Explore Where You Live: Hidden Gem Destinations in Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor

Check out some of these family-friendly gems.

This has been a challenging year, and most of us could really use a change of pace. While getting everyone off their screens and out of the house might take some work, it provides great benefits.

Studies show switching up regular routines can provide a mental and physical boost to both children and adults. Heading outside encourages movement, can reduce stress, and even spark curiosity. Researchers from New York University found that diverse experiences increased positive emotions and even enhanced happiness.

Southeast Michigan features a number of renowned museums and recreational destinations, but there are some lesser-known treasures, too. So, if you’re looking for something different, why not try a little sightseeing in your city? You can connect with your local community and spend time together as a family.

Whether you feel like a socially distanced, sun-dappled stroll in the park, want to experience history and culture, or just want to see something new, here are some metro area gems you and your family can explore.

Buhr Park

Address: 2751 Packard Road, Ann Arbor

Pack a snack and head outside for some fresh air at this family-friendly park. Adjacent to historic Cobblestone Farm, this 39-acre space features outdoor play and picnic areas, softball diamonds, a basketball court, tennis courts, a pool, and year-round activities.

Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum

Address: 6559 Grand River Avenue, Detroit

Crafted from a variety of materials including: iron, rock, mirrors, and wood— the building blocks of many cultures — this outdoor installation is decked out with vibrant African heritage displays. Families can also visit the African Material Culture Collection and see colorful hand-crafted African beads and objects at the Bead Gallery and Store.

L. Johnson Nature Center

Address: 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills

Reconnect with nature at this 40-acre wonder. Take your family for a scenic walk on the wooded trails and you might spot deer, birds, native plants, or other wildlife. Relax by the inland pond and enjoy the natural habitat of fish and frogs.

Full Throttle Adrenaline Park

Address: 42705 Van Dyke Avenue, Sterling Heights

If your family is looking for something with a little more octane, why not try karting? You can cruise the course or run some hot laps in a Pro, Junior, or Micro Kart, depending on age and size. Micros run separately, so young kids can ride at their own pace.

Greenmead Historical Park

Address: 20501 Newburgh Road, Livonia

Take a stroll through this historic gem featuring an 1841 farmhouse, a caretaker’s cottage, a carriage house, and the first barn built in Livonia Township. The 95-acre site includes the original farm complex, historic village, picnic areas, and more. 

Hess-Hathaway Farm Park

Address: 825 South Williams Lake Road, Waterford

This 167-acre park features a playground, climbing boulder, community garden, and animal exhibits. Plus, the “All Kids Playground” is accessible to kids with various abilities. Bring the family for a play day and check out the Gaga Ball and horseshoe pits.

Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus

Address: 28123 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills

It’s important for kids to learn how history shapes their world. This museum educates visitors about the Holocaust through exhibits, artifacts, murals, and documents, while the Eternal Flame and Memorial Wall pays a dignified tribute to victims of genocide. It is recommended for older children 12+.

Jungle Java

Address: 44595 Enterprise Drive, Clinton Township

Sit back and relax while your kids play on fun, jungle-themed structures. This indoor playground has something for kids of all ages, including a separate toddler area for the little ones. Make a reservation for Open Play online. 

Maybury Farm

Address: 50165 Eight Mile Road, Northville

Enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities at this working farm. Check out the animals, the farm-themed playground, story time and other programs, then stop by the General Store for some farm-fresh goodies.

Rentschler Farm Museum

Address: 1265 East Michigan Avenue, Saline

Visit this family farm museum and learn some of Saline’s agricultural history. The farmstead includes the historic frame house and outbuildings that four generations of Rentschlers lived and worked. See an original 19th century shed, sheep barn, corncrib, ice house, windmill, and more.

TreeRunner Adventure Park (multiple locations)

Address: 6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield Township

Outdoor adventure awaits at this aerial obstacle and zipline park. Families can enjoy time among the trees, navigating ropes courses, bridges and other elements, depending on age and comfort level. Book climb times online.

Troy Historic Village

Address: 60 West Wattles Road, Troy

Families can view collections of artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and see a number of historic buildings. Younger kids can search for Cheddar, the Village Mouse, and older children can complete a scavenger hunt through the village.

Yankee Air Museum

Address: 47884 D Street, Belleville

Discover historic planes from World War I to Desert Storm at this Smithsonian-affiliated museum. Take a turn in the pilot’s seat of a KC-135, or try taking off and landing in a virtual aircraft carrier simulator. Families can learn about aviation history, see how the lever, pulley, and wheel operate in airplanes at the Simple Machines exhibit, complete hands-on STEM activities at the interactive Exploration Station, and more.

This post was originally published in 2021 and is updated regularly. 

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