Parents everywhere are familiar with the time of the year after the holiday hustle and bustle but before spring vacations roll around when kids find themselves in the coldest part of the year. Here in Detroit parents get creative to try to find activities and events to keep their kids occupied and engaged till the sun comes out again.
Detroit offers a variety of special events each year. The Fisher Theater and Fox Theater host special stage productions like Sesame Street Live (Now – February 4 at the Fox) and Finding Neverland (February 6 – 18 at the Fisher). The Red Wings and Pistons are playing all season at Little Caesar’s Arena in Downtown Detroit. While these special events are great, Detroit offers tons of options for families looking to fill a day in Detroit without breaking the bank. This year check out some of these wonderful options.
Outdoor Adventure Center
The State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for a hidden gem on Detroit’s East Riverfront. DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center is a large refurbished warehouse on Atwater Street where The Dequindre Cut meets the Detroit Riverwalk. The building is half the fun. All bricks and character and open spaces. With three levels inside the building, it can fit kids of all ages, a birthday party and archery classes without feeling crowded or busy.
DNR promotes the Outdoor Adventure Center as “Up North downtown.” The experience lives up to the theme. Kids can simulate a fishing trip for the fish of their choice in a rowboat with small rods. Or ride an actual snowmobile or ATV in front of a large screen showing some of Michigan’s most popular trails. For kids who prefer the animals, the first floor has large tanks of native fish and displays of stuffed versions of the most popular land animals. Kids learn, have fun and learn some more. Good luck getting them out of the ranger plane on the second floor overlooking the waterfall.
DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center is $3 for kids 2 – 12, $5 for adults and $3 for seniors. Parking is free and onsite.
DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center is not the only place in Detroit for fish and game. Right down the street on Belle Isle, the Belle Isle Aquarium is open all year round. Like traveling back in time, the Aquarium is in the original Albert Kahn building from 1904 and has all the feel of an old-timey show. The small tanks sit in the tile walls slightly higher than the average 4-year old but slightly lower than the average parent’s line of sight. Don’t worry as there are railings for the kids to stand on. Exhibits range from freshwater to tropical including some reptiles. The Aquarium shares a parking lot with the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The Conservatory is not quite the same for kids as an aquarium but the giant trees, warm greenhouses and steamy plants are exciting and exotic. The Conservatory’s collection spans the globe and the different rooms and pathways can be fun for kids to explore. Between the Aquarium and the Conservatory, there is no doubt that Belle Isle is an ideal half day in Detroit for families and visitors alike.
The Aquarium and Conservatory admissions are based on donations. Parking is free and onsite.
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)
The DIA is a family friendly attraction right in the heart of Midtown. Whether riding the QLINE up Woodward from Campus Martius or parking on the streets around the museum, the DIA is accessible all winter and provides a myriad of options for kids. For example, the museum has installed ways for kids to engage with the art throughout the museum. The plaques are called “I Spy” and show a small thumbnail photo of something in the room or a portion of another piece. Kids can investigate the I Spy clues and then find the correct piece in the room. It’s a fun way to create curiosity and interest in art of all styles and forms. Throughout the season, DIA will also host movies and special events to bring in kids as well.
DIA is free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Parking is metered, on the street or for a fee in the lot behind the building.
Michigan Science Center
Around the corner from the DIA, the Michigan Science Center is a hands-on, indoor playground for kids. With more levels and exhibits than you can find in three visits nevertheless one, Michigan Science Center is a popular location for Detroiters, visitors, kid’s birthday parties, and class trips. There are exhibits that explain nutrition, recycling, metal work, electricity, sound, light, rocket ships, the human body and the solar system. There is a computer program to build a custom roller coaster next to a puzzle of gears that can be rearranged in any order. A child-sized “town” with store fronts, doors, windows and streets. A large room with oversized foam shapes and blocks where everyone can build, jump and throw. The Science Center also puts on special events, science experiments, and shows IMAX movies (for an additional cost).
Michigan Science Center admission packages ranges from $19 – 28. Parking is metered, on the street.
Detroit offers as many options for physical activity as Detroit offers for art & culture. The Downtown YMCA includes full service programs and activities for serious athletes, recreational weekend warriors and kids of all ages. One of the family programs is called Detroit Swims. Since 2010, the YMCA has taught over 5,800 Detroiters to swim and be safe around water. The Y also offers indoor rock climbing, youth yoga and youth Zumba.
YMCA is located at 1401 Broadway. The Y offers memberships to families and individuals. Parking is available metered on the street or at several parking garages nearby, including the Z Lot on Grand River.
Campus Martius Ice Rink
Don’t let the cold weather eliminate all outdoor activities this year. The Ice Rink at Campus Martius offers ice skating in the shadow of Detroit’s most impressive buildings. The park includes a bar, restaurant and enclosed seating and viewing areas for anyone not skating. Rental skates are available for a fee.
Third Man Records
One of the most underrated spots for kids in Detroit is Third Man Records (TMR) on West Canfield in Cass Corridor. TMR’s staff is as friendly and welcoming to kids as any in Detroit. The record store hosts a viewing area in the back so that customers can watch record press machines and trace the technology that creates records. Kids will love riding the motorized elephant around the store, as well as seeing the stage and classic jukebox. They’ll enjoy the oversized headphones and vintage White Stripes videos from early Detroit shows. As if that’s not enough, kids can sometimes receive a TMR puzzle with a purchase…if they are well behaved. There is even a multi-colored record of kids’ songs. The visit is also fun for parents who can shop TMR’s original presses or rare Jack White cuts. It doesn’t hurt that the same city block includes options like Jolly Pumpkin, Shinola, Traffic Jam & Snug and Motor City Brewing Works afterward.
From nature to art to science to fitness, Detroit offers options for families and kids of all ages. Take a pick, these choices are all winners for the kids when it’s cold in Detroit.
Where do you plan on taking the kids this winter season in Detroit? Let us know your favorite spots in the comments below!