Strolling downtown Northville is a charming sort of flashback (just ask anyone who’s attended its annual Victorian Festival in September!). Yet the locals know there’s plenty to delight modern-day kids and families – as the city’s motto, “Timeless with a Twist,” hints. Discover fresh traditions with children’s theater, delectable ice cream treats and … fairy doors? (That’s right: Ann Arbor isn’t the only town welcoming these tiny storied creatures!)
Here, the kind folks at the Northville Downtown Development Authority round up a list of attractions near Main and Center streets. Whether it’s snowy or sunny, these spots are sure to put a smile on everyone’s face.
When it comes to shopping for kids, Northville offers plenty of options! Baby Baby Plus More (153 E. Main St., 248-347-2229) has consignment clothing for newborns, children, teens and expectant moms, along with shoes, toys, bedding, books and baby gear. Consigners, who receive 50 percent off the sale price, are welcome to bring their fashions (no drop-off appointments necessary! Accepted every day except Wednesday and Sunday).
“Green” toys are all the rage at this independent toy store in the heart of downtown Northville (118 E. Main St., 248-344-0001). Owner Trevor McInnis says customers are snapping up tub toys, tea sets, tool kits, toy trucks and more, all made in the USA out of recycled milk jugs. Also popular are Klutz craft kits, from paper purses to juggling sets, which engage kids’ hands-on creativity.
Best your sweet tooth craving with candy bark at this chocolate shop (190 E. Main St.). The home-run seller? The “Gentleman” that consists of dark chocolate with maple-covered almonds and bacon – a sweet, savory combo that’s proven hard to resist. You can even be the creator of your bark by selecting a flavor of chocolate and two ingredients – options include caramel, sea salt, roasted cashews, Michigan dried cherries and more.
This downtown restaurant and sports bar (133 W. Main St., 248-924-2135) is a nightlife hotspot, featuring live entertainment three times a week – acoustic performances at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, DJs at 10 p.m. on Fridays and live bands at 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Sure to stimulate all your senses, Brick’s offers great food, including stone hearth pizza, craft beer, quality wine, specialty cocktails and rockin’ music.
Opened in early 2015, this micro creamery (118 E. Main St., 248-615-2955) specializes in small-batch ice cream and special desserts for all occasions – especially summer-fun days spent out on the town. Treat your taste buds to original flavors like Tuscan Sun, Buttered Berry Brioche or Salty Dog. Flavors change often – check Browndog’s Facebook or Twitter for new tasty releases or contact the store to see what they’re serving today.
Smitten with the mitten? Here, Michiganders will find unique, mitten-themed gifts for any occasion. Handmade tile, jewelry, greeting cards and more, all made by Michigan and local artists, line the walls and grace the tables in this art shop (101 N. Center St., 248-449-7086).
Word on the street is that fairy scouts, after intensely searching the world over, found Northville the most habitable of any community. Fairies have set up residence at more than 50 Northville businesses on Main, Center and other mid-town streets, as evidenced by the charming little fairy doors found inside and outside downtown shops.
Small kids will delight in real-world scavenger hunts for the town’s famous fairy doors. Be sure to print this list of all the miniature fairy doors in Northville before you sally forth. Or look for the Fairy Door books that can be purchased at different Northville merchant locations – including Northville Gallery.
Downtown Northville’s galleries and boutiques leave their doors open 6-9 p.m. the first Friday of every month so walkers can browse their selections. Enjoy a complimentary hors d’oeuvre and glass of wine while you and the family greet featured artists and observe trunk shows, demonstrations and specialty products. Grab a bite to eat at one of many downtown restaurants, stroll the picturesque streets, shop and learn about a new art style. Participating galleries include Dancing Eye Gallery, Northville Art House, Northville Gallery, Salvaged, Starring “The Gallery,” The Urban Pearl and more.
This Italian-based restaurant (108 E. Main St., 248-349-0522) isn’t popular only for its mouth-watering food. From lunch to dinner theater featuring interactive comedy shows, there’s an act for everyone. Checkout children’s lunch theater, featured July-August, which consists of a family-style lunch followed by an interactive show that typically begins at 11:30 a.m. Rates are $17/children and $20/adult. Check ahead for specific show dates and times. Dinner available by reservation only.
American fare like burgers, sandwiches and roasted chicken is served up at Guernsey Farms Dairy Restaurant (21300 Novi Road, 248-349-1466), located next to the dairy. Whether you get one in the restaurant or the ice cream parlor, don’t miss out on getting a scoop, available in 48 flavors.
Fairytales come to life in this charming Northville theater (135 E. Main St., 248-349-8110), which features live stage plays designed for families. The Classic Storybook Season offers classics like Peter Cottontail, Rapunzel and more – even an annual merry-not-scary Halloween show. Show times are typically 2:30 p.m. daily (varies for each production; check ahead). Tickets are $9 (please, no children under 3).
Spend your day hiking, biking or just enjoying time outdoors at Maybury State Park (20145 N. Beck Road, Northville, 248-349-8390). This 1,000-acre wilderness wonderland includes meadow and forest areas, perfect for exploring with your family. Recreation passport required.
Speaking of Northville lore – this historic spot is one of the hands-down best places for kids to discover it! Once the site of a gristmill, this cluster of old-time buildings (including an inn, blacksmith shop and rustic wooden bridge) offers a chance to explore how life was back then.
The buildings are typically open 1-4 p.m. Sundays from mid-June to mid-October (docents will happily show you around). And you also can find a variety of Mill Race Village kids’ activities all year-round, like mother-daughter and Halloween-themed teas and holiday fun. Programs may have small fees, but the grounds are free and open to the public.
Foster a love of the arts in your children with classes at the Northville Art House (215 W. Cady St., 248-344-0497). Sessions run a gamut from tots to kids. Click here to register for classes.
Top off your trip to Downtown Northville with a stop at Rebecca’s (134 N. Center St., 248-348-2660). You will not find a more kid-friendly restaurant in any town! From the tropical fish tank and train that chugs overhead, to the toy bins and eclectic decor, there’s plenty to keep tots busy while they wait for their kid’s meal ($4.99 includes entree, side and drink).
And no visit would be complete without a scoop of Guernsey’s ice cream – Superman and Blue Moon are perennial kid favorites. Top it off with some Sanders hot fudge, and your visit to this kid-friendly Michigan burgh is complete!
Take a blast from the past and stop into this gallery (133 W. Main St., Suite 200, 248-773-7075) that specializes in reclaimed and vintage décor. You’ll find sparkling chandeliers, “chippy” barn doors, unusual interior doors, shutters, clusters of frames, windows and painted furniture. Primarily vintage farmhouse and urban industrial styles occupy the floor, but Salvaged is all about animating “experienced” pieces while keeping with modern design trends.
Find everything from glassware, pottery, wine accessories and seasonal specialties to decorate your home to jewelry, scarves, handbags and specialty gifts for babies, friends and family at this gallery (118 W. Main St., 248-347-1642) with a selection that changes on the regular. Six years running, 2008-2014, Starring has been voted Northville’s “Best Art Store” according to The Northville Record.
Kids of all ages can stop in and paint their own fairies, along with dragons, animals, figurines, treasure boxes, banks and more at The Bee’s Knees (149 E. Main St., 248-347-6718), where pottery is the cat’s meow. Owner Lori Dow’s charming studio is also the perfect place for birthday parties, where the guest of honor gets a special, personalized gift.
This baby and toddler boutique (116 E. Main St., 248-344-1014) is a great place to stop in for adorable accessories and clothing (up to size 4) – or the perfect baby shower gift. The shop also carries a beautiful selection of christening outfits and gifts.
Families can find a full selection of children’s books, from classics to best sellers, at The Next Chapter (141 E. Main St., 248-465-0010). Best of all, parents can grab a tea or cappuccino as children escape into books. No time to amble and read? Just stop in and savor a crepe, deli sandwich or take a quality coffee to go from the adjacent restaurant.
All art that compiles this gallery (120 E. Main St., 248-773-7390) is created exclusively by Michigan artists who use a wide range of mediums – including ceramics, fused glass, wood and metal work, paintings, photography, granite and more. Their original pieces of art can serve as unique, special gifts for family and friends.
Step into this quaint and charming theater (361 E. Cady St., 248-347-0003) and be prepared to laugh and cry as the featured productions take the family on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Performances are held at 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices range from $30 to $33. Shows are primarily geared toward older kids and adults.
If you’ve been thinking of making cycling or snowboarding a new family hobby, Town & Country (148 N. Center St., 248-349-7140) is the place to make it happen. From its range of Burton snowboards (typically available October-March) for ages 5 and up to a wide array of bicycles (Specialized, Raleigh, Electra, Haro and more), find precisely what you’re looking for with help from owner “Doc.”
Come out to Town Square on Tuesdays, June-August, 10:30-11:30 a.m. where you can see magicians, musicians, comedians and storytellers take center stage each week. The performers will keep little ones dancing and singing along, rain or shine. Genitti’s Hole-in-the-Wall (108 E. Main St.) serves as the rain location, however, no strollers are permitted indoors.
Recoup your energy with a freshly brewed coffee, a quality pastry, or a giant grilled sandwich at this quaint café (150 N. Center St., 248-305-8629). The joint’s winning combination of sweets, coffee and atmosphere landed it on MLive’s list of “Michigan’s Best Coffee Shops.” Backed by everything Michigan, Tuscan Café’s coffee is roasted by Plymouth’s Coffee Express, the milk comes from Northville’s Guernsey Farms Diary and artisan breads from Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s.
This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated for 2016.