Grand Rapids family fishing 3 credit Jeff Frey (2)

Summertime means family vacation time and Grand Rapids, Minnesota is the best place for a get-away. This north woods town offers comfortable lodging, clean lakes, plus free and fun events for families on a budget looking for free things to do with kids.

The city of Grand Rapids has 200 acres of park and open space plus 50 miles of trails. Stop by one for a picnic lunch and let the kids romp on the playground. From lawn sports (American Legion Memorial Park has a bocce ball court) to fishing (check out the pier at Sylvan Landing), families enjoy the well maintained grounds of the city’s parks.

One of the country’s biggest rivers starts in northern Minnesota and courses right through Grand Rapids. Take your family on a Mississippi River walk from Oakland Park to Veterans Memorial Park and let the kids imagine how long it takes a stick to float all the way to the Gulf.

One of the best ways to get kids to eat their veggies is to meet the folks who grew them, and that doesn’t have to change when you’re on vacation. The Grand Rapids Farmers Market, on 1st Avenue and Highway 2 in downtown Grand Rapids, is brimming with fresh fruits and produce, maple syrup, honey, and meats. Kids can compare their backyard gardens to what’s in season up north as they learn the rigors of north woods growing. This lively marketplace is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 to 1:00.

If you’re in town on the first Friday of the month be sure to check out downtown’s First Friday Art Walk. The art walk happens on a four block radius around the Old Central School. Each month businesses open their doors and fill the sidewalks with live music and artwork. Artists are available to show their work and inspire the next generation of creative souls. Kids might have a chance to make their own jewelry, watch clay turn into a bowl, and dance as the music moves them.

Grand Rapids has so much to explore on a family vacation. Just be sure to save time for unstructured play on the beach or in the woods – it’s budget-friendly and perfect for a summer day.

If you’re interested in more ideas for your budget friendly family vacation, take a look at upcoming Grand Rapids area events or download our Grand Rapids Visitor Guide.