Over the Thanksgiving dinner, my sister was telling me all the fun things she and her family would be experiencing on their trip to Chicago the next day. I slumped in my seat thinking “man, wish I could go to a fun city.” Yes, I turned into my 14-year-old self. Um, it was a holiday — doesn’t that happen to even the best of us?
Once I composed myself, I realized I just might have a fun city to explore too.
Detroit. Yes, Detroit.
I usually pass through Detroit. Actually I go around Detroit. If I venture outside of Rochester it’s either to go to a baseball tournament for my son or to visit family out of state.
I’ve lived in Rochester for almost 13 years and am embarrassed to say I have only been to Detroit a handful of times. A Red Wings game. A Tigers game. Two Madonna concerts and a couple plays.
I’ve never been to Detroit with my kids.
After telling my husband that I wanted to venture outside the suburban leafy Utopia that is Rochester, he was on board and suggested the newly re-opened Detroit Historical Museum.
Taking a family of six anywhere is, well, quite an undertaking. Especially if you are a (hmmm, what should I call us?) "lively family." I rarely get out of picking up a child from a practice with rowdy kids in tow without a look or two or three. A look that says either “Wow! You don’t have a lot of control over your brood!” or “Thank god that’s not my brood.” So you might think an afternoon at the museum wouldn’t be the place for us: a lively (fun-loving, sweet and mostly funny I should add) group. But you’d be wrong.
It was amazing.
Sure the baby (okay he’s 3, but he’s my baby) cried a little bit (okay, a lot), one of my children was more interested in finding the gift shop than the next exhibit and they might have accidentally unplugged a monitor to one of the exhibits.
I said it was amazing, not perfect.
My three older kids (ages 11, 8 and 6) were mesmerized by the Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, a replica of what Detroit was like in the 1870s. The Detroit Historical Society representative working the counter at the old store was educating the museum goers on life in the 1870s. My children were hanging on every word. The baby, Wade, was enthralled with the trains at the Glancy Trains exhibit.
We were planning on walking across the street to the Detroit Institute of Art, but we stayed longer than we thought at the history museum.
“Next time,” I told the kids.
“Can we come back tomorrow?,” asked my oldest son.
Our family field trip to Detroit was just as cool as my sister’s totally super awesome trip to Chicago (sorry I reverted again). Detroit actually has a lot to offer. You don’t have to hop on a train for four hours. Hop in your car and in 30 minutes you get to be a part of a big city.
The experience was not just a fun outing with my unruly-but-lovable kids. It was a mini adventure bonding us together, like most vacations or adventures do. Together we learned, we laughed and we posed for a lot of pictures.
For me, a non-metro native, the museum taught me so much more about the city of Detroit. It made me hurt for the city. It made me love the city. It made me hope for the city. It made me want to go back.
So, if you are looking for a someplace to take your family this holiday season (or just competing with your big sister) why not a museum? If my family can do it, anyone can.
And why not Detroit?
Here’s my advice on going to a museum/family field trip with a large brood:
- Go to the museum when it’s busy. We went on the grand re-opening celebration weekend along with five million other museum goers. It was hot and crowded and there were a few not so great bathroom experiences, but overall it was easier to go unnoticed or at the very least be less bothersome in a large crowd.
- Let each child pick one particular point of interest before going and make sure you see those. If you get to more great, but if not at least you saw what was interesting to them. My 6-year-old wanted to see the World War II exhibit and my 8-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son wanted to see the Underground Railroad exhibit. Both exhibits were really spectacular.
- Have extremely low expectations of the experience. Even though I’m telling you it can be amazing, go thinking your family will screw it up. And when they don’t? Rejoice.
- Go slow. Breathe deeply. Enjoy watching your children experience history (or art or science or whatever museum you are going through).
Where's your favorite place to take the family in Detroit?