October 1, 2018

Taking Kids To The Motown Museum

Motown music was on heavy rotation during our Great Michigan Road Trip in preparation for our final stop: Detroit. With a great variety of museums to choose from in the city, I felt it was essential to visit the Motown Museum. But, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking your family there.

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

Planning a family trip to Detroit, Michigan? Here are a few things to know before going with kids, especially young ones who may not do well on a guided tour. #Michigan #MIGreatRoadTrip #familytravel #museumtips

Before you go to Motown Museum

Really, there are just two things I suggest doing before you go:

1.  Book the tour. You can’t peek inside the museum, AKA Hitsville USA, without a taking the one-hour tour. So, you’ll need to buy your tour tickets for a specific day and time in advance.

There’s always the option of trying to walk up and buy tickets the day of, but when we were there, we saw people turned away. Don’t risk it if this museum is important to you.

2. Listen to the music. This was my favorite way to introduce the kids to the people and music they would be learning about. 

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

What to expect at the Motown Museum

You’ll want to be prompt for your timed tour. You’ll meet your tour guide and learn the rules. The big one? No pictures.

Most of the time. I’ll get to that exception in a second.

The tour takes you through Barry Gordy Jr.’s flat, past displays of gold records, costumes, and historic photos. We heard inside stories about artists who passed through the studio, like how Stevie Wonder was just a kid and there was a rule about not switching out the order of the candy in the vending machine so he’d always be able to buy the candy he wanted on his own.

The highlight for me? Standing in the Studio A. It was, like, goosebumps special. Our guide talked about recording artists who were inspired by Motown greats visiting and weeping when they entered the studio.

Studio A at the Motown Museum in Detroit
The Temptations, The Supremes and many other famous Motown artists recorded hit songs in Studio A. Visitors to the Motown Museum visit the studio during the tour. 

It’s fascinating to hear the stories of who recorded there, and to know which songs were recorded in that very space. This was the lone place where we could take pictures. We all sang “My Girl,” and for me, it was a pinch-me moment.

What ages are best for Motown Museum?

The Motown Museum is packed with insight and history into Barry Gordy, and the musicians and songs behind Motown Records. There’s nothing on display that is inappropriate or over a kid’s head necessarily. However, it’s not for all ages due to the tour structure.

One of my kids managed better on the guided tour than the other…but both insisted on getting Motown Museum T-shirts, so I guess it did make an impression on both.

Motown Museum was not a good one for my 6-year-old. The tour goes through a home and rather than having free reign to roam, your tour group follows the guide room-to-room, and there’s no lingering or moving ahead if your little one gets bored. That was tough for my daughter.

My daughter was overly tired and wanted to sit at each tour stop while the tour guide talked. There also aren’t many places to sit, except for when we sat to watch the short documentary before taking the tour. 

Which leads to the other problem for my youngest: She’s not into documentaries. Go figure. That was the longest couple of minutes ever.

My son is slightly older and no problem with anything on the tours, besides not having a good sense of timelines and social significances of certain songs or people.

If you go

Motown Museum

Where: 2648 W. Grand Blvd, Detroit, Mich.

Cost: Tickets in 2018 are $15 for adults, $10 for children, and FREE for children ages 4 and younger. Tickets for tours are first come, first served and often sell out, especially on Saturdays. Tickets can be purchased up to 21 days in advance online. Tours are about an hour long. Here’s the link for tickets, and hours, as well.

News to note: The museum has launched a campaign for a $50 million expansion. There was no construction going on when we visited nor have I read when that may begin, but I’d recommend checking on construction plans if and when you plan to visit, just in case.

What to expect if you bring little ones to Motown Museum in Detroit, Michigan. #tips #familytravel #USA

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 different Detroit museums:

Detroit Museums For Families

“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

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

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September 28, 2018

The Elms: Perfect Couples Getaway Near Kansas City

Excelsior Springs, Mo., is home to the historic Elms Hotel & Spa, a charming hotel that was like a beacon to couples. My husband and I were there this fall for our anniversary, and while the goal was just to relax and reconnect, we may have fallen in love with the hotel, too. I think you might be surprised at why we loved this hotel so much.

The historic Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, just outside Kansas City, is a great getaway for couples. Go for the spa services & Grotto, and then stay for the food, friendly employees & history. #Missouri #USA #romantic #getaway

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by The Elms Hotel & Spa. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

About The Elms

The Elms is designed to make an impact at first view. It’s grand and there is no other structure in Excelsior Springs that looks so lovingly restored. But, that lovely building is the third incarnation of The Elms.

Entrance to The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri
The Elms was first built in 1888, though this current structure is the third incarnation of the historic hotel. The first two suffered fire damages. This building opened in 1912, and it’s designed to be fire-proof.

The original Elms Hotel opened in 1888 to provide luxury lodging to visitors streaming to Excelsior Springs to visit the towns newly discovered mineral springs. It was a grand wooden structure and suffered fire damage twice, so in 1912, it was redesigned in the Tudor Revival style in 1912 using fireproof native limestone.

Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs
The Elms Hotel & Spa at sunset.

Famous guests include Al Capone – who I read used to run some gambling in the basement. My favorite story is about Harry S Truman, who the hotel says was staying there the night he was elected. That famous photo of him holding up the Chicago Tribune with the erroneous headline? That was taken shortly after he checked out of the hotel to claim victory.

But, enough about famous guests. The stars of this story are the employees of The Elms. I sincerely think the employees are a big reason The Elms has so may repeat customers. We met a couple from Omaha who has been visiting for 35 years. Another couple from Kanas City started going for their anniversary but decided one year wasn’t enough and now they go every 6 months.

Everything is pretty grand when it comes to The Elms, including the service.

My encounters with the staff, and those I observed with others, were genuine and warm. I especially commend the two women working at the Royal Treatment Lounge on the weekend – Deby and Jenny. More on that experience below.

But first, let’s talk about the relaxation and escaping from obligations – what every parent wants, right?

The Spa At Elms

The Elms’ spa is one of the largest in the Midwest, when you count the indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, and (my favorite), the Grotto. You can make a day of it, really. Many people do. 

My husband and I started our day off bright and early with a couples massage.

If you’ve booked a spa treatment, it’s a good idea to arrive at least an hour ahead of time, as your personal concierge will give you a tour of the spa and locker room. After you change into your comfy robe, you’re led to the Quiet Room to wait. 

Quiet room at the spa in The Elms Hotel & Spa
I dare any parent to rest in the Quiet Room at the Elms spa and not doze off.

The Quiet Room is a slice of heaven for a parent who is used to constant chaos. There’s a small snack and drink bar with organic food, locally-sourced coffee, and a delicious coconut milk drink. You hang out in this room until your appointment. 

Good and relaxed, you have your massage or treatment, and then, the really good part starts. You’re free to enjoy the other spa amenities. Head to one of the pools, indoors or outdoors, if you want.

The indoor lap pool at The Elms is pretty uniquely designed.

But my recommendation? Make a beeline to the Grotto. The Grotto has hot tub, steam sauna with eucalyptus infused steam, a steam sauna, and a steam shower – which you’ll want to pick out your own salt scrub from the exfoliation bar to take into the shower first. And, when the heat gets a bit much, cool off in the cold plunge shower. It’s 42 degrees and feels fantastic.

The hot tub in the Grotto is spacious.

Tip: You might not be a morning person, but I recommend that first-of-the-day time slot because then you just might get the Grotto to yourself.

Hotel guests and the public can pay $55 to have access to the spa if they don’t want to purchase a treatment. I have a list of treatments I want to try, so I think I’m more likely to schedule a massage or water treatment than just the access to the spa. Here’s their list of packages. But, I see how just relaxing poolside and hanging out in the Grotto could be relaxing enough, too. 

Grotto at The Elms
Four of the Grotto’s features are pictured here. From left is the dry sauna, steam sauna, hot tub, and steam shower. To the right, just out of view, is the cold plunge shower.

Stay tuned: I heard from the spa’s manager that she anticipates some great updates to the spa in January 2019. The hydrotherapy rooms will get a makeover and some of the seating will be updated.

The Rooms At Elms

The rooms at the hotel underwent a $20 million renovation a few years ago. They retained some of the historic charm, but they’re all completely modern now. 

A king-size bed room at The Elms Hotel & Spa. Our room was on the fifth floor, where we had access to the Royal Treatment Lounge.

Our room had a king-size bed, and modern amenities like a Keurig machine. It was located on the fifth floor (for you ghost hunters – that’s rumored to be the haunted floor). There are several room types, including suites, to choose from.

Now, the perk of the fifth floor is what The Elms calls the Royal Experience. This, my friends, is worth the add-on. Available Thursdays through Sundays, the Royal Experience includes a Welcome Reception each night with complimentary wine, beer, and appetizers. You get to meet Deby, who brings in her famous poundcake on Saturday nights (don’t ask her for the recipe – she’s not telling). 

The breakfast spread on a weekend morning at the Royal Treatment Lounge, located on the fifth floor of The Elms Hotel & Spa.

The Royal Experience also includes complimentary continental breakfast with fresh fruit, pastries, juice and coffee. Throughout the day, you can stop in to grab pop or a snack, too. 

The appealing thing about this lounge is that it gets you talking with your fellow guests. We were tipped off to where the live music was (Saturday nights, June through September, you can walk to Wabash BBQ for a band). And, we found out about Dubious Claims, the new brewery that’s also an easy walk from the hotel. 

The Restaurants At Elms

We were pretty spoiled with the reception and continental breakfast that was included with the Royal Experience, so we didn’t do a whole lot of eating in the hotel’s three other dining areas.

The pastries display at The Cafe located just near the main entrance to The Elms.

The Cafe in the lobby was a nice option for a quick snack before our early morning massage, though. We got coffee and some pastries. 

We had a late breakfast at 88, the more upscale restaurant at the hotel, too. Of all of our dining experiences, this one was the least memorable. We tried the buffet, and while the omelets were superb, much of the rest of the items were not. 

The Elms’ main restaurant, 88, features a more upscale menu for lunch and dinner, as well as a brunch.

The other restaurant, The Tavern, could not fit into our short time there, so I guess we’ll just try it out next time. It look like a cozy place for a drink and pub food.

Tours and more

A lot of my readers seem to be into ghosts, as a few told me to look for ghosts while we were there. (No thanks) But, if you’re into that sort of thing, The Elms has you covered. There is a nightly ghost tour that’s $15 per person. I overheard a few people talking about it, and they loved it and said the guide was an excellent storyteller. 

Hall of Waters & Excelsior Springs Visitor's Center
The Hall of Waters is on the Excelsior Springs self-guided water springs walking tour. It’s also a pretty easy walk from the hotel.

If you’re more into the mineral springs history of the hotel and the town, there’s a self-guided walking tour. The front desk attendant gave us a map, and we visited a few within walking distance (there’s one in the parking lot of the hotel). None of the wells are open any more, but at one point, there were 40 of them. Their healing powers may have been a bit dubious (side note: that’s what the new brewery in town named itself after). 

Elms Hotel pool at sunset
Just beyond the pool and the gazebo is a great lawn to stroll, where you’ll find the chef’s herb and vegetable garden, a few tables and horseshoes.

And if tours aren’t your thing, just take a walk on the grounds of The Elms. 

If you go

Elms Spa & Spa

Where: 401 Regent St., Excelsior Springs, Mo.


Looking for a romantic or relaxing couples getaway? The Elms Hotel & Spa in Missouri fits the bill - A large spa, attentive employees, and the Royal Treatment - all packaged in a historic building #Missouri #USA #ExcelsiorSprings #hotelreview

Read more about Excelsior Springs

Check back on the blog soon for a post about things to do and places to eat at in Excelsior Springs, Mo. We spent a weekend there and biked, went to a winery for wood-fire pizza, found a local brewery, visited a historic site, and went to a concert, among other things.

Dubious Claims Brewing Co. is located within walking distance of The Elms Hotel & Spa.

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September 21, 2018

Where To Stay Near Detroit

Detroit was the final stop on our epic Michigan road trip this summer. While most of the trip was dedicated to outdoor pursuits, Detroit was going to be our chance to explore museums like The Henry Ford and historic sites like the Motown Museum. So, the question was: Where do we stay in Detroit?

The Detroit skyline. Photo courtesy Visit Detroit

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

Detroit is HUGE. It’s more than 140 square miles in size, and I read one account stating you could fit Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco inside the city limits. The places we wanted to visit were spread out, too. Motown Museum, Detroit Arts Institute and Michigan Science Center are downtown, while The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village are in Dearborn. Add to that the other sites I had hoped to fit in (check out my Detroit Bucket List for all of them), and I was in a conundrum.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Troy

We ended up staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites located in Troy, a suburb of Detroit. It’s much closer to the Detroit Zoo, which we were considering visiting, than downtown hotels. It was not super close to The Henry Ford or the downtown attractions. If you hate interstates, you’re going to have a rough go trying to get to attractions.

Lobby of Fairfield Inn & Suites, a hotel near Detroit Michigan
The chic lobby of the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Troy, Michigan, located just north of Detroit.

And side note, unfortunately, is that it’s pretty convenient to Beaumont Hospital in Troy. Long story, but we had a member of our admitted into the hospital while we were there.

What to expect at the Fairfield Inn in Troy

Fairfield Inn & Suites is a familiar Marriott chain for my family. We appreciate the complimentary hot breakfast each morning and pool at each hotel we stay in.

Dining area of Fairfield Inn & Suites, a hotel near Detroit Michigan
The complimentary breakfast at Fairfield Inn & Suites is always a popular perk. The location in Troy, Michigan, had plenty of seating.

This particular location had all the amenities you’d expect at a Fairfield, from the modern lobby, comfortable beds, and large bathrooms. The staff was incredibly helpful, especially when I was on a hunt for a cell phone charger one night. 

Room of Fairfield Inn & Suites, a hotel near Detroit Michigan
Our room had two queen beds, which is a good size for a family of four with small kids.

The location of this hotel wasn’t ideal for our needs, though, like I wrote earlier, it was at least close to the hospital (not something a vacationing family really wants to ever visit). It was near the interstate, which is helpful when navigating this big city.

My complaints for the hotel were not for the hotel itself but it’s location. I had limited options for non-chain restaurants, and nor as it easy to find interesting, locally-owned shops. But if you’re a Target fan or need to run to a mall, those are both nearby.

Looking for a family-friendly hotel outside Detroit, Michigan? Here's what I thought of Fairfield Inn & Suites in Troy, a hotel located near the Detroit Zoo #familytravel

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:

Detroit Museums For Families

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

Things To Know Before Taking Kids To The Henry Ford

What To Expect At The Motown Museum – Oct. 5

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

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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

September 18, 2018

Where To Eat & Where To Stay In Decorah

Decorah is a town tucked into northeastern Iowa. Found in the Driftless Area, its terrain is rockier than you’d expect for the Midwest. I visited this summer on a girlfriends getaway with the goal of enjoying outdoor pursuits like bike riding, kayaking and climbing a waterfall (not a big one, but still counts). I didn’t expect to encounter an abundance of great food and local beer. You just have to know where to eat in Decorah. I had plenty of tips to build the perfect itinerary for food and beer!

Dunnig Springs Waterfall in Decorah
We went to Decorah for the outdoor activities like seeing the waterfall in town, but it turns out, the food is as big a draw as the terrain.

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

Where to eat in Decorah

For a town with a population of about 8,000, Decorah had too many great choices for dining to fit into one weekend.

Restaurant and brewery suggestions for Decorah, Iowa including pizza at Luna Valley Farm, beer at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co., and two places for breakfast #hosted #dining #Iowa

Decorah is proud of its Nordic heritage. If you want to try some Norwegian dishes, head to Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah, Iowa
Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering serves the typical diner food you’d expect in the Midwest plus plenty of Norwegian options.

We went to Ruby’s for breakfast, and decided to turn it into a Norwegian buffet, ordering a variety of small plates to try. It was less breakfast and more Christmas desserts, but I’m not complaining. We tried a rosette, lefse, kringla and sandbakkal.

Plates of Norwegian food in Decorah
Among the Norwegian treats we tried at Ruby’s Restaurant were kringla (top) and lefse.

Ruby’s is also known for the Ronnie Roll. It’s basically a giant cinnamon roll. And yeah, we ordered one of those too. Of course, the typical American breakfast staples are available to order as well.

Ruby's Restaurant in Decorah is home to the Ronny Roll
Ruby’s Restaurant is known for their Ronny Roll, which I had to try because my dad’s name is Ron and I love sugar.

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, where we could’ve enjoyed a complimentary breakfast each morning. But, with limited time in Decorah, we opted to have breakfast in town. 

On the second day of our trip to Decorah, we wandered into Restauration, the restaurant located in the historic Hotel Winneshiek. My friends enjoyed a mimosa with brunch. I stuck to black coffee. Our filling entrees were delicious.

Restauration's brunch menu
Restauration was located inside the historic Hotel Winneshiek in downtown Decorah.

By far, the most memorable meal in Decorah was on our first night. I was so glad to be tipped off that Luna Valley Farm serves wood-fire pizza on Friday nights. What a memorable meal, dining on pizza, lights strung up from a barn and the green farmland in view! 

Woodfire pizza at Luna Valley Farm
Luna Valley Farm in Decorah has pizza nights every Friday from May through October. The pizza includes ingredients raised or grown on the farm. And there’s beer. And the night we were there, there was live music.

The atmosphere at Luna Valley Farm is welcoming where you get to know the people sitting next to you. It was a rainy night, but under the tents, we dined and chatted happily. There was live music the night we were there. When the rain stopped, we walked just a short distance to look at pigs. 

Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa
There’s usually a line at Luna Valley Farm – two, actually. You can order pizza and appetizers in one line, and get your beer, wine or non-alcoholic beverages in the other.

If you couldn’t guess, yes, they grow and raise some of the food you’ll consume on pizza night.

Some of the other restaurants we tried that I’d recommend:

  • Rubaiyat Restaurant – This was more of an upscale experience than the others. The food was delicious and served with warm bread. I tried a Kobe hotdog because, why not. It was not the most photogenic of entrees, but it was pretty good and very filling. Their brunch was recommended to us.
  • Pulpit Rock Brewing Co. – OK, not a restaurant. While there was a food truck parked by it the day we visited, this is a recommendation for the beer. With many options on tap to try, from a delicious amber to more unique flavors like an Oreo stout and a cider that tasted like Key lime pie, if you like beer, you’ll find something to like here.
Post-bike ride beers at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co.

We went to Pulpit Rock after our bike ride. It was a short walk from our bike rental shop, Decorah Bicycles. 

There is another well-known brewery in Decorah, if craft beer is your thing. It’s called Toppling Goliath. 

  • – Winneshiek Wildberry Winery – Since we were on a girlfriends’ getaway, we couldn’t resist the draw of a winery tasting room that was near our hotel. We got a flight of wine to taste. In all honesty, the wine was too sweet for my likes. But, that sweet wine was pretty good in a wine slushie, which I split with my sister. It was inexpensive, too. Also, This winery had probably the best photo opp in town – a giant gnome in front of the building. 
  • La Rana – I liked La Rana for its small, but cozy decor and fresh food. We had a few quibbles with the our meal, though, so it’s on the bottom of my suggestions for you.
  • – I had many friends familiar with town offer suggestions for meals, and due to limited time, we couldn’t make it to them. Here are what others say are great places to each in Decorah: Mabe’s Pizza and Whippy Dip (for ice cream).

Where to stay in Decorah

If you know anything about the area, you know there’s an abundance of outdoor activities, including great paved and mountain bike trails, the Upper Iowa River for tubing or kayaking, and even a waterfall. So, you may want to stay overnight.

Hotel and glamping suggestions for Decorah, Iowa - Whether you want a hotel near Trout Run Trail, a historic hotel downtown, or you want to try glamping at Luna Valley Farm, there are options in the small town that fits your needs #hotels #glamping

We stayed in the new Fairfield Inn & Suites, located conveniently near the Trout Run Trail. On the morning of one of days in Decorah, we biked the trail around scenic pastures, up to the fish hatchery, and along the river. If running or walking is your jam, this is a good trail for you, too.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah
The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa, was located near the popular Trout Run Trail and just a short drive from downtown Decorah.

Fairfield is a familiar chain for me and my family, so I like knowing what to expect, from a daily hot breakfast bar to a fitness center and pool. 

I’m loving the look of the lobbies in Fairfield Inns these days, too.

The colorful lobby at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Decorah, Iowa.

Our room was comfortable, with two Queen beds and a large bathroom. 

There are, of course, other options for hotels in Decorah, including the historic Hotel Winneshiek in the downtown area. We had breakfast at Restauration, the hotel’s restaurant, and took a quick peek around the lobby while we were there.

It’s a pretty hotel, and I’d look into staying there when we return. It was booked solid the weekend we were there due to Toppling Goliath’s big beer release weekend. Who would’ve guessed?

Another option that, alas, was also already booked the weekend we were there was at Luna Valley Farm. They offer glamping! 

Tips on where to eat, drink and stay in Decorah, a town in Northeastern Iowa known for outdoor adventures and popular craft breweries

More Decorah adventures

If you missed my previous post about outdoor adventures in Decorah, go check it out! I wrote about the bike ride along Trout Run Trail and a moonlit kayaking trip, both experiences were with our local guide, Amber, who recently started up Karst Adventures.

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September 12, 2018

Exploring Grand Rapids Public Museum With Kids

The surprise hit of our Grand Rapids weekend was the Grand Rapids Public Museum. A surprise because we almost didn’t go. If you’re in the city, with or without kids, this is a must-visit.

Streetcar inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
A streetcar, a sperm whale skeleton, and more at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Not knowing what to expect at the museum added to the adventure of discovering things at each turn.

Disclosure: Our visit was hosted by Experience Grand Rapids. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Grand Rapids Public Museum favorite exhibits

There are some can’t-miss things on display that you, literally, cannot miss since they’re in the main hall. The large sperm whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling comes to mind. 

Sperm Whale skeleton in the main hall in Grand Rapids Public Museum
You really can’t miss Finny, the sperm whale skeleton hanging over the main hall.

It’s name is Finny, by the way.

My favorite area was a replica of an old street scene, complete with stocked stores, street lights, and a unicycle photo opp. The scene is 1890s Grand Rapids.

Old streetscape inside Grand Rapids Public Museum
Storefronts from the olden days of Grand Rapids. There’s a full street of them at the Grand Rapids Public Museum – and don’t skip taking a seat on a unicycle while in the area.

We allowed such a short amount of time, so regrettably, we rushed through some things. And there’s so much to see! Exhibits on musical instruments, phones, history, animals…a little bit of everything.

Exhibit at Grand Rapids Public Museum
“Collecting From A-Z” is the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s way of showcasing a variety of items, some exquisite and beautiful as well as some bizarre.

My kids are 6 and 8 years old and they were fully engaged here. There’s even a space for them to learn about space.

The Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum

You can’t really go to the museum without stopping by the carousel. The 1928 Spillman Carousel is a little extra to ride, unless you have a membership, but it’s iconic and a kid-pleaser.

Old carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum
You’ll hear the music before you see the carousel at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

If you go

Grand Rapids Public Museum

Where: 272 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hours may be found here


Grand Rapids Public Museum was a hit with kids and adults - History, hands-on exhibit pieces, and a carousel #familytravel #Michigan

More about Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids was the first stop of an epic road trip adventure through Michigan. Go ahead and check out where we stopped and what we did, or use this ultimate Michigan Bucket List to plan an awesome road trip.

Weekend in Grand Rapids

For Grand Rapids highlights, read these posts:

48 Hours In Grand Rapids With Kids

Where to Stay in Downtown Grand Rapids

Adventures At John Ball Zoo

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September 10, 2018

Exploring The Science Center of Iowa

My kids are starting to love visiting science centers when we’re traveling. When planning trips, I check if our destination has a museum or science center that’s part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, or ASTC. Why? The four of us will get in free admission thanks to the reciprocal membership benefits we get with our Omaha Children’s Museum membership. Sweet, right?

This summer, we had a chance to make use of that free admission perk to visit Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

A fun day for the family at the Science Center of Iowa located in downtown Des Moines

Highlights of the Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center of Iowa was a fun morning for my family on a day that looked like it might rain at any moment. 

We spent the most time in the room called When Things Get Moving, where the kids could make paper rockets to shoot, test egg cradles, and building LEGO race cars.

Ball exhibit inside Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines
When Things Get Moving is a popular permanent exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

The space exhibit, Why The Sky, was also a great one to explore. This was probably the most entertaining exhibit for both adults and kids. After testing out several exhibits there, we found our way to the planetarium. Turns out, it was a great place to lay flat on the floor and rest while watching a show.

Space exhibit inside Science Center in Des Moines, Iowa
Why The Sky was an exhibit that explored space and spacecraft at the Science Center of Iowa.

The IMAX theater was another space to sit and rest for a spell. It was not very crowded the afternoon we went. The great thing is that planetarium shows are included with admission. Here’s a list of their programs at the science center.

There are a few other rooms, including one for natural sciences, a Makers Space, and one dedicated to LEGO building . If you visit with toddlers, there is also a separate room for that age group to explore.

Testing out circuits at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines
My daughter liked building circuits while we were at the Science Center of Iowa.

You can easily spend two hours or more at the Science Center of Iowa. If you attend one of the science shows or a planetarium show, expect to spend a minimum of three hours.

If you go

Science Center of Iowa

Where: 401 W. Martin Luther King Jr Parkway, Des Moines, Iowa


Looking for a fun thing to do indoors with kids in Des Moines? The Science Center of Iowa was great for a few hours of playing and learning. #Iowa #sciencecenter

What’s near the Science Center of Iowa

Our afternoon at the Science Center of Iowa timed out well for us to visit the Des Moines Farmers Market in the morning. There are vendors practically at the front door of the science center. Strolling the market, you’ll find an abundance of samples (food and wine), plus tons of dogs, which are always a hit with my kids.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in the downtown area was one of the largest I’ve ever been to.

The science center isn’t too far from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, with plenty of space for kids to run around and some pretty iconic photo opps.

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

For food, I can’t tell you enough to go try Fong’s Pizza, which is walkable from Science Center of Iowa.

Plan a Des Moines Family Getaway

We visited the Science Center of Iowa on a weekend getaway in the summer. Read all about the fun things we did in this post. We spent a day at Adventureland and an afternoon at Blank Park Zoo during the trip.

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