Located in Northwest Michigan, Petoskey is an affordable family friendly destination and an easy road trip from Ohio and other surrounding Midwest states. A known hangout of author Ernest Hemingway, the town and surrounding area entice families to get outdoors and enjoy spectacular scenic lakeside views. With much to offer visitors interested in budget-friendly attractions, this destination is steeped in history, nature and one-of-a-kind attractions such as the local Petoskey Stone which is prevalent in this small town.

Search for Treasure

Finding Petoskey stones in Michigan- one of the many free things you can do as a family when you visit Petoskey.

Photo Credit: Tonya Prater / Ohio TravelingMom

The Petoskey stone, recognized as the state stone, is only found in Michigan and while you’ll find it outside Petoskey, it’s most prevalent here. The stones are polished, cut, made into jewelry and sold in local boutiques throughout town.

After you’ve found your Petoskey stone, you can play on the beach or hike through the woods on one of the walking trails. While it’s free to search and find the stones, a parking fee is charged at the entrance to the Petoskey State Park.

Walk the Dark Sky Discovery Trail

Petoskey is also home to Headlands, one of 20 Dark Sky Parks located worldwide. This park offers stargazers exceptional views of the night sky. Visit in March or September and you may see the Northern Lights. This park is open 24/7 and includes an interpretive trail with planetary stations that include the history and mythology surrounding the planets in our solar system.TMOM Travel Disclosure

Take a Walking Tour of Bay View

Take a step back in time as you enter Bay View. The community was founded in 1875 as a religious campsite for the Methodist Episcopal Church. Camp meetings were a popular form of religious services at that time and ministers would travel the circuit, preaching from town to town.

Take a free walking tour through this community which features Victorian style cottages and museum buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll find a historic Post Office, church, and Auditorium Hall.

The Little Library and Woofer Stop Cafe located along the Little Traverse Wheelway in Petoskey, Michigan.

Photo Credit: Tonya Prater / Ohio TravelingMom

During the summer, you’ll find cottages available to rent and recreation opportunities ranging from tennis to sailing with plenty of activities for children of all ages.

Take a walk or bike ride along the Little Traverse Wheelway

The Little Traverse Wheelway connects small towns and cities along the Little Traverse Bay from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs. Within Petoskey, the trail runs through Magnus Park, Solanus Mission Beach and Bayfront Park with basketball courts, a Skate Park, tennis courts and sand volleyball courts. Kids can learn how to fish free of charge at Lime Kiln Pond in Bayfront Park. Or for a minimal charge, history lovers can learn about the local history in the Little Traverse Historical Museum which is housed in one of Petoskey’s former rail stations.

Bay View in Petoskey, MI is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors to the area may take a free self-guided walking.

Photo Credit: Tonya Prater / Ohio TravelingMom

While you’re on the trail, stop and swap a book at the Little Library along the wheelway. If your four-legged canine friend is enjoying the day with you make sure you grab him a free treat at the Woofer Stop Café housed in a mailbox beside the Little Library.

Trace Ernest Hemingway’s Steps

Of interest to older teens who may have read some of his books for school credit, well-known author, Ernest Hemingway spent every summer in Northern Michigan from the time he was born until he married in 1927. Grab a brochure, Hemingway’s Michigan, and follow in his footsteps. Fans of Hemingway can dine at the City Park Grill, once called the Annex, and sit on Hemingway’s bar stool or skip the bar stool and just grab a bite to eat. Don’t miss the warm biscuits that melt in your mouth.

6 Free Things to do in Petoskey, Michigan include searching for the Petoskey Stone.

Photo Credit: Tonya Prater / Ohio TravelingMom

Shop in the Gaslight District

The Gaslight Shopping District is one of the premiere downtown shopping experiences in the country. You’ll find stores to appeal to all ages and interests.

Have a foodie in your family? Stop in Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars or the American Spoon.

Love to read? You won’t want to miss Mclean and Eakin, one of the top rated independently-owned bookstores in the US.

Enjoy decorating? The home décor experts at Ciao Bella! Home will help you find the perfect accessories to spruce up your house.

If you’re looking for souvenirs or a polishing set for your Petoskey Stones, a stop at Grandma Shorter’s Gifts is a must. You’ll find an eclectic selection that highlights their love of Michigan with t-shirts, souvenirs, home décor items and even a penny pressing machine.

It doesn’t cost anything to window shop- of course with this many amazing stores in one location it may be hard to go home empty-handed. Ask me how I know.

Chocolates and Truffles and Fudge, Oh My!

Visit Kilwans Chocolates of Petoskey on a weekday for a free factory tour.  Learn how they make their legendary fudge and at the end of the tour you’ll be treated to a sample. Not a fan of the Mackinac Island or Petoskey Mud Fudge? No problem, you can grab a scoop or two of ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Interested in learning about more free things to do in Petoskey or planning a trip with your family? The Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau provides free brochures and vacation planning help.