Cool Detroit Attractions, Activities and Other Fun Things

Looking for things to do in Detroit – or places to visit? Veer from Motown's most popular spots to these family-pleasing cool Detroit attractions.

It’s easy to swoop in and out of the Motor City’s well-known attractions. But there’s more to Detroit than pro sports and big-name touring kids’ stage shows. Check out these cool Detroit attractions to explore and awesome activities and other things to do in Detroit that are a little off the beaten path, courtesy of Jeanette Pierce, the city institute director of the Detroit Experience Factory.

Note: Due to COVID-19, some venues may require social distancing and mask protocols. Contact each venue to check before you head out. 

DNR Outdoor Adventure Center

This destination is easily Pierce’s No. 1 pick for lesser-known family spots. Opened in July 2015, the center takes visitors “Up North, downtown” to explore outdoor recreation completely indoors.

“It is amazing,” Pierce says. Activities include ATV and kayaking simulations, tree-climbing and a huge range of interactive, educational exhibits.

Entry fees are just $3-$5 and free admission is offered from 6 to 8 p.m. the last Thursday of each month except September, November and December.

The Riverwalk

There’s enough here to keep your family busy for multiple visits, so plan to come back to see it all. One of the most popular locales is Cullen Plaza with its Cullen Family Carousel, children’s playscape, concession stands, fountains, beach volleyball court (like a big sandbox for kids when not in use!) and more.

“It’s the home base of the Riverwalk,” Pierce says.

Kids’ events at the plaza include Reading and Rhythm on the Riverfront on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Attached to Rivard Plaza is a whole science wetlands area,” Pierce adds, where families can check out interactive displays and learn about bugs.

Another family favorite is Mt. Elliott Park, where visitors can rent all sorts of bikes, go for a ride and then cool off at the Great Lakes Schooner-themed Detroit splash park.

Belle Isle

“Belle Isle has so many different things,” Pierce says.

Kids love visiting the indoor Belle Isle Nature Center (free, $12 vehicle Recreation Passport) to see bugs, snakes and other small animals.

“They do have live deer and they have feeding of the deer through this fence twice daily,” she says. “That’s amazing and a lot of people aren’t familiar with that on Belle Isle.”

The aquarium is another big hit with kids along with the huge playscape, driving range, beach and picnic area. See our roundup of family fun offerings on Belle Isle for more information.

Detroit Historical Museum

The Michigan Science Center and Detroit Institute of Arts are popular family spots, but don’t forget Detroit’s other museums — including the kid-friendly Detroit Historical Museum.

Here you’ll find a Streets of Old Detroit exhibit with 19th and 20th century storefronts, a look at how Detroit became the Motor City and much more.

“And they have lots of programming for kids as well,” Pierce says.

Walking tours

A walking tour can be a fun way to introduce kids to the city and even little ones can appreciate seeing the artwork, fountains and statues along the way. Consider a shorter tour with younger kids, Pierce recommends.

The Detroit Experience Factory offers five free walking tours every week.

“We have a one-hour art and architecture tour every Friday for free,” she says. “You get to see a lot of really cool stuff.”

The People Mover

  • Phone: 313-224-2160

Simple as it may sound, kids just love the People Mover.

“I have a bunch of nieces and nephews — the People Mover is the most fun thing for any kid,” Pierce says.

Each stop has artwork for visitors to enjoy. You can find a full map of stations here.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the people mover is currently closed but is set to re-open soon. Check their website for the latest. 

Redford Theater 

This movie house, which was billed as “America’s Most Unique Suburban Playhouse,” opened its doors on Jan. 27, 1928 and still entertains with movie screenings and organ performances.

Check the Metro Parent calendar to find upcoming shows at this spot.

This post is updated regularly. 

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