Cheap Weekend Getaways in Southern Michigan

Spring fog drifts on the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan.
Spring fog drifts on the Kalamazoo River in southern Michigan. (Image: Dean Pennala/iStock/Getty Images)

From discount passes in the Motor City of Detroit to lounging on the beach or camping in a state park, southern Michigan has several inexpensive weekend getaway options. Bring the family, or explore on your own to see what this diverse area has to offer.

Detroit on a Discount Pass

Detroit is probably best known for its auto industry. Attractions such as the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant -- the place where Henry Ford first built the Model T -- and the Henry Ford Museum celebrate that fact. The two attractions are also included on Detroit's D Discount Pass program. The free passes are printable online or may be sent to a mobile phone for electronic use. A scanned bar code automatically triggers the discount at participating vendors. Other participating attractions include the Michigan Science Center, Motown Museum and the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium. Average discount is 20 percent off, but some attractions have buy one, get one free options.

Air Zoo at Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo is home to the Air Zoo, an interactive museum that focuses on aviation and science. In addition to a collection of 50 historic aircraft, the Air Zoo includes the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame, which has exhibits about women in aviation, the early beginnings of space science and a memorial to the WW II Guadalcanal campaign. Also available are a 3D Space Shuttle interactive ride, flight simulators and a steerable kid-sized biplane ride. During the summer, you can take a plane ride in a vintage biplane. Best of all, some local hotels, including Towne Place Suites and Fairfield Inn, have last-minute weekend discounted rates. The Country Inn & Suites also markets a Local Experience Package, which includes two entry wristbands to the Air Zoo and other activities for your weekend.

Fun at the Beach

Southwestern Michigan borders Lake Michigan, home to a string of beaches from the Indiana border northward. Silver Beach County Park, in St. Joseph, is known for its wide strip of sand and the public access fishing pier. No fee is charged for fishing on the pier, but a license is required for those 17 and older. You'll have to pay a per-vehicle park entry fee. A bit farther south in the town of Bridgman is Weko Beach Campground, open for day and overnight stays. Pitch a tent, park your RV or rent one of the six log cabins. Play and picnic areas, boardwalks and a boat ramp are on site. Leashed pets are welcome in the campground area.

Exploring State Parks

Spending a weekend camping at a Michigan State Park is another economical option. Hoffmaster State Park, in Muskegon, hugs Lake Michigan and is known for its Dune Climb Stairway. The climb leads to an observation deck above the lake, perfect for photo ops. The campground has 297 sites that accommodate RVs and tent campers. Fort Custer Recreation Area is in the middle of the state, near Augusta. Once a military training camp during World War II, the park now offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails as well as a 219-site campground. Fishing is available at three lakes and on the Kalamazoo River that runs through the park. You can make camping reservations for both parks through the Michigan State Park and Harbor Reservations website.

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