There are plenty of fun and cheap things you can do with your kids before the cold weather makes its return to Michigan.
There are plenty of fun and cheap things you can do with your kids before the cold weather makes its return to Michigan.

MICHIGAN—Is it just me, or did this summer this just speed by? I feel like I blinked, and now it’s already about time for back-to-school shopping. I ran into the store to grab popsicles, and the “Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice” displays were already starting to infiltrate the aisles.

While fall is cool and all, and also quite amazing here in Michigan, we need to take a pause.

I’m still trying to squeeze the most out of the warm weather and endless fun of summer—as well as “fake summer” known as “early fall” here in the Mitten. If you are too, I’ve got a few fun and cheap (or free) things you can do with your little ones before the cold weather makes its return.

Visit Michigan State University. 

GO GREEN!

I’m from Lansing, and as a Capital City kid, I grew up right in MSU’s backyard. Between field trips and summer camps, I spent plenty of time in Spartan Country. And now that I’m an adult, I still appreciate it as a one-stop shop for cheap, fun and educational things to do with kids.

Stop at the Horse Teaching and Research Center

My little guy is an animal lover, so we recently started feeding and petting the horses at the Horse Teaching and Research Center. The best part: It’s totally free! If you want to feed the horses, you have to bring your own apples and carrots. This trip ended up costing us about $6.

Check out the Dairy Teaching and Research Center

After you give the horses a snack, you can shoot over to the Dairy Teaching and Research Center, to get up close and personal with some cows and pigs. This is guaranteed to unleash a lot of fun memories, moos and oinks from your little ones, and hilarious pictures to look back on.

Even better: It’s also free!

Grab a Scoop (or three) at the MSU Dairy Store.

Savor the last days of summer with a swing by the MSU Dairy store for some delicious treats that those cows helped make. The store serves up 13 flavors of ice cream. My personal recommendation is Spartan Swirl. Make sure that you check the website before heading over to get a sneak peek at the special flavors and treats. They are open Wednesday through Sunday.

Hit the splash pad.

Splash pad trips are a go-to activity for my family. To add some summertime razzle dazzle, I keep an emergency adventure bag in my car—including swim trunks, towels, snacks, and sunscreen. If my son and I are out running errands and we pass a cool splash pad, I’ll make a spontaneous stop, and we go check it out. He’s always surprised, and we always have a blast.

Sometimes we plan these, but the element of surprise always earns me a few extra “cool mom” points. Want to really elevate the experience? Buy a small pizza to snack on in between splashes. It works every time. PS: There are plenty of splash pads to check out near Detroit.

Take a trip to the farm.

Summer in Michigan is delicious. From June to September, you can take your personal pick from different produce farms that offer U-Pick options. And these make for great adventures to connect with your littles with nature and snack on healthy, locally-grown fruit. From peaches, and blueberries to strawberries, cherries, and apples—there’s plenty to see in Michigan.

Show sunflowers some love.

Let’s not forget sunflowers! Beyond fruit farms, you can also take a trip to a sunflower farm or field. DeBuck’s in Belleville is a favorite that’s right in our backyard, but there are plenty others across Michigan. It’s fun to see how your kiddo measures up to the big, beautiful flowers.

Stroll a farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets are a great way to get outside, strike up conversation with your littles and explore. My son and I stumbled upon one in downtown Belleville a few weeks back. We were blown away with the car show, handmade items and homegrown veggies. We were even able to score a quick and cheap dinner. In our city, they have them weekly during the summer months.

Light up a campfire.

This activity is one of our absolute favorites to enjoy throughout the summer—and even into the fall. Gas burning fire pits tend to be on clearance this time of the year, and they’re great. Don’t have the space for one of those? Maybe check out this tabletop marshmallow roaster. Or you can even build a pit of your own, together. Just make sure to check your local burn ordinances.

And of course, along with a campfire comes some delicious s’mores—in all shapes and sizes.

Hanging out by the fire, checking out the stars, and sharing stories and laughs might just be the perfect way to round out the rest of the summer in a meaningful way with your kids before the summer ends. Before long, both of our schedules will get busier—so soak it up while it lasts.