There are many places to visit in Southern Michigan, I can’t possibly hit on all of them. I’ve likely mentioned it before, but my husband is from England. Early in December, my father-in-law came to stay with us for two weeks. During that time, we made it a point to get out and see various places with him. Most of the places on this list we’ve been to, though I will include some off our bucket list. Sadly, halfway through my father-in-laws visit, we all (except FIL) got sick and were housebound. Yep, that was mentioned when I talked about Evan’s birthday, too.
7 Places to Visit in Southern Michigan
1. The Zoo
I’m sure there are great zoos everywhere. The zoo we love actually isn’t in Michigan, but it still makes the list for us. Our zoo is in Toledo, Ohio, and is just a skip away from the Michigan border. We have a membership and make it a point to visit a couple times a year. This became a tradition when my husband first came back to the States. He had previously been to visit, but this time had come to stay, and I surprised him with a zoo trip for his birthday.
One thing we hadn’t participated in before this year, despite our membership, was the Lights Before Christmas at the zoo. This visit was the perfect chance to go, and the mild winter weather this year made it much more doable with young children! It’s definitely a must-see, and I wish we could go back this year. (Technically, we can, per our membership – but we just don’t have time to make the drive down again.)
2. Somerset Collection
Somerset Collection is located in Troy, Michigan. It all began in 1969 with a standalone department store, but it’s evolved into something far greater. This mall consists of two separate entities connected by a huge bridge that goes over the road that separates them. This bridge is enclosed and has a moving skywalk, much like an airport. Inside the mall are glass elevators and escalators. I wish I had taken pictures of the displays they had set up, but as you can imagine, being Christmas they decorated the building extravagantly. I’d never been before, so I don’t know what the usual decor consists of.
The mall consists of many luxury retailers, but that’s not what we were there for. We checked out the Disney store and LEGO store, which were like paradise. We also popped into Stride Rite to find that Evan had outgrown his shoes, so we picked up a new pair, and ate at the food court. Other than that, we just window shopped a bit, which was nice. Next time we go, we’ll have to go with a larger budget!
3. Belle Isle / Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Belle Isle is an island located between the shore of Detroit and Canada. It is currently managed as a state park, and has many things to do on it. In the past, we have driven around the island, and we’ve visited the nature zoo. Every single time we had been on the island in the past, it had been a weekday. We had passed the Dossin Great Lakes Museum and my husband really wanted to visit, but they aren’t open on weekdays. So when my husband’s dad came to visit, we made a special trip out.
There is so much to look at here. I can safely say that everybody had a blast! The best part? The museum is free to get into! (Note: You are supposed to have a Michigan state recreation pass to access the island – this is only $11 for a full year, for Michigan residents.)
4. Air Zoo
When looking for places to visit in and around Southern Michigan, I stumbled upon this hidden treasure. Ok, maybe other people had heard of it, but I hadn’t before! The Air Zoo is located in Portage, Michigan, which is by Kalamazoo. It was one of the pricier things we went to, but children 4 and under are FREE – so we were only paying for 3 adults.
There were two buildings at the Air Zoo. The first building had a lot of “look but don’t touch” displays using actual airplanes, but it also had quite a bit to interact with.
There were a few rides for kids, simulators for those who are older, and a few things the kids could climb up in. They also had a whole section of the first building dedicated to space, which was really neat! Evan loved this place so much, and got to experience his first kiddie roller coasters.
The second building was tucked back behind, and it seemed like most people don’t find their way back there. We were lucky that while checking out the gift store somebody told us about it. There were numerous displays, but they also had a lot of things setup for the kids to climb into.
Despite the cost, at $13.50 per adult, we would definitely go back!
5. Michigan Firehouse Museum
The Michigan Firehouse Museum is located in Ypsilanti, Michigan. This cost $5 per adult and $3 for kids age 2-16 (under 2 is free). The museum is located in an actual old Firehouse, and includes a lot of historical fire engines. They have one firetruck set up for the kids to climb in for a picture, and they sounded one of the sirens on an older truck while we were there also. It was neat getting see everything there. In the basement they also have a play area set up for younger kids, which was great to let Oliver run around after he’d been cooped up in the carrier the whole walk through the museum.
I feel like the thing that was disappointing about the Michigan Firehouse Museum is that we were able to walk through, look at everything and be finished within 2 hours. That’s even with the kids getting a chance to explore and play.
6. Natural History Museum
Sadly, this was on our list of plans for after Evan’s birthday… and then we were all sick. We’ll have to make a special trip some time. The Natural History Museum is part of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has no set admission – but they do request a donation of whatever you can afford. Both of the boys are really into dinosaurs lately. Somebody found woolly mammoth bones just this past year, which they donated to the museum, and that’s what brought the museum to my attention the most. I am certain the boys would love to visit!
7. Hands-On Museum
This is actually called the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, as it’s located in downtown Ann Arbor. I haven’t been with the boys, but I believe I went as a child myself. It’s full of science fun that any kid would enjoy! I wanted to go while my father-in-law was in town, but as we had to stay in for the second half of his visit, our plans were cut short.
The cost is one thing that has kept us from making this trip previously – children under 2 are free, but everybody else is $12 per person (which adds up when you want to take everybody). I’ve considered purchasing a membership in the past (ranges $75-125). However, they are currently offering $5 after 5 pm on Thursdays, and on those nights, they’ll stay open until 8:00. Exciting!