July 22, 2018

Detroit Museums For Families

Detroit has a rich history and an abundance of family-friendly cultural institutions. Our visit was meant to be a full three days of good food, good music, and world-class museums – I mean, I planned a HUGE Detroit bucket list and everything. And, we did manage to visit several great Detroit museums for families, however…

In the end, an unexpected family emergency meant some of our items got left off the itinerary and the ones we did manage to visit were clouded with tension. But, read on, friends, because we did see some amazing things in Detroit!

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Visit Detroit. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. 

Favorite family-friendly museums in Detroit

Must-Visit Detroit Museums For Families

If you are short on time and only got to visit one or two places, I have my favorites for you. The favorite museum of the kids was The Henry Ford, located in Dearfield, Mich. This museum is BIG, and full of so much history, and it’s all done in such an engaging way that both kids and adults just love. People told this was a must-visit and I agree.

Neon signs at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan
We dined at the restaurant Lamy’s Diner located in the lunch car behind these iconic neon signs at The Henry Ford.

While there are historic items that you’ve got to see, like the Abraham Lincoln chair and Rosa Parks bus, the more appealing things for kids were hands-on exhibits, like the one dedicated to flight, the chance to sit in old cars and farm machinery, and the opportunity to work on an assembly line to build a (toy) Model T.

The Henry Ford is one of the top Detroit museums for families.
Who let my daughter behind the wheel of the 1917 Overland Car? There several photo opportunities throughout The Henry Ford, and we found them all.

While you’re in the area anyway, I highly recommend including a visit to Greenfield Village next door. Each place could be a day in itself to visit, but we visited both in one day. It was exhausting, but manageable. It was also ridiculous hot the day we were there, so we only spent a couple hours in the morning at the village. I wish we could’ve lasted longer, but summer won that battle.

Greenfield Village was a picturesque walk through time.
I loved the picturesque Main Street at Greenfield Village. Guests can pay a little extra to ride around in in a Model T.

It’s quite different, in that it’s like a living history museum. There’s so much to see and do there, from re-enactments to riding in a real Model T. You can walk into the Wright Brother’s bike shop, watch farm hands work at a Victorian era farm… and my kids’ favorite, eat delicious custard. Don’t skip the playground, too. It’s open seasonally, mid-April through October, and there’s a water play area to cool off.

Kids play area at Greenfield Village in Detroit
My kids could’ve spent an hour climbing, crawling, and digging at the village playground at Greenfield Village. It’s got an industrial feel to it.

The other must-visit museum is in Detroit itself: Detroit Institute of Arts. This would probably be more of my favorite than the kids’, however, they definitely loved the special exhibit that there this summer, “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume.” The exhibit is there through Sept. 30, 2018. It’s an additional fee to see the exhibit, and it does sell out so it’s recommended that you purchase tickets online in advance.

Traveling Star Wars exhibit
The “Star Wars and the Power of Costume” exhibit is at Detroit Institute of Arts through Sept. 30, 2018.

So that exhibit is impressive and has a great kid’s audio tour that engaged my family. But, there’s a lot more to see at the museum (and you should allow more than two hours to see its collection of 6,000+ artworks on display, like I did).

Diego Rivera artwork at Detroit Institute of Arts
The frescoes by Diego Rivera are one the highlights of the Detroit Institute of Arts. My kids stood still for about 5 seconds to let me admire them.

Highlights include the Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” frescoes, the knights armor, and this really fascinating projection called “Art of Dining” of a fancy French meal from the 18th century. And too many priceless paintings I’m embarrassed to say we only paused to glimpse at.

More Museums For Families To Visit

Detroit, more than any other city on our trip, had an abundance of museums and cultural opportunities to explore. It was hard to choose where we should go.

One of my kids’ other favorite stops was the Michigan Science Center. At this point of the trip, I was pretty wiped out by stress, so I wish I could say I enjoyed it more. Don’t let my stress stray you from visiting with your kids, though. There was a ton to see and do at the museum, and many of it catered to the city’s history in the car of industry.

Michigan Science Center
Playing with the assembly line at Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

We were able to make use of the reciprocal membership perks of our Omaha Children’s Museum membership in order to visit the Michigan Science Center for free. Read more about how that program works here.

Since the city is the home of Motown music, I thought it was important to go to where it all started: Hitsville U.S.A. I had big hopes for visiting Motown Museum, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t the best fit for my kids, who at age 6 and 8 just weren’t quite ready for an hour-long guided tour. They typically do well at museums where they can go at their own pace. I would recommend this museum for families with older children. 

Related post: Things To Know Before Taking Kids To Motown Museum

Exterior of Motown Museum
Took the Motown Museum tour and got the T-shirt to prove it.

Me? I thought it was great and enjoyed learning more of the history behind the stars. The highlight was standing in the studio where so much magic was recorded. It was like hallowed ground.

Know that the tour groups are kept small and do sell out, so it’s recommended to buy tickets online well in advance of your visit.

Studio A at Motown Museum in Detroit
Photography is not allowed throughout the Motown Museum…except for a couple minutes inside the recording studio. Our tour group sang “My Girl” at the conclusion of the tour.

What else can you do in Detroit

Detroit is so much more than those four museums, and so I recommend you check out my Detroit Bucket List. I was going to do a lot on that list while on this trip, but as I mentioned earlier, we had a family emergency (involving an extended stay in a hospital). As a result, all the extras I was going to do, like visiting parks and exploring downtown and eating at the classic restaurants…well, I didn’t make it to them as I had been planning.

Dining at Kresge Court at Detroit Institute of Arts
Kresge Court was a nice place to have a light lunch at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Of the unique dining experiences we have, I can point you toward two places. First, if you’re at the Detroit Institute of Arts and hungry, try Kresge Court for a beautiful setting for lunch. They serve salads, sandwiches and desserts, like huge cookies kids cannot resist. There wasn’t a kid’s menu.

DIY pizza at PizzaPalalis
The kids made their own pizzas at the local pizza chain, PizzaPalis.

The other place my kids liked was actually a local chain restaurant near our hotel in Troy, Mich. Since there isn’t one in Omaha, I feel fine recommending it. It’s called PizzaPapalis, and the draw here is that kids can build their own pizza at the table and they’ll bake it up for them.

Fairfield Inn & Suites room in Troy, Michigan
The comfy bed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Troy, Mich.

As for hotel recommendations, we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites By Marriott in Troy, Mich. Troy isn’t the most centrally-located part of Detroit, and as such, I can’t really tell you that it’s the best one to book for your trip to Detroit. However, it was pretty near my husband’s hospital. And, it was near a mall, a Target, and an abundance of familiar chain restaurants, which is appealing to some.

If we return, I’ll aim for staying closer to downtown Detroit (and not have any family member end up in the hospital).

Read more about things to do in Detroit

Planning a visit to Detroit? Start with the Detroit Bucket List, and then check out these posts for further details about Detroit museums:

“Star Wars and the Power of Costume” At Detroit Institute Of Arts

Things To Know Before Taking Kids To The Henry Ford

Where To Stay Near Detroit

What To Expect When You Take Kids To The Motown Museum

This was the final stop of an epic Michigan road trip. Learn about all of our fun stops here.

What to expect at top Detroit museums for families, including The Henry Ford, Michigan Science Center & Detroit Institute of Arts

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Comments

  1. What fun. We took kids to the Henry Ford Museum when they were little and it was a success. I want to go back now minus the little ones and take my time. I also want to go to the Ford home, its on my list. What a wonderful list you compiled! The Motown Museum sounds great.

    • I’d go back without kids, too! I had barely any time to read any of the signs that interested me before my kids ran on to the next exhibit.

  2. My daughter and I have a few museums in Detroit on our travel list, but didn’t know about some of these. Thanks for the additional inspiration! Now we need to find a long weekend to head north to Detroit!

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