Despite the hard economic times of the past few decades, Detroit is experiencing a great rebirth. Within this transformation has been an awakening of both the old and new. Century old family attractions, such as the aquarium on Belle Isle, have been restored to their former glory. More modern venues have been built too. The Michigan DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center brings the great Up North to the city. Campus Martius Park has become a social, as well as, symbolic center of Downtown welcoming families to relax and play. The river front, long since abandoned to failed industry, is being completely reinvented with parks and gardens. Here are just twelve of the major attractions and museums you and your kids will enjoy in Downtown Detroit.
DNR Outdoor Adventure Center
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources opened this center with the intent of bringing the ‘Up North” outdoor experience to the heart of Downtown Detroit. Hands-on exhibits let visitors experience and learn about the many ecosystems across Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. Sand dunes, rivers, lakes, and forests come to life here. There are lots of fun activities for kids, such as airplane and snowmobile simulators and indoor camping areas. This is a truly unique opportunity for kids in the city and suburbs and may kindle a desire to get out hiking and camping. For more information visit http://www.michigan.gov/oac/
Michigan Science Center
This amazing science center features over 250 hands-on exhibits contained in five main galleries. Explore space, engineering, health, and more. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there is also an IMAX theater, planetarium, 4D theater, and live stage shows presented daily. This is a perfect place for rainy day fun or to start a day of adventuring downtown. There is a cafe available for lunch. For more information visit http://www.mi-sci.org/
Detroit Riverfront and Parks
The Detroit riverfront has undergone major changes in the past few years, transforming from run down buildings and crumbling sidewalks into a lively place for people to gather and enjoy the outdoors. The area is now home to multiple parks, gardens, and entertainment venues. Rivard Plaza is a great place for families with a carousel and playground for the kids to enjoy. Mt. Elliott park features a water play area and cafe. The Dequindre Cut was transformed from an old railroad pass into a vibrant walking and biking path connecting all the way to Eastern Market. Visit their website for details on each area and a calendar of events.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The DIA is truly a gem in the heart of Detroit on par with the art galleries of other great American cities. The museum, opened in 1927, covers 658,000 square feet with more than 100 galleries. One of the most recognizable works in the DIA is Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s massive industrial frescoes. In addition to a wonderful art collection, the DIA features traveling exhibitions and live entertainment. There is a cafe and food court when you need to take a break and let all you’ve seen soak in for a bit. For more information visit http://www.dia.org/
Comerica Park Home of the Detroit Tigers
What better way to spend a summer day than watching a Detroit Tigers baseball game with your kids? This family friendly stadium features a a Ferris wheel outside and a carousel inside. Like other modern MLB stadiums, Comerica Park offers a wide variety of food from classics like hot dogs and popcorn to gyros other local treats. There is plenty of room to wander the stadium if little ones need to get out of their seat for a while. Bonus: On Sunday home games kids 14 and under get to run the bases after the game. For information, tickets, and special events listings visit http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/det/ballpark/
Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Located on Belle Isle, the Dossin museum gives visitors a glimpse into maritime history on the Great Lakes. There are 16,000 square feet of exhibit space containing artifacts and interactive displays detailing long ago days of French fur traders and explorers through to today’s iron ore freighters. Recreational activities on the Detroit river are also present, including the Miss Pepsi, which was the fastest hydroplane of its day. If you’re lucky, a freighter or two will pass by just outside in the Detroit River. For more information visit https://detroithistorical.org/dossin-great-lakes-museum/plan-your-visit/general-information
Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Opened in 1904, it is the oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States. It features five interconnected areas filled with every kind of plant imaginable from cacti to towering palms. One collection of note is the orchids. The building is surrounded by landscaped gardens, fountains, and a lily pond. An excellent place to escape during winter months and breathe in the fresh air and humidity. For more information visit https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/anna-scripps-whitcomb-conservatory
Belle Isle Aquarium
Designed by famed Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, the aquarium opened in 1904 alongside the Conservatory. It is the oldest aquarium in the country, though it was closed to the public from 2005 to 2012 during to tough economic times. The renovated aquarium has returned as a showpiece of Detroit and a great symbol of the continuing renewal of the city. The tanks feature fish from the Great Lakes and across the world. For more information visit https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/belle-isle-aquarium
Detroit Historical Museum
Brush up on local history. The museum showcases 300 years of Detroit history with several permanent exhibits. Learn about everything from the early colonial days through today. The Streets of Detroit exhibit depicts the city’s transformation from “frontier town to industrial giant in three time periods: the 1840s, 1870s and 1900s.” Rotating displays from the museum’s extensive collection, as well as visiting exhibits, keep this museum fresh with new information. For more information visit their website.
Campus Martius Park
Campus Martius Park, which marks the point of origin for major avenues in the city, has become a symbol of the rejuvenation of downtown Detroit. The 2.5 acre park features fountains, gardens, and green spaces for visitors to relax. Different areas of the park are transformed for events and seasonal activities, such as sand play areas and basketball courts. The center also hosts several markets and musical acts during the summer as well as an ice rink in the winter months. Restaurants and shops surround the area plus food trucks are regularly featured. Check the official website for a list of events http://www.campusmartiuspark.org/
Charles H Wright Museum of African American History
Founded in 1965, the Charles H. Wright Museum is dedicated to showcasing African American history. ‘And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture, the museum’s 22,000 square foot, interactive core exhibit, which is the largest single exhibition on African American history in existence.’ The Inspiring Minds: African Americans in Science and Technology, is a S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) centered exhibit gallery designed for children. The museum also holds numerous events including concerts, theatrical productions and films, lectures, and children’s programs. For more information visit https://thewright.org/
Eclectic collection of junk or innovative art display? I’ll let you decide after visiting this decidedly unique street in downtown Detroit. Whichever way it may sway you, kids will enjoy looking at all of the different items and bright colors. For directions and information about this creation visit http://www.heidelberg.org/
Now that you have several fun activities to add to your list, how about a bonus tip? Pick up The D Discount Pass and save 20% or more off of several attractions listed, plus some others in the Metro Detroit area. Here’s a list of attractions and how to get your pass for huge savings. Be sure to bookmark our site and follow along on social media for more travel info in Michigan and beyond.