Free or inexpensive vacations are the best kind, in my opinion. If you can find things to do in your hometown, all the better. With gas prices as they are this year, traveling more than an hour already gets out of the range of “inexpensive” no matter what you do when you get there!
Although Grand Rapids has access to amazing beaches at Lake Michigan within about an hour’s drive, there are plenty of fun things to do this summer right in our hometown.
I was fortunate enough to sit next to a representative of the city convention and visitors bureau this weekend at a blog conference (Coincidence? I think not!), and she was thrilled to hear about the Staycation posts that bloggers from all over the country are sharing today.
If you want to find out literally everything to do in Grand Rapids, you can visit the Experience Grand Rapids page and download the official 2011 visitors guide or browse the local attractions and restaurants.
They’re even launching a “Family Playcation” section of the site for this summer, with activities for kids and teens.
While I love the comprehensiveness and glitz of the official website, I have to share with you some personal recommendations and a few fellow local bloggers who are truly experts at having fun on a dime in Grand Rapids.
Big Binder Blog Catalogs Big Fun for Kids
From Jen Rees of Big Binder:
Grand Rapids is an amazing city with plenty of ‘kid friendly’ options. While you’re here, take advantage of some ‘insider info’ about great deals around town!
- Free admission Tuesday after 1:00 PM to the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
- Kids Day Wednesday 10:00AM-2:00PM at the Coopersville Farm Museum.
- $1 admission to Family Night at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum Thursdays from 5-8.
- There is also a ton of free, outdoor music
- Area Disc Golf Courses
- Walking and Biking Trails
You can also check the Big Binder calendar for fun, special events happening throughout the summer!
Savvy Chic Savings Takes You Out on the Town
from Jolon Hull of Savvy Chic Savings
Whether you’re planning a staycation for you and your sweetie or just a date, there are plenty of things to keep you busy on the cheap in West Michigan this summer. I believe there are truly FUN, frugal and free things to do, so here are a few ideas to get you started in Grand Rapids.
Summer 2011 Staycation picks:
- DANCING! Kick things off with PROM at Rosa Parks Circle on Tuesday, May 31, 2011. Just $8 per couple. Grand Rapids Swing will keep you moving the rest of the summer.
- MUSIC! Blues on the Mall is a highlight of the summer. Live music at Rosa Parks Circle every Wednesday at 6:30pm from June 8 to August 3. This is a FREE event! Wander around then use a discounted gift certificate at one of our many downtown restaurants.
- ARTS! Grand Rapids is definitely a scene for arts & culture. I absolutely love this FREE downtown GR area sculptures tour. I was born here and some of these are new to me! Have you seen them all?
- TECHY! Feed your inner geek with this walking tour of Grand Rapids using QR codes. The GR Tag Tour is a fun and interactive way to see and share our city with others in your social media network. Be a tourist in our town! Best part? It’s FREE!
- ACTION! Do you know the John Ball Zoo has a zip line? Admission to the Zoo is $8.50 plus $6 to ride the 300 ft zip line. $29 per couple puts us slightly over my normal $25 limit, but the adrenaline rush is priceless, no?
- Plan ahead. Use the City of GR parking app on your smart phone to pay the meter (instead of using coins!). Get registered at parkmobile.com.
Some people say, “you get what you pay for even when it’s free.” I prefer to think, “some of the best things in life are free.” As in, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s who you’re with. Things that will make you belly laugh and things that you’ll remember forever.
Katie’s Ideas for Animals, Vegetables, and Minerals in Grand Rapids
Since I’m the real food and natural living blogger, I’ll tell you some things we’ve done with my family to get close to nature while staying close to home:
- Critter Barn – learn about the workings of a real farm and enjoy the owner’s spunk and love of her animals. Special events, homeschool groups, and summer programs for kids available.
- U-pick fruits – (strawberries, blueberries, and apples are my favorites for the kids – be sure to dress them in grubby, grubby clothes – or red pants! – for strawberry picking!) See my Local Grand Rapids Real Food Resources page for our favorite farms.
- Blandford Nature Center – a gem of a resource right in the city.
- For free – Visit Blandford’s wildlife center with books and activities for young children, walk the nature trails and see the birds of prey and the bobcat. Watch for the sugarbush tours every March and see how maple syrup is made!
- For a small charge – check out special events like the Field of Greens Festival on June 18th, with sustainability and nature themed vendors, kids activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, food, ice-cream and more; the Summer Day Camp (we just signed Paul up!), and other events.
- Farmer’s Market – give each child $1-2 and allow the to spend it on whatever they please. They might find a peacock feather, a fresh flower, or a bunch of broccoli! (The Fulton Farmer’s Market is far from the only one around. Chances are there is one within 10 minutes of wherever you are in the great Grand Rapids area. Ask around!)
- First Saturdays at Calvin College’s Ecosystem Preserve (free) – Upcoming on June 4, 2011 “Turtle Trek: Is this a turtle or a tortoise?”
Next month’s Eat Well, Spend Less topic is going to be frugality while traveling/enjoying summertime, and I’m excited to talk about camping, our favorite low-cost vacation option. There are many, many places to camp in the great state of Michigan. Grab the Family Camping Handbook if you’re not sure how to begin with young children! This week it’s $1 off in honor of the Staycation series; use the code STAYCATION.
Watch for a huge post tomorrow linking to bloggers from all 50 states sharing their best finds for free and inexpensive family activities – find your home state or search for a “real” vacation idea for your family! Click here…
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