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5 Ways to Get Free or Discounted Admission to Michigan’s Zoos & Museums

Air Zoo Museum Kalamazoo Michigan

Exploring Michigan Museums, Science Centers & Gardens Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

When you think about family time, what comes to mind? Some might say playing board games or attending sporting events together. Heck it might even just be dinner together – every family is different.

To us, museums and other permanent public exhibits are our go-to for family together time. And, when we travel around Michigan, we often find ourselves researching new places we can visit.

We have had some of our best family moments exploring museums, hiking through gardens, and watching science experiments.

I am always checking for the best deal. Below are the different ways my family and I explore all the wonderful opportunities in Michigan, without paying an arm and leg.

Tip #1: Take Advantage of Reciprocal Memberships 

I absolutely love receiving memberships to local museums, gardens, and zoos as gifts. It’s a gift your family can take advantage of year-round, rain or shine.

Being a family of five, this usually means we have to go to a museum at least three times a year to get our money’s worth, but that is easily accomplished within the first six months.

Usually, memberships also come with other reciprocal memberships and/or discounts to other places around town, which makes this mom more excited.

Most of the time when buying these memberships, we are only thinking of local places to go, but did you know that there are reciprocal memberships all across Michigan?

Here are some membership associations worth buying into that give you access to multiple locations across the state:

Tip #2: Use the Michigan Activity Pass 

A Smart Way to Use Your Library Card

Feeling like you’ve explored every nook and cranny of your city and your kids are craving new adventures? The Michigan Activity Pass (MAP) offers a fantastic way to discover more of what Michigan has to offer. With your library card, you can check out a seven-day pass to over 400 cultural attractions, state parks, and recreation areas.

Here are some of the exciting destinations you can explore with your MAP pass:

  • Cultural attractions
  • State parks
  • Fish hatcheries
  • Railroads
  • Lighthouses
Kids at UM Museum of Natural History is part of free museums near me

Get free admission with the Michigan Activity Pass for the U of M Natural History Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tip #3: Watch for Your Local Free Museum Days

There are so many museum options in Michigan, and we encourage all of you to research if your local museum has any “free days.”

When researching, we found many museums have discounts for county residents or once-a-month sponsored free days. So look around your town, and let us know what you find!

Options we found:

Free Michigan Museum Days in 2024

Cranbrook Institute of ScienceBloomfield Hills. Free First Fridays and Free Third Thursdays (5-8 PM.)
Detroit Historical MuseumFree from 5 – 8 PM: June 20, July 11, August 1
Free Second Sundays: Jun 9, Jul 14, Aug 11, Sep 8, Oct 13, Nov 10, Dec 8, Jan 12, 2025
Detroit Institute of ArtsResidents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties receive free, unlimited general museum admission.
Grand Rapids Art MuseumFree Tuesdays (from noon – 5 pm each Tuesday) and free general admission Thursday Nights (from 5 pm – 8 pm.)
Flint Institute of ArtsFree Saturdays for everyone. Huntington celebrates the Flint Institute of Arts by providing everyone access free of charge every Saturday. Also, thanks to the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage, Genesee County residents receive free museum admission every day at the Flint Institute of Arts.
Henry Ford MuseumActive U.S. military get free admission year-round to Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation or Greenfield Village.

Tip #4: Look for Special Programs

You may qualify for additional programs that provide free museum days:

  • Museums For All: Those receiving food assistance (SNAP benefits) can gain free (up to 4 persons) or reduced admission to more than 300 museums throughout the United States simply by presenting their EBT card. Click this link to find out which museums in Michigan participate.
  • Blue Star Museums at Grand Rapids Public Museum: The GRPM participates in Blue Star Museums each summer. Free general admission to the GRPM through the Blue Star Museum initiative includes three floors of exhibits as well as complimentary rides on the 1928 Spillman Carousel.
  • Bank of America Museums on Us Program: Museums on Us® offers one free admission to over 220 cultural institutions nationwide during the first full weekend of every month. Eight locations are available throughout Michigan.

Tip #5: Maximize Your Resources, Especially Michigan’s Recreation Passport

Kids can be expensive, but we love them and want to give them the best childhood ever, right? How to do that while staying on budget isn’t easy – any and every resource is welcome!

I want to take them to events all over town. And when we are camping for the weekend to explore whatever’s nearby.

Michigan History Center, Lansing, Michigan

michigan museums Lansing Big Tree Michigan History Center downtown kids outside

With that in mind, here are even more tools you can use to find free or discounted admissions:

  • Grand Rapids Kids has put together a great list of One Thing you Must Do in Each County, and most items on that list are free.
  • Kalamazoo Kids has also put together a great article about the Southwest Michigan Cultural Membership Exchange that describes all six organizations that participate. Places include the Air Zoo and Kalamazoo Nature Center, to name a few.
  • Let’s not forget about Motown. LittleGuide Detroit is Metro Detroit’s guide for family fun. Here you will find classes, events, and activities taking place on the southeast side of the state. Their list of the Top Free Things to do With Kids in Detroit will help you plan your next visit.

Finally, Don’t Sleep on the Michigan Recreation Passport

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has a Recreation Passport available to buy, which will then get you into state parks and campgrounds, recreation areas, state boat launches, and state trail parking lots for free! The pass is only $14 when you get it through the Secretary of State, and it’s good for a whole year.

Most people think just about using the pass in the summertime, but the wintertime is also great for using the pass.There are trails that are designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and let’s not forget about ice fishing. Take advantage of where we live and plan your next outing literally outside.

And, again always read those pro-tips to find out where those reciprocity agreements are.

By using these tips, you can take full advantage of Michigan’s cultural and natural resources without breaking the bank. Plan your next outing and enjoy all that Michigan has to offer!

Melody VanderWeide

INFJ. Mom of 3. Idea chaser-People believer-Inspiration seeker. Together we make GR amazing – Let’s go!

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