Free Activities » Detroit, MI

Free Activities in Detroit, MI

There are plenty of fabulous things to do in Detroit, but not all of them will hurt the pocketbook. Check out this list of 10 things to do— for zilch.
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Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Detroit isn’t exactly known for its natural beauty. There are, however, a few spots around the city that harbor or house raw chunks of nature. Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, located on Belle Isle in the Detroit River, is one of them.

Opened to the public in 1904, the conservatory is modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. In addition to an outdoor lily pond and formal perennial garden, it houses plant species from around the world. Among its most impressive feature is the 600-plant orchid collection, which was donated by Mrs. Anna Scripps Whitcomb.

The conservatory, which regularly hosts holiday-themed displays, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm year round.

Detroit Institute of Arts

With free admission on Fridays, Detroit Institute of Arts is a great place to kick off the weekend—especially if you’re in the mood for a dose of culture or history.

Built in 1927 and designed by famed architect Paul Cret, the museum itself is a work of art. With over 100 galleries, the museum houses one of the country’s best and most extensive art collections. The multicultural and multinational works date from prehistory to the present. Among its most notable pieces are Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry, a fresco cycle that covers every inch of an entire gallery, and Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

A visit to Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum should be on the agenda of every parent as well as anyone with an interest in weird and wacky collectibles, especially nostalgic arcade items. Remember the fortune telling machine in the movie Big? That’s the kind of thing you’ll find at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum.

Marvin’s is also home to one of the most extensive and well-kept pinball machine collections in the area. It also houses thousands of one-of-a-kind games, rides, and gadgets. Some were created especially for Marvin’s, and some seem to have come from another planet entirely.

While admission to the museum is free, many of the machines are coin operated.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

In addition to meticulously kept outdoor gardens, Matthaei Botanical Gardens offers 5 miles of trails that weave through 300 acres of wild woodlands, wetlands, ponds, and prairies. The grounds are most beautiful in late spring and summer, but the 10,000 square foot conservatory, which houses temperate, tropical, and arid species, is impressive any time of year.

A perfect spot for romantic strolls and conversations, Matthaei’s children’s garden makes the park kid-friendly too.

The grounds are open daily at no charge, and admission to the conservatory is free from noon – 8 pm on Wednesdays.

Mettetal Airport

Are you, your child, or your significant other fascinated by planes? Do something different for a change. Pack a picnic lunch and head to Mettetal Airport in Canton, where you can watch take offs and landings from picnic tables lining the runway.

If lunch along the runway isn’t enough, consider enrolling your child in the Young Eagles program through which Mettetal offers free plane rides for kids.

Over 100 aircraft, including ultralights, Cessnas, powered parachutes, and a T-18 Tiger, are housed at Mettetal. Located 20 miles west of Detroit at the intersection of I-275, M-14, and I-96, the airport is easily accessible.