Sure, we may be a little biased, but we think the Ann Arbor area is the best place to live, work and play no matter your age. Not only are we a hub for culture, entertainment and education, but our city boasts some of the most adventurous, playful and fun destinations, organizations and businesses in the region.
To prove it, we rounded up 18 things you can do with kids in Ann Arbor. From educational opportunities to outdoor experiences, there’s something for every age and every interest in our kid-friendly guide.
The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum specializes in interactive exhibits with the goal of helping both children and adults discover the scientist within them. Visiting the museum any day of the week means you can explore exhibits like Michigan Nature, Lyons Country Store, MediaWorks, and DTE Energy Foundation Light and Optics. Learn more about the exhibits here.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens boasts 11 outdoor garden spaces which feature bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials, and seasonally blooming flowers from spring to first frost. Outside, you’ll find nearly three miles of trails and inside the year-round conservatory, you’ll find plants from around the world.
Ann Arbor’s most popular recreation area, Gallup Park is a 69-acre park located along the Huron River and Geddes Pond. A haven for kids who love being outside, the park offers two playgrounds, a canoe livery for riding down the river, picnic areas and grills, two picnic shelters, an open field for play, and over three miles of asphalt trails suitable for biking, rollerblading, walking and running.
Domino’s Farms began back in 1925 and The Petting Farm, located on what is now a twenty-acre farm, opened its doors in 1984. When you stop by, you can meet alpacas, cattle, chickens, ducks, goats, llamas, peacocks, pigs, ponies, sheep, rabbits and Badger the cat!
Photo courtesy of Beth Gonzales via Planet Rock
Both beginner and experienced climbers can find fun challenges and learning opportunities at Planet Rock. Ann Arbor’s premier, indoor rock climbing gym, Planet Rock offers more than 25,000 square feet of climbing surface, a full training area and a giant bouldering mushroom. Their second location in Madison Heights offers a 15-meter official competition speed climbing wall and an ice climbing training area as well! Special programs for children ages 4 – 19 encourage body awareness, coordination and problem-solving skills, and each program includes free belay lessons for parents and free climbing while their child is in class!
Free and open to the public with a reservation, tours of Chelsea Milling Company — the home of JIFFY Mix — take guests through the packaging plant on a one-hour excursion that includes a video presentation, refreshments and a product sample. Yes, that means you get to enjoy a free muffin!
Located in Kerrytown in downtown Ann Arbor, Mudpuddles is a specialty toy store filled with smart and creative toys and games for all ages. Local owners Jan and Sharon hand select every item in the store so you can rest assured each one will be suitable for education and fun!
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market occurs year-round on Saturdays and again on Wednesdays from May through December. As a bonus during the summer and fall, you can enjoy the monthly Food Truck Rally, too! Get more information and specific dates here.
Photo courtesy of Leslie Science and Nature Center
This educational facility on the north side of Ann Arbor encourages sustainability, understanding and regular nature encounters. Join the fun and visit the grounds, trails and raptor enclosures outside any day from sunrise to sunset. The Critter House is open most Sundays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and allows you to observe frogs, turtles, snakes and more. Free admission makes this one of our favorite budget-friendly options!
Kidopolis Imagination & Discovery Center is a safe and fun play space for all of Ann Arbor’s little ones. With a strong emphasis on development, the play facility is designed to support cognitive development, demonstrate clever and fun ways to recycle, and facilitate personalized, self-guided play. Kids ages 2 to 100 can stop in and play in Kidopolis’ Mini Hollywood!
Young People’s Theater is a completely volunteer-run organization in Ann Arbor that provides professional theater experiences, training and educational opportunities for young people from preschool through high school. From summer camps and dance classes to live stage performances, there’s something for every family to enjoy!
Airtime has locations all over Michigan, including Ann Arbor and Canton. Each park has open jump areas as well as separate dodgeball zones, Olympic-grade foam mosh pits and a basketball “Jam Session” area for the aspiring basketball star in all of us.
The Cupcake Station has five locations in the Ann Arbor area, including one downtown. Made in-house and from scratch every day, you’ll find 24 unique flavors available each time you visit. Stop in to try creations like Cotton Candy Sweet Treat, Hot Fudge Sundae and Strawberry Sunshine!
14. Scream for ice cream
Speaking of sweet treats, handmade, local ice cream is just about the most kid-friendly item on the menu. And we rounded up the ten best places for ice cream in Ann Arbor to make your ice cream adventure quick and easy!
15. Go on an outdoor adventure
If you have a kid who loves outdoor adventures, you’re in the right place. Here in Ann Arbor, we have countless open spaces and parks within the city limits and we’re just minutes from some of the state’s most impressive recreation areas. To get the low down on our favorite activities — from hiking to horseback riding and even disc golf — check out 8 Things to Do in the Ann Arbor Area for Outdoor Enthusiasts.
Photo courtesy of Kim Ellis via The Creature Conservancy
The Creature Conservancy began back in 2005 when Al the alligator was left abandoned at the door of a local veterinary hospital. He was soon joined by a sloth rescued from a trailer park, a macaw left at a pet boarding facility, ball pythons found in a dumpster, and iguanas wandering loose on the UM campus. Now, you can meet Al, Poco the sloth, Tulip and Maybelline the red kangaroos, as well as all their friends on Saturdays and Sundays between 1 and 5 p.m.
Pinball Pete’s opened its doors more than 30 years ago and has since become the Ann Arbor destination for arcade fun. Kids and adults can spend their quarters along the entire wall of pinball machines, play video games, and try their hands at pool or air hockey!
18. Play laser tag at Zap Zone
The Ypsilanti Zap Zone is one of our favorite places for laser tag, but that’s not all they have. Enjoy an entire day of fun with bumper cars, an arcade and a virtual reality experience.
Do you know a local Ann Arbor kid?
Tell us about their favorite activities and destinations in the comments below!