Enjoy summer fun without the expense


There are plenty of free (or almost free) things to do with kids

So what’s a parent to do? With kids out of the classrooms for the summer and looking for fun, parents have to balance entertaining their kids with the limitations of family budgets.

But summer fun doesn’t have to be a strain on the purse strings. Here are some free – or almost free – Lansing-area ideas from Lansing Family Fun:

Potter Park Zoo offers free admission to city of Lansing and Ingham County residents between 9 and noon on non-holiday Mondays. Parking for residents is $3 and $5 for nonresidents. Zoo officials don’t allow plastic straws or balloons on zoo grounds for the safety of the animals. Trollies, scooters, in-line skates, skateboards and bikes are also are not allowed on zoo grounds. Only service animals are allowed on the grounds.

You can also find animals on Michigan State University farms. Visitors are welcome at the many farms on the south side of MSU’s campus between Mount Hope and Jolly roads. Visitors will find sheep, cows, horses, swine, cattle and chickens. Milking procedures can be observed every afternoon. The MSU Dairy Teaching & Research Center, the Sheep Teaching & Research Center and the Beef Cow-Calf Teaching & Research Center are open daily between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Are you in the mood for a nature walk? The opportunities abound in mid-Michigan. Take a stroll along the Lansing River Trail, which is 20 miles of paved and planked trail that stretches from Waverly Road to Old Town in Lansing.

You can also visit Woldumar Nature Center, Fenner Nature Center, Harris Nature Center and Howell Nature Center, all of which are open and have free admission. Parking can run from $3 for residents and $5 for nonresidents.

Also in Ingham County is Hawk Island Park, a 100-acre spot that includes rowboat and pedal boat rental, a swimming beach, a splash area for kids, picnic areas and shelters, sand volleyball, horseshoes, paved accessible walkways, fishing docks and a concession stand. Parking is $3 for county residents, $5 for nonresidents.

In Grand Ledge you can visit Fitzgerald Park, a 78-acre park that includes 3 miles of hiking trails, the namesake sandstone ledges, an 18-hole disc golf course, four large picnic shelters for up to 300 people, two softball/baseball diamonds, playgrounds and more. Parking is $3 for Eaton County residents and $5 for nonresidents, but the first Wednesday of every month is free parking day. Dogs are allowed on a 6-foot leash.

Another way to get in some nature time is at the Michigan State University 4-H Children’s Gardens, located on Bogue Street on campus. Admission to the gardens is free, but metered parking might be necessary. Hours for the gardens are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Music lovers can find free concerts in parks throughout the summer in the Greater Lansing area:

  • Lansing’s Free Concert in the Parks Series is held throughout the summer at selected Lansing parks from 7-9 p.m. Wednesdays. Bring your own blankets and chairs. Find out more at gov/1238/Concerts-in-the-Park-Summer.
  • East Lansing hosts the 2019 Summer Concert Series, featuring eight free, live performances Fridays in downtown East Lansing. The concerts are in Ann Street Plaza at 7 p.m. Visit com/summerconcertseriesfor details.
  • The Grand Ledge Chamber of Commerce stages a free concert in Jaycees Park every Thursday in June, July and August from 7-9 p.m. You can find out more at the Facebook page com/events/1595600863876457/.
  • The Friends of Ingham County Parks host free Friday Night Concerts at the Lake Lansing Park South Band Shell concert stage in June, July and August. All performances begin at 7 p.m. Parking is free. Visit ingham.org/ThingstoDo/Concerts.aspx.

And if you are more into family movie nights, there are plenty of those throughout the summer.

  • East Lansing has a free Moonlight Film Festival showing family movies in July and August. The films are shown on a big screen Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. in Valley Court Park, 280 Valley Court. Again, don’t forget the lawn chairs and blankets.
  • The Grand Ledge Chamber is also showing free movies. On four Fridays in July and August, films will be shown in the ball field next to Island Park. Gates open at 8 p.m. and the movie starts at 9 p.m. Scheduled movies are “Frozen,” “Despicable Me 3,” “The Incredibles” and “Cars.”

That’s not to mention all of the festivals that abound in the Lansing area. You’ll find free festivals all over:

  • Lansing’s Old Town: Chalk of the Town, Wake Up Old Town and Art Feast are just a few of the events you’ll find in the eclectic section of north Lansing. Visit some of the galleries and other specialties shops and make a day of it.
  • Summer in downtown Lansing is hopping as well, from the Juneteenth Celebration to the Capital City Car Show. See the whole schedule at the Convention and Visitors Bureau website at org/events/festivals/.
  • Yankee Doodle Days return to Grand Ledge in late June, filled with all kinds of fun activities, including a free “Kid’s Day” at Jaycees Park with hands-on activities and crafts. Learn more at com/yankee_doodle_days.php.
  • The 74thannual DeWitt Ox Roast takes place in mid-August this year, complete with the usual carnival and culinary offerings from local eateries and food trucks. Other events include the arts and crafts bazaar, kayak race, cornhole tournament, covered wagon obstacle course, car show, parade and pet beauty contest. Find out more at org/.
  • The St. Johns Mint Festival will take place in August with a pageant, parade euchre tournament and petting zoo, just to name a few. It’s at the Clinton County Fairgrounds with more information at org/mint/.




Tags: Summer fun

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