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Detroit Historical Museum Exhibits Have Cars, Music, More

Step into the 19th century, mix tunes a la Kid Rock and find many other dynamic hands-on ways for kids to connect with southeast Michigan's past

Local history comes to life for families at the Detroit Historical Museum, which brims items and ideas that help your young students explore their city's sports, buildings, pop culture icons and much more.

The DHM preserves the region's rich history by collecting and conserving artifacts, offering plenty to touch and think about since 1928. With 11 "signature" exhibits covering everything from the D's auto roots to our role in the Underground Railroad – plus changing temporary displays – on three floors, this Midtown museum aims to educate and inspire. Here's a look into some highlights.

Detroit Historical Museum

America's Motor City features touchscreen videos that are a portal to discovering how Detroit became king of cars. Plus, this exhibit lets you (safely!) get up-close to an actual operating assembly line salvaged from a GM Cadillac plant, and scope out some retro rides sure to get kids' wheels turning. A portion on car culture also offers some convo-starters (hello, extravagant home garage!).

From gospel to Motown, the Kid Rock Music Lab gives kids the skinny on the D's high-profile role in many genres. Kids can test out their tune trivia savvy on touchscreens and try the "mix your own music" soundboard: Pick three songs and add drums, guitars, piano, horns and more for family-friendly fun that melds math (count those beats!), sound and creativity.

Studying the 1870s a snoozefest? Not in the Streets of Old Detroit. Kids step onto old-school cobblestone streets and into 19th century shops, like a Kresge's five-and-dime store and a pharmacy. Minimal technology aids in the feel of an era of high-button shoes and horse and buggies. Fiddle with new-fangled touchscreens and other interactives in the "discovery room."

In the The Allesee Gallery of Culture, experience sounds and sights of bygone icons like the old Tiger Stadium and downtown Hudson's department store (can your kids imagine get a haircut on the salvaged barbershop "horsey"?).

At the family-favorite Gallery of Innovation, touchscreens let you design the D's next big soda and build a car that will travel from Detroit to Ypsilanti. "With instant feedback on success, these activities allow kids to think innovatively," says chief curatorial officer Tobi Voigt. "If they fail, they are allowed to learn where they may have made a mistake and try again."

Visiting during the winter? While usually closed Mondays, take note: The DHM is open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with activities, crafts, spoken word and more. Also, be sure to check for Black History Month events. An early-February Saturday is usually reserved for African American History Day, packed with kid-friendly activities on all three floors.

If you and the kids are getting a bit hungry, be sure to hit the gift store for a snack, such as Faygo soda and Sanders sweets.

And ultimately, take a cue from your children. "Enjoy it together," Voigt says. "Parents should ask questions and lead discussions to ensure that kids are thinking about the things that they're seeing."

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