Things to Do in Ann Arbor With Kids
Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ranked third on WalletHub’s list of the best college towns in America in 2018. So, obviously U-M is an integral part of the city, and not just during college football season. In fact, the school is behind some of the attractions that make Ann Arbor a great place for a family vacation. What’s more, Ann Arbor is very pedestrian-friendly. That means you can walk to many kid attractions and get a much-needed break from packing (and unpacking) everyone into the car. If that alone sounds like a dreamy family-friendly vacation, read on for all the things to do in Ann Arbor with kids.
Kids Attractions in Ann Arbor
There are a lot of kids attractions in Ann Arbor, so it can be hard to know where to start. These should get the family fun rolling.
Hands down, the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is one of the best kids attractions in Ann Arbor. Exhibits teach kids all about the human body, Michigan nature, light and optics and much more. In addition, the preschool gallery has lots of activities for babies and toddlers.
Open daily except for select holidays. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Extended hours on summer Saturdays. Open Easter and New Year’s Day, Noon- 5 p.m., regular hours on New Year’s Eve. Admission: $12.50 for kids and adults; $5 after 5 p.m. Thursdays, free for 23 months and under. Read reviews of Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum.
The University of Michigan is known for its research programs. And you can witness some of them at its Museum of Natural History. It’s the only place in the world the kids can see male and female mastodon skeletons side by side — and step into their real footprint. Plus, learn all about space, ocean reefs and our planet’s geology in the Planetarium & Dome Theater. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (until 8 p.m. on Thursdays) except for select holidays. Admission: Free for museum, but donations appreciated (there’s a fee for groups of ten or more), $8 for planetarium. Read reviews of University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.
The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is another way to sneak in some learning with family fun when visiting Ann Arbor with kids. Wow-worthy artifacts include but are not limited to a mummy coffin, child mummy, ancient toys and a large reproduction mural of ancient Pompeii.
Open Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m., closed Monday. Admission: Free, but donations appreciated. Read reviews of University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.
Ann Arborites have gotten their pinball wizard on at Pinball Pete’s for more than 30 years. There are other video games, pool tables and air hockey tables at this arcade, too. Open daily. Monday, noon-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, noon-midnight; Friday and Saturday noon-2 a.m. Read reviews of Pinball Pete’s.
Many of the mostly exotic animals at The Creature Conservancy are rescued former pets. And, the kids will love getting up close and personal with a lot of them via its frequent presentations. Open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, 1-5 p.m. Admission: $10 for ages 13+, $8 kids ages 2-12. Read reviews of The Creature Conservancy.
For some more family-friendly fun in Ann Arbor, go climbing at Planet Rock. It offers rock walls and aerials. Kids must be at least 5 to climb.
Open daily. Monday & Friday, 3-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission: Starter packages for first-time climbers start at $50 for adult + child ($25 for additional child). Day passes range from $14-$18. Read reviews of Planet Rock.
Best Restaurants in Ann Arbor for Kids
There are a lot of choices for best restaurants in Ann Arbor for kids. And offerings run the gamut, so even your pickiest kid will be happy.
Zingerman’s has been one of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor for kids for more than 30 years. It has vibrant artwork, a great kids menu with kid-sized sandwiches and a kids-only tasting. Adult options are plenty, too. Open daily, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Read reviews of Zingerman’s Deli.
For more of a family meal in Ann Arbor, head to Zingerman’s Roadhouse. The kids menu is gigantic. And the adults won’t be disappointed with theirs here, either. Plus, it has a great cocktail menu, too. Open Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Read reviews of Zingerman’s Roadhouse.
This cafeteria-style hamburger stand is a local favorite—even with its very strict ordering instructions. Word of advice: do not under any circumstances mention the cheese you want on your burger until asked. Kids eat free every Tuesday with the purchase of an adult meal. Get a burger and onion rings, but you will have to share those with us. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Read reviews of Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger.
Don’t let the word brewery trick you. The Jolly Pumpkin is a great restaurant in Ann Arbor for families. The kids menu is great, and so are the rest of the offerings, like granite-baked pizza. Be sure to wash it all down with a signature artisan ale.
Open daily, hours vary depending on if you want to sit on the main floor, upstairs or on the rooftop deck. Read reviews of Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery.
Another great family-friendly restaurant in Ann Arbor is Knight’s Steakhouse. The menu is huge. Kids choices include pizza, chicken fingers, spaghetti with sauce or butter and grilled cheese. Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnights. Closed Sundays and holidays. Read reviews of Knight’s Steakhouse.
Best Hotels in Ann Arbor for Kids
TownPlace is a good home away from home when visiting Ann Arbor with family. Breakfast is free, and rooms have fully equipped kitchens. Plus, it’s in a great location near lots of family attractions in Ann Arbor. Read reviews of TownePlace Suites.
The Kensington Hotel also has kid-friendly accommodations in Ann Arbor. Rooms are residence-style, there’s an on-site restaurant and indoor pool. Plus, the free Viennese coffee bar in the lobby will fuel you for a day of exploring Ann Arbor with kids. Read reviews of The Kensington Hotel.
Outdoor Activities in Ann Arbor for Kids
Thanks to lots of trees, wooded parks and green spaces, Ann Arbor is also known as “Tree Town.” So, that means there are lots of year-round outdoor activities in Ann Arbor for kids.
University of Michigan’s “Arb,” as locals call it, is a great place to see exactly where Ann Arbor’s nickname comes from. The landscape and native and exotic trees are gorgeous. Plus, there are 3.5 miles of trails throughout.
Open seven days a week sunrise to sunset. Admission: Free. Read reviews of Nicols Arboretum.
Similarly, University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens has 11 outdoor gardens, an indoor conservatory and trails, too. In the Gaffield Children’s Garden, there’s a maze, builder’s garden, digging pit and mud garden. Sorry not sorry on the latter because you know the pics will be adorbs. Open daily 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Wednesday until 8. Trails open daily sunrise to sunset. Admission: Free. Read reviews of Matthei Botanical Gardens.
Take advantage of Ann Arbor’s cold and snowy winters at nearby Mt. Brighton Ski Area. It has 24 trails for skiing and snowboarding. When you need to refuel/thaw out, there are four bars and restaurants. If not visiting Ann Arbor in winter, there’s a golf course for summer family fun and live music on Friday nights. Golf tee times are 7 a.m.-dusk, and prices vary depending on day/time. Rates for 2019 lift tickets are forthcoming. Read reviews of Mt. Brighton Ski Area.
Summers can be hot and humid, so you’ll need to stay cool when visiting Ann Arbor with kids then. Blue Heron Bay Spray Park has all the amenities to do just that. Water features include mushroom sprinklers, water cannons, slides and dumping buckets.
Open Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Admission: Day passes are $6 per car for Washtenaw County residents, or $10 for non-residents. Read reviews of Blue Heron Bay Spray Park.
Another fun activity in Ann Arbor for kids is The Petting Farm. They can meet and feed everything from alpacas and llamas to chickens and ducks. Plus, check out the homey Conrail caboose or take a tractor ride.
Open Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m.-4 p.m., weather permitting. Admission: $6, children under 23 months free. Animal feed & tractor rides, $2. Read reviews of The Petting Farm at Domino’s Farms.
5 More Things to Do in Ann Arbor with Kids
Did you think we were kidding about there being a lot of things to do in Ann Arbor with kids?
Visiting Ann Arbor with kids in the fall? Go to a Big Ten college football game. The U-M Wolverines play at Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House.” It’s not just a clever nickname: seating 107,601 fans, it’s the world’s biggest American football stadium. Read reviews of University of Michigan Stadium.
Speaking of fall family fun, head to Wiard’s in nearby Ypsilanti. Everyone will enjoy sipping cider, picking apples or pumpkins or taking a hayride. Wiard’s Country Fair agri-entertainment park also offers a corn maze, inflatables, petting farm, mini golf and haunted attractions. Open seasonally starting in early September. Fair admission: $14.49 for ages 2 and up Wednesday-Friday; $18.50 Saturday-Sunday.
If you don’t have a box of Jiffy mix in your kitchen, is it really a kitchen? The beloved mixes are made by Chelsea Milling Company in nearby Chelsea. Take a fun tour of the plant, and nab some samples. Tours take place Monday-Friday between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. except for major holidays. Admission: Free, but reservations required.
This U-M museum is one of the … oddest things to do in Ann Arbor with kids. And maybe even anywhere. It has more than 15,000 historical dentistry artifacts. At least it’ll show kids how good they have it now. So hopefully no more tantrums before dental visits! Open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on university holidays. Admission: Free. Read reviews of Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry.
But wait, there’s one more unique family attraction in Ann Arbor:
Take a self-guided tour of downtown Ann Arbor’s Fairy Doors. Kids will love hunting for these tiny entrances that are the brainchild of lifelong Ann Arborite Jonathan Wright.
This article was originally published on