Top 10 Free Summer Activities in Southwest Michigan | Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council

Top 10 Free Summer Activities in Southwest Michigan

a dad playing with two young children at the whirlpool compass fountain


You could use a vacation this summer, so don’t let budgeting for it stop you. You will find plenty of fun-filled ways to spend time together in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area that won’t cost you a single cent! 

Here are the top 10 free activities to do with us.

  1. Splash in Whirlpool Compass Fountain

    Measuring 200 feet in diameter, Southwest Michigan’s largest interactive splash pad is just below the St. Joseph bluff and only steps from downtown and Silver Beach County Park. Bring a beach ball or Frisbee, a towel, and clothes that can get wet to dance, twirl, and happily squeal and laugh as the refreshing water cascades over your head and down to your toes. Parents can join the fun or watch on nearby benches as the water cannons and jets spray in the air every 15 minutes. For more cool water fun, visit these free Southwest Michigan splash pads

    a young female child playing at the whirlpool compass fountain
  2. Play together at Rocky Gap County Park

    This small Lake Michigan beach is perfect for building sand castles, beachcombing, family picnics, and sunset views. The hard-surface ramp makes it easy to access the beach with a wheelchair, stroller, or wagon. Other free Lake Michigan beaches include Hagar Park Beach Roadside Beach in Coloma and Cherry Beach in Harbert.

  3. Watch a free, family-friendly movie under the stars.

    Check this year’s lineup and St. Joseph Park locations. All you need to bring are your chairs or a blanket and snacks.

  4. Explore the arts.

    ARS Gallery, Arts and Culture Center, the Inn at Harbor Shores Art GalleryChartreuseKrasl Art Center, the Box Factory for the Arts, and Roti Roti Art Center offer visitors the chance to see inspiring local and regional artists’ exhibits at no cost. Play the Creative Connections game and you could win free prizes, too. A highlight of the summer art scene is the free Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff. This nationally renowned fair showcases over 170 artists from across the United States on the second weekend of July. The view of Lake Michigan is as beautiful as the art!
    a pair of young women in colorful outfits looking at art in the ARS gallery in benton harbor

  5. Enjoy free music concerts at the John E. N. Howard Bandshell overlooking the St. Joseph River.

    At noon on Wednesdays starting in mid-July to the end of August, bring a lunch to the uplifting Brown Bag Concerts. The Friday Night Concerts feature a spectrum of jazz, oldies, big band, alternative rock, and more of your type of music. The St. Joseph Municipal Band performs a wide selection of favorites on Sunday evenings, plus July 4th and Labor Day. Or follow the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra’s Pop Up Series held on various days and locations throughout the region. They’re delightful even if you are walking by and stop to listen for a few minutes!

    friday night bandshell concert in st joseph
  6. Walk or bike the almost two-mile John & Dede Howard Family Trail.

    The lookout switchback bridge and views of Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River make this one of the area’s most scenic trails. Another favorite, multi-use trail system nearby is the 12-mile Harbor Shores Nature & Fitness Trails. It, too, offers breathtaking Lake Michigan views, immerses you in nature, and takes you to fun urban eateries and the Benton Harbor Arts District. 

  7. Go inside the St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouse.

    Walk the pier (accessible from Tiscornia Park) and see the inside of St. Joseph’s most iconic landmark. It’s free to view the first floor, but there is a charge for guided tours, including climbing to the top of the inner light for an incredible view of Lake Michigan, St. Joseph, and Benton Harbor.

    a group enjoying the heritage museum light house tour in st. joseph
  8. Chalk the Block.

    The first weekend of August, artists take over Broad Street in St. Joseph creating chalk masterpieces. Watch these talented regional, national, and international artists create their art then vote for your favorite. You will find more fun things to do during the family-friendly festival. 
    a woman drawing on the pavement for chalk the block in st. joseph

  9. Go for a hike at Galien River County Park.

    Walk the 300’ canopy walk that leads out to a 60’ high platform that overlooks the marshland and the Galien River. Or take the boardwalk that leads to the fishing platform down by the water. Another great place to escape into nature on foot or with your kayak is the Paw Paw River Park. Its trails and kayak launch are wheelchair accessible. Before you take to our trails or kayak our rivers, register for our year-round Trails Challenge. It will get you moving on some of the prettiest, most peaceful, and most popular trails in Southwest Michigan — plus you could earn prizes, too. 

    a man overlooking the Galien County River park
  10. Watch the sunset at Lookout Park.

    This park has one of the best views of  Lake Michigan. Find a bench or a swing and be awed by the brilliant colors splashed across the horizon. Here are some other top spots to watch sunsets.



When you are here, purchase an annual Michigan Recreational Passport. It gives you free entry into our popular Warren Dunes State Park and other incredible state parks. 


There is way too much fun to pack into a day trip, so make reservations at one of our area hotels with the rates and amenities you want. Wake up rested for more free adventures with us! 

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