What is there for families to do in Detroit? Plenty! Detroit has an almost endless selection of seasonal outdoor activities, year-round cultural attractions, youth programming at local arts and culture organizations, annual family-friendly events, and so much more for young families looking for fun, and educational, entertainment!
YEAR-ROUND ACTIVITIES AND ATTRACTIONS
The 982-acre island park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York's Central Park, is Detroit's most vital outdoor recreation asset and a year-round destination for families, outdoor enthusiasts, friends and lovers alike. Run or bike the seven-mile Strand that runs around the park, fish, fly kites, have a picnic by the water or a family BBQ at one of the picnic shelters, explore the statues and monuments including the majestic James Scott Memorial Fountain, or take the kids to the Nature Zoo. The island is also home to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, honoring the city's maritime history; the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, a greenhouse and botanical garden with one of the largest municipally-owned collections of orchids in the country; and the Belle Isle Aquarium, now open (after being shuttered for seven years) on Saturdays. Belle Isle is now a State Park under the management of the DNR.
Michigan Science Center
The Michigan Science Center spans multiple floors and has numerous fun and educational activities for families. The museum takes an interactive approach to science with hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, a 4-D immersion theatre, an IMAX theatre, a virtual reality planetarium, a gallery for the most pint-sized little ones, and a separate hall for blockbuster traveling exhibits.
PuppetART Detroit Puppet Theatre
The PuppetART Theatre is located in Detroit's theatre district near the Opera House, Music Hall, and Gem and Century Theatres. All members of the troupe are masters of puppetry art theatre, and the organization is dedicated to preserving the history and ethnic traditions of puppetry as an art form. All events include a theatre performance, a tour of the ever-growing collection of puppets from cultures around the world displayed in their museum, and a hands-on workshop in their studio. Students interested in puppetry can also join their unique apprenticeship program.
The Heidelberg Project
Artist Tyree Guyton's open-air art environment encompasses two blocks of empty lots and houses on Detroit's east side. It is recognized around the world as a demonstration of the transformative power of art in an urban community. Visitors are free to explore at their leisure, but to gain the most from the experience be sure to contact them for a guided tour in which the significance of the found objects that comprise the installations as well as the social commentary the installations provide are explained.
This historic pottery shop has been around since 1903 and is one of Detroit's most iconic businesses. Pewabic installations can be found in countless churches, schools, commercial buildings and public spaces throughout the city and metro area. Pewabic pieces are also part of the permanent collection at the DIA and the Louvre in Paris. The glazed tiles and vases, usually in hues or green and blue, are as distinct as they are beautiful. Pewabic offers a variety of hands-on classes and workshops, including youth classes and camps.
The Detroit Institute of Arts
Detroit's world-class arts museum also caters to families. Check out their Family Sundays with kids-geared puppet and dance performances, artist demonstration and family yoga. Free drop-in workshops are also held Fridays through Sundays and teach kids how to craft their own watercolor postcards, dream catchers, musical instruments like tambourines, Chinese slat books and so much more (check the website for the full schedule).
More museums to learn about arts and history that also offer kid-friendly programming: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Historical Museum, Motown Museum, and the Hellenic Museum of Michigan.
Also be sure to also check out the children's program at the Detroit Opera House, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Concerts for Children and Families, and the family-friendly performances held at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.
SEASONAL ACTIVITIES AND ANNUAL EVENTS
Easily one of Detroit's most impressive and scenic attractions, the Detroit Riverwalk will eventually extend five and a half miles along the Detroit riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge to the west and Belle Isle to the east, also connecting the Milliken State Park & Harbor, Chene Park, the Dequindre Cut, and Gabriel Richard Park. Along the walk are fountains for splashing, a carousel, a concessions plaza, bike rentals, the Detroit Princess Riverboat dock, and the Detroit Port Authority. The Riverwalk also accesses the GM Renaissance Center, Hart Plaza and COBO Center.
Eastern Market Flower Day
Bringing in over 200,000 people annually, Flower Day is one of the largest flower shows in the country bringing in hundreds of flower-growers from all over Michigan, Ontario and neighboring states. Get ready to start planting!
Campus Martius Park
In addition to the beautiful fountain and a makeshift "beach," all summer long Campus Martius Park hosts a mid-day music series, movies in the park, walking tours, an early evening concert series on Thursdays, and a 4th
Fridays concert and film series. All events are free. There are also now basketball courts in the park.
Detroit River Days and Target Detroit Fireworks Display
As the official kick-off to summer held the weekend leading up to the annual Detroit Fireworks display, River Days is held on the Detroit Riverwalk and features live music from local and national acts, food from local restaurants, sand sculptures, carnival rides, kids' activities, and the coordinating Detroit River ArtScape national arts competition.
Earthworks Urban Farm
There is a lot of discussion about the future and significance of urban farming in Detroit. Earthworks Urban Farm has been at it the longest. Take a tour of the farm and learn more about creating a just food system through education, inspiration, and community development. Earthworks also hosts educational workshops and youth programs.
Nothing says summer like a day at a ball game, and Detroit's urban ballpark Comerica Park offers plenty for families beyond what's happening on the mound. There's a carousel, a ferris wheel, a fireworks display after every Friday night game, and for the grown-ups the food and craft beer selection is the best it has ever been.
A time-honored summer family tradition is put-put golf. Now Detroit has its very own mini golf course, and it is distinctly Detroit. Located in Roosevelt Park, with the majestic remains of the Michigan Central Station as its backdrop, Urban Put-Put was designed by Lawrence Tech students and is made from recycled materials. This isn’t your usual put-put course with waterfalls full of dyed-blue water: expect poured concrete, auto parts (even whole car bodies), construction cones, and graffiti.
El Dia de Los Muertos
Tour the colorful and elaborate ofrendas
at various locations throughout Southwest Detroit, from churches and community centers to restaurants and cafes. Ofrendas
are altars, or offerings, honoring the dearly departed during the Mexican observance El Dia de los Muertos
(Day of the Dead). There is also a Run of the Dead sponsored by the Southwest Detroit Business Association.
Christmas Wonderfest, Tree Lighting and Ice Skating at Campus Martius
The Christmas Wonderfest is a new holiday marketplace held every year in the style of European Christmas markets with specialty foods, unique gifts, a beer garden and a ferris wheel. Held two consecutive weekends in November in conjunction with the annual tree lighting at Campus Martius (which also kicks off the seasonal ice rink) and the huge Thanksgiving Day Parade, Wonderfest will continue to grow and offer more every year.
America's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The America's Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the oldest and most celebrated parades in the country, held every Thanksgiving morning for over 85 years now. Hundreds of thousands of people line Woodward Avenue to watch all of the elaborate floats, balloons, and costumed participants go by. Pro tip: the floats are brought out to Woodward the night before and the street is closed off, making for a fantasy-like nighttime stroll down one of the country's most iconic roads.
For over 40 years, Noel Night has brought in people from all over metro Detroit to celebrate Detroit's rich culture in the Cultural Center. Now more than 50,000 people attend this single-night event in December that spans over 75 Midtown venues with more than 120 music, theatre and dance groups performing. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, unique shopping, family craft activities, and a group sing-along on Woodward to endcap the evening.
For family-friendly events listings and more things to do, visit:
Detroit Experience Factory
Visit Detroit Things to Do in Detroit
Metro Parent Events Calendar