Detroit Day Trip Ideas with Kids

Travelling long distances with toddlers can be torture especially when we refuse to stick a screen in front of them so they don’t miss learning the importance of boredom, but we try to plan our long trips accordingly. Sarnia is a three hour drive to Toronto and an hour to downtown Detroit. So when we had one day to do something with the boys a few weeks ago we decided Detroit it was! Now, I know kids in a big city can sometimes scream chaos, but thankfully Detroit is the perfect mix of old and new and busy and not so busy. I wanted to find a few places that weren’t your typical kid focused attractions, but something the whole family could enjoy. 

First stop was John K King Books a beautiful old warehouse just off the downtown beaten path. I loved browsing the thousands of books while the boys and Chad ran to the top of the building and back again to find me in one of the dark aisles (you have to turn the lights on in every aisle). They have everything from kids books to art history and everything in between. A great place to get young children interested in books and older children a place to explore and pick a few classics to bring home.

Next we found a burger place downtown to eat at called Brome Modern Eatery. The boys loved being downtown seeing the tall buildings and watching all the construction. A great lunch spot for sure! 

Our second stop was The Belle Isle Aquarium. I was so intrigued by this little island between the shores of Detroit and Windsor. It is home to the oldest aquarium in the United States and not only is this a part of history, but the aquarium is perfect size for little ones. It is a beautiful building with fish tanks lining both sides. My only comment and something I found interesting after I left was the tanks were at adult height (to look like pieces of art, I later found out) so we had to lift the boys to see everything. I found this a little inconvenient but also interesting because most aquariums and zoos for that matter are now geared towards children, but in previous generations they weren’t. Beside the Aquarium is the most beautiful glass greenhouse and manicured gardens. The boys loved both places. We were there in the off season so it’s wasn’t busy but there are other places to check out on the island. Plan ahead because they aren’t open everyday and it’s free to go in the buildings, but you pay for parking on the island. 

Our last activity was riding the People Mover and definitely a highlight of the day! It’s .75 cents per person and children under 5 are free. It’s not a long ride but it takes you all around the downtown and along the waterline. It is a great introduction to a train or subway for kids or even adults who might not be comfortable with crowds of people and the hustle of a busy subway.  

We decided we had to try Detroit deep dish pizza and headed to PizzaPapalis downtown. It was lots of fun. We were on the balcony and could see them making the pizza. The boys are still throwing things in the air and telling me it’s pizza dough.

It was a really affordable day trip with kids and stress free for the most part. We did have a hard time finding reasonable parking near the pizza place because there was a concert that night. I would recommend parking away from Greektown but still on the People Mover line and maybe just walk from the People Mover Greektown stop to the restaurants. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to have a little taste of the city, but know how stressful it can be with kids in tow. Slowing down and letting go of the expectations for the trip is also a big stress reliever for travelling as well. I hope this gives you a little push to get out there and explore new places, see new things, and step off the beaten path.

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