Day Trips from Ann Arbor

Amazing Indoor and Outdoor Day Trips from Ann Arbor

For today’s Travel Thursday post, we are staying closer to home with recommendations for Day Trips from Ann Arbor. They’re perfect for days off from school and in the summer.

Amusement Park Day Trips from Ann Arbor

Amusement Parks are a great day trip in summer, as well as late spring and early fall weekends (check their operating schedule).

Cedar Point

If you’ve been reading Ann Arbor with Kids for any length of time, you know my family loves amusement parks. There are two amusement parks that make great day trips from Ann Arbor. The closest amusement park to Ann Arbor is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio which is great for coaster and thrill-ride lovers with plenty of tamer options as well. Check out our tips for visiting Cedar Point.

Valravn Review - Initial Drop

Michigan Adventure

Michigan’s Adventure in Muskegon is a bit further from Ann Arbor and doesn’t offer quite as many thrill rides. However, the water park is included in your basic admission ticket and there are still plenty of mild thrill rides and tame rides. We visited twice a few years ago. With my sister now living in Grand Rapids and her kids getting older, I see more trips in our future.

Michigan's Adventure

Fun Outdoor Day Trips Near Ann Arbor

Outdoor adventures are a great choice for summer and even on some winter days.

Dow Gardens

In October 2018 Dow Gardens in Midland opened the longest canopy walk in the United States. It is 2 hours from Ann Arbor. Explore the canopy walk and the new playground in the Whiting Forest section then head to Dow Gardens to explore the rest of the gardens.

Canopy Walk - Cargo Net in Spruce Grove - Whiting Forest - Dow Gardens

Greenfield Village (March-November only)

We love Greenfield Village. We visited for Memorial Day and had a great time visiting the houses and Liberty craftworks shops. While the Civil War Remembrance was only on Memorial Day weekend, there are live performances all summer long.

Greenfield Village Roundhouse Turntable


We love the Toledo Zoo! We were members for several years when my daughter was younger. However, now that she’s older our schedule is too busy to be able to visit often enough to make a membership worthwhile. While most of the zoo is outside, there are several places to take indoor breaks such as the Nature’s Neighborhood house, the Polar Bear exhibit, or the new Aquarium which opened last year. There are also two places for kids to cool off by getting wet- the Stream in Nature’s Neighborhood and the Cool Zone Splash Pad. I suggest bringing a towel and a change of clothes.

Toledo Zoo Africa

Last summer my daughter and I had a great time checking out their Aerial Adventure Course.

Toledo Zoo Aerial Adventure Course - On the Sky Bridge with our guide Lexi

The zoo is open year round. If you’re visiting in the winter, there are plenty of indoor buildings to explore. My daughter and I visited several times in the winter when she was younger.

Royal Oak

The Detroit Zoo is about the same distance from Ann Arbor as the Toledo Zoo (depending on where you live). However, with the construction on I-275, be sure to budget extra time to get to and from the Detroit Zoo. Personally, I prefer the Toledo Zoo, but we’ve had fun at the Detroit Zoo as well. The Detroit Zoo is also open year round.

West Bloomfield

My daughter loves the Adventure Park at West Bloomfield. After her first visit, she called it the “Best Day of my Whole Life”. The park is in the trees, so while it’s hot, at least you aren’t in the sun. The Adventure Park is only open in the summer. New for 2018 is a new section for younger climbers. These obstacles are only a few feet off the ground.


Indoor Day Trips Near Ann Arbor

Indoor day trips are perfect in winter, rainy days, and when the summer is crazy hot.


My daughter loves the Jiffy Factory Tour. We have taken the tour twice with her Girl Scout Troop. It is only available on weekdays from 9a-2p, so it is great activity for summer, school breaks, and half-days. There is a minimum age of 6 to participate. Unfortunately these tours are on hold due to COVID.

Jiffy Factory Tour - With Corny


We love the Henry Ford Museum. There are tons of interactive activities for kids throughout the museum. They can make Paper Airplanes, K’nex racers, build with Lincoln Logs, and make rubbings of various featured collections.

Henry Ford Museum Reagan Presidential Limo


Detroit is under an hour from Ann Arbor. It offers both the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts which are across the street from each other and can easily be visited together. We really enjoyed visiting the Michigan Science Center this fall. They are open daily in the summer (limited hours during the school year).

Michigan Science Center
Photo Courtesy of Michigan Science Center – Used with Permission

Contrary to it’s name, the Department of Natural Resource’s Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit is an indoor attraction. That makes it a perfect visit in the winter or on a crazy hot day.

Outdoor Adventure Center Plane
Get inside this Cessna 337C while learning how the Michigan DNR uses airplanes to detect and fight forest fires and to survey and manage wildlife. – Photo obtained from Michigan DNR’s Press Release

The Detroit Institute of Arts is also a good choice – although maybe not for more active youngsters.


Toledo’s Imagination Station was on my to-visit list for several years. We finally made a visit in Summer 2017 and had a great time. Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum members receive a discount.

Imagination Station - Wednesday Activity Review

Great Lakes Crossing

Great Lakes Crossing is more than an outlet mall. They have a Sea Life Aquarium, a Legoland Discovery Center, Peppa Pig World of Play. The combination makes Great Lakes Crossing a great (but expensive) day trip for families. Admission to each can be purchased separately, or you can buy combination tickets. Whether you visit one or both, I suggest buying tickets online in advance to guarantee your admission. Check out our spring 2017 visit to Sea Life Aquarium.

Sea Life Michigan Aquarium - In the Walkthrough Tunnel

While there, you can also have lunch (or dinner) at Rainforest Cafe and shop the outlets.


On my plan for this summer is the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo. As a bonus, admission is available through membership reciprocity with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum or University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is a bit over 2 hours from Ann Arbor. Now that my sister lives in Grand Rapids, we have visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum a couple of times and had a great time. They offer reciprocal admission for members of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum or University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. We also enjoyed visiting Meijer Gardens.


We love visiting Frankenmuth. We usually start with a visit to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Then we have lunch at Zehnder’s for their Fried Chicken. We also enjoy exploring some of the small shops in the area. The outlets near 23 are also a good stop for some deals.

Zehnder’s Splash Village is also a great choice as an indoor water park either as a day trip or to spend the night.


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