Michigan Vacation Pick: Detroit

Michigan's breakout destination is underrated Detroit, whose famed zoo opened the world's largest penguin exhibit in 2016. It's the perfect excuse to explore the Motor City's excellent array of family-friendly attractions.

While Detroit is known for Motown and motors, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the number of world-class museums, theaters, downtown eateries, excellent parks, and more.

Explore hotel options in Detroit

  • 01 of 09

    Meet a Lot of Penguins

    Rockhopper Penguins
    ••• Detroit Zoo

    When it opened in 2016, the $29.5-million Polk Penguin Conservation Center became the largest project the Detroit Zoo has ever undertaken. Don't miss the penguin “deep dive” with views above and below water as the birds dive and soar through a chilled 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area. The penguin exhibit is free with admission to the zoo. When you buy your ticket, you'll receive a timed entry pass with a time slot for you to go through the penguin exhibit. Admission is free for children under age 2, but strollers are not allowed inside the exhibit.

  • 02 of 09

    Discover Michigan's Great Outdoors

    Detroit's Outdoor Adventure Center
    ••• Michigan Dept of Natural Resources

    Another new attraction is the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center on Detroit’s riverfront, with the Dequindre Cut Trail running through its backyard. The three-story facility gives you a taste of Michigan’s great outdoors with its freshwater aquarium, woodland walks and fishing simulator. Catch a fish, paddle a kayak, and steer a snowmobile or boat or even a bush plane. Kids love all the interactive fun to be had and don't even realize they are also learning a lot.

  • 03 of 09

    Have Fun with Science

    Electricity Sparks Theatre
    ••• Michigan Science Center

    The Michigan Science Museum is chock full of hands-on, high-tech activities that families can do together. Kids can learn all about electricity in the Energy Sparks Theatre, play pretend in Kids Town, or launch rockets in the space exhibit. Be sure to catch a show in the Imax theater and planetarium.

  • 04 of 09

    Take in a Ball Game

    Comerica Park in Detroit
    ••• Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

    Whether or not you're a baseball fan, Comerica Park, the home stadium of Detroit Tigers, offers a ton of fun for families. Just inside the entrance gates, there's a Ferris wheel with giant baseball-shape cars, a Merry-Go-Round (with tigers instead of horses, of course), batting cages, and more. Go on Sunday, when kids 14 and under can ride the carousel and Ferris wheel for free and run the bases after the game.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    See Henry Ford's Amazing Collection

    Rosa Parks's Bus
    ••• Henry Ford Museum

    The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in nearby Dearborn offer a peek at Detroit's automobile roots. On display is Ford's collection of Americana, including Rosa Parks’ bus seat, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab, the convertible in which JFK was assassinated, and Wright Brothers' home. 

  • 06 of 09

    Unplug in Mini Detroit

    Detroit with Kids
    ••• Detroit Kid City

    Detroit Kid City is the perfect antidote for kids who have had too much screen time. There are no beeping electronic exhibits or trance-inducing video games, just unplugged, old-school play stations that invite kids to rely on their imaginations and role-playing skills in a mini Detroit city with a schoolhouse, pizzeria, barbershop, music studio, baseball stadium, post office, bank and car factory. 

  • 07 of 09

    Have a Detroit Slice

    Detroit-Style Pizza
    ••• Michigan.org

    You can't leave town without trying a slice of Detroit-Style Pizza. Detroit’s deep dish is square with a thick, doughy crust that is often twice baked and served golden brown around the edges. Here's where to sample the best pizza in Detroit. Expect long lines but don't let that stop you; this pizza is worth waiting for. 

     

  • 08 of 09

    Go Ziplining

    Detroit Ziplines
    ••• Adventure Park at West Bloomfield

    About.com's Detroit travel expert reports that ziplining has become a popular pastime in the metro area, with a number of zip courses popping up all around town. Here's where to get your zip on.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Take Adventage of Free Fun

    Detroit RiverWalk
    ••• Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

    Looking for affordable things to do with kids? There's plenty of dirt-cheap and free fun to be had in Detroit. Be sure to allow time to explore the city's RiverWalk, which is great for biking, running, and fishing. The 5.5-mile path stretches beyond the borders of downtown to link Joe Louis Arena and Gabriel Richard Park.