best free and cheap family things to do in Jackson County Michigan
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Best Free & Cheap Things to Do in Jackson Michigan

When it comes to joining in Jackson, there’s more to do than eating at the best local restaurants in Jackson Michigan or attending the top Jackson Michigan events. There are many different ways to get out and enjoy Jackson, and you don’t have to break the bank to do so! Here are some of the best free & cheap things to do in Jackson Michigan

Note: for the sake of this list, we’re defining “cheap” as “costing $25 or less for a family of four.”

Best Outdoor Free & Cheap Things to Do in Jackson Michigan

Falling Waters Trail

Open year-round, Falling Waters Trail is a great place to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Run, walk, or ride a bike down the trail and see some of the natural beauty Jackson has to offer.

“Falling Waters Trail is a great place to ride a bike, walk or in-line skate. Very wide, smooth paved trail through some of the most scenic country in the U.S.!” – review on TripAdvisor

You can even rent a BCycle at the trailhead off Weatherwax Rd on the city’s south side.

Dahlem Center

While there are many great classes and structured learning opportunities at the Dahlem Center in Jackson, taking a walk or stroll through this wooded area is always free and the grounds are open sunrise to sunset daily. Bring the kids and let them explore nature’s playground as they climb on fallen logs or investigate tree stumps.

“We have heard about the Dahlem Center and this weekend we were able to have a quick visit it in the early evening. What a beautiful space for the Jackson community. The walking trails were well groomed, the playground area was equipped with a few picnic tables, tree stump stools, and cool hollowed out trees, lying horizontally- kind of like tubes- to walk through. So much beautiful nature available just outside of the city. We would return and take a longer time to explore and walk around.” – review on TripAdvisor

Stop by the Dahlem Center offices, Nutshell Gift Shop, and special exhibits from 9 am – 3 pm Tuesday through Friday.


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Favorite Jackson Michigan Parks & Playgrounds

Spending time at local parks and playgrounds is a fun and inexpensive way to get out and explore your hometown in Jackson County, Michigan.

Sparks Foundation County Park

There are many great parks in Jackson County, Michigan, but one of our favorites is Sparks Foundation County Park (aka Cascades Park). Whether you want to take a walk on one of the paved trails weaving through the park, visit the Cascades Splash Pad, watch the Cascade Falls light show, enjoy live music in the Rotary Bandshell, or play at the playground, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at Cascades Park.

Special events, including firework shows, family fun nights, and more, take place throughout the summer months at the Cascades.

Ella Sharp Park

Another one of our favorite parks in Jackson Michigan, Ella Sharp Park is full of history, nature, and recreation for Jackson residents to enjoy. Whether you visit the Ella Sharp Museum, play at the playground, play a round of disc golf with friends, hit the driving range, or challenge your sweetheart to a game of mini-golf, you’re sure to find something free or cheap to do in Jackson at Ella Sharp Park.

Nixon Park

Located on the city’s north side, Nixon Park has ball fields, a water park, and a skate park. The water park and skate park are open to the public during the summer. Admission is only $4 (under are free), and punch cards can be purchased at a discounted rate.

Other Must-Visit Parks in Jackson Michigan

Best Parks and Playgrounds in Jackson County Michigan

Best Indoor Free & Cheap Things to Do in Jackson Michigan

Jackson Candy and Fudge Factory

Indulge your sweet tooth and step back in time with a visit to Jackson Candy and Fudge Factory. Sample any of the current fudge flavors (they rotate weekly) and pick up a bag of flavored popcorn.

“My wife suggested visiting this wonderful “old time” candy shop after stopping last week with her mother! Entered and was immediately greeted by staff with a smile and a warm welcome! They gave our daughter a token for the gun ball machine, which made her day! We grabbed some amazing looking popcorn and fudge! I know the fudge is great because the wife brought some home last week! We will definitely be frequent visitors to this shop!” – review on TripAdvisor

Kids will enjoy getting a free token for the Wowie Zowie gumball machine when they visit!

$1 Movies for Families

Jackson Michigan is home to multiple movie theaters who offer cheap movies for families during Spring Break, Winter Break, and the summer months – perfect indoor outings for kids who are on a school break!

Visit the individual theaters’ websites to find the most recent cheap movie schedule:

Free and Cheap Kid and Family Movies in Jackson Michigan

Funday’s Family Fun Cafe

Geared towards families with younger kids, Funday’s Family Fun Cafe is an indoor playground in Jackson Michigan. It’s the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon or gather with friends for a playdate. They even host birthday parties and have occasional “adult-only” events in the evenings.

Imagine Planet

One of Jackson Michigan’s hidden gems is Imagine Planet. This free attraction near downtown is a hands-on science exploration center for all ages.

Cascades Animal Shelter

Volunteering at or just visiting the Cascades Animal Shelter is one of our favorite free things to do in Jackson Michigan. Nothing brings a smile to your face like sharing some love with these animals looking to find their fur-ever home!

Jackson District Library

There are always free and cheap things to do in Jackson Michigan when you visit one of the local Jackson District Library branches. Free movies, book clubs, crafts, classes, and more are on JDL’s calendar of events – and we have them all listed on our most complete list of events in Jackson County, too!

Fun Activities for Kids at the Library in Jackson Michigan
photo collage from 2017 Spring Break at JDL courtesy of

Jackson YMCA Family Nights

You don’t have to be a member at the YMCA to enjoy the Jackson YMCA Family Nights! These fun-filled events bring the whole family together and are one of our favorite free or cheap things to do in Jackson Michigan!

Budget-Friendly Museums in Jackson County Michigan

While visiting a museum in a bigger town might break the budget, these museums in Jackson County Michigan are budget-friendly.

Bright Walls Murals

While it’s not technically a museum, you’ll enjoy admiring the artistic beauty of the Bright Walls Murals as you stroll through downtown Jackson Michigan. Painted by artists from around the world, the buildings of downtown are a free art museum for the masses to peruse.

Bright Walls Jackson - one of the best events & festival in Jackson MI
screenshot of Bright Walls location tag on Instagram

Lost Railway Museum

In the early 1900s, more than six different railways intersected in Jackson County. The Lost Railway Museum, located in Grass Lake, Michigan – just 20 minutes from downtown Jackson Michigan, allows visitors to revisit this historical period when the primary mode of interurban transportation was by train. Hours of operation vary by season.

Ella Sharp Museum

Located on the grounds of Ella Sharp Park, the Ella Sharp Museum is home to a number of exhibits. The main gallery is open year-round and admission is only $5 for adults ($3 for children, under 5 are free). The homesteads associated with the museum are available to tour during certain times of the year for a small additional fee.

Grass Lake Area Historical Connections

Located in the northeast corner of Jackson County in Grass Lake, Michigan, Grass Lake Area Historical Connections operates two historical museums: the Michigan Military Heritage Museum and the Coe House. Each of these museums is open to the public at various times throughout the year. Visiting them is a great way to learn more about Jackson Michigan’s history!

Seasonal Cheap & Free Things to Do in Jackson Michigan

While there are many year-round cheap & free things to do in Jackson Michigan, some activities and attractions are seasonal. Here are some of our favorite seasonal cheap & free things to do around Jackson County.

Berry/Fruit Picking

In the late spring and early summer months, berry picking is one of our favorite cheap things to do in Jackson County. Here are a few of the best places to go berry picking in Jackson County:

Best Berry Picking in Jackson County Michigan

Pumpkin Patches & Apple Orchards

Heading to the pumpkin patch or apple orchard is a fun cheap thing to do in Jackson Michigan in the fall months. Here are a few of our favorite pumpkin patches and apple orchards in Jackson County:

Fairs, Festivals, & Parades in Jackson Michigan

There are many fairs, festivals, parades, and events in Jackson Michigan all year. Here are just a few on our list of cheap & free things to do in Jackson…

Cheap & Free Jackson Michigan Fairs & Festivals

There are lots of family-friendly festivals and events in Jackson Michigan that won’t break the budget. These are just a few of our favorites:

Michigan Center Carp Carnival - one of the best events & festivals in Jackson Michigan
photo from past Carp Carnival event on Facebook

Free Parades in Jackson Michigan

A parade is always a fun time with the family – candy, floats, marching bands, and more! You won’t want to miss these parades in Jackson:

Many of the smaller communities around Jackson also have special parades throughout the year as part of their school’s homecoming festivities, community fairs, and on national holidays.

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