A short and inexpensive flight from Atlanta, there’s plenty for families to do in Detroit and nearby West Michigan. You’ll love the old school architecture of downtown Detroit, much of which is being renovated to its former glory with cool shops and places to stay, the museums, sports and cultural venues, and green space in the city. Rent a car and enjoy Lake Michigan and the seafaring towns of Ludington and Holland, just a few hours northwest of Detroit.

1. See the Lions, Tigers, Redwings, and Pistons play. Downtown Detroit is perfect for sports fans. All the major sports teams play downtown and are easily accessible. See the Detroit Tigers play at Comerica Park; the kids will love the ferris wheel and carousel at the park.

2. Explore historic Corktown, the oldest neighborhood in Detroit. Get bagels and cookies at the Detroit Institute of Bagels. Grab burgers, hotdogs, and salads at Mercury Burger Bar. For Mom and Dad, sample the tasty local beers on tap. See where old Tiger Stadium stood, generously maintained by neighborhood volunteers.

3. Experience the Heidelberg Project. Local artist and community leader Tyree Guyton transformed a group of houses into an art installation and a small kids play area. Another cool green space, a short drive from Downtown Detroit, Belle Isle Park is a huge public park with views of Downtown Detroit and neighboring Canada. Enjoy the new play structures, lots of ducks and other birds, and the walking and bike trails at the park.

4. Visit Motown Studios and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Near downtown, celebrate the best pop music of the twentieth century at the Motown Museum. See the original studio where Marvin Gaye recorded “What’s Going On” and Stevie Wonder made his first professional recordings at age 13, as well as where legendary record producer Berry Gordy lived and worked. We enjoyed our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide, Cecilia; she had us singing, dancing, and learning throughout the tour. At about one hour and thirty minutes, school aged children and up will get the most out of the tour. At Detroit Institute of Arts in midtown, see Diego Rivera’s famous frescoes, Detroit Industry, in the main court of the museum as well as one of a kind paintings from Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso.

5. Don’t miss the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, a twenty five minute drive from downtown Detroit. Plan to spend a few hours exploring the huge collection of cars, airplanes, trains and locomotives. You’ll see the Dodge Caravan (it looks so small!) your parents may have toted you around in as a kid, John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, and futuristic electric cars. At Greenfield Village, take a ride in a real Model T, ride a train around the village, and tour replicas of Henry Ford’s original business location and boyhood home.

6. A short bus ride from the Henry Ford, learn about the history of the Ford Motor Company and tour the massive Rouge Manufacturing facility. Watch brand new Ford F-150s get assembled via a 3D movie and watch workers on the assembly line at the working manufacturing facility.

7. About three hours and thirty minutes northwest of Detroit, spend the night in one of the cute towns near Lake Michigan. Grab snacks and sandwiches at Biercamp Market in Ludington and picnic at nearby Waterfront Park. The sculptures, play structures, and view of Lake Michigan are top notch. Stretch your legs at Big Sable Point Lighthouse at Ludington State Park, a four mile round trip trail along Lake Michigan. Kids (over 40 inches) who climb to the top and remember one fact about the lighthouse get a way cool activity book. There are also excellent spots for fruit picking near Ludington, including Christofferson Farms.

8. Browse the kids shops and candy shops in Downtown Holland, an hour and a half south of Luddington. You’ll love Tip Toes, a fun kids clothing store, and the delicious French toast Monte Cristo at Crane’s in the City. See horses, enjoy green space and learn how flour is made at a working windmill at Windmill Island Gardens, on the edge of Downtown Holland.

– Laura Powell

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