Top 12 Museums in Detroit

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As the Motor City and birthplace of the American automotive industry, it comes as no surprise that innovation and ingenuity course through Detroit’s veins. Once a hub that attracted entrepreneurs chasing the American Dream, the city became a melting pot of creativity.

From music to manufacturing, the diverse cultures and ideas collided to drive progress in ways that transformed the nation.

And while factories have closed over the turbulent decades, the innovative spirit remains alive in Detroit. One place you’ll find it on full display is at the city’s world-class museums.

#Museum NameNotable Features
1The Henry Ford MuseumAmerican ingenuity artifacts
2Motown MuseumCelebrates Motown music label
3Charles H. Wright MuseumAfrican American history
4Detroit Historical MuseumDetroit’s historical journey
5Detroit Institute of ArtsDiverse art collections
6Arab American National MuseumArab American culture and contributions
7Tuskegee Airmen National MuseumHonors the Tuskegee Airmen
8Dossin Great Lakes MuseumGreat Lakes maritime history
9Ford Piquette Avenue PlantBirthplace of the Model T
10Michigan Science CenterInteractive science exhibits
11Detroit Children’s MuseumHands-on activities for children
12Museum of Contemporary Art DetroitContemporary art exhibitions

These institutions honor the region’s history while showcasing some of America’s most important artifacts relating to industry, labor, music and more. Exhibits also celebrate visionaries who dreamed big to bring groundbreaking ideas to reality.

Many of Detroit’s museums fly shockingly under the radar in national tourist guides. But make no mistake – these are crown jewel institutions packed with cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re an automobile aficionado, art enthusiast, history buff or music fan, losing yourself for hours exploring Detroit’s museums always makes for time well spent.

The Henry Ford Museum

Name and Location: The Henry Ford Museum is located at 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124 in Dearborn near Detroit.

Collections and Exhibits: Spanning 300,000 square feet, the museum contains diverse artifacts of American innovation including historic cars, Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theatre, the Rosa Parks bus, presidential limousines and more.

What to Expect: Visitors explore exhibits spanning inventions and pivotal events that changed America from the 17th through 20th centuries. Popular attractions include riding in a Model T and touring trains. Immersive galleries make history engaging.

Visitor Information: The Henry Ford Museum is open daily year-round except select holidays. Combination and discounted tickets available to also visit Greenfield Village historical park.

No pilgrimage exploring Detroit’s innovative origins is complete without visiting The Henry Museum. As one of the city’s premiere attractions located in nearby Dearborn, the complex contains an astounding array of familiar objects that help capture the unrelenting American thirst for ingenuity and progress.

Inside the soaring halls of the museum sit iconic artifacts like the bus where Rosa Parks took her stand by refusing to give up her seat along with the rocking chair Lincoln was assassinated in.

Visitors can explore the Allegheny steam locomotive or crawl inside a massive 1940s locomotive. Exhibits proudly display the golden age of machinery with relics like pioneering electric generators, an art deco diner, the Kennedy presidential limousine and so much more.

The adjacent Greenfield Village transports guests even deeper into the past with nearly 100 iconic historic structures. Thomas Edison’s lab, the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, Noah Webster’s home, Ford’s first factory shed and many other buildings create an immersive open air experience. Take a ride around the park in a classic Model T for the full time travel effect.

With its one-of-a-kind collection preserving American ingenuity and ambition, the Henry Ford Museum offers an illuminating and educational experience showing how far we’ve come while inspiring where we might still go.

Motown Museum

Name and Location: The Motown Museum is located at 2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208 in the New Center area where Hitsville U.S.A. once stood.

Collections and Exhibits: Motown legends recorded hits inside the humble Hitsville house in the 1960s. Today exhibits and films share stories of the musical revolution’s influence while preserving Studio A much as it was.

What to Expect: Guided tours allow visitors to stand in Studio A where Motown’s greatest talents recorded, learn the label’s history in its early headquarters, and dance in Hitsville’s signature style. Priceless memorabilia features The Supremes, Temptations, Marvin Gaye and more.

Visitor Information: Timed tours run daily, generally 10 AM-6 PM, and sell out quickly. Hitsville tours last 60-90 minutes. Expanded campus has a gift shop and interactive exhibits.

A humble house nestled among typical West Detroit homes along West Grand Boulevard seems like an unlikely location for a musical revolution that took the nation by storm. But this modest building now known as the Motown Museum is recognized as “Hitsville U.S.A.”, the headquarters of the iconic record label launched by Berry Gordy Jr in 1959.

As you step inside Studio A, imagine the likes of young Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye or The Temptations gathered around the worn piano crafting chart topping songs that drove the pulse of a generation. Photos, costumes, artifacts and other memorabilia around what once was a makeshift office help share the stories of those that found inspiration within these close quarters.

While the facilities remained bare bones through Motown’s heyday, musical innovation flourished thanks to writers, producers and artists collaborating and competing to create the signature Motown sound under Gordy’s vision. That enduring soulful style resonates through each joyous note still today.

This “musical factory” celebrates the creative spirit along with cultural empowerment during a critical era of American history told through an intimate Detroit lens.

Charles H. Wright Museum

Name and Location: The Charles H. Wright Museum is located at 315 E Warren Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 in Midtown.

Collections and Exhibits: As the “museum of African American history,” diverse galleries with artifacts, films and recreated environments trace the Black experience from Ancient Africa through slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Migration and Civil Rights movement.

What to Expect: Immersive exhibits transport visitors inside a slave ship, along the Underground Railroad route to freedom, into the streets of 1968 Detroit during uprisings and more, powerfully communicating often untold stories.

Visitor Information: The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays (and select Mondays). Admission is around $15 for adults with discounted rates available. Free on Sundays.

Honoring the often overlooked stories around African American culture and heritage, the Charles H. Wright Museum delivers an utterly captivating experience. As the world’s largest institution dedicated to black history spanning the African diaspora across time and geography, the museum showcases a tremendous, diverse collection across comprehensive exhibits.

Galleries vividly bring to live crucial chapters tracing the path from Capture and Enslavement through Reconstruction then onto A Century of Black Life from Segregation to Civil Rights and beyond. Artifacts, interactive displays, films and photographs provide immersive perspectives amplified by contemporarily designed spaces.

Rotating special exhibits further explore essential subjects like Black entrepreneurship, African royalty, and the Harlem Renaissance keeping experiences fresh even for returning visitors. And the Still We Rise multi-sensory theater previews an upcoming expansion to showcase black cultural contributions across science, theater, politics and more spheres profoundly shaped by trailblazing individuals.

For anyone eager to better understand the central role of Black Americans weaving throughout the entire tapestry of the nation, the Charles H. Wright Museum delivers an absolute treasure of insights sure to enrich mindsets.

Detroit Historical Museum

Name and Location: The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 in Midtown/Cultural Center.

Collections and Exhibits: Exhibits interpret over 300 years of Detroit history through recreated historic streets, a fur trading post, Model T assembly line and more immersive settings. Rarely displayed artifacts include Civil War letters, vintage neon signs and Sitdown Strike images.

What to Expect: Guests time travel through pivotal Motor City moments like 19th century streets, Corktown’s irishtown, 1943 wartime, 1967 riots, a 1943 stock car race and a 1967 love-in happening amid interactive displays to engage all ages.

Visitor Information: The Detroit Historical Museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays year-round with free general admission. Some special exhibits incur additional fees to experience.

As you might expect in Motor City, the story of how Detroit paved the road to transforming early America runs deep at the illuminating Detroit Historical Museum. Their wide-ranging collection of historical treasures provide indispensable context about the people, places and events that set the foundation of this great city.

Opened in 1928, visitors are first welcomed by an entire 19th century cobblestone street scene to set the mood. Galleries then guide you chronologically through different eras using immersive installations like a fur trade cabin, Civil War battle diorama, a cavernous auto plant and a vintage Wonder Bread factory suite.

Some of the most engaging exhibits feature iconic Detroit establishments that endure in memories and postcards like the iconic J.L. Hudson Department store sculptures, the neon Grande Ballroom sign and the mighty Detroit Fire Department alarm bell. Others delve into complicated regional issues like segregated housing policies and contentious labor disputes that shaped local citizens.

For a comprehensive, accessible overview of Detroit’s DNA, the engaging Detroit Historical Museum makes the past feel present with rare artifacts and impactful experiences around each turn.

Detroit Institute of Arts

Name and Location: The Detroit Institute of Arts located at 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 in Midtown holds one of America’s most renowned art collections.

Collections and Exhibits: The holdings span 13 centuries of human creativity across classic to modern genres: Old Masters and French Impressionists, Greek and Roman antiquities, Islamic manuscripts, Native American artworks, Diego Rivera murals and so much more.

What to Expect: Visitors traverse galleries filled with 100+ highlights like Bruegel’s The Wedding Dance then find serenity viewing Monet haystacks before grabbing lunch at Kresge Court surrounded by Diego Rivera industry murals. New exhibits rotate constantly.

Visitor Information: The DIA is open Wednesdays-Sundays (closed Mondays-Tuesdays). Timed entry tickets are around $14. Parking onsite, via QLINE or DDOT bus. The museum offers tours, programs and accessibility options.

Home to one of America’s most significant art collections, the sprawling Detroit Institute of Arts invites visitors to travel across eras and continents exploring human creativity through enduring masterpieces. As the city fell into decline during the tumultuous 20th century, the DIA’s irreplaceable treasures remained guarded behind its majestic walls.

Today the cherished Beaux-Arts style building housing the DIA welcomes all to admire exemplary fine arts showcasing influential movements and artists from traditional European masters to trailblazing modern genres. Individual galleries focusing on areas like Impressionist paintings, Contemporary American works, Arts of Africa, Native American crafts and more make navigating the grand interior easy even on crowded days.

In addition to the standing collection with nearly 70,000 pieces, the DIA regularly rotates world-class temporary exhibits boasting iconic names like Picasso or introducing revisiting artists deserving renewed attention. From Renaissance religious scenes to Pop Art whimsy, the diversity and depth across forms, figures and brushstrokes on display could captivate art enthusiasts for weeks.

For affordable insight into the visionaries who open our eyes to new ways of understanding reality through creative expression, the Detroit Institute of Arts delivers a life changing encounter with the power or art.

Arab American National Museum

Name and Location: The Arab American National Museum is located at 13624 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, MI 48126, dedicated as the first museum for Arab-American history and culture.

Collections and Exhibits: Exhibits chronicle Arab immigration to America through photos, oral histories, artifacts and films while galleries celebrate contemporary experiences and community connections alongside changing cultural exhibitions.

What to Expect: Museum goers learn how early immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa settled across America with focuses on Detroit’s diverse community. Compelling perspectives counter stereotypes about Arab heritage globally.

Visitor Information: The Arab American National Museum is open from 10 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours on Thursdays until 10 PM. Check the website for special events.

As the first major institution dedicated to documenting Arab American heritage and contributions, the Arab American National Museum brings fascinating aspects of identity spanning continents into sharp focus The core exhibit listens firsthand to various immigrants and refugees who ventured to America in search of better lives beginning in the late 19th century.

Deeply personal artifacts like handwritten letters, family keepsakes and cherished photographs help illustrate the stories from individuals of Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian and many other descents.

Common experiences bonding together these communities get unpacked side-by-side with traditions unique to each homeland they carry forth. Visitors gain insights into wedding rituals, music, food preparation and multi-faith symbols finding common roots yet adapted to fit each family’s journey.

For those seeking to look beyond harmful stereotypes of Arab cultures perpetrated elsewhere, the nuanced accounts of challenges and triumphs on display at the museum provide moving perspectives often left invisible by mass media. Special concerts, lectures and rotating exhibits continue expanding awareness with empathy.

Tuskegee Airmen National Museum

Name and Location: The Tuskegee Airmen National Museum is located at 4600 Western Ave, Suite 1401, Detroit, MI 48204 inside Historic Fort Wayne.

Collections and Exhibits: The museum honors the first African-American military pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, via displays of uniforms, models, medals and more artifacts showcasing personal stories about training in Alabama to serving abroad during World War II under Jim Crow laws.

What to Expect: Visitors learn how commanders like Benjamin O. Davis Jr. led exemplary air support despite segregation policies, setting the stage for 1948 military integration. Talks, programs and movies further reveal their essential yet under-recognized wartime contributions.

Visitor Information: Open Thursdays-Saturdays 12 PM-5 PM for self-guided tours with free admission. Limited hours may extend during special events like Veterans Day. Group tours available if booked in advance.

Commemorating the historic Tuskegee Airmen who served as the first African-American military aviators in the 1940s, this compelling museum soars with inspirational accounts of courage and perseverance in the face of immense oppression.

Assembled inside a 8,500 square foot former manufacturing facility near Ford Airport south of Detroit, the Tuskegee Airmen National Museum traces the journey of determined hopeful pilots from training in Alabama through seeing battle during World War II.

Despite tremendous institutional discrimination permeating the era, the Tuskegee aviators fought to defend America with honor in the sky. As the only escort fighter group never to lose a bomber to enemy fighters, they flew 200 missions while the courageous story survived to finally get recognized decades later.

Personal stories amplified by uniforms, equipment and displays fully capture the spirit embodied within these groundbreaking squadrons. We all reach new heights when ensuring opportunity takes flight regardless of gender, ethnicity or origin.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Name and Location: The Dossin Great Lakes Museum located on Belle Isle at 100 Strand Drive, Detroit, MI 48207 focuses on maritime history.

Collections and Exhibits: Exhibits feature golden age steamships and freighters through over 100 scale models, 400 miniatures, thousands of maritime artifacts and engaging displays navigating Great Lakes regional stories as complied by J.A. Dossin.

What to Expect: Visitors discover rich Great Lakes lore from sailing era tribes through Detroit’s shipping commerce via full-sized galleys and captain quarters, video reenactments interpreting sailors’ duties and sacrifices, even a bow cam simulating entering the Soo Locks.

Visitor Information: The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is open Saturdays and Sundays year-round, free to all. Weekday field trips or rentals can be booked through the Detroit Historical Society managing the location.

Situated on the banks of the Detroit River, the intimate Dossin Great Lakes Museum explores the enduring connection between Michigan communities and the waters defining the heartland’s geography. As a former shipping supply warehouse, the building itself sets the tone for discovering how goods and cultures flowed across the Great Lakes shaping Midwestern society.

The museum’s collection includes over 35,000 artifacts chronicling two centuries of commercial shipping, recreational boating and key maritime stories from the region. Visitors can inspect different vessel components or wander through engaging underwater archaeology exhibits revealing lost ships. Historic logs detailing the challenges of early seafaring supply insight into the communities carved out around the lakeshores.

For those eager to get out on the water, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum also operates the fully functional tall ship Hamilton berthed right next door. Tours and special sailing excursions let guests experience the wind swelling the canvas sails firsthand.

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant

Name and Location: The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is located at 461 Piquette St, Detroit, MI 48202 just northeast of Milwaukee Junction.

Collections and Exhibits: Saved from demolition to open as a museum in 2001, Ford’s second automobile factory preserves the 1904 Plant #2 highlighting nascent auto manufacturing and contains the first-ever Ford Model T prototype.

What to Expect: Walking through well-preserved spaces like the experimental room, visitors gain perspective on emerging 20th-century industry. Interpretive exhibits chronicleFord’s innovative path to making cars available to the masses.

Visitor Information: The Ford Piquette Plant offers hourly guided walking tours Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM April through November. Timed tickets required for the museum experience.

No pilgrimage to Motor City would be complete without seeing the humble factory floor where legendary visionary Henry Ford first created the automobile assembly line to revolutionize manufacturing. Built in 1904, the carefully restored Ford Piquette Avenue Plant opened as an industrial incubator where Ford and his team dreamed up the innovative Model T destined to motorize the masses.

Walking the creaky wood floors throughout the historic three-story workshop structure almost lets you feel the buzzing ambition pulsing through those walls decades ago.

Exhaustive exhibits showcase the evolution of automation technology pioneered on-site like precision machine tools and the prototype assembly line installing flywheel magnetos. The south corner office where Ford famously sketched out his game changing vision reminds us that transformative innovation begins with bold imagination.

As the oldest standing auto factory open to the public anywhere, the Ford Piquette Plant now serves as a pilgrimage destination for automotive enthusiasts while showcasing the gritty origins of American manufacturing prowess.

Motown Museum Expansion

Name and Location: Hitsville U.S.A., home of the Motown Museum, is located at 2648 West Grand Blvd while its upcoming 50,000 square foot campus expansion engages more properties in surrounding blocks.

Collections and Exhibits: The campus aims to house interactive exhibits plus a performance theater expanding content beyond the famed Hitsville Studio A itself, evolving into a world-class entertainment and education destination more fully conveying Motown’s legacy.

What to Expect: Once completed in 2025, guests will be able to take Hitsville tours while also exploring themed exhibits, rare artifact collections, retail shops and opportunities to discover or develop their own musical talents on one dynamic campus.

Visitor Information: While the campus takes shape, Motown Museum tours continue selling out daily inside humble Hitsville headquarters. Check motownmuseum.org for expansion updates, details on planned visitor experiences and timeline.

While the existing humble Motown Museum studio tells an inspiring story of big dreams incubated in tight quarters, the newly announced $55 million dollar expansion promises to amplify the transformative legacy of Hitsville U.S.A. like never before. With grand opening anticipated in 2027, the Dynamic World of Motown complex will encompass 50,000 square feet around interactive exhibits, performance venues and so much more.

Plans call for the Hitsville house tour to remain as the central emblem of Motown’s rocket ride fueled by raw talent rather than fancy equipment during the 1960s. Architectural renderings then showcase a spacious state-of-the-art building erected behind the historic house integrating cutting edge technology to immerse guests into the musical movement’s cultural imprint.

Founder Berry Gordy Jr promises areas celebrating artist development, costuming, choreography, stage design and legacy galleries that will make Detroit a global music tourism destination.

From places to record music to spaces to enjoy live concerts, the expanded Motown complex intends on showcasing what happens when we embrace creative vision while nurturing community.

Henry Ford Museum of Innovation

Name and Location: The Henry Ford Museum of Innovation continues the legacy institution’s current location at 20900 Oakwood Boulevard in Dearborn, MI 48124 near Detroit.

Collections and Exhibits: As one united institution the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation will build on existing exhibits spanning American innovation from the 17th through 21st centuries while incorporating modern immersive experiences at an Innovation Hub on site at Ford research facilities.

What to Expect: Guests will be able to immerse in stories of revolutionary inventors who changed history through feats like the first self-propelled vehicle and the Soyuz spacecraft that housed astronauts. Stephenson’s Rocket, the Wright Flyer, Washington’s camp bed… and so much more.

Visitor Information: Core exhibits will remain open on a reimagined campus that allows guests to journey through the past into emerging innovation labs addressing the future – celebrating Detroit’s heritage as a crucible of life-changing ideas.

As America’s greatest shrine to American innovation that popularized autos, appliances and other inventions transforming everyday life, the Henry Ford Museum naturally serves as a pilgrimage destination for curious minds. Expanding on that pioneering mission, construction is now underway for the 30,000 square foot Henry Ford Museum of Innovation.

Designed as a contemporary showcase targeted towards inspiring future generations, the new venue will present entrepreneurs and inventions that demonstrate the power of bold thinking. Exhibits around robotics, 3D manufacturing and biotech aim to demystify emerging technologies not yet visible in everyday life. Community events, lectures and hands-on workshops further encourage curiosity and problem solving skills.

Even the forthcoming museum’s architecture embraces innovation as an adaptive structure called The Platform designed to allow remodeling interior spaces as new frontiers emerge over time. Just like Henry Ford broke ground for entire industries from the existing estate grounds, this ambitious annex seeks to groom the next round of groundbreaking ideas yet to change communities for the better.

Detroit Orchestra Hall

Name and Location: Orchestra Hall at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center is located at 3711 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 in Midtown.

Collections and Exhibits: As home of the acclaimed Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 1919, the grand hall with renowned acoustics seats over 2,000 people to experience world-class musicians along with jazz groups, chamber orchestras and more.

What to Expect: Beneath an ornate ceiling reminiscent of a Venetian palace, visitors watching from tiered balconies are immersed in music performed within a National Historic Landmark that anchors Detroit’s Cultural Center district while welcoming students and aficionados.

Visitor Information: Year-round performances span classical masterpieces to movie soundtracks and special events. Showtimes are available at dso.org, with some free ensemble concerts but tickets purchased for most events.

As home to the celebrated Detroit Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years now, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Orchestra Hall delivers breathtaking acoustics matched only by its eccentric art deco architectural details outside.

The intimate yet illustrious 2,000 seat venue tucked alongside the Detroit Public Library allows guests to admire custom limestone carvings, gleaming Czechoslovakian glass and extraordinary murals by German-American painter William Edmondson.

Inside the dramatic auditorium, the hall’s lauded sound properties painstakingly crafted by renowned acoustician Minoru Nagata amplify the power and nuance of the classics performed from the elevated Neo-Renaissance style stage. Attendees rave how pieces by great composers take on richer dimensions against the effective sonic backdrop.

Beyond year round symphony performances, Orchestra Hall hosts many other cultural events like jazz shows, theater productions, film screenings and speaking engagements making it one of Detroit’s premier destinations for the auditory arts.

Michigan Science Center

Name and Location: The Michigan Science Center is located at 5020 John R St, Detroit, MI 48202 in Midtown right near the Detroit River.

Collections and Exhibits: Over 250 hands-on exhibits allow kids to explore scientific concepts spanning physics, chemistry, space, biology and more through interactive experiences in labs and immersive environments.

What to Expect: Patrons discover the wonder of science first-hand while racing wind tunnels, playing music with lasers, piloting simulated ships through ice or watching live demos at one of Detroit’s top family destinations. A new habitat zone connects people with nature.

Visitor Information: The Michigan Science Center is open daily with timed-entry tickets required, including access to attractions like an IMAX Dome theater. Admission packages vary, with discounts for seniors, students, etc.

While the iconic Science Museum name still resonates around Detroit from its 50 year run, the beloved institution organized hands-on science education has continued its wonderful community mission following extensive renovations. Reopened in 2011 as the Michigan Science Center, the sleek modernized campus features interactive galleries with fascinating displays covering space, life sciences, chemistry, technology, physics and more.

Test your athleticism against an Olympic running champion simulation or touch a giant Tesla coil during a guided experience into the innovative world of electricity. Movie buffs and stargazers gravitate towards the Toyota Engineering 4D theater for an extra immersive film adventure.

Throughout the soaring atrium and nearby lab spaces, ongoing community events, day camps, workshop and activities nurture scientific curiosity for learners of all ages. From understanding coding concepts to exploring forensic investigation techniques, the Michigan Science Center makes discovery irresistible.

Conclusion

With enduring stories of prolific inventors, paradigm-shifting designs and barrier-breaking culture makers etched into civic history, Detroit celebrates its mythic past while continuing to forge its future.

The city’s tremendous museums safeguard iconic artifacts from history’s turning points while making inspirational accounts accessible through unforgettable interactive encounters.

Just make sure to spend ample time visiting Detroit’s museums to truly appreciate the depth of ingenuity flourishing around these creative corners that changed the world.

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