10 Fascinating Historic Museums and Places to Visit in Metro Detroit
Curious kids will have a blast at these family-friendly spots that specialize in local history.
If you live in or around a city that’s more than 300 years old, you’ll understand why Detroit is a city steeped in history. Metro Detroit has plenty of amazing museums, historical societies, and conservation groups that are working hard to keep historic monuments and facilities open, fresh, and exciting for visitors for all ages.
So if you’re looking for a fun -- yes, history can be fun! -- and unique way to entertain guests, your family, or friends, grab the kids and head out for some historical amusements. You’ll find great places to walk, exciting tours to take, interesting stories, and so much more at some of the area’s best historic hot spots. Grab your spouse, your babysitter, your nanny, or the grandparents and check out an old favorite.
Address: 6325 W. Jefferson Ave., Detroit, MI 48209
Hours: Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Fees: Tours, $5 | Parking, $5
Since 1845, Fort Wayne has stood as guardian of the Detroit River and the city -- even before anyone knew what Detroit was or what it was about to become. The artillery post was largely peaceful, serving as an infantry garrison and induction point for Michigan troops from the Civil War through the Vietnam War. Plan to take the tour, which lasts about two hours. Kids will be fascinated by the character actors who tell stories of what it was like to live at the fort. There’s plenty of room to run, play, and picnic here, as well. The fort’s dedicated volunteers also offer special programs, such as car shows, Civil War Days, and other historical encampments. Check the website for dates and times.
Address: 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202
Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. | Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fees: Admission, free | Street parking, $1/hour | Museum parking, $7
Kids love to roam through this museum, which has regular exhibits about Detroit history, a huge train board, and interactive displays. One favorite is the Kid Rock music lab, which lets children test their musical knowledge and play like they’re the Romeo-based rapper themselves. There’s a huge automotive display, where kids can climb into a Model T and see what it was like to work the factory line. Bring a lunch to eat in the cafeteria near the Streets of Detroit display.
Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124
Hours: Open daily, 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fees: Ages 12+, $22 | Ages 62+, $20 | Kids ages 3-11, $16.50 | Kids 2 & under, free
Plan to spend the day at this amazing history museum and neighboring village. The Henry Ford features everything a kid who loves transportation will enjoy: vintage vehicles, soaring airplanes, huge locomotives, and giant factory engines. There are impressive displays about civil rights, airplane history, trains, the Dymaxion house “of the future,” and presidential autos. Outside and next door, you’ll find Greenfield Village, a collection of historical homes and facilities that Henry Ford curated himself when he was alive. Ride a Model T, check out Thomas Edison’s factory, and explore the homes where the Wright brothers grew up. Bring a lunch to enjoy out on the lawn, as well.
Address: 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit, MI 48201
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Sunday, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Fees: Ages 13-61, $8 | Ages 62+, $5 | Kids ages 3-12, $5 | Kids 2 & under, free
Learn about African American musicians, inventors, creatives, and so much more at this dazzling history museum. Displays focus on Detroit, local history, artists, and sports heroes from around the area. The slavery exhibit may be too intense for small children, but it is essential viewing for adults and older kids to learn about this devastating part of American history. The open spaces combined with great events, such as the current one about the 1967 Detroit rebellion, are well worth the visit.
Address: 100 Strand Drive, Detroit, MI 48207
Hours: Friday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Winter hours)
Fees: Admission & parking, free
Learn to sail a ship. See some of the fastest racing boats around. Find out about Detroit’s maritime history. You can see the interior of huge vessels, learn how to do flag coding, and discover so much more at this small but mighty museum. The Dossin on Belle Isle is an interactive museum, as well, allowing kids to race along the Detroit River via a huge screen or build barges out of building blocks to travel up and down the area’s many waterways.
Address: 461 Piquette St., Detroit, MI 48202
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (April - November)
Fees: Adults, $12 | Ages 65+, $10 | Kids 12 & under, free
Henry Ford is a legend in Michigan and throughout the United States for his innovative designs, his commitment to automotive development, and his willingness to create new ways to build cars. So visiting a place where he first began to experiment with his own vehicle, engineer it, and produce it is exciting for any auto fan. The museum is small and starts with a movie explaining what you’re about to see, so it is accessible for any age.
Address: 217 Farnsworth St., Detroit, MI 48202
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, noon - 5 p.m.
If you collect autographs, you’ll surely admire the autograph collection on display at the Scarab Club. Once you’ve toured the art galleries on the main floor and sketched some pictures, ask to see the second-floor beams. There, you’ll find the signatures of some of the world’s most beloved and impressive artists, including Diego Rivera and Norman Rockwell. Afterward, visit the Detroit Institute of Arts across the street to see more of their classic work.
Address: 2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48208
Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. | Saturday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. | Sunday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Fees: Adults, $15 | Ages 62+, $10 | Kids ages 5-17, $10 | Kids 4 & under, free
A trip to the Motown Museum is a must for any kid who wants to be a musician. Known as Hitsville USA, the museum was formerly home to Berry Gordy, who helped to create the Motown sound. Musicians from Stevie Wonder to The Temptations to The Supremes recorded here, and there are many fascinating displays of their collectibles. The best of the best is the Michael Jackson glove and hat. Guests are not allowed to take photos while inside the museum, but you’ll come away with plenty of memories.
Address: 500 Griswold St., Detroit, MI 48226
Hours: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. | Weekend tours available.
Detroit has multiple National Historic Landmarks, and the Guardian Building is among the greatest of them. This inspiring building in Detroit’s Financial District has a rich history that’s vividly on display inside. Grab a cup of coffee, shop at Pure Detroit (a retailer inside the building), and gaze at the amazing interior. Built in the 1920s, the Guardian is one of the most significant and beautiful examples of Art Deco skyscrapers in the world. Check out the building’s website for dates and times for regular weekend tours through Pure Detroit.
Address: 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI 48124
Hours: Sunday - Thursday, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. | Friday & Saturday, 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fees: Ages 12+, $18 | Ages 62+, $16.25 | Kids ages 3-11, $13.50 | Kids 2 & under, free
If you’re inspired by autos, automotive history, and the incredible sight of a manufacturing factory floor, then the Rouge Factory tour is a must. From the sustainability practices of the Ford family to the green roof to the amazing precision of this auto plant, everything is awe-inspiring and fascinating. Kids who have sensory issues may be overwhelmed by one of the interactive displays you’ll see before you visit the factory floor because of music and visuals that emulate lasers.
Address: 1 Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI 48226
Hours: Open 24/7
There is a world of interesting sights on display in this city park, located right on the Detroit River. Explore the Dodge Fountain and splash around. Check out the many statues and memorials, including the impressive and moving “Gateway to Freedom” international memorial to the Underground Railroad and the regal Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac statue showing the founder of Detroit. The 14-acre plaza also hold regular events, so check out the schedule at its website.