Are you looking for some educational activities for the kids? Or just something different to do besides going to the park?
The metro Detroit area has quite a few hands-on museums that your kids are sure to love!
Whether your kid loves dinosaurs or dreams of becoming a pilot, there’s guaranteed to be an interactive museum your kids will be excited to visit.
Here’s a list of our favorites — from downtown Detroit to the greater metro area:
The Henry Ford Museum is for more than just car and history lovers. This family-friendly museum allows kids and people of all ages to fully immerse themselves in the stories of some of America’s greatest minds — from the Wright brothers to Rosa Parks and, of course, Henry Ford himself.
From the museum’s website:
Step inside the bus where Rosa Parks took a stand by taking a seat. Play pilot as you explore flight innovations, starting with the Wright brothers’ achievements, or make yourself at home inside Buckminster Fuller’s circular Dymaxion House. Put yourself in the place of the movers and shakers who blazed the trail to where we stand today. And in doing so, discover your own path.
There are more than a dozen different exhibits in the 9+ acres of exhibition space. Some of the most exciting exhibits include Henry Ford’s first-ever car, a variety of presidential vehicles, old steam locomotives and other street cars and trains in the railroad exhibit, Rosa Parks’ bus and Lincoln’s rocking chair in the With Liberty & Justice for All exhibit, and a replica of the Wright Flyer and several other historic airplanes in the aviation exhibit.
Tickets are on the more expensive side for museums, but discounts are available for military members and anyone with SNAP/EBT or WIC through the Museums for All program. You can also pay for a membership to the museum if you plan to frequent it — membership gives you free admission into both the museum and Greenfield Village. If you’re planning on visiting both the museum and Greenfield Village, a membership will pay for itself on your first visit.
If your kid loves dinosaurs, they’re going to love the Cranbrook Institute of Science: Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. The museum’s current temporary exhibit — available through April 2023 — is SUE: The T. rex Experience. This temporary exhibit includes a new, fully articulated SUE cast since the real fossils are on permanent display at the Field Museum in Chicago. The exhibit also includes a one-of-a-kind narrated show, and realistic computer animated scenes. There are also touchable fossil replicas, scent stations, and a naturalistic soundscape to create an immersive, multi-sensory experience.
While SUE is only a temporary exhibit for the Cranbrook Institute, the museum’s permanent exhibits are still fantastic for all dinosaur lovers and anyone interested in our planet’s natural history. One exhibit, Life Changes Over Time, also features a full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton cast and examines natural selection and evolution by exploring the question “Are birds the descendants of dinosaurs?” There are also exhibits on the Ice Age— including a separate exhibit on Mastodons — and Ice Age survivors, and a Megalodon exhibit with a real fossil tooth.
The Acheson Light Lab is another permanent exhibit— which teaches about the principles of reflection, refraction, absorption, transmission, diffraction and diffusion. There’s also the astronomy gallery, which includes ViewSpace, an internet-fed, self-updating, permanent exhibit from the Space Telescope Science Institute, plus an exhibit of meteorites collected from around the world and an exhibit devoted to tools of Astronomy, including sundials, astrolabes and solar system models taken from the Institute’s collection. The Astronomy Gallery also includes a mechanical model of our solar system known as a Copernican Orrery.
Other permanent exhibits at this kid-friendly museum explore rock, crystal and mineral studies, Native American artifacts, Earth’s organisms and biodiversity, physics, and anthropology. There’s also a few Michigan-focused exhibits, including an interactive Our Great Lakes Watershed exhibit and dioramas of Michigan plants.
Admission costs can be found here. The Cranbrook Institute does partner with Museums for All, so complimentary general admission is available for guests and their families with EBT and Bridge Cards.
Is your kid a little scientist or interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)? Then they will love the Michigan Science Center!
The Michigan Science Center “inspires curious minds of all ages to discover, explore and appreciate STEM in a creative and dynamic learning environment — using informal learning techniques that emphasize hands-on, minds-on interactivity through engaging exhibits, theater shows and programs that put you at the center of it all.”
No matter what part of STEM your child is interested in, they’re sure to find an exhibit they’ll like at the science center. There are more than 220 interactive exhibits at the Michigan Science Center, making it one of the most kid-friendly museums in the Detroit area.
The permanent galleries include: The Space Gallery — which explores the history of space travel, rocket technology and the galaxy. The Smithsonian Spark! Lab — an interactive exhibit that gives kids a chance to become inventors and innovators. The Health Gallery — which lets kids learn about fitness, nutrition and other factors that can improve your health. The Motion Gallery — which explores the fundamental properties of matter and energy with circuits, electrical loads, magnetic fields, simple machines, light and more. The Nano Gallery — which teaches about nanoscale science, engineering, and technology with hands-on exhibits that present the basics of nano science and engineering, introduce real world applications, and explore the societal and ethical implications of this new technology. There’s also the Earth, Wind & Weather gallery, Waves and Vibrations gallery, Math Mountain gallery, STEM playground, and more. Learn about all of the galleries here.
General admission to the Michigan Science Center is $18 for adults or $14 for children and seniors. Reduced admission is available through the Museums for All initiative — which makes general admission available for only $3 per person for up to four people for anyone with a SNAP or EBT card. Bank of America cardholders also receive free general admission the first weekend of each month. If your family plans to frequent the science center, a membership will also cut down on costs. Ticket packages are also available for those wanting to add on theater or other experiences.
Experience Michigan’s great outdoors in the middle of the city. The Department of Natural Resource’s Outdoor Adventure Center has a variety of exhibits focused on the various outdoor activities available in the state.
The Outdoor Adventure Center also offers a variety of archery experiences. Learn more about those here.
Have a little one who loves airplanes? The Yankee Air Museum can inspire anyone to want to become a pilot!
Take to the skies at this unique museum “where history takes flight.” From the Yankee Air Museum:
The Museum is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace and science museum with rare historical aircraft ranging from World War I to the Gulf War. Visit today and get inspired by the hands-on interactive STEM exhibits, science-based camps, educational tours, unique aviation artifacts, and more!
In these exhibits, kids can learn how these historical aircraft were built and learn about some of history’s aviation heroes. If your kids have dreams of becoming a pilot, visiting this museum could mark a major milestone for them — they’ll have the chance to sit in the pilot’s seat (for perhaps the first time) and see all the instruments that a pilot has to use on the job!
The Simple Machines in Aviation exhibit is another great one for aspiring pilots. This exhibit allows visitors to explore how the Five Simple Machines — such as the lever, pulley, and wheel — can operate in a complex machine such as an airplane.
Tickets are $13 for adults and $10 for children, seniors and veterans/military. For free museum admisison, you can check out a Michigan Activity Pass from your local library. This family-friendy museum also participates in the Museums for All program — so anyone with SNAP/EBT or WIC can receive $3/person general admission for up to four people in your party.
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum might be just as fun for adults as it for kids — or at least nostalgic. This museum explores “mechanical history;” in other words, it contains “over 5000 square feet of vintage coin-operated machines, macabre, oddities, unusual nostalgia, and the newest video game crazes.”
You can expect to find “model airplanes, ceiling fans, movie posters, collector’s items and neon signs along with other amazing antique memorabilia.”
The best part? Not only will kids learn about the history of the arcade, but it’s a hands-on, interactive museum — meaning you can play the games and earn tickets to buy prizes! There are also rides and photo booths, and a cafe with free WiFi.
Admission is free!
Learn more on their website.
The following are some of Detroit’s best museums, but they’re less hands-on and more of the “traditional” type of museum:
- The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
- The Detroit Historical Museum
- Detroit Institute of Arts