Must-See Kid-Friendly Attractions at Metro Detroit Museums

From compelling artwork to hands-on activities, these exhibits at local museums are sure to be a hit with kids.

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When you’re planning a visit to one of our area’s great museums, it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s so much to see and do!

Fortunately, we’ve done some of the legwork for you. Here’s a look at some must-see attractions at 16 different museums within the metro Detroit area.

Know something we missed? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

The Henry Ford & Greenfield Village

  • Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn
  • Admission: museum: $22/adults, $20/seniors, $16.50/ages 3-11, free/ages 2 and under; village: $27/adults, $24.50/seniors, $20.25/ages 3-11, free/2 and under; $38/museum and village combo

At Henry Ford Museum, a popular attraction is the With Liberty and Justice For All exhibit, where kids can sit on the actual Rosa Parks bus and hear an audio recording of Parks talking about the experience. “It’s a real powerful moment and it’s something that if you’re here you just can’t miss,” says Chris Hemler, former manager of education and learning programs.

Also at the museum, the Driving America exhibit is a big hit with kids and includes automotive artifacts like Henry Ford’s original quadricycle and the Goldenrod race car, interactive touch-screen kiosks and the chance to test drive a virtual Model T. Kids and adults can also take part in the daily Build a Model T activity.

At Greenfield Village, kids will love the playground that looks like a historic construction site and the Firestone Farm – a historic working farm where kids can see inside the barns and fields.

Michigan Science Center

  • Address: 5020 John R St., Detroit
  • Admission: $14/adults, $11/ages 2-12 and seniors, free/under age 2

MiSci is home to Michigan’s only immersive domed IMAX® theater. Two flicks, Dream Big, a story about engineering, and Born to Be Wild, which explores the bonds between humans and animals, play through Sept.

Other must-see attractions at MiSci include the DTE Energy Sparks Theater (super-engaging 30-minute demonstration included with admission!) and the Kidstruction exhibit (also included with admission) where kids can put on their engineer hats and create structures with large vinyl blocks, giant planks, k’nex and more.

Detroit Historical Museum

  • Address: 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Admission: Free; $7/parking in the adjacent museum lot on Kirby Street

The museum features the Kid Rock Music Lab, an interactive place where kids can explore Detroit’s musical legacy from gospel to Motown and everything in between. A musical stage, touch-screen trivia game and touch-screen mixing station are also included.

Young train lovers will appreciate the Glancy Trains exhibit, which features a playful representation of rare artifacts and one-of-a kind trains, interactive buttons and the opportunity to learn about the history of rail travel in Detroit.

Detroit Institute of Arts

  • Address: 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Admission: Free/residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties (ID required; others: $12.50/adults, $8/seniors, $7/college students, $6/ages 6-17, free/ages 5 and under)

Kids love visiting the museum and petting the donkey sculpture, walking the spiral staircase and more, says Sue Troia, manager of gallery teaching at the DIA. Families are encouraged to pick up a hand-held self guide, with different themes available such as sports or nature, when they arrive.

One of the best things families can do is take advantage of the free family tours offered at the museum, usually on weekends. “We take them to all those things that we know are kid favorites, kid-friendly art and galleries. When they leave the parents feel a little empowered to do this on their own,” Troia says. Free, family art-making projects are also offered.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum 

  • Address: 100 Strand Drive, Belle Isle, Detroit
  • Free/admission, $11/recreation passport required to enter Belle Isle

Kids will get a kick as the step into the Pilot House and behind the wheel of an actual Great Lakes freighter, the S.S. William Clay Ford, which was scrapped in 1987.

You’ll also a replication of an early 1900s gentlemen’s lounge in the spot’s Gothic Room exhibit, a bow anchor from the Edmund Fitzgerald, naval cannons, a submarine anchor and the fastest hydroplane boat of the 1940s, Miss Pepsi. 

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

  • Address: 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit
  • Admission: $8/adults, $5/ages 3-12 and seniors, free/under age 3

Check out the A is for Africa exhibit, where 26 interactive stations make up a three-dimensional “dictionary” designed for children from preschool through fourth grade. The exhibit teaches kids about Africa’s people, places, events, ideas, foods and objects.

Kids will marvel at the vivid and colorful works of art in the Stories in Stained Glass: The Art of Samuel A. Hodge exhibit.

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

  • Address: 220 E. Ann St., Ann Arbor
  • Admission: $12/adults and children, $5/after 5 p.m. on Thursdays only, free/ages 0-23 months

Young visitors will love the Preschool Gallery, a space designed for children 4 years old and younger where kids can splash in water tables, experiment with balls and ramps and dress up as a fireman to play on the child-sized fire engine.

Older kids will have fun with the World Around You exhibit, which features a bubble capsule and climbing wall.

Arab American National Museum

  • Address: 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
  • Admission: $8/adults, $4/ages 6-12, free/under age 6

The Arab American National Museum collects and preserves a variety of items that help illustrate the Arab American experience. You’ll find beaded shoes, a sewing machine and a portable typewriter all with historical significance.

The museum offers tours tailored for individuals and groups of all ages as well as events and workshops. Find more information on how to get involved here.

Cranbrook Institute of Science

  • Address: 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills
  • Admission: $13/adults, $9.50/ages 2-12 and seniors, free/under age 2; discounted admission on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Offers mind-blowing planetarium shows and stargazing in the observatory–plus bat programs, a science garden and more.

Also find galleries that feature exhibits on dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts, The Story of Us Gallery, which showcases human history and the Every Rock Has a Story exhibit, which explores the Earth’s geological past.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

  • Address: 31005 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills
  • Admission: Free to enter; fees apply for games and food

What kid wouldn’t love a museum that is full of pinball machines and other games? The museum features the largest collection of well-kept pinball machines in the area, with every decade accounted for.

Your kids might enjoy finding out that the museum was once listed in the World Almanac’s 100 most unusual museums in the U.S.

Michigan Firehouse Museum

  • Address: 110 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti
  • Admission: $5/adults, $3/ages 2-16, free/under age 2

Kids will love knowing they’re in an original 1898 firehouse complete with a bunk area and brass pole.

As families explore the museum’s more than 26,000 square feet of space they’ll see fire trucks, extinguishers, bells, helmets, ladders, hose carts and more. Watch for events and preschool programs held here too.

Motown Museum

  • Address: 2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit
  • Admission: $15/adults, $10/seniors and youth ages 5-17, free/4 and under

Take the opportunity to welcome your kids to Hitsville U.S.A, the nickname for Motown’s first headquarters and the foundation of the Motown Museum.

Your little music lovers can step inside Studio A and find out they’re standing on the exact spot where the Supremes recorded. They’ll see the original instruments and equipment as it was from 1959 until 1972.

Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm

  • Address: 1005 Van Hoosen Road, Rochester
  • Admission: $5/adults, $3/students and seniors

Featuring original structures from 1840 to the early 20th century, the 16-acre museum complex includes a farmhouse, dairy barn and schoolhouse that kids will love to explore.

Families can also have a fun day visiting the museum’s gardens, meadow, beehives, apple orchard and more.

Plymouth Historical Museum

  • Address: 155 S. Main St., Plymouth
  • Admission: $5/adults, $2/ages 5-17

Take a walk down Main Street, a museum exhibit featuring a late 19th-century Victorian recreation of Main Street where visitors can trace the growth of the town.

At the Weldon Petz Abraham Lincoln Exhibit, families can check out artifacts from Lincoln’s youth, rare family genealogy and photos, handwritten legal documents, a lock of Lincoln’s hair and more.

University of Michigan Museum of Art

  • Address: 525 S. State St., Ann Arbor
  • Admission: Free admission; $10 suggested donation is appreciated

Have your kids ever wondered about construction? A current exhibition running through Aug. 13, 2017 features photographs showing feats of architecture genius including Turkish mosques, New York skyscrapers, industrial factories and more.

Consider planning your visit around Storytime at the Museum, where children ages 4-7 are invited to hear a story in the galleries followed by a brief activity responding to the art on display. Pre-registration is required – find more information here.

Yankee Air Museum

  • Address: Willow Run Airport, 47884 D St., Belleville
  • Admission: $12/adults, $8/children, seniors and students with ID, free/under 2

Kids will get a thrill as they check out the museum’s fleet of flyable and retired aircraft.

Families can book a flight experience on the B-17, B-25, C-47 or WACO Biplane May through October. Special events are also offered throughout the year.

This article was originally published in 2015 and was recently updated for 2017.

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