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.
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.
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
- Loomis Park
- Clark Lake County Park
- Lime Lake County Park
- Rod Mills Park
- Bucky Harris Park
- Vandercook Lake Park
- Horace Blackman Park
- Little Wolf Lake County Park
- Grass Lake Park
- Gilletts Lake Park
- Watkins Lake State Park
- MacCready Nature Preserve
- Round Lake County Park
- Portage Lake State Park
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
- Sodt’s Berry Farm
- Meckley’s Flavor Fruit Farm
- Young’s Orchard
- DeGroots Strawberry Farm
- Kohler Strawberry Farm
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:
- Jackson County Fair
- Carp Carnival
- Downtown Jackson Cruise-In
- Learning Fair
- Fairy Festival
- Jackson County Rose Festival
- Hot Air Jubilee
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.