12 Things to Do with Family in Detroit, Michigan

Last Updated on February 24, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As the largest city in Michigan, Detroit has plenty to see and do for families. From museums and parks to sports and activities, Detroit offers exciting attractions for kids of all ages. The city’s revitalization has brought new life to classic institutions and added unique new adventures. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or longer, Detroit makes for an entertaining family destination. Here are 12 of the top things to do with family in Detroit, Michigan.

ActivityLocation
Detroit ZooRoyal Oak
Dossin Great Lakes MuseumBelle Isle
Campus Martius ParkDowntown Detroit
Comerica ParkDetroit
Michigan Science CenterDetroit Midtown
Dequindre Cut and Detroit RiverfrontDetroit
Little Caesars ArenaDetroit
The Henry FordDearborn
Australian Outback AdventureDetroit Zoo
Edsel & Eleanor Ford HouseGrosse Pointe Shores
Fox TheatreDetroit
Great Wolf Lodge MichiganTraverse City

Detroit is a city on the move, undergoing an exciting rebirth over the past decade. After falling on hard times following the decline of the auto industry, Detroit has seen resurgence in recent years with redeveloped neighborhoods, new businesses and cultural attractions.

What began in downtown with stadiums and casinos has spread into once forgotten neighborhoods. Families visiting Detroit will find plenty to explore beyond the classic Motown museums and auto attractions.

Interactive museums, hands-on learning, professional sports, and outdoor adventures cater to kids’ interests. And new developments like Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit have enhanced game-day experiences. Whether touring a historic mansion, cheering on the Tigers, or cycling by the riverfront, Detroit offers memorable activities for the whole family.

1. Explore the Detroit Zoo

Name and Location: The Detroit Zoo is located at the intersection of Woodward Avenue and 10 Mile Road in Royal Oak, just north of Detroit, Michigan.

History and Significance: Founded in 1928, the Detroit Zoo sits on 125 acres with award-winning naturalistic habitats for more than 2,500 animals representing 300 species. It’s renowned for immersive panda and polar bear exhibits along with the Arctic Ring of Life.

What to Expect: Visitors explore zoo habitats like the African Grasslands, Australian Outback Adventure, Polk Penguin Conservation Center, reptile house, insect building plus simulated jeep and train tours. Shows and feeding encounters occur daily.

Visitor Information: The Detroit Zoo is open daily all year aside from select major holidays. Parking and admission fees apply. Memberships offering year-round entry are available.

Spread across 125 acres, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is one of Michigan’s most popular family attractions. Home to thousands of animals representing nearly 300 species, the zoo features exhibits replicating habitats from around the world. Say hello to gorillas in the Great Apes of Harambee outdoor habitat and get eye level with polar bears swimming underwater at the Arctic Ring of Life.

Catch a demonstration at the National Amphibian Conservation Center, a state-of-the-art facility breeding endangered frogs. Ride the miniature Train Town, carousel and zip line for added fun. With engaging animal encounters, rides and play areas tailored to kids, the Detroit Zoo packs in a full day of family adventure.

2. Tour a Great Lakes Freighter at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Name and Location: The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is located on Detroit’s historic Belle Isle park along the shores of the Detroit River.

History and Significance: Open since 1960, the Dossin Museum illuminates the maritime heritage of the Great Lakes through extensive exhibits and an acclaimed collection of model ships. Visitors can board an on-site freighter for tours.

What to Expect: Maritime exhibits trace navigational science, freighter life, shipwrecks, lighthouses and more. A bow-to-stern tour of the historically retired freighter lets visitors explore cargo holds, crew quarters, the pilothouse and observation deck.

Visitor Information: The Dossin Museum offers daily tours May through October. An admission fee is charged for the museum and included freighter ticket.

For an immersive look at the ships vital to Detroit’s growth, spend an afternoon at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle. A highlight is the aqua-colored SS William Clay Ford freighter open for guided tours. Walk the decks of the 1953 limestone carrier and see the crew quarters, pilot house, engine room and cargo holds up-close.

Interactive exhibits detail the shipping industry’s history and operation. Other maritime artifacts include models, paintings, equipment and a surviving wooden cabin from an 1890s freighter. Families gain new appreciation for the vessels quintessential to Great Lakes commerce and culture.

3. Skate Year-Round at Campus Martius Park

Name and Location: Campus Martius Park is a public square located in downtown Detroit bordered by Woodward Ave, Michigan Ave, Washington Blvd and Congress Street.

History and Significance: Redeveloped in 2004, Campus Martius offers year-round recreation through an outdoor ice skating rink in winter converted to a fountain and beach during summer months amidst green public spaces.

What to Expect: From November to March visitors enjoy free public ice skating with daily programming like lessons, skate rentals and special events from music to Winter Blast festivals. Family activities continue through summer months.

Visitor Information: Campus Martius Park is free to access year-round dawn to dusk. Some special events and rentals require paid tickets. Parking garages are nearby.

When wintry weather hits, Detroit’s downtown Campus Martius Park transforms into a festive ice skating rink perfect for families. Lace up your skates to glide across the rink encircled by ornate historic buildings and the city’s tallest skyscrapers. Skate rentals and a warming lodge are available.

The synthetic ice means fun isn’t just limited to winter. Skating operates year-round at the park, providing summertime fun too. Special events like Skate with Santa, Happy Hour Skate and Skate to the Classics add entertaining themes. With twinkling lights, decorations and music, Campus Martius provides seasonal fun in the heart of Detroit.

4. See a Detroit Tigers Baseball Game at Comerica Park

Name and Location: Comerica Park is an open-air baseball stadium located at 2100 Woodward Ave downtown that hosts the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball.

History and Significance: Open since 2000, the Tigers completed the move to their new ballpark at Comerica Park from historic Tiger Stadium. Today it hosts over 2 million fans per season through 81 home games each year.

What to Expect: Tourists can catch regular season Tigers games through the summer into fall while enjoying good views of the field, multiple food concessions and an onsite gift shop. The park offers a lively gameday atmosphere.

Visitor Information: Comerica Park runs daily public tours on non-game days. Single game and season ticket packages can be purchased through the Tigers official website.

Catch fast-paced Major League Baseball action when you take the family to an exciting Detroit Tigers game at Comerica Park. The Tigers have played in the shining stadium since 2000, with features like a carousel and Ferris wheel adding to the kid-friendly environment. Before the first pitch, arrive early to stroll the beautiful Ernie Harwell Park outside the gates.

Kids can run the bases on select Sundays after games. Friday fireworks follow games too. Watch future baseball stars compete at the annual NCAA Detroit Little League Classic. With affordable tickets, concession deals andinteractive activities, Comerica Park makes for an unforgettable family outing.

5. Explore Hands-On Science at the Michigan Science Center

Name and Location: The Michigan Science Center is an interactive museum located in Midtown Detroit focused on STEM exploration.

History and Significance: Founded in 1970, the Michigan Science Center (formerly the Detroit Science Center) is a world-class showcase for inspiring curious minds of all ages to discover and explore science, technology and math principles through hands-on permanent and visiting exhibits.

What to Expect: Interactive galleries let visitors explore concepts like space science, physics, chemistry, biology, geometry and more through stimulating displays and activities like manipulating objects with giant air vortices or collecting bee pollen. An IMAX Dome theater, planetarium, lab spaces, live science shows and visiting exhibitions immerse guests of all ages in wonder.

Visitor Information: The Michigan Science Center is open daily aside from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission fees apply with discounted rates for Michigan residents.

With hundreds of interactive exhibits spread over 10 acres, kids are guaranteed to have fun exploring science first-hand at the Michigan Science Center. Experience space travel and Mars walks in the Space Gallery. Race pine wood derby cars down a 40-foot track.

Design robots and learn coding basics. Even little ones get in on the action in Kidstown designed for ages 5 and under. Giant screen IMAX movies, live science demonstrations and special traveling exhibits provide fresh experiences. Located in the vibrant Detroit Midtown neighborhood, the Michigan Science Center entertains and educates on science through hands-on engagement.

6. Pedal Along the Dequindre Cut and Detroit Riverfront

Name and Location: The Dequindre Cut Greenway spans 2 miles connecting Detroit’s riverfront to historic Eastern Market district through downtown.

History and Significance: Converting a former railroad, this urban recreational path developed green infrastructure stitching neighborhoods together since 2009. The Cut enables walkers, joggers, bicyclists and wheelchairs accessible access through Detroit while observing nature and public art.

What to Expect: Users of the Dequindre Cut encounter paved pathways following an old railroad bed flanked by native plants, trees, artwork murals depicting the city and its history connecting Lafayette Park through to the Detroit Riverwalk. Benches provide rest stops to enjoy views.

Visitor Information: The Dequindre Cut pathway is freely open for public access dawn to dusk year-round as a non-motorized route connecting communities across central Detroit.

Stretching from the Eastern Market to the riverfront, the Dequindre Cut greenway puts you on two wheels riding through Detroit. The below-street level rail-trail follows the route of an old railroad line. Pedal 1.4 miles one-way along the paved path observing graffiti art and gardens that line the trail.

Complete the loop by cruising along Detroit’s riverfront. Ride by parks, sculptures, fountains and marinas for nearly 5 miles to Belle Isle. Wheelhouse Detroit offers bike rentals and tours. With flat terrain perfect for family cycling, the Dequindre Cut and Detroit Riverfront Trail showcase Detroit’s natural beauty.

7. Experience the Legend of Detroit Red Wings Hockey at Little Caesars Arena

Name and Location: Little Caesars Arena is located at 2645 Woodward Ave serving as the home venue to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings hockey team and NBA’s Detroit Pistons basketball team.

History and Significance: Opened in 2017 near downtown Detroit, this state-of-the-art indoor arena hosts 19,000+ fans for Detroit’s pro hockey and basketball games alongside A-list concerts and other sports/entertainment events utilizing adaptable design suited to any occasion.

What to Expect: Visitors attend exciting Red Wings NHL and Pistons NBA home games in an electrifying environment outfitted with amenities serving gourmet concessions to create a world-class event experience including a 10,000-sqaure foot outdoor plaza.

Visitor Information: Tickets to Little Caesars Arena events can be purchased on Ticketmaster and the venue website. Year-round public tours available on non-event days exploring sports exhibits and behind-the-scenes spaces.

Diehard Detroiters live and breathe hockey, so you can’t visit without catching some Detroit Red Wings action at state-of-the-art Little Caesars Arena. The 20,000-seat arena provides a thrill watching future hall-of-famers compete up close. Arrive when gates open to see players warmup and catch souvenir pucks flipped into the stands. Updateable LED graphics outside recount Detroit hockey history.

Kids will love photo ops with giant bobbleheads and statues honoring Red Wings greats. Dine in style with premium lounges like the Coors Light Zamboni Club. With electrifying play, tradition and fan camaraderie, Red Wings hockey brings family entertainment.

8. Learn About Ford History at The Henry Ford

Name and Location: The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village is located in the metro Detroit suburb of Dearborn, MI about 11 miles from downtown.

History and Significance: The Henry Ford details over 300 years of American history through historic buildings, technological innovations that changed society, the automotive industry’s story and more as one of the country’s premier history destinations.

What to Expect: Museum goers encounter iconic artifacts like the bus Rosa Parks sat in or the presidential limo JFK rode through Dealey Plaza plus pioneering innovations, machinery powering the industrial revolution, automotive exhibits and historic villages populated with costumed presenters demonstrating Victorian life as it was lived.

Visitor Information: The Henry Ford campus is open daily year-round aside from select major holidays in winter. Discounted admission available online. Free shuttles connect venues across the expansive campus.

Travel back through America’s automotive heritage with a visit to The Henry Ford historical attractions in the metro Detroit suburb of Dearborn. Tour Henry Ford’s famed Model T inside the Henry Ford Museum documenting 300 years of innovation and ingenuity. At Greenfield Village, climb aboard Model Ts and steam locomotives as you explore a recreation of Ford’s hometown with over 100 historic buildings.

Expert historians bring the exhibits to life. IMAX films shine on an enormous six-story screen at the Ford Rouge Factory Tour depicting Ford’s influential assembly line. Interactive stations let kids try activities like operating a robotic assembly line. Families gain vivid perspective on Ford’s genius shaping modern industry.

9. See Exotic Animals at the Detroit Zoo’s Australian Outback Adventure

Name and Location: The Australian Outback Adventure zone brings the wildlife of the Land Down Under to the Detroit Zoo.

History and Significance: Opened in 2018, this $30 million habitat expansion emphasizes species conservation close encounters showcasing red kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras and cassowaries roaming freely through detailed recreations of their Australian environments at the Detroit Zoo.

What to Expect: Zoo visitors can hand feed kangaroos, touch a lorikeet landing on their shoulder, grab selfies with rock wallabies or spot the flightless cassowary as they explore recreated Australian lake habitats that mimic the Antipodean feel through flora native to Queensland.

Visitor Information: The Australian Outback Adventure experience is included with regular Detroit Zoo admission. Timed entry tickets should be booked online in advance when possible, especially during peak months.

Glimpse kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles and other animals from Down Under during a trip to the Outback Adventure at the Detroit Zoo. This state-of-the-art habitat recreates the landscape of Australia’s Northern Territory. Observe red kangaroos and agile wallaroos roam across the expansive yard.

Volunteer guides provide snacks to eager mobs of kangaroos daily. Inside the 8,400 square-foot Hickman Outback Building, get an eyeful of prehistoric-looking reptiles like crocodiles and a giant saltwater croc. The detailed immersion into Australia’s remote wilderness showcases animals found nowhere else at the zoo.

10. Tour the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House

Name and Location: The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is a historic home located at 1100 Lake Shore Road along the shores of Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Shores, just northeast of Detroit, MI.

History and Significance: Completed in 1929 for Edsel Ford and his wife Eleanor, this opulent estate exemplifies aristocratic life in the early 20th century as the Ford family cemented its wealth and influence. Its architecture and artworks convey unmatched extravagance.

What to Expect: Guided tours allow visitors to explore the elegant 20,000+ square foot English-style Cotswold mansion and its impeccably crafted interiors room-to-room as an immersive glimpse back in time when Detroit high society vacationed lakeside each summer to escape urban heat.

Visitor Information: The Ford House offers timed entry tour tickets to walk through the estate from May through early September. Gardens and grounds remain open longer seasonally. Reserved tickets should be booked online in advance.

For a look into the lives of famous Detroit auto family the Fords, visit the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. Tour the beautiful lakeside mansion designed in the 1920s for Henry Ford’s only son and experience upper class life. Wander the richly decorated rooms with original furniture and art.

Kids enjoy scavenger hunt-style tours hunting for items like a rhinoceros head or suit of armor. The youth garden workshop lets children pot plants to take home. Unique family festivals throughout the year highlight interests like comic book art, jewelry making and photography. Peeking inside the historic Ford family estate provides interactive learning.

11. See a Show at the Fox Theatre

Name and Location: The Fox Theatre is an elegantly ornate performing arts center and movie palace located at 2211 Woodward Ave in downtown Detroit, MI.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1928, the Fox Theatre stands as a pinnacle of extravagantly detailed architecture spanning 13 stories as an exceptional example of lavish movie houses from the pre-Depression boom era conveying Fox Theatres’ then-slogan: “Built for the ages”.

What to Expect: Modern audiences can take in classic movies or attend concerts, comedy shows and Broadway touring productions within the visually dazzling Fox overseen by a skilled restoration team who meticulously maintain the time-honored interior decor intact as a cornerstone of Detroit’s Theater District.

Visitor Information: The Fox Theatre hosts regular public tours detailing the interior design, architecture and history when no events are occurring. Tickets for movies and performances available on Ticketmaster.

Light up your kid’s imagination with a dazzling live performance at the elaborately decorated Fox Theatre. The 1928 movie palace designed with an exotic Asian theme transports you to another world with glittering stars, clouds and glowing Buddhas. Broadway touring productions like Frozen, The Lion King and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory bring fantastical stories to life on-stage.

Symphony orchestras, comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, and nationally touring music acts also entertain on the Fox stage. From the twinkling ceiling to the booming pipe organ, the Fox Theatre delivers spellbinding family entertainment.

12. Make a Splash at Great Wolf Lodge Michigan

Name and Location: Great Wolf Lodge in Michigan is a large indoor water park resort hotel located at 3575 N. Cedar Springs Rd. in Traverse City approximately 300 miles northwest of Detroit.

History and Significance: Opened 2021, Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City imported the family-oriented Great Wolf model blending a popular year-round indoor water park under an expansive glass roof housing thrill slides, play zones and pools suited for all ages paired with Northwoods-themed accommodation options onsite.

What to Expect: Overnight guests enjoy unlimited access to lightning racer body slides, a massive Fort Mackenzie sprayground treehouse, wave pool, lazy river and other wet attractions spread over 70,000+ square feet filling out days between adventures exploring Northern Michigan’s natural and cultural offerings just beyond the lodge doors.

Visitor Information: Great Wolf Lodge Traverse City offers over 500 family suites. Direct online booking available. Exclusive water park access limited to registered overnight guests for a bundled price.

For year-round water park fun, book a stay at Great Wolf Lodge Michigan located a short drive north of Detroit in Traverse City. The massive indoor water park provides slides, pools and spray features for endless entertainment. Let kids splash down slides like River Canyon Run and Alberta Falls. Play an interactive MagiQuest game with magic wands throughout the lodge.

Enjoy story time and a dance party at nightly Great Wolf kids events. Howl with delight riding the Howlin’ Tornado funnel or plunging down the four-story Dropslide. The northwoods themed suites keep the family together, some featuring bunk beds and camping decor. With watery thrills and amusement indoors and out, Great Wolf Lodge offers the ultimate family getaway just minutes from Detroit.

Conclusion

From museums and cultural attractions to sports, parks and family entertainment, Detroit impresses with an array of family-friendly activities. District Detroit around the stadiums provides walkable fun before and after games. The revived Midtown pumps new energy into classics like the Detroit Zoo and Detroit Institute of Arts.

Experiencing the auto legacy at The Henry Ford and touring a Motown legend’s childhood home connect kids to Detroit’s cultural heritage. Outdoor diversions like cycling the riverfront, ice skating at Campus Martius Park, and kayaking the Detroit River get the family active. With expanding development and cultural rebirth, Detroit offers families fresh adventures and renewed appreciation for Motor City.

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