12 Things to Do with Family in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Ann Arbor is a vibrant college town in southeast Michigan, home to the prestigious University of Michigan. With its blend of small-town charm and big-city culture, Ann Arbor offers families plenty of fun, educational activities. From exploring hands-on museums to cheering on Wolverine sports teams, Ann Arbor guarantees memorable adventures for visitors of all ages.

ActivityDescription
Hands-On MuseumInteractive children’s museum with various exhibits.
UM Campus TourWalking tour of the University of Michigan campus.
The Ark ConcertsVenue for diverse musical performances.
Buhr Park Ice ArenaIndoor ice skating and seasonal activities.
Civic TheaterCommunity theater with family-friendly productions.
Nichols ArboretumOutdoor exploration, nature walks, and picnics.
Peckham Hall PlanetariumPlanetarium shows at the University of Michigan.
Michigan StadiumAttend University of Michigan football games.
Clay Art CenterCreative pottery making and art studio.
Leslie Science & Nature CenterWildlife and natural habitat exploration.
Planet Rock Laser TagIndoor rock climbing and laser tag arena.
Huron River BikingBiking along the scenic Huron River.

This article highlights 12 top things to do with kids and families in Ann Arbor. From outdoor parks and indoor playgrounds tounique museums, these attractions provide interactive fun across all seasons. Read on for the best ways to experience Ann Arbor with your family!

1. Visit the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1982, this children’s museum aims to inspire discovery and enhance education through interactive exhibits, programs, and play spaces that appeal to children’s natural curiosity.

What to Expect: Over 250 hands-on educational exhibits on science, math, engineering, health and more spread throughout themed areas. Fun for kids 12 years and under with adult caregivers participating alongside.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm except major holidays. General admission is $14, children under 1 free. Exhibit guides and maps provided. Stroller friendly.

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is a top destination for families. This children’s museum offers several floors of exhibits that aim to spark creativity and imagination through hands-on play. Kids can pretend they are on a construction site, design structures using giant foam blocks, explore principles of sound and light, and much more.

Special programs and events run year-round as well. It’s the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon.

2. Tour the University of Michigan Campus

Name and Location: University of Michigan Campus in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1817, the historic University of Michigan flagship campus spans 552 acres with a unique blend of Collegiate Gothic architecture housing one of the top public universities in the world.

What to Expect: Self-guided tours let visitors explore libraries, museums, performance halls and the iconic Michigan Stadium. Cultural exhibits, concerts, sporting events held on campus year-round.

Visitor Information: Campus is public with select building entry restrictions. Free 90-minute guided tours offered on weekends. Visitor parking available at select structures/lots.

Take your family on a walking tour of the beautiful University of Michigan campus. Founded in 1817, UMich features striking architecture and historic buildings. Be sure to check out UMMA, the university’s art museum housing over 18,000 works.

Catch your kids pretending they are Wolverine students as you explore different departments, lecture halls, libraries, and student centers across campus.

3. Catch a Concert at The Ark

Name and Location: The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Open since 1965 in a historic former cinema, The Ark is a beloved nonprofit music venue hosting local and touring folk, roots, world music artists in an intimate 400-seat listening room setting.

What to Expect: Catch acclaimed artists along with emerging stars in genres like folk, bluegrass, Americana performing live concerts most evenings in a comfortable, close-up venue with excellent sound.

Visitor Information: Ticket prices $15-45. Showtimes at 8pm most nights with additional family matinees some weekends. Food, beverages sold on site. Call 734-761-1800 for schedules.

Since its founding in 1965, The Ark has hosted musical legends like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan within its intimate 400-person auditorium. It continues showcasing diverse local and national talent. Introduce your kids to live music with a family-friendly show.

Children and students receive discounts on select performances as well. With music ranging from rock to jazz to funk, The Ark delivers an incomparable concert experience to remember.

4. Skate at Buhr Park Ice Arena

Name and Location: Buhr Park Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Opened in 1994, this public ice arena complex managed by the Ann Arbor Parks system features 3 rinks hosting community skating sessions, skating lessons, hockey leagues and ice shows.

What to Expect: Year-round open skating hours for the public to freely glide on the ice rinks independently or with assistance from walking frames, ice pups. Skate rentals available, bring gloves/jackets as it gets cold inside.

Visitor Information: Rink entry fees $6 for adults, $5 students/seniors, $2 skate rentals. Open skate times vary daily, check city parks website for schedules.

Lace up those skates for some frosty fun at Buhr Park Ice Arena – Ann Arbor’s popular indoor ice skating rink. It hosts public skating sessions nearly every day where families can glide across the ice. Seasonal figure skating shows, hockey games, curling leagues, and skating classes entertain visitors as well.

The complex also contains a gymnastics training center, dance studio, and indoor playground to delight kids.

5. Catch a Show at Ann Arbor Civic Theater

Name and Location: Ann Arbor Civic Theater in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded 1963, this volunteer-based community theater company stages up to 12 shows per season ranging from well-loved musicals to contemporary plays that provide enrichment and accessible arts education.

What to Expect: Catch high-quality theatrical productions in an intimate sub-100 seat black box theater setting. Annual lineup has options appealing to diverse tastes and age groups from families to seniors.

Visitor Information: Located downtown near E. Huron St. Ticket prices $18-25. Season flex passes available. Call 734-971-2228 for performance calendars and reservations.

Founded in 1956, the volunteer-based Ann Arbor Civic Theater stages high-quality musicals, dramas, comedies, and youth productions. Families will love catching a lively show at the intimate theater-in-the-round stage.

A2CT mounts classics like “Peter Pan”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and Charles Dickens tales for the holidays. With affordable tickets, kid-friendly content, and talented community casts, an A2CT show promises a top-notch theater experience for all.

6. Explore Nichols Arboretum

Name and Location: Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Originally designed in 1907, this expansive University of Michigan arboretum spans 123 acres with collections of majestic trees from around the world interspersed with historic buildings, gardens and natural areas.

What to Expect: Walking trails meander through diverse wooded sections and cultivated botanical gardens. Benches provided for resting and reflecting amid flowers, streams, small waterfalls. Gorgeous spot for taking nature walks.

Visitor Information: Free public access daily from dawn to dusk. Several pedestrian entrances around perimeter. Guided tour leaves from Visitor Center Sundays 2pm.

Pack a picnic basket and set out on a nature walk through Nichols Arboretum. Also known as “The Arb”, this 123-acre park contains hiking trails winding through forests, meadows, gardens, and along the Huron River.

Kids enjoy climbing the play structure, checking out wildflowers in spring, and spotting birds & wildlife. Leashed dogs are welcome too. Rent cross-country skis in winter to glide through snow-covered woods. The Arb offers natural beauty and relaxation minutes from downtown.

7. See a Planetarium Show at Peckham Hall

Name and Location: Peckham Hall Planetarium in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Part of the Angell Hall astronomy complex at the University of Michigan, this 70-foot planetarium has offered immersive educational shows about space and the cosmos using advanced projection technology since 1949.

What to Expect: Recline under an awe-inspiring 20,000-star projection dome while expert presenters narrate night sky shows explaining constellations, eclipses and more using the powerful Zeiss M1015 star projector system paired with surround sound.

Visitor Information: Planetarium shows on varying space topics offered Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm plus 2pm matinees second Saturdays monthly. Tickets $10 adults, $8 students/seniors via Eventbrite.

The University of Michigan’s Peckham Hall houses a modern planetarium with an advanced Digistar projection system. Families can watch 360-degree films exploring planets, stars, constellations and other cosmic wonders.

Narrated shows like “Oasis in Space” and “Stars” reveal astonishing sights in deep space through images from advanced telescopes. With reasonable ticket prices and lots of free parking, Peckham delivers an illuminating look at our night sky.

8. Cheer on the Wolverines at The Big House

Name and Location: Michigan Stadium / The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Home stadium of the University of Michigan Wolverines football team, the Big House is the largest stadium in the US and third largest globally, seating over 107,000 fans since opening in 1927.

What to Expect: Attending a Michigan football game is an iconic, electric experience for sports fans as over 100,000 spectators fill the stands cheering loudly for the beloved Wolverines team amid contagious school spirit and traditions.

Visitor Information: Game tickets range widely in pricing via authorized university channels. Guided stadium tours also offered on select days when no events are scheduled, book online.

No visit to Ann Arbor is complete without experiencing a University of Michigan football game at the famed Michigan Stadium. Also known as “The Big House”, it’s the largest stadium in North America seating over 107,000 screaming fans.

Watch your kids’ excitement spike as the Wolverines take the field to thundering cheers and chants. Enjoy action-packed NCAA football along with giant pretzels, hot chocolate, marching band performances, and more!

9. Make Some Art at Clay Art Center

Name and Location: Clay Art Center – Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Founded in 1953, the Clay Art Center aims to make pottery and ceramic arts education accessible by offering functional art studio spaces, diverse classes, workshops, events and exhibitions.

What to Expect: Try your hand at wheel throwing, hand building, sculpting and glazing clay masterpieces guided by talented resident artists. Suitable for all experience levels. Explore rotating pottery displays.

Visitor Information: Located downtown on W. Liberty St. Drop-in sessions $12 studio fee plus clay cost. Also offer multi-week courses, private events, youth camps.

Let your kids mold masterpieces out of clay at Clay Art Center’s paint-your-own pottery studio. This BYOB (bring your own bottle) studio allows families to hand-build or wheel throw custom clay creations from mugs to bowls. Staff help fire and glaze pieces in vibrant colors.

The Good Earth café serves healthy snacks to fuel the creative fun too. Book the private party room for special celebrations and events. Your personalized pottery makes wonderful memorabilia from your Ann Arbor trip.

10. Explore the Leslie Science & Nature Center

Name and Location: Leslie Science & Nature Center in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Set on 50 acres of fields, forests and wetlands, this nature preserve and education facility provides immersive outdoor experiences that engage visitors in the science and wonder of the natural world.

What to Expect: Miles of scenic trails to explore diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Seasonal discovery programs range from Astronomy nights to Butterflies and Blooms guided tours catering to all ages.

Visitor Information: Free access to trails year-round 8am-30 minutes after sunset daily. Center open Tue-Fri 12-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm. Program pricing varies. Call 734-997-1553.

Discover Michigan wildlife and natural habitats at the Leslie Science & Nature Center spanning over 50 acres. This educational center features woodland trails, pond ecosystems, animal ambassadors like turtles & snakes, and seasonal programs.

Children can navigate their massive outdoor Discovery Area containing log cabins, climbing structures, prairie landscapes and secret hiding spots ideal for make-believe play. Families develop appreciation for nature while immersed in Leslie’s many hands-on exhibits.

11. Play Laser Tag at Planet Rock

Name and Location: Planet Rock Indoor Climbing Gym in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Open since 2013, Planet Rock’s sprawling facility offers the Midwest’s highest climbing walls, bouldering cave, fitness training zones alongside hosting events, camps and programs as a hub for the climbing community.

What to Expect: Scale towering indoor rock walls with auto-belay systems allowing first-timers to try safely. Also features cave maze, aerial yoga, battle beam, kid climbing areas. Day passes include gear rental.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-10pm. Day passes $20 adults, $15 youth under 15. Membership options. Book parties, corporate events in advance online or call 734-707-2212.

Planet Rock’s 25,000+ square foot facility offers stellar rock climbing & bouldering opportunities for all skill levels. Their cave-themed laser tag arena below provides heart-pounding family fun with fog, light effects, tunnels and multi-level structures.

Kids love navigating through the elaborate course and scoring points by “shooting” sensor targets on opponents’ vests. Parents can climb, grab food from the café or watch the laser tag excitement from viewing decks above. With reasonable day pass rates, Planet Rock delivers next-level recreation.

12. Pedal Along The Huron River

Name and Location: Huron River Water Trail in Ann Arbor, MI

History and Significance: Flowing 125 miles through Southeast Michigan, the Huron River offers peaceful passage along connected waterways through the heart of Ann Arbor using canoes, kayaks and paddle boards available for public recreational use.

What to Expect: Rent boats near city parks to traverse the Huron solo or tandem taking in scenic riverbend views and native wildlife like herons, turtles. Launch sites feature free parking andtrailers from several outfitters.

Visitor Information: Downloadable river guides online recommended for new paddlers. Average trip times from 1-3 hours depending on pace, distance covered upstream or down. Season runs April-October.

Rent a quadcycle or tandem bike perfect for families and set out along the scenic Huron River waterway and wooded parkland. Take memorable mini bike trips as a family using The Trek, a 17-mile designated bike path linking parks from Dexter to Ypsilanti.

Stop for ice cream in Dexter or check out riverside attractions like Gallup Park & Bandemer Park along the way. The paved trails offer effortless riding and gorgeous river valley views to take in as you pedal the afternoon away.

Conclusion

With its unique museums, university culture, music scene and wealth of parks, Ann Arbor offers no shortage of family-friendly things to experience. From active endeavors like ice-skating, biking and rock climbing to hands-on science and art explorations, parents can easily fill an itinerary with interactive learning fun for kids of all ages.

Catching a show or concert and cheering on the beloved Wolverines enhances Ann Arbor’s lively atmosphere. No matter the season, visiting families will make treasured memories together across this charming Michigan town.

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