Budget Friendly Summer Fun in Ann Arbor

A person feeding a cow.
Photo from @petting_farm on Instagram.

If the past few years have left you broke as a joke or you’re just in need of some great options to throw in the mix that won’t break the bank, the following local destinations are free or very close and a perfect way to sneak in summertime learning with the fun.

Ann Arbor District Library

With locations in downtown Ann Arbor, Malletts Creek, Pittsfield, Traverwood and Westgate, Ann Arbor District Library hosts free events and activities all summer long – from the usual suspects like story times, to special musical events and festivities. Check the website for information and how to get your library card.

A group of people working.
Photo from @ann_arbor_hands_on on Instagram.

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and Leslie Science & Nature Center

Free for babies younger than 23 months, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (220 E. Ann St, Ann Arbor) provides play-based exploration for the whole family. At Leslie Science & Nature Center (1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor), the trails and nature playscape are free and a small donation can also give you access to the critter house and information about native animals and their habitats.

Domino’s Farms Petting Farm

Those under age 2 are free, and you can get a family pass for $40 so everyone can pet the animals. Located at 3001 Earhart Rd in Ann Arbor.

RELATED: 20 Uniquely Ann Arbor Summer Spots to Visit with Kids

Gallup Park

Always a classic destination for fitness and feeding the ducks, Gallup Park is Ann Arbor’s meandering river walk along the Huron and its ponds. Rent a canoe or kayak, take the kids to a playground and don’t forget the sunscreen. You can enter and exit the park from many locations, so consult the map before you go.

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Specializing in Classical, Egyptian and Middle Eastern archaeology, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is located at 434 South State St. in Ann Arbor and is free and open to the public.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

Whether you really love plants or really need to tire out small legs, both Matthaei Botanical Gardens (1800 N. Dixboro Rd, Ann Arbor) and Nichols Arboretum (1600 Washington Hts., Ann Arbor) fit the bill. From formal to natural environments and native to exotic plants, you can immerse yourself in the botanic specimens and appreciate the beauty of summer and tired kids.

Michigan Firehouse Museum

With a preserved 1898 firehouse and antique rigs, tools and equipment, the Michigan Firehouse Museum (110 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti) is an inexpensive destination for all truck (and history!) lovers in the house.

Pinball Pete’s

Bring rolls of quarters for your retro gaming needs, but otherwise admission to Pinball Pete’s (1214 South University, Ann Arbor) is free.

University of Michigan Museum of Art

The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 525 S State St, Ann Arbor, is free for everyone, and has a diverse blend of art both historically significant and important in the present day.

University of Michigan Library Computer and Video Game Archive

Reserve this free space and geek out on old machines on the fourth floor of Shapiro Library on (919 S University Ave, Ann Arbor) the University of Michigan campus.

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History

Admission is free, but donations are welcome in support of the collection that includes everything from fossils of prehistoric life to rocks, minerals, birds and mammals of Michigan and artifacts from cultures around the world. Housed in the Biological Sciences Building, 1105 North University Ave., Ann Arbor.

Ypsilanti District Library

The historic downtown Ypsilanti library is reopening in August 2024 after a flood, but the other locations (Whittaker Road and Superior branches) still serve a large area with free events and activities throughout the summer. Check out the library calendar for the full list.

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