June 21, 2018

Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities Near Council Bluffs

There is a wealth of outdoor activities near Council Bluffs for you and your family to explore. From historical exploration and culture to sports and recreation, Iowa has something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Unleash CB. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Hitchcock Nature Center

Honey Creek, Iowa is home to Hitchcock Nature Center in Loess Hills, a formation of hills that provides refuge for animals. Hitchcock is situated on 1,268 acres in Loess Hills, and the activities that you can experience with your family will exceed your expectations. One of our favorite things to do at Hitchcock is climb the 45-foot observation deck. Looking into the horizon, you’ll see a 360-degree view of the natural beauty of the Missouri River Valley, the rolling Loess Hills, and the Omaha skyline. Keep walking and take a hike in the gorgeous park while you watch for the variety of birds that live in the area.

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Hitchcock offers events all year round for children, adults, and families. Hiking clubs, Yoga in the Park, tours of Loess Hills, and even an Insect Club are some of the upcoming events. (There are additional costs for some events.) Park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and admission is only $3 per car.

Related post:

Botna Bend Park

Another Pottawatamie County treasure is Botna Bend Park, an incredible 119-acre park in Hancock, Iowa. Canoeing, tubing, or kayaking on the Nishnabotna River will have you booking this excursion every year. It’s so easy to get in the water with Rubber Duck Outfitters. They’ll bring everything you need to float or boat from Hancock to Oakland.

What really puts Botna Bend on the list is the elk and bison you’ll see in the park. Bring your camera and snap some shots of these magnificent animals. Like the Hitchcock Nature Center, admission is just $3 per vehicle.

Western Historic Trails

Take a bike ride or walk along the historic trails to trace the paths of the early explorers, including those who traveled the Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.

The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The center has displays about four trails that have passed through the area: Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails

Start at the indoor Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa to plan your outdoor excursions and routes. These sites expand outside of Council Bluffs.

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

On the south end of Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a 63-mile crushed limestone trail. The trail has a $1 daily fee to use the trail. It’s ideal for biking and walking, and also home to the weekly Thursday night Taco Ride. If you join in the ride, know that it gets dark on the Taco Ride, so bring a light.

Lake Manawa State Park

Lake Manawa State Park is located within Council Bluffs and feature a large lake for boating and fishing, mountain bike trails, and a sandy beach. The large, wooden playground, Dreamland, is under construction.

Related post: 10 Things To Do This Fall In Council Bluffs

Zipline at Mount Crescent

Take your family to the fastest zipline in Nebraska and Iowa at Mount Crescent Ski in Crescent, Iowa. The ride starts with a ski lift ride followed by a 1600 ft (the length of 5 football fields) high flying zip. Starting at $45 per rider, each person will receive two zip line rides with their reservation. Before you zip, look around the observation deck and the scenic views of the area. View the wildflowers, hills, and wildlife as you soar through the air on your fantastic ride.

Ziplining at Mount Crescent in Crescent, Iowa.

In the winter, Mount Crescent is home to the only downhill skiing hills near the Omaha metro area.

Ditmars Orchard

In the fall, Ditmars Orchard is the place to be for apple picking, pumpkin patch browsing, and navigating the corn maze. There are annual special events at the orchard, as well, including hot air balloon glows, kite flying, and live music festivals.

A balloon glow at Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs.

It’s one of the closest apple orchards to the Omaha metro area, and one of my family’s favorites!

With all the outdoor activities in Western Iowa, one summer will not be enough to experience them all. Luckily, Iowa’s parks and recreation centers are open year round for your enjoyment. Come see all that Western Iowa has to offer!

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June 20, 2018

Where To Stay Near Adventureland

Our long weekend in Des Moines, Iowa this summer included a day at Adventureland. Since the theme park was the main reason we were making this trip, it made sense to stay at a place nearby like Fairfield Inn & Suites. If you’re looking for a hotel near Adventureland, here’s what our stay was like.

Disclosure: Our weekend in Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Near Adventureland

This Fairfield Inn & Suites is technically in Altoona, Iowa, but simplicity’s sake, we’ll say it’s in Des Moines, since most of us out-of-towners think Adventureland is in Des Moines. The important thing is that it’s super close to Adventureland, right?

If you’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites before, you are familiar with this Marriott brand hotel. It’s comfy and family-friendly and affordable. The bonus with this particular location is that it’s new, so everything is pristine and fresh.

The lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suite near Adventureland.

The amenities I expect from a Fairfield are consistent the Marriott brand line of hotels: Complimentary hot breakfast, comfortable beds, small pool, and a hip, modern-looking lobby. This location also had a hot tub and a lake view. There’s an outdoor patio by the lake that will be nice eventually, but since this is such a new hotel, there still is some landscaping to do. There’s a door to the patio from the pool area.

This hotel had a nice touch for those who’ve spent a day outdoors in the summer: Cucumber-infused ice water in the lobby. If you’ve sweated your way through Adventureland in June, this is a refreshing and pleasant surprise to arrive to.

What I liked about the hotel

As a parent, I liked the convenience of walking down to the lobby for a hot breakfast, as well as having a variety of food to choose from. Fresh fruit is always a welcomed option at these breakfasts.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

I also liked the proximity to Adventureland. It wasn’t as near our other destinations that weekend, like Blank Park Zoo or downtown Des Moines, though. We’ve stayed at a hotel in West Des Moines on our last visit, and if you know the area, that’s even further from Adventureland. Anyway, after a long day at Adventureland, it was great to drive just about a mile to get back to our room.

The rooms themselves are great for families, spacious enough for a family of four. We had two queen beds, plus a pull-out couch. The “suite” area of the room consisted of that couch, plus a desk and TV.

This is what happens when your 6-year-old art directs the photo of a hotel room. You can see the suite area with the pull-out bed couch in the background.

There’s a small toiletry and snack store located in the lobby, in case you forgot necessities. I opted to head to the nearby Target, though, for things I had forgotten.

What the kids liked

As usual, the pool was the biggest hit with the kids. It’s not very deep, so it was good for my little ones. The hot tub was their second favorite area.

What’s near the hotel

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is in a new commercial development in Altoona. It includes the Outlets of Des Moines and the Bass Pro Shop, plus a few restaurants. You could feasibly walk to all of them, but we did not. It looked like there could be a walking path constructed down the road, connecting the hotel to the nearest restaurant, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

If you’re wondering about nearby restaurants, I was more satisfied with the variety and unique dining experiences in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants closest to this hotel are all chains, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. We tried to go to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse one night since they had provided some coupons to hotel guests, but the wait was too long for our kids to stand patiently.

Here are some distances to note:

Outlets of Des Moines – Walkable

Adventureland – Less than 2 miles

Target – Less than 2 miles

Nearest movie theater (Cinemark) – 2 miles

Downtown Des Moines (includes Science Center of Iowa, Fongs Pizza, Des Moines Farmers Market, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, state capitol building and more attractions) – About 10 miles

Blank Park Zoo – About 16 miles

Living History Farms – 18 miles

 

If you go

Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona

 

Where: 460 Bass Pro Drive NW, Altoona, Iowa

Website

 

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June 14, 2018

How To Stay Cool At Adventureland

Adventureland in Iowa is a quintessential summer destination for families. We planned a whole day at the park during a recent weekend in Des Moines. Before we left, I asked Oh My! Omaha readers on Facebook for their cool-off tips (see the post here). Those tips helped when we visited on a 95-degree day!

Disclosure: Our visit to Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Ways to stay cool at Adventureland

Start early – Get there when the park opens, since mornings are going to be the coolest part of the day. You get the added bonus of short lines for the popular rides. Many recommend arriving about half-hour before the park opens to get a good parking spot and get to the front of the line of your favorite ride.

See a magic show – This was, by far, the most useful tip from a reader. The theater is in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon, and the A/C is a hit of relief in the middle of the day. It doesn’t hurt that the kids find this show highly entertaining. Shows were held on the hour starting at noon, and they rotated shows.

The A/C is cranked on high at the magic show venue in Adventureland. It doesn’t hurt that the show itself is very entertaining for kids. The magic show is held in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon.

Coolest bathroom – I’m using cool literally here. Head to the penny arcade for bathrooms with the A/C cranked on.

Browse the stores – Several stores had signs on the door to “Come in and cool off.” Take that as your cue to go in and browse for as long as it takes to lowery our body temperature. My kids were particularly fine with browsing the toy store.

The look says it all – TOYS. The toy store at Adventureland is a great place to cool off, but if you have kids in tow, good luck leaving without a new stuffed animal friend.

Don’t sweat the old time photos – Two readers recommended doing the souvenir old time photo first thing in the morning. Can you imagine how hot it would be putting on one of those Victorian gowns at 3 p.m. on a July afternoon?

Swim up bar – Shanon K. pointed out that there’s a swim up bar for adults in the waterpark area. It’s called the Sand Bar. That sounds like one of the best ways to cool off in the summer. And by the way, they’ve thought of the kids, too – there’s the Pint Sized Pub with a kid-size stools to sit on in the water. They serve icees, smoothies, non-alcoholic cocktails and a variety of food.

Consider a cabana – Reader Sara U. had some great tips regarding cabanas at the Adventureland water park. First off, if you rent one, it comes with a safe to store supplies. The island cabana not only keeps you covered in the sun, but it also comes with towels, a waitress and a $25 food and beverage credit. “Well worth it as the food was very good and delivered right to you,” she said.

A giant bucket of water to cool you off at Adventure Bay at Adventureland. Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Ride the water rides – I’ll have to take everyone’s word for this one. We visited on a week day in early summer, so the water park was closed, and unfortunately, so were the few water rides inside Adventureland. I was really looking forward to being splashed on the Raging River, but it was undergoing some maintenance all day during our visit.

Know when to ride the water rides – Timing is everything with water rides, since everyone wants to ride them during the hottest part of the day. Raging River’s line can be longer than an hour. And tip for the family who gets soaked on the Raging River, there are family drivers for $5 at the end.

Bring water bottles – Most outside food and drink are not allowed, but we could bring in water bottles and refill them throughout the day. Look for water bottle stations in the park. We were able to add ice cubes to our bottles at the Oktoberfest tent (might help that the adults in our group also bought beer).

Find the shade – The park has a lot of trees making it very easy to find a shaded spot to sit. Lisa C. recommended heading toward The Dragon rollercoaster or The Outlaw for shady spots.

Find this shade tent near The Monster at Adventureland.

Park & waterpark in one day tip – Since you get two parks for the price of admission, many fit in both in one day. One reader, Sharice S., shared her family’s itinerary: “We usually enter the park and do the rides all along the left side (ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, Raging River, Dragon, Saw Mill, etc.) of the park and usually reach the waterpark by mid-afternoon. Then we spend a couple hours swimming and cooling off, and then make our way back to the front on the other side of the park (Monster, Tornado, Storm Chaser). We usually eat at River City Food for lunch and smoothies from the pint size pub in the back of the water park in the late afternoon.”

If you go to Adventureland

Where: 3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona, Iowa

Calendar of hours

Tip: Do some online investigating before you go and you can score tickets at a discount in advance. If you do show up without pre-purchased tickets, you may get a AAA or military discount if you qualify. I’ve also spotted discount coupons at Hy-Vee.

Related post: Get more Des Moines travel ideas on the post My Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 11, 2018

My Little Traverse Bay Bucket List

There’s a big Michigan road trip in the works and one of our stops will be in the Little Traverse Bay Region. There are so many things to do and places to see, I’ve started a Little Traverse Bay bucket list. Given the itinerary of the road trip this summer, I get about 24 hours in the bay area – so this is a big wish list that will have to be checked off over additional trips. Here’s my Little Traverse Bucket List, featuring things to do in Petoskey, Charlevoix and other nearby cities.

Find a Petoskey stone – I’ll fess up, these stones were the reason I looked into visiting Little Traverse in the first place. They’re so intriguing! The stones are actually fossilized coral that have a pretty distinct pattern on them. We can head to the beach of Petoskey State Park to hunt for them.

Petoskey stones are actually fossils. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Taste local brews – I can’t resist a good microbrewery, and in Petoskey, there’s Petoskey Brewing Co. You know what sounds good on the menu (besides beer)? The Ultimate Fries: beer-batter fries topped with a melted three-cheese blend, chopped bacon and served with ranch dressing. The building has an interesting history. The building was opened in 1898 and was once known as the Old Brewery, serving Petoskey Sparkle beer until 1915.

Petoskey Brewing Co. is home to the Ultimate Fries, beer-battered fires topped with three cheeses, bacon and served with ranch dressing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Do as Hemingway did – Petoskey has some legit Ernest Hemingway haunts. The historic City Park Grill dates back to the 1800s. Sit at the bar (second seat from the front) and you can have a drink where Papa Bear once sat. You can order the Hemingway Martini to complete the experience. Here’s a full tour of Hemingway’s Michigan.

Pond Hill Farm – This sounds like a place that caters to everyone in my family: There’s a farm to feed animals, a hayrack ride to a trout pond, and a winery and brewery.

Pond Hill Farm is guaranteed animal encounters. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Shop the Gaslight District – Petoskey’s six-block Historic Gaslight District looks like a charming area to spend an afternoon shopping. American Spoon is located in the Gaslight District, where they sell artisan jams. A visit to Mclean and Eakin will be great too. It’s one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S.

The historic Gaslight District in Petoskey, Mich., features quaint shops and trendy restaurants, as well as one of the top independently-owned bookstores in the U.S. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Look for the Mushroom Homes – In Charlevoix, there are 26 homes that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. Designed by Earl Young, these Mushroom Homes are privately-owned, but you can get a self-guided driving tour brochure from the chamber of commerce.

There’s a self-guided tour of the “Mushroom Houses” of Charlevoix. Photo courtesy Visit Charlevoix

See a show – If my road trip started a little later in the summer, I could catch a performance at Great Lakes Center for the Arts. The first show of the summer season is July 7, 2018. Since it’s a bucket list, I can wish for the impossible (my rules), so I’d have tickets to the already sold-out performance of Pink Martini. Love that band!

Drive the Tunnel of Trees – M-119 got the nickname for obvious reasons, this well-known 20-mile route ends at a state park said to have beautifully-colored stones to discover.

One of the most scenic drives in Michigan is along M-119, also known as the Tunnel of Trees. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Stargaze – Skies don’t get all-too-dark in a city, so rare is the chance to find something like stargazing like I could at Headlands International Dark Sky Park (the ninth in the world!). Located in nearby Mackinaw City, it’s free to visit, day or night.

Northern Michigan nights are meant for stargazing. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

Maple syrup tour – The Little Traverse Conservancy offers a variety of events year-round, including a chance to visit Parsons Farm and taste the Hardwood Gold Maple Syrup. The Parson family opens the taps during the event, and just maybe, those on the tour get to taste the maple.

Tapping a maple tree at Maple Moon Sugarbush & Winery in Petoskey. Photo courtesy Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau

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Need more ideas? Start with Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau and then check out head over to Pinterest and see all the great stuff I’ve pinned:

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June 7, 2018

Best Family Getaway To Des Moines

A weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, was the perfect way to start summer for my family this year. Over the course of three days, our getaway to Des Moines included thrill rides, feeding giraffes, and visiting a few downtown attractions. Here’s how you can have an affordable and fun weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Des Moines with kids

Adventureland – We arrived first thing in the morning to Adventureland and enjoyed super short waits for the roller coasters and other rides. It turns out, having near 100-degree weather was a benefit, and meant we had close to no waits all day.

We arrived at Adventureland right when it opened to enjoy no waits for rides like The Dragon. Adventureland is in Altoona, Iowa, and near Des Moines.

We didn’t go to the waterpark attached to Adentureland—it wasn’t open. But, what’s good for you to know is that it’s included with admission and looks like the oasis you need on a crazy hot summer day.

Top rides for the kids were the Galleon and the Dragon. Top show was the magic show. I rather liked the magic show, too, but more because the A/C was full blast.

Blank Park Zoo – This charming zoo isn’t near any of the others on this list, but will be a highlight for your family, especially if you have little ones. It’s easy to fit in a visit under three hours. There is a lot of shade there, and plenty of opportunities to get up close to animals. They also had frequent animal feedings and keeper talks. There are some extras that you can add to make the visit extra special. We fed giraffes and rode a camel.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Science Center of Iowa – In the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa is a wonderful, indoor place to explore. It was a rainy morning, making it a perfect spot for us to retreat to. My kids are at the ideal age to really begin to dive into activities at the science center.

The science center is located in downtown Des Moines. Families can easily spend several hours there.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – We timed our visit to the science center to coincide with the Saturday morning farmers market (it’s pretty much right in front of the science center). This is a giant farmers market, and we didn’t see it all. We sampled some food (and wine), as well as tried fresh watermelon.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines was the largest I’d ever been to. There were vendors selling produce, clothing, wine and more.

Pappajohn Sculpture Garden – We first visited this sculpture garden during the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival a few years ago. It was nice to return without the crowd. My kids enjoyed the wide open space to run, and I liked seeing some impressive works of art. It’s fairly close to the Science Center of Iowa. We walked it, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of complaining, so I’d recommend driving.

Not far from the sculpture garden are some water features that kids enjoy dipping their feet in. It’s good to know about if you’re there on a hot summer day.

Playing in the water feature in downtown Des Moines is not a bad idea when it’s nearing 100 degrees.

Additional ideas: We visited Des Moines two years ago, and enjoyed visiting Living History Farms. It wasn’t near our hotel this time around. If you’re looking for a FREE option with the kids, the Iowa capitol building is a good one. The law library is impressive, with spiral staircases you’ll want to get a picture of.

An interactive exhibit at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Des Moines

Fong’s Pizza – This was, by far, the star restaurant for our family. Try their legendary crab rangoon pizza. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu and stuck to the familiar. Parents, there are some tasty mixed drinks served in kitchy glasses.

Fongs Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

Zombie Burger – This is one we went to on our last visit. The food is also delicious the menu is funny, and you can pretty much expect a wait. The only drawback is that the zombies may not appeal to some younger kids.

I tried the Dead Moines Burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Tap Room – I wanted to like this place more than I did, but I’m chalking it up to bad timing on a busy Friday night. It is kid-friendly, though, and there was one bartender who was phenomenal with our kids while we waited to be seated.

Drake Diner – On this trip, we enjoyed the hot, complimentary breakfast at our hotel. But on our last visit, the Drake Diner was a great breakfast spot.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Fairfield Inn & Suites – We stayed at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites in Altoona, very near Adventureland and the Des Moines Outlets. It also put us within about 10 minutes of downtown Des Moines.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is near Adventureland and Des Moines Outlets, as well as the interstate.

As mentioned earlier, it had a hot, complimentary breakfast each morning, so it’s a good option for families. There’s a pool, workout center, and it’s facing a nice pond. The area is still be developed, and I imagine the pond is going to eventually have a walking path around it.

Des Moines family vacation

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Driving to Des Moines? Plan stops along the way! Here’s my Pinterest board with things to do in Des Moines with kids:

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June 5, 2018

My Detroit Bucket List

The more I read about Detroit, the more I realize a weekend isn’t long enough to see everything I’d like to see. Metro Detroit is huge! It spans 1,967.1 square miles. I’ve got a big Detroit bucket list of things to do, places to see, and a lot of food to eat. Why? My family will be there for three days this summer at the end of a long Michigan road trip (I’ve got a BIG bucket list for Michigan, too).

Got tips? Please share your recommendations of what to do and see in Detroit in a comment!

List of things to do in Detroit

Eat all the food – There are so many restaurants I want to go to in Detroit! I’m guessing we ought to try the city’s famous square pizza. Samantha Brown shared two of the original places to find it, so I guess I should go with the oldest, Buddy’s. And then there’s the Coney Dogs, which turns out to be a Detroit thing. There’s simply unique Traffic Jam & Snug, where everything is made in-house, and it happens to be Michigan’s first brew pub. For burgers, I feel like I should go to Motz’s Hamburgers, one of the country’s oldest continuously-operated family-owned burger joints. It’s been around since 1929, so they must be doing something right. I am wondering where we should eat in Greektown – should we get the saganaki at Pegasus Taverna or Santorini Estiatorio. And while in Greektown, I want to get a treat from Astoria Pastry Shop.

There are a few Greektown restaurants in Detroit to add to any list: Pegasus Taverna, Santorini Estiatorio and Astroria Pastry Shop are on this bucket list. Photo courtesy Vito Palmisano

Eastern Market – Keeping with the food theme, there’s Eastern Market. It’s a year-round market for food and Michigan-made products. I’ve read recommendations for Germack Coffee Roasting Coffee, and it is in Eastern Market. I also want to try a Lemon Buttah Pie sold by Lush Yummies Pie Co., also sold at Eastern Market.

The Eastern Market in Detroit is a foodie’s paradise. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

See a game – My family is a soccer family, so I wish I could say our visit times out to see Detroit FC play. However, the timing doesn’t work. There are plenty of other pro teams, though, to add to the list: Detroit Lions, Tigers and Red Wings come to mind.

Walk under polar bears – The Detroit Zoo has a 70-foot-long Polar Passage, where you can walk through a clear tunnel that gives you a wide view of the zoo’s polar bear exhibit. The zoo has a special exhibit with 4 acres of animatronic prehistoric creatures called “Dinosauria,” which will be open from May 25 through Sept. 3.

The view of the polar bear at the Detroit Zoo is one of a kind. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Go to a festival – There are a ton of festivals in Detroit that I’d love to go to none more than Detroit Jazz Festival, the world’s largest free jazz festival. It’s held Labor Day weekend. Another one that sounds like fun is the Stars and Stripes Festival from June 28-July 1. It has music and monster truck rides.

Enjoy the music – I’ve been playing Jackson 5 and Smokey Robinson for my kids in anticipation of this summer. Detroit is home to the Motown Museum, AKA Hitsville USA. It will have a major renovation in 2019, so check to see if any part is closed before visiting. Being a family that loves music, Third Man Records is a store for us, complete with a stage, record booth and a viewing window of its vinyl pressing plant. Plus it’s got a Jack White connection. When it’s just me and Mr. Wonderful traveling, concerts are usually a must for a trip. One venue in Detroit, Cliff Bell’s, sounds great. It’s a restored art-deco jazz club.

You can see where Motown began at the Motown Museum in Detroit. Photo courtesy Visit Detroit

Dive into automobile history – Initially, my plan was to “visit The Henry Ford” because I’d heard a lot about it from other Midwest travel bloggers. Guess what? There’s more than one place. So, if I had unlimited time, I’d visit all three attractions: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation™, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour™. But, top on my list would be to visit Greenfield Village. This 1929 historic landmark is an open-air museum that immerses visitors in 300 years of America life (think living history), and includes extras like riding in a Model T, and on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, there’s an old-fashioned baseball game.  We could time our visit to Greenfield Village to be during Salute to America, which runs June 30, July 1 and 3-4. It’s music, fireworks and good food.

Step back in time at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich. There’s the chance to ride in a Model T while there. Photo courtesy Gary Malerba

Tea time – On the topic of Greenfield Village, Wading in Big Shoes tipped me off to some great experiences at Greenfield Village and I want to do them all. Of course, I can’t. But, the one that caught my attention out of all of them is Tea at Cotswold Cottage.  I think my daughter and I would love it! . From the sound of things, it’s an American take on the English tradition, which I’m fine with. Second only to tea (and pastries), is the chance to make my own brass candlestick or glass flower at Liberty Craftworks Historic District. My kids are old enough to make a candlestick (must be 6+), but not old enough to do the glass workshop (14+). Both are extras on top of admission.

Tea time is served at Cotswold in Greenfield Village. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford

Fowling – Not a typo, my friends. Somewhere in Detroit, there is a warehouse with fowling courts (pronounced foe-ling). It’s like bowling but with a football. I’d be terrible at it.

Go indoors for the outdoors – I’m planning a big road trip around Michigan to explore the great outdoors extensively, but, in case we don’t get our fill of outdoor adventures, I’ve got the Outdoor Adventure Center on my radar. Kids can walk behind a waterfall, pretend to ride a snowmobile, and try out archery.

Guardian Building – Of all the gorgeous buildings in Detroit, the Guardian Building seems to have more than its fair share of mentions and pictures, and it’s on architectural tours like this one. I need to see this thing in real life. While we’re in the area, we can snap a picture with the Spirit of Detroit.

Guardian Building in Detroit

The Guardian Building’s interesting architectural elements lands it as a stop on many walking tours. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Ride the People Mover – It’s not just a way to get from Point A to Point B. My kids live for rides, and riding an elevated train would probably entertain them to no end. The People Mover has been moving people around downtown Detroit for decades.

See the isle – There’s something lovely and inviting about Belle Isle State Park. I’d love to explore it with my family, visiting the nation’s oldest aquarium, stroll the grounds, and just enjoy a little escape in the big city. There’s also the 114-year-old Anna Scripps Whicomb Conservatory and a little zoo (FREE admission) to explore.

The Anna Scripps Conservatory is on Belle Isle in Detroit. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Fireworks shows – There are lots of fireworks displays held from June 22 through July 6, including one of the state’s largest fireworks displays, held during Rochester Festival of the Hills. This year, those fireworks are on June 27. Plus, select Detroit Tigers games on Friday nights end with fireworks.

The Ford Fireworks display are well known, occurring around the Fourth of July each year. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

See a different side of Detroit – There are kayak tours taking beginner and experienced paddlers through canals and to islands. For a more leisurely water experience, there are also sightseeing boat tours.

Kayakers can paddle by Belle Isle in Detroit. Photo courtesy Vito Palmisano

Build a sand castle – Part of Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit becomes a giant urban sandbox in the summer. About 400,000 pounds of sand is dumped there each summer.

Campus Martius Park has a sand beach built in the middle of Detroit every summer. Photo courtesy Lynn Powell

Visit Detroit Museums – I’m a sucker for science centers, so the Michigan Science Center is on my radar (especially since we get in free with our Omaha Children’s Museum membership). Our timing couldn’t be better for our visit to Detroit, though. Detroit Institute of Art has the exhibit “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume” from May 20 through Sept. 30, 2018. I’m pretty sure my son won’t forgive me if we skip this. While we’re at DIA, I’d love to catch a glimpse of the famous Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals. Other unique-to-Detroit museums include Dabl’s African Bead Museum and Arab American National Museum, which has an interesting performance series on select Fridays called Global Fridays. The series features a variety of traditional performing arts from Latin pop to DJs from Beirut.

The Detroit Institute of Art is home to the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals. Photo courtesy Bill Bowen

Ride the carousel – While I’m a sucker for science centers, the my youngest cannot resist the allure of a carousel. There’s one at Rivard Plaza with a river theme; not surprising, since it’s on the riverfront. Also along the riverfront, you’ll find a splash garden and butterfly gardens at Gabriel Richard Park.

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Need more ideas? Start at the Visit Detroit. Get more Michigan road trip ideas that are great for families on my Pinterest board:

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