June 24 2015 12:00 AM

Pass provides low-cost access to summer activities

We’ve all heard those ubiquitous “Pure Michigan” radio ads. If you haven’t heard Tim Allen waxing poetic about picturesque Michigan destinations, then you must be living under that very “rock” that fellow Michigander Bob Seger sings about. But when was the last time you got outside and actually explored those unique attractions and endearing small towns Allen describes so vividly?

This summer, several area libraries are expanding outside of their summer reading programs and inviting library card holders to enjoy all the state has to offer.

The Michigan Activity Pass provides library card holders at participating libraries, including Capital Area District Libraries, East Lansing Public Library and Delta Township Library, with free or reduced-cost access to arts and cultural organizations across the state of Michigan. Nearly 400 attractions statewide are included with the pass, including state parks and recreation areas, campgrounds, museums, theaters, planetariums and more.

“Each library gets five passes per week per attraction,” explained Brigette Felix, shared system librarian at the Library Network. “A library card holder can check out one Michigan Activity Pass every seven days.” The program began in Southeast Michigan as the Museum Adventure Pass under a different organization in 2007, Felix said. The Library Network took over the program in 2012, renaming and expanded the program While the Michigan Activity Pass is in its third year as a statewide program, many library card holders are still unaware of the many benefits their card includes outside of checking out books.

Lansing resident Libby Cantu said she wasn’t aware of the pass, but thinks it’s a great program — one that may inspire her to visit the library again.

“It’s a free program with cash-value benefits, so there’s nothing to lose and only things to gain,” Cantu said.

While the pass system is utilized completely online through the Michigan Activity Pass website, its purpose is to encourage Michiganders to get outside and explore, providing families an affordable option for summer activities.

Michelle Grinnell, public relations manager for Travel Michigan (the group behind those Pure Michigan ads), said the state parks are a great option for families this summer.

“There are more than 100 state parks throughout the state, offering a wide variety of recreational, camping and programming opportunities,” Grinnell said.

The pass provides entrance to state parks for free, although travelers need to select their date of travel through the online reservation system.

“The activity pass program is the perfect opportunity to get out and explore some new places throughout the state and to create a summer full of memories,” Grinnell said.

The state parks are a new addition to this year’s program and are already proving successful.

“Due to the addition of the state parks and campgrounds in the program, as well as the program gathering more press this year, checkouts are up this year,” Felix said.

Some of the most popular destinations are the Sea Life Michigan Aquarium in Auburn Hills, the Michigan Science Center in Detroit, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills and Belle Isle Park, Felix said.

Those interested in visiting participating destinations are encouraged to reserve their pass early since June through September is the peak usage for the program.

For the full list of participating attractions, visit michiganactivitypass.info.

While the Michigan Activity Pass program is statewide, there are some local offers that Lansing residents can take advantage of:

RE Olds Transportation Museum

Buy one admission, get one of equal or lesser value free.

Michigan Historical Museum

$2.00 off regular adult admission and a 10 percent discount at the onsite store.

Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center

Free admission.

Nokomis Learning Center

Free admission and 10 percent off gift shop purchases.

Sleepy Hollow State Park

One day of free access to the park.

Can be used to provide access to one night of camping where available, but camping fees still apply.