don't have to be rich to live a life rich with travel experiences! Astounding ones can be found right here in our six cities and unforgettable memories can easily be made while enjoying all kinds of options, all within your financial comfort zone!
Let this article act as your guide to tight-money travel, belly laughs without the budget-crunch, and big fun that only costs a little, right here in the Great Lakes Bay!
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!
Stroll in Serenity: When we tell you that the chance to be immersed in thousands of lush florals while enjoying a conservatory, award-winning Children's Garden, and much more costs only $10 for adults, $2 for children ages 6 - 17, and is absolutely free for children 5 and younger, the only thing left to figure out is how quickly you can get to Dow Gardens in Midland. (And psst! Pack a picnic, they're welcomed here!) Finding out that entry to the connected Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens (and the nation's longest canopy walk) is included in your admission? Priceless.
Ride On: Hopping aboard a 30-Minute River Tour with Frankenmuth FunShips will cost you only $10 (children 12 and younger only $5 and younger than 3 are free) and you'll see sweeping views of Frankenmuth while gliding along the picturesque Cass River and getting local know-how on what else to see and do while here.
Hit the Beach: Spend a day sunbathing and swimming the 40-acre, spring-fed lake at William H. Haithco Recreation Area for only $5 per vehicle entry, not per person. (And? If you or anyone in the vehicle is a Saginaw County resident, veteran or active military, admission is free!) Throw horseshoes, try your spike on sand volleyball courts, and drop a line to catch rock bass, blue gill, and perch, then grill on the hibachis there. Rent paddleboats or kayaks for just $5/hour, and enjoy a full day of affordable fun at the beach!
Take Tea: Experience the Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House, and Gardens of Saginaw — treasured as one of the most authentic in North America — with a "Tea & Tour" for just $5/person, where you'll enjoy three acres of gardens and a tour of the tea house, led by a trained docent. Mark your calendars, too, for the second Saturday of each month and attend a Traditional Tea Ceremony for $10/person. Celebrants wear traditional kimono as they perform the 400-year-old ritual of serving tea, a mesmerizing and not-to-be-missed experience.
Roll With It: Transform into a German baker during Daily Pretzel Rolling at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth for just $6.49/person! Available at 2:30 p.m. nearly every day (excluding only major holidays), be sure to prepay two hours in advance to enjoy 25 minutes in the kitchen learning proper pretzel-rolling methods. Then, pick up the piping hot pretzel you made and sink your teeth into this tasty, inexpensive experience you'll never forget!
Set Your Sights High: With chances to experience enormous volcanoes, dazzling rings, and storms that would swallow Earth in "To Worlds Beyond", or watch the Northern Lights dance in "Life Under the Arctic Sky", it's hard to believe that admission to Delta College Planetarium & Learning Center is only $7 and just $5 for kids, senior citizens, and military!
Explore a Castle: Admission into the magical Castle Museum of Saginaw County History is just $1 for adults and $.50 cents for children. The slice of area history you'll experience inside, including riveting photography, lumbering and automotive manufacturing exhibits, and varying traveling exhibits? Worth every penny!
Go for the Kiddos: Planned, designed, and built just for kids, have fun while learning a ton inside Saginaw's Mid-Michigan Children's Museum for only $7.50 (just $6.50 for "big kids" over 60 and free for kids younger than 2)! Watch your children's faces light up at galleries that include stuffing fuzzy balls into "A-Mazing Airways" and splashing around at "Water Water Everywhere". Or, take a trip to the nearby Saginaw Children's Zoo, where admission is just $5 (free for infants under 1 and zoo members, and only $3.50 for military) and rides on the hand-carved carousel and miniature train offer add-on fun for just $1/ride!
Sip & Savor: For only $7, try wine tasting in Frankenmuth at Michigan's oldest and largest wine company, St. Julian Winery, and enjoy a guided sampling of six wines, served in a souvenir tasting glass. Cheers!
Get Festive: From summer's beloved Bay City Fireworks Festival to winter's epic snow and ice carving competition, Zehnder's Snowfest, the Great Lakes Bay is home to unforgettable year-round festivals, and admission is often free or below $10. Check out some of our top annual festivals, and get going!
See? Having big fun with only a little loot is more than possible in the Great Lakes Bay, and we're willing to bet that you'll enjoy every (low-cost) moment spent experiencing all the ways!
Looking for even more low-cost ways to live it up on your Michigan vacation? Check out our list of Free Things to Do in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay!