Planning a visit to the northern Michigan town of Petoskey? Check out these free (or low cost) things to do while you are in the area.
Traverse the Little Traverse Wheelway
Strap on your walking shoes or hop onto your bicycle, and hit the trail! This 26-mile pedestrian trail travels from the nearby town of Charlevoix through Petoskey and up to Harbor Springs. Whether you travel the entire length or just a small portion, you are guaranteed to see some beautiful scenery along the way. Admire the scenery, watch for interesting wildlife, and don’t forget your camera!
Admire the art at the Harris Sculpture Gardens
On the campus of North Central Michigan College is this beautiful little sculpture park. It features 25 intriguing sculptures. My favorites include a tribute to Peter Pan, a turtle named George, and Kaleidoscope which is a kinetic sculpture . You may find it helpful to print this sculpture map (PDF) before you go.
Picnic with the Wright Brothers
Okay, okay… you can’t really picnic with the famous brother duo who invented the airplane. But you can picnic in front of a replica of the Wright brothers bicycle shop, and THAT is pretty dang neat. There is a lovely park called Pennsylvania Park right in the center of Petoskey. This park features several memorials, various shops, and a storefront façade of the Wright Cycle Company. It’s a great photo opportunity.
Be a Paleontologist for the Day
Did you know that Michigan’s state stone is really a fossil? These fossils called Petoskey stones can only be found in a small region of the world, and Petoskey beaches are a perfect area to look for these unique natural treasures. So grab a bucket, hit the beach, and keep your eyes open for a “stone” with the telltale hexagonal pattern. Once you find them, you can take them home and polish them by hand. A Petoskey stone would make a perfect souvenir from your visit to northern Michigan.
RELATED: See this previous article for our best tips on how to find and polish Petoskey stones.
Discover your inner Willy Wonka with a chocolate factory tour.
Chocoholics rejoice! Kilwins, nationwide maker of chocolate confections and ice cream, is based in Petoskey. And at Kilwins Chocolate Kitchen located on Bay View Road, they give free tours!!! Learn about how they make the chocolate treats, fudge and ice cream. Watch the employees and machines work their magic. Did I mention there are free samples at the end of each tour?
Check out these other free (or super affordable) things to do in the area
If you’re looking for other affordable things to do in the area, here are some more ideas for you:
- Check out the scenery along the famed Tunnel of Trees. Head north of town and drive the 20-mile section of Highway M-119 that stretches between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. It won’t take long for you to realize why people call it the Tunnel of Trees. It’s a beautiful drive any time of the year – winter, spring, summer or fall.
- Float across Lake Charlevoix aboard the Ironton Ferry. While the ferry ride is not free, it is extremely affordable. For a few dollars, your family (along with your vehicle) will be ferried across the south arm of Lake Charlevoix. It’s a short-but-memorable experience and definitely worth a few dollars.
- Catch a shooting star or even the Northern Lights at Headlands International Dark Sky Park. This park is about one hour north of Petoskey, and it’s one of only a few international dark sky parks in the nation. It’s open 24 hours a day, and there is no admission charge. It’s a fantastic place to view the night skies and possibly even see the Northern Lights if conditions are right. It also features some great trails that would be fun to explore during the day, including a 1-mile trail with displays that “explore humanity’s relationship with the cosmos” called the Dark Sky Discovery Trail.
- Take a self-guided tour of the Mushroom Houses in the nearby town of Charlevoix. Built by a homegrown self-taught architect named Earl Young, these earthy dwellings are truly unique. They feature boulders from Lake Michigan, other natural resources from the local area, unexpected details like colored mortar and rounded shapes, hidden entrances, glass windows shipped from a faraway castle, and more. These structures are sure to pique your interest and inspire your imagination.
RELATED: Interested in other fun adventures around the state of Michigan? Here’s a fun list of 10 Unique Michigan Adventures.
What are your favorite things to do while visiting northern Michigan?