Home to the world-renowned University of Michigan and a top-notch education system, Ann Arbor is certainly a well-educated city. In fact, we’ve been named the #1 Most Educated City in America by WalletHub for more than five years in a row! So, it’s no surprise that A2 locals love learning, opening some of the best independent bookstores in the nation, funding incredible museums, and conceptualizing educational attractions that draw in thousands of visitors to the area each year.
Whether you’re on the hunt for educational opportunities for your children to explore, interesting date night activities, or just want something fun to do over the weekend, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find our list of the best educational attractions across the greater Ann Arbor area. Have fun learning something new!
Founded in 1993, the African American Cultural & History Museum of Washtenaw County is located in Kerrytown. Their mission is to research, collect, preserve and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of African Americans in Washtenaw County. Here, you and your family can explore their videotaped oral histories with the Ann Arbor District Library, go on Underground Railroad tours, watch performances from local artists and more! The museum also hosts educational events all year long. Click here to see what they currently have going on.
The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum specializes in interactive exhibits with the goal of helping both children and adults discover the scientist within! Visiting the museum any day of the week means you can explore exhibits like All About You, Lyons Country Store, MediaWorks, and the brand-new STEAM PARK opening on August 18. General admission is $16, with discounted admission for EBT and WIC card holders. The museum is currently open Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat, and Sun, check the website: www.aahom.org for up to date hours.
For those interested in photography, there’s no better place to learn about cameras and the history of Argus Cameras & Optical Instruments than the Argus Museum! This educational attraction is housed in one of the Argus Camera Company’s old warehouses, featuring products manufactured by Argus and tells the stories of the company and the people involved, and showcases unique collections connected to Argus. The museum is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Creature Conservatory is a nonprofit organization home to a wide variety of animals, most of whom were abandoned, injured and non-releasable, or surrendered exotic pets. Their conservation through education mission allows our community to meet these animals, learn about wildlife and nature, attend educational programs and camps, and more. On weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can enjoy limited outdoor viewing for free, but the conservancy is open indoors on Saturdays and Sundays from 1–5 p.m., allowing an opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife!
Located in the Village of Dexter, Michigan, the Dexter Area Museum serves as western Washtenaw County’s link with history. The museum is housed in the former St. Andrew’s United Church of Christ, built in 1883. Inside, you can explore numerous artifacts, a genealogical library, a local history library and the Corner Gift Shop.
Encompassing a whopping 69 acres, Gallup Park is Ann Arbor’s most popular recreation area. But the park isn’t just a destination for outdoor enthusiasts—it has some educational opportunities as well! In 2020, Gallup Park introduced five colorful signs that encourage visitors to go on a wildlife scavenger hunt throughout the park. You and your family can use all your senses to explore items around the playgrounds and river. There are also new matching games that feature fun facts about the plants and animals of the Huron River.
Nestled inside the Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, you’ll find the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center! A great way to introduce yourself to our natural surroundings inside Waterloo, the mini museum explores the glacial geology of the region, the diverse natural habitats, and the many recreation opportunities available in the park and the greater Chelsea area. Established in 1981, the facility offers educational exhibits, special programs and even year-round events.
One of two Gerald R. Ford museums in Michigan, the Presidential Library is located on the North Campus of the University of Michigan. Here, you can peruse archival materials on U.S. domestic issues, foreign relations and political affairs during the Cold War era. Then, travel to Grand Rapids to learn more at the presidential library’s sibling, the Gerald R. Ford Museum!
Located on the University of Michigan campus, the Kelsey Museum supports teaching and research on Classical, Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeology. With a collection of more than 100,000 artifacts, 1,500 of which are on permanent display, and two or three annual exhibitions, there’s plenty to learn! Click here for their current hours and COVID-19 policies.
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 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.
Situated on 85 acres, this Northville farm has been a landmark in the community for more than 100 years. At the farm, children and families can take maple syrup tours and learn about the process of turning sap into syrup; engage in hands-on experiences with farm animals; learn about honey bees; go to farm camps and much more. Click here to view all their educational experiences and to plan your trip to the farm!
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental gardens on the UM campus. The botanical gardens include 11 outdoor spaces full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials, and more, which bloom seasonally from spring to first frost. For colder months, enjoy their year-round indoor conservatory filled with plants from around the world.
Nichols Arboretum is one of the richest landscapes in the region. It spans miles of trails and land with collections of native and exotic trees and shrubs crafted into a landscape that was begun by O. C. Simonds in 1907.
Housed inside a restored firehouse, the Michigan Firehouse Museum covers more than 26,000 square feet; this includes the original 1898 firehouse and a modern, multilevel exhibit display area. Here, they display 25 changing exhibits, including antique fire trucks and early fire rigs, multiple displays of historic artifacts and the largest collection of fire truck bells in the country!
Step back in time at Mill Race Historical Village in Northville! Created in 1972, this area is a “living museum,” offering visitors the chance to explore a historic church, gazebo, school, rustic wooden bridge, a blacksmith shop, general store, interurban train station and several homes reminiscent of an era gone by. The grounds are open year-round, dawn to dusk.
Domino’s Farms began back in 1925 and The Petting Farm, located on what is now a 20-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! General admission is $6 but you can also purchase an annual family membership for $85.
For children interested in science, technology, engineering and math—or just really cool, interactive exhibits—Stemville in Northville is a must-visit! With over 25,000 Magformers, 7,500 Clicformers, an eight food LiteZilla, coding robots and hands-on learning stations, there is a lot to explore at this unique museum. The ultimate goal of Stemville is to “stimulate the minds of all the children who visit.” You and your family can join in the fun Tuesday-Saturday for $20 per child.
The University of Michigan’s art collection is among the oldest in the nation. Years before the great art museums of Detroit, Toledo or Chicago were founded, UM students and the general public had free access to the on-campus gallery. Today, you can explore more than 20,000 artworks, special exhibits and educational experiences. Admission is still free, but a $10 suggested donation is always appreciated.
The U-M Museum of Natural History features a variety of constantly expanding exhibits, including interactive displays about mastodons and prehistoric whales, multimedia artwork, the evolution of life on earth, space exploration, and more. You can even see the museum staff at work in the Fossil Prep Lab! For more information on your visit, click here.
If you or someone you know is a musician or music lover, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Stearn’s Collection of Musical Instruments at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. This collection comprises over 2,500 pieces of historical and contemporary musical instruments from all over the world and is free to explore.
Yankee Air Museum is an aviation, aerospace and science museum located at Willow Run Airport just a few minutes outside of Ypsilanti. Exhibits offer hands-on experiences and insights into World War I and World War II, Willow Run and Rosie the Riveter, The Vietnam War, aircraft restoration and so much more. Click here to plan your visit and don’t forget to check out their packed event calendar to see what they have going on this month!
In 1927, Carl L. Miller opened this Hudson Sales and Service franchise as an automobile dealership and repair shop. Preserving the dealership’s authentic condition, the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum was opened in 1995 and is now home to one of the best collections of historic automobiles in the United States. They are currently closed due to COVID-19 but hope to reopen soon. Follow them on Facebook for reopening information!
Have fun learning!
Did we miss your favorite educational destination in the Ann Arbor area? Let us know in the comments below!