Experience Metro Detroit — Kids’ Style
by Kristen J. Gough
Candy tours. Check. Award-winning museums. Check. One-of-a-kind attractions. Check. Check. When it comes to vacationing with your kids, metro Detroit is packed with a long list of family-friendly spots that satisfy, whether you and your brood are into adventure, history, the great outdoors — or maybe all three. And we keep adding more great options. Rediscover places you loved as a kid while checking out new finds during a day out in Detroit.
When you’re browsing for things designed for kiddies 10 and under
Detroit Kid City
Kids can play in their own mini-Detroit at this popular family find that just celebrated its first anniversary. Dress-ups abound so kids can pretend to be everything from baseball stars to Motown legends.
M / 37051 Gratiot Ave., Clinton Twp., 48036
Legoland Discovery Center Michigan / Sea Life Michigan Aquarium
Tucked into opposite sides of Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, both destinations are jam-packed with interactive play zones and sites for kids, from sea animals to a 4-D cinema.
O / 4240 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills, 48326
O / 4316 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills, 48326
Meadow Brook Theatre Children’s Series
Get Broadway-quality shows in a family-friendly setting with performances that tap into kids’ interests and imaginations, like Anne of Green Gables.
O / 207 Wilson Blvd., Rochester Hills, 48309
The Mall at Partridge Creek
There’s more than just shopping at this open-air shopping center. Visit the pop jet fountains, which open in May, or the newly designed children’s play park. Or enjoy a show during the summer concert series.
M / 17420 Hall Road, Clinton Twp., 48038
When you want to explore sites you’ll only find in The D
Sanders & Morley Candy Makers Factory Tour
Sanders chocolates are a Detroit tradition that dates back to 1875. Take your pick from a newly revamped, free guided tour with chocolate samples (reservations required) or the self-guided tour.
M / 23770 Hall Road, Clinton Twp., 48036
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Step back in time at this unusual museum, which showcases vintage coin-operated machines, rare collectibles andother odds and ends.
GN / 31005 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, 48334
Detroit International RiverWalk
Running along the east riverfront from Gabriel Richard Park to Joe Louis Arena, more than three miles of the RiverWalk are now complete. There’s plenty to do and see, but for younger ones, check out the water cannons and splash pads at Mount Elliott Park.
DD / Rosa Parks Boulevard to the Belle Isle Bridge, Detroit, 48226
When you want seriously good times
Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center
Cool off as you slide down one of two water slides, or watch while your kids race through the “sprayscape.” For something a little slower paced, try the lazy river. Inside Lower Huron Metropark.
DW / 17845 Savage Road, Belleville, 48111
Lucky Strike Entertainment
Bowling goes upscale. And it’s not just bowling. There are arcade games and pool tables that will keep your kids entertained. Try some of the gourmet youngster-approved eats, like hand-battered mini-corn dogs.
GN / 44325 W. 12 Mile Road, Novi, 48377
Detroit Flyhouse Circus School
The circus and family fun kind of go hand in hand. Take the pairing to the next level by learning traditional circus arts such as trapeze and acrobatics with your crew. Aerial classes are offered for ages 7-12. Enjoy the school’s Intro Workshop or Open Fly open gym times to practice newly learned skills.
DD / 1321 Watson St., Detroit, 48207
CJ Barrymore’s Family Entertainment Center
There’s something for wee ones and thrill seekers at this expansive 26-acre play haven. Take your pick from 120 games inside and go-karts and golfing outside. New this year, a loop rollercoaster just big enough to get your adrenaline running.
M / 21750 Hall Road, Clinton Twp., 48038
When you just want to play ball
Detroit Tigers Game
Head downtown to Comerica Park to see the Detroit Tigers play major-league baseball. On Sundays after games (weather permitting), kids age 14 and under can line up to run the bases. Fireworks on select Fridays.
DD / 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 48201
Canton Sports Center
Batter up! Take your pick from 12 lighted ball fields, with playscapes nearby so that, when the kids are done on the field, they can “swing” away.
DW / 46555 W. Michigan Ave., Canton, 48188
Jimmy John’s Field
Cheer on one of four United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL) teams that call this playing field home. The stadium, which holds just more than 4,000, is designed to give fans an up-close and personal feel. Concerts and other activities are randomly scheduled on non-game days.
M / 7171 Auburn Road, Utica, 48317
When you’re in search of animals in the wild and on the farm
Westview Orchards & Adventure Farm
Kids can make new four-legged (and webbed) friends at the petting farm. Or make reservations for your elementary-school-aged child to go on the Bees & Blossoms tour.
M / 65075 Van Dyke Ave., Washington Twp., 48095
Cranbrook Institute of Science
Dive into the life of nocturnal animals in the Bat Zone. Once you’re done with flying creatures, see a 360-degree show under the stars of the planetarium.
O / 39221 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield Hills, 48304
Spread over 125 acres, the zoo is where young eyes will see everything from black bears to polar bears. The newest exhibit, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, features 80 penguins that swim all around you, including above you as you walk through a clear tunnel. Dance along with the animals and tunes from local bands, 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesdays, July through August.
O / 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, 48067
Belle Isle Aquarium
Staring at the lime-green tiled ceiling and surrounded by tanks all around, this aquarium — the oldest one in the country, opened in 1904 — is sure to delight the children.
DD / 900 Inselruhe Ave., Detroit, 48207
When you’re ready for adventure
Outdoor Adventure Center
Camping indoors? You can do that at this Up North experience that’s right downtown. Simulated activities include shooting wild game, kayaking through a river and even catching a fish. (Be patient, they’re tricky.)
DD / 1801 Atwater St., Detroit, 48207
Wolcott Mill Metropark
Spot cows, sheep, miniature and draft horses, and goats at this 250-acre working farm that channels the late 20th century. Your family can even take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the fields on Saturdays and Sundays.
M / 65775 Wolcott Road, Ray Twp., 48096
The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield
If a forest climbing park is a concept somewhat new to you, just imagine the best zip line experience ever and multiply it by 100. Supervised and solo trails for ages 7 and up. Kids 5-6 can climb two trails with an adult.
GN / 6600 W. Maple Road, West Bloomfield Twp., 48322
Campus Martius Park
Sure, you could sit and relax at one of the tables out on the lawn area within this 2.5-acre public square — often there are live bands in the summer. The bigger draw for kids? The Woodward Fountain with more than 100 water jets or the beach on the park’s south side.
DD / 800 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 48226
When you’re up for a little schooling
The Henry Ford – Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
This indoor/outdoor museum pays homage to American innovation. Highlights include the Rosa Parks bus, where Parks took a stand for civil rights, and inventor Thomas Edison’s laboratory. Need a break from all the learning? Check out Greenfield Village’s playground. Its 20-foot-long boiler tunnel is a special treat.
DW / 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, 48124
Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus
Learn about what it was like for Jewish families leading up to, during and after the Holocaust. Through June 4, you can take in a special exhibit about one of the most discussed victims of the Holocaust, the young teenager Anne Frank. The exhibit is appropriately called Anne Frank: A History for Today.
GN / 28123 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, 48334
Historic Fort Wayne
From barracks to an old guardhouse, step inside a fort to see what life would have been like for the soldiers stationed there. Spread over 80-plus acres. Several events — including reenactments — are held over the summer.
DW / 6325 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, 48209
Arab American National Museum
Once you’ve learned more about the traditions and culture of Arab-Americans through the museum’s permanent exhibits, come back on July 13-17 for the Concert of Colors. Now in its 25th year, this free musical event features kids’ crafts and performers.
DW / 13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, 48126
Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum
Learn more about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American fighter and bomber pilots that flew in World War II. Call beforehand and set your crew up for a special tour of the museum’s historic planes.
DW / 6325 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, 48209
When you’re craving a day of discovery
Arts & Scraps
Fabric. Bobbles. Wrapping paper. Let your kids pile their finds into a bag to build creations at home. Or let them experiment in Scrapland, a special part of the store with interactive play stations.
DD / 16135 Harper Ave., Detroit, 48224
Michigan Science Center
During the Sparks Electricity Show, your hair will literally stand on end while the kids giggle (be careful if you volunteer). Mix live shows, along with hitting several of the center’s 250-plus hands-on exhibits, for a full day of discovery.
DD / 5020 John R St., Detroit, 48202
The Robot Garage
Just think of this as Lego heaven. Here, kids can hang out and create robots, cityscapes and anything else you can construct with building bricks.
O / 637 S. Eton St., Birmingham, 48009
Detroit Institute of Arts
Dating back to 1885, the DIA has more than 100 galleries. For kids, search out the Play Eye Spy plaques and use the provided clues to find mystery objects. Find the donkey statue on Level 1. It’s the one work of art that welcomes the touch of little hands. Drop-in weekend workshops give young artists a chance to create their own masterpieces.
DD / 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 48202
The Detroit Shrine Circus at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi (April 6-9)
Spring Festival at Kensington Metropark Farm Center in Milford (April 22-23)
Day Out with Thomas at The Henry Ford in Dearborn (April 29-30, May 6-7, 13-14)
The Ford Fireworks in Detroit (June 26)
Mud Day at Hines Park-Nankin Mills Area in Westland (July 11)
Maker Faire Detroit at The Henry Ford in Dearborn (July 29-30)
Michigan State Fair at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi (Aug. 31-Sept. 4)
UniverSoul Circus in Detroit (Sept. TBD)
Kid-friendly cuisine in metro Detroit
Astoria Pastry Shop in Detroit and Royal Oak • Supino Pizzeria, Mootown Ice Cream & Gift Shop, Lafayette and American Coney Islands, Detroit Water Ice Factory in Detroit • Stroh’s Ice Cream Parlour in Wyandotte • Buddy’s Pizza in multiple locations • Rainforest Café in Auburn Hills • Clark’s Ice Cream and Yogurt in Berkley
Photo credits: Sea Life courtesy of Sea Life Michigan Aquarium; Detroit Kid City by Dawn Torres; Detroit International RiverWalk, Tigers Game by Vito Palmisano; Detroit Flyhouse Circus School courtesy of Detroit Flyhouse Circus School; Polk Penguin Conservation Center by Bill Bowen; Outdoor Adventure Center by Jacob Lewkow; Greenfield Village by Roy Ritchie; The Robot Garge by David Lewinski; Michigan Science Center courtesy of Michigan Science Center; Detroit Institute of Arts by Julie Friedman, ice cream from Getty Images/Magone.
Order the meat sauce on anything and you’ll understand why Roma Café is Detroit's oldest Italian restaurant, dating back to 1890.
Book a dinner cruise or go for a late-night moonlight party aboard the Detroit Princess. The five-story riverboat is back in action for the season.
Fall is in full swing and that means Detroit Red Wings hockey at The Joe. No ticket? Cobo Joe's is a surefire hot spot on game days.
Watch Discover the D TV to learn all about the hidden gems and history that our city has to offer.