8 Free & Fun Things to Do in Detroit Michigan (with or without the Kids)

Modified: August 05, 2019 | Story by Danielle Alexander | Photos by Bill Bowen

Being on a budget is no excuse for not taking a day trip to Detroit. And you can’t use the “I have children” excuse for staying home either. Detroit has plenty of free things to do(or very close to) and kid-friendly spots to check out that will leave everyone who comes along satisfied:

1. Belle Isle Aquarium

Open year-round, the Belle Isle Aquarium houses stingrays, coral reef fish, electric eels and more. Opening in 1904, it’s the oldest aquarium in the country.
Cost: $11 for the Recreation Passport; otherwise, it’s free.
Kid-friendly? Yes.

2. Belle Isle Nature Center

The Belle Isle Nature Center is truly a fun experience for all ages since visitors get to view native plants and animals found in Michigan, even having the opportunity to feed deer.
Cost: $11 for the Recreation Passport; otherwise, it’s free.
Kid-friendly? Yes.

3. Belle Isle State Park

In addition to the zoo, aquarium, fountain, conservatory and Dossin Great Lakes Museum, Belle Isle State Park serves as an excellent spot to hike, barbecue, watch boats and bike.
Cost: $11 for the Recreation Passport; otherwise, it’s free.
Kid-friendly? Yes.

Family reunion ideas at Belle Isle

4. Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum shows the history of southeastern Michigan through a variety of exhibitions, including the visitor-favorite: The Streets of Old Detroit, which is a recreation of Detroit street scenes from the 1840s, 1870s and early 1900s.
Cost: Free
Kid-friendly? Yes.

5. Eastern Market

Founded in 1891, Eastern Market is the largest outdoor farmers market in the nation. With five different markets to choose from (two of which are open year-round), guests are sure to find a unique set of foods, products and experiences.
Cost: Free
Kid-friendly? Yes.

6. Fisher Building Tours

Pure Detroit invites you to tour Detroit’s 1928 Albert Kahn-designed “architectural masterpiece.” Beginning at the north entrance of the Fisher Building where the Pure Detroit shop is located, the tour will last 45 to 60 minutes. Witnessing the exquisite design and ornamentation of the interior arcade, including one-of-a-kind mosaics, painted ceilings, Art Deco chandeliers, and fine stone, brass and bronze craftsmanship, is just one reason to attend this tour. No need to RSVP but make sure to visit shop.puredetroit.com and click “Fisher Building Tours” for upcoming tour dates and times.
Cost: Free
Kid-friendly? Yes.

Building detail above entrance at Fisher Building

Fisher Building by Albert Kahn, photo by Bill Bowen

7. Outdoor Adventure Center

Located across from the William G. Milliken State Park & Harbor at the intersection of Atwater and the Dequindre Cut Trail, the Outdoor Adventure Center will give you “a taste of Michigan’s great outdoors in the heart of the city.” Touching a waterfall, reeling in a big fish and hopping aboard an airplane are just three of many activities that visitors at the OAC can take part in.
Cost: Children under two are free, children up to 12 are $3 and adults are $5.
Kid-friendly? Yes.

8. The Detroit Institute of Arts

Among the top 10 museums in the country, The Detroit Institute of Arts is not just an art museum. From music and film to art-making and gallery games, there truly is something for everyone at The DIA. Cost: Residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties and children five and under receive free, unlimited general museum admission, but children over five are $6 and adults are $14. Visit The DIA’s website and click “Buy Tickets” to view general admission costs, as well as special exhibit and event pricing.
Kid-friendly? Yes.

Since your activity will be cheap, you shouldn’t feel too bad about splurging a bit on food! Check out the Detroit Dining Guide for a list of amazing options.

Freelance writer Danielle Alexander LOVES doing things for free, especially when it’s just her and husband, so they have no guilt when it comes time to pay the babysitter.


Discover more fun things to do in Michigan.

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Mentioned Attractions And Venues

  1. 1
    Belle Isle Aquarium
    Belle Isle State Park, 3 Inselruhe Ave, Detroit, MI 48207
  2. 2
    Belle Isle Nature Center
    Belle Isle State Park, 176 Lakeside Drive, Detroit, MI 48207
  3. 3
    Belle Isle State Park
    99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit, MI 48207
  4. 4
    Detroit Historical Museum
    5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
  5. 5
    Eastern Market
    Russell Street between Mack Avenue and Gratiot Avenue, 2934 Russell St., Detroit, MI 48207
  6. 6
    Outdoor Adventure Center
    1801 Atwater St., Detroit, MI 48207
  7. 7
    Detroit Institute of Arts
    5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202