From the Detroit Institute of Arts to the Motown Museum, Detroit is full of intriguing spots sure to impress any seasoned traveler or local; but what about families with kids? The city may not have the flashy kid-centric tourist traps like Disneyland, but there's still plenty for the younger crowd.
We've rounded up the 22 best spots that will keep the entire family happy while exploring the Motor City. Whether it's checking out the aquarium on Belle Isle or munching on snacks in the Eastern Market, there's something for everyone on the list.
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1. Greenfield Village
Dearborn, MI 48124
As the outdoor living history museum section of the Henry Ford complex, the 90-acre Greenfield Village is worth its own day of exploring. With 83 historical buildings from the 17th century to the present, kids will love the costumed interpreters who demonstrate period tasks like glass blowing or husbandry on the working farm.
Other highlights include a ride in a real Model T car, a trip in a horse-drawn omnibus shuttle, and the Weiser Railroad that navigates around the village.
2. The Henry Ford Museum
Dearborn, MI 48124
Although it’s a 25 minute drive east of downtown Detroit, the Henry Ford Museum is worth the trek for kids looking to learn about auto mogul Henry Ford and the history of transportation in the United States. The living history museum boasts 18 interactive touch screens and a huge collection of activities and games.
Older children will love building their own race cars, while younger kiddos can service their own 1960s replica car in a garage. Pro tip: don’t miss the Rosa Parks Bus which is on exhibit in the "With Liberty & Justice for All" section of the museum.
3. Detroit Zoo
Since the 1880s the Detroit Zoo has been entertaining kids of all ages, and the parklike grounds spread over 125 acres offer adults a scenic experience too. Don’t miss the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, a 33,000-square-foot marvel where visitors can see more than 80 penguins in action.
4. Motown Museum
As the hometown of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and more, there’s a reason Detroit’s Motown Museum is also known as Hitsville U.S.A.. Not far from downtown you’ll find Motown’s first recording studio, Michael Jackson’s hats, and lots of original instruments.
Tours are given by museum docents and tickets often sell out, especially on Saturdays.
5. New Center Park
Detroit, MI 48202
Looking for something to do at night with the kids? New Center Park is a green space right across from the historic Fisher Building that screens kids movies every Friday night from June 1 through August 31. You can sit on the grass, but bring a folding chair for extra comfort.
There’s also more adult fare on Wednesday nights and the occasional event or performance. Check out the calendar for a list of all the screenings
6. Detroit Historical Museum
This free museum located in Detroit’s cultural center takes a deep dive into the region’s history with permanent exhibitions like the Kid Rock Music Lab, Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad, and America’s Motor City.
There’s all kinds of kid-friendly activities and events planned throughout the year, so check the museum’s calendar to stay up-to-date.
7. Detroit Public Library
A great place to visit year round, the Main Branch of the Detroit Public Library hosts Sunday Family Fundays, which includes special family programming.
8. Detroit Institute of Arts
Adults will love this world-class museum with a permanent collection that includes African art, Impressionist paintings, and Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals. But kids can also have a great time too thanks to eye-spy activities, audio tours, and weekend art demonstrations.
9. Michigan Science Center
Called Mi-Sci for short, the Michigan Science Center features over 300 hands-on exhibits that give kids of all ages (there’s even a 5-and-under area) real-life experiences with engineering, space, health, and physics. You can also expect live stage shows, demos, and the state’s largest IMAX movie screen. This is a perfect indoor spot if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
It’s a known fact that kids love to ride on things that move: trains, rollercoasters, horses. And if they can be high above everything, all the better. The People Mover offers all this in a tight loop around downtown Detroit, as well as some pretty cool art at the stations, all for 75 cents a ride. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better entertainment value than that.
11. Campus Martius Park
Anchoring a two-square block in the heart of downtown, Campus Martius offers year-round fun with a stage, lawn, and fountain. During the spring and summer, an “urban beach” is built where kids can make sand castles while the parents drink cocktails at The Fountain Restaurant, the on-site open air restaurant.
12. The Fowling Warehouse
Gather up the kiddos and check out fowling, the best game you’ve never played. A lot like bowling, fowling uses a football to knock over pins instead of a bowling ball, and it all happens in a 34,000-square-foot warehouse in Hamtramck.
Older kids will love it, and the Fowling Warehouse allows families with children 10 and older to play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
13. POP + Offworld Arcade
There’s fun for the whole family at the bar and arcade. Kids (and adults) get to play any one of the dozens of classic arcade games while parents get to drink. Plus, everyone loves pizza.
A great option for the occasional rainy weekend day.
14. Eastern Market
One of the oldest and largest year-round markets in the U.S., Eastern Market is a gathering place that just so happens to have Detroit’s freshest produce, top-notch cheese and meats, and more. The Saturday market runs year round and there are additional markets on Sundays and Tuesdays in the summer.
The kids will love the popcorn vendors and the candy at Rocky’s.
15. Rivard Plaza
Things really start to buzz on the riverfront during the warmer months. At the plaza, there’s a gorgeous little carousel and splash fountains. Be sure to check out the in-laid granite map of the Detroit River, a standing glass sculptured map fo the St. Lawrence Seaway, an oversized deck chair for fun pictures, or nearby Wheelhouse Detroit, which offers rentals and tours.
16. Outdoor Adventure Center
Located in the historic Globe building on the riverfront, the Outdoor Adventure Center exposes kids to the great outdoors without leaving the city. The new spot is full of hands-on activities, like waterfalls, a real fishing experience, and a snowmobile simulator.
Kids will also learn about state parks, forests, and wildlife, and there’s even a small aquarium. This one’s a don’t miss for kiddos of all ages.
17. Detroit City Fieldhouse
Detroit, MI 48207
This 75,000-square-foot multi-sport indoor facility in the Elmwood Park neighborhood is a boom to the sports community. Kids can register to play soccer or lacrosse on the indoor fields and a restaurant provides much-needed snacks post-practice.
Checking out a Detroit City FC soccer match at Keyworth Stadium is also fun and kid-friendly.
18. Mt. Elliott Park
This park on the East Riverfront is nice anytime of year, but in the summer the schooner-themed water park comes alive. Kids can play in water cascades, "child-activated" water canons, wind chimes, and an array of fountains. It’s also accessible to all and even boasts a restroom and café. Bonus!
19. Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Located in the sprawling Belle Isle Park, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory was designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn and opened in 1904. Adults will love the building’s domed architecture while kids will have fun exploring the gorgeous 13 acres of plants. The conservatory is undergoing renovations until late June, but is still open on select days.
20. Belle Isle Aquarium
The oldest aquarium in the United States has more than 1,000 fish and 118 species of sea life. Though this is more for the parents, it’s also Albert Kahn designed with an iconic, green tiled and vaulted ceiling.
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s a perfect weekend destination.
21. Belle Isle Beach
Detroit, MI 48207
Undoubtedly the best place to swim in the city, Belle Isle Beach is a great place to spend an afternoon with the family. Bring some snacks, a beach towel, bathing suits, and enjoy the surprisingly nice waters and beautiful Detroit skyline. Tons of families and kids visit during warmer months, so make some friends!
22. Belle Isle Nature Center
This free zoo is perfectly sized for young children and allows the kiddos to get up-close and personal with 19 species of Michigan wildlife. It may not be as large as many urban zoos, but charming experiences like the Deer Encounter allow kids to feed animals and learn about wildlife conservation. There’s also an ADA compliant playground outside the animal center.