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Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills

This natural history museum in Oakland County offers southeast Michigan families a bevy of bats, dinosaurs, planetarium shows and much more for kids to explore

Want to meet a T. rex, mastadon and massive Malayan flying fox bat with a staggering six-foot wingspan? There's one place in metro Detroit where you can do just that: The Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills.

The region's popular natural history museum lures 200,000 visitors every year. Haven't visited yet? Here's a mini tour of what you and the kids can expect to see at this world-class collection.

Permanent exhibits

Get hands-on with the world through 11 interactive exhibits. The Life Changes Over Time attraction takes you up-close and personal with a full-sized Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton cast! It also compares dinosaurs and birds – and allows kids to explore whether our feathered friends are the descendants of dinosaurs. Your child will love feeling like a scientist sleuthing out the similarities (and, of course checking out that towering T. rex).

Cranbrook Institute of Science

Another exhibit sure to please tykes is the Astronomy Gallery. It includes ViewSpace, a self-updating exhibit from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is home to one of NASA's space telescopes. It also has samples of several types of meteorites. Some samples weigh up to 200 pounds.

Among other exhibitions, explore crystals and molten material in Every Rock Has a Story, study extinction in Mastodons Did Not Survive and get to know a few of our ancestors in People of the Woodlands: Objects of Great Lakes Native America. You'll also find preserved animals and displays about motion, balance and weather – and a few hands-on exhibits to grab the attention of the kiddos.

There are featured exhibits that rotate through, too, usually making there home here for about a year. Don't miss out on these temporary changing exhibits, too.

Bat Zone

Of course, no visit is complete without a trip to Bat Zone! This awesome attraction, home to the Organization for Bat Conservation, houses more than 90 bats from all around the world. There are 12 different types, including vampire bats and fruit bats. Some of the largest bat species in the world with a wingspan of four to six feet are on display. You'll find a sloth and owl here, too.

All of the animals at the Bat Zone are here because they are injured, come from rescue situations, have been donated from zoos that can no longer care for them or were orphaned at a young age.

The Bat Zone offers public bat shows every weekend afternoon where kids can learn about the habits and lives of these fascinating creatures.

Other attractions

The Acheson Planetarium is another must-see, giving your family the opportunity to watch stars move in three dimensions. They also present shows in the planetarium such as "Young Stargazers Sky Journey," "One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure," "Michigan Sky Tonight" and more.

When your kids need a break, there's a kiddy play area with puzzles and games. There is also a cafe inside the museum and a picnic area outside. If weather permits, pack a lunch for after your journey through history. After that, you can always take a nice walk along the nature trails, too.

Got tykes? Be sure to swing by the Discovery Center, too, for a look at culture, biology and much more.

Cranbrook offers a chance to see a massive T. rex skeleton, shiny mineral rocks, nature trails, preserved animals, stars, bats and more – all in one stop!

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