Mushrooms and More: Fun (and Free!) Things to Do in Cadillac MI

Judy Antell Avatar

Enjoy the outdoors and free things to do in Cadillac, MI. Photo credit: Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

With a half million acres of national forest, Cadillac Michigan appeals to outdoor enthusiasts and families seeking fun things to do. Many of these activities are free. And there are plenty of indoor things to do too! Read on to find out why Cadillac deserves a stop on your Michigan road trip.

Although Cadillac, the car, made its name as a luxury item, Greater Cadillac Michigan bills itself as an affordable family vacation spot. You can even eat well for free, foraging for wild mushrooms. Morels grow abundantly in the Cadillac area, part of the lower peninsula of Michigan, southeast of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

But there is also plenty of year-round, fungus-free family fun in Cadillac. Under an hour from Traverse City, Cadillac is surrounded by forests, city parks and beaches. It offers diverse hiking trails for both young families and experienced hikers. In winter, these become snowshoeing and cross country skiing trails. Lake Cadillac has family friendly beaches. There is boating in all forms: kayaking, canoeing and motor boating too. And there are biking trails. festivals and museums to round out the fun.

Outdoor Things to Do in Cadillac MI

Lake Beaches

free things to do in Cadillac MI
Cool off in the lake beaches in Cadillac. Photo credit: Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell have four public beaches, plus volleyball courts and a disc golf course. The calm lake water is perfect for families with young children. And the nearby playgrounds make the beaches great for visiting in cooler weather.

Mushroom Capital

I thought Kennett Square PA was the mushroom capital of the United States, but the nearby town of Mesick, Michigan, also claims the title. The annual Mesick Mushroom Festival, held the second weekend of May, celebrates the morel harvest. The three day festival includes a parade, morel hunting and family friendly activities.

Biking

Ride bikes around Lake Cadillac, a 7.5 mile trail that connects to the five mile Clam River Greenway. If you are looking for a longer ride, the White Pine Trail extends 92 miles from Cadillac to Grand Rapids. The family friendly paved pathways have bathrooms and benches, and they can also be used for walking.

Mountain Biking

With teens, ride mountain bikes along Big M & the North Country Trail, 30 minutes west of Cadillac. The Pere Marquette Trail also has several miles of rugged terrain, and the local National Forest and State Forest Trails offer hundreds of miles of trails to explore with interpretive signage along the trails. Download trail maps for National Forest Trails.

Car Show

A town called Cadillac has to have a car show. Actually, this annual event is a few minutes away in Manton, MI. It features classic cars and live music. The family friendly car show is held on Memorial Day weekend.

Adventure Island Family Fun Park

Adventure Island Family Fun Park has mini golf, batting cages and go-karts. As at most amusement parks, you have to pay for these. But the playground is free. And the arcade has games that cost just $.25.

Free Things to Do in Cadillac

Free Lunch

free things to do in Cadillac MO
Brink’s Family Creamery offers free lunch on Memorial Day weekend. Photo credit: Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

Brink’s Family Creamery provides a free lunch on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The Brink’s Family Creamery also has farm animals, a bounce house, games and giveaways.

July 4th Festivities

The Freedom Festival at Cadillac Commons includes a military tribute, with bonfire pits floating on the water. There is also a fireworks display over Lake Cadillac. Due to Covid-19, the 2021 Freedom Festival is canceled.

Night Time Concerts

Every summer, listen to free music Monday – Thursday evenings at Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion on Lake Cadillac. The live music ranges from folk to Christian to jazz. You can bring a blanket and picnic on the lawn, sit on the benches or dock your boat and listen to the music.

Interactive Sculpture Park

free things to do in Cadillac MO
The Sound Garden in Cadillac. Photo credit: Cadillac Area Visitors Bureau

The Cadillac Sound Garden invites people of all ages to make music. The Sound Garden contains Kinder Bells, a sun dial and a rock memorial. It is surrounded by hundreds of flowers.

Cadillac Farmers Market

Downtown Cadillac has a day long market, filled with live entertainment and a kids corner with activities. Of course there is also local produce, baked goods and crafts. The farmers markets starts June 11 and is held Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until October 10.

Cadillac Festival of the Arts

This annual summertime, day-long arts festival features artists and artisans. See paintings, drawings, photographs, jewelry and more, all by locals. The festival is held every July.

Cadillac Commons

The Market at Cadillac Commons, an open-air, covered market area, has a children’s splash pad in summer and an outdoor gas fireplace and ice skating rink in winter.

Winter Fun in Cadillac

Anyone at a ski resort knows how expensive downhill skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling can be. Granted the prices in northern Michigan are gentler than most places around the country. But cross country skiing on the extensive trail system is free once you own (or rent) cross country skis. Or snowshoes. Ice skate for free at Cadillac Commons (above).

Fee Free Days in the National Forest Service System

Explore the wetlands at Huron-Manistee National Forest, which has hiking, mountain biking and boating. There are also less active pursuits, like seeing wildflowers or just taking a scenic drive. In winter, find trails for snowmobiling, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Indoor Things to Do in Cadillac MI

Country Store

Window shop at the Boon Country Store, an old fashioned general store with supplies and food for hiking, biking and camping.

Free for Kids

things to do in Cadillac MI
The interior of Wexford County Historical Society Museum, formerly a Carnegie library. Credit: the Wexford County Historical Society Museum

The Wexford County Historical Museum charges no admission fee for kids up to age 18. And family admission is capped at $10. Built as a Carnegie library in 1905 (financed by donated funds from the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie), the fully restored classical revival building includes a central rotunda with the original circular-patterned tile and glass floor topped by a copper dome. The former Cadillac Public Library is on The National Register of Historic Places. Learn about the history and culture of Wexford County at the museum.

Hunting & Fishing Museum

The Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center highlights the appeal of northern Michigan hunting and fishing. There are animal displays and an aquarium. The museum, in William Mitchell State Park, connects to a 2.5 mile heritage nature trail through woodland and marsh. You can borrow fishing rods from the museum.

Fish Hatchery

The Harrietta State Fish Hatchery, opened is 1901, is Michigan’s oldest operating state fish hatchery. It has both indoor and outdoor exhibits. There is also a self-guided outdoor trail system. The Michigan brown trout come from Harrietta.