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Great Historic Day Trips in Michigan

These four Southeast Michigan destinations will have you wanting to repeat history again and again.

Photo courtesy Detroit Historical Museum
Photo courtesy Detroit Historical Museum
Written by Christopher Reilly

When we think about historical destinations we'd like to visit, we often fail to look right in our own backyard. Michigan is rich in history and ways to learn about it. Here are some great historic day trip ideas. The best part? You can get to all these destinations on a tank of gas or less.


Detroit Historical Museum
5401 Woodward Ave.
Detroit
(313) 833-1805 

Why Go? Located in the Cultural Center Historic District in Midtown, the Detroit Historical Museum is the only museum dedicated to the region's history. Visitors enjoy a diverse collection of galleries and exhibits, such as the Allesee Gallery of Culture, the Kid Rock Music Lab, and Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy, which explores the ways that Detroit shaped the outcome of World War II. The Underground Railroad exhibition poignantly showcases another important part of Detroit history, which Executive Director Bob Sadler said “really puts you in the role of an enslaved person trying to escape to freedom in Canada.” 

Insider Tip:
 Plan on visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) right across the street as well. The DIA has one of the largest, most significant art collections in the United States. 

Must Do:
 Check out the Glancy Trains, a model train exhibit featuring up to 10 trains running simultaneously—many of them one-of-a kind—along with interactive buttons that control different functions.

The Fine Print:
 Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, though donations are gladly accepted. Parking is available across the street for $5.


Michigan Historical Museum
702 W. Kalamazoo St.
Lansing 
(517) 373-3559 

Why Go? The Michigan Historical Museum, located in the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing, envelopes guests with five sprawling levels of Michigan history from prehistoric eras through the late twentieth century. At more than 30,000 square feet, "what surprises people most is the overall size of the Museum," said Sandra Clark, Director of the Michigan Historical Center. Museum goers can walk through an Upper Peninsula copper mine, check out the 1957 Detroit Auto Show, or take a leisurely stroll along a replicated 1920s street, and more. 

Insider Tip:
 The museum can be quite busy from March through mid-June, so if you prefer smaller crowds, plan your trip during a slow period. 

Must Do:
 The museum has a special exhibit called Lake Effects, exploring the history and science of Michigan's weather. The exhibit runs through August 24, 2014. 

The Fine Print:
 Admission is $6 for adults 18 and over; $4 for seniors; and $2 for kids 6-17. Children 5 and under get in free. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. 


R. E. Olds Transportation Museum
240 Museum Dr.
Lansing 
(517) 372-0529 

Why Go? The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum is one of the best kept secrets in Lansing, even after 31 years. “Many people don't know this museum exists at all,” said Executive Director William Adcock. “They are astonished at all the artifacts, automobiles and Lansing history there is here.” The collection covers vehicles built by both the Oldsmobile and the REO auto companies, all in original and pristine condition.  

Insider Tip:
 Cars from the collection are rotated in and out of the museum. If there's a particular car you want to see (the collection is listed on the website), call in advance and the museum will ensure that vehicle is on display. 

Must Do:
 Do not miss the 1920 REO Speedwagon, the vehicle that lent its name to the famous rock band.

The Fine Print:
 Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays, and closed Sundays from November through March. Admission is $12 for families (parents and children under 18), $6 for adults, and $4 for students and seniors. 


The Motown Museum
2648 W. Grand Blvd.
Detroit 
(313) 875.2264

Why Go?
 One of Southeast Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, the Motown Museum (nicknamed Hitsville, U.S.A.) is home to an extensive array of Motown artifacts, photographs and other memorabilia that will enthrall any music lover. Visitors stand in the actual Studio A, where such classics as "Shop Around" and "Please Mr. Postman" were recorded, and where such iconic artists as Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Jackson 5, and many more launched their careers. 

Insider Tip:
 If you're visiting during a busy weekend, it's a good idea to stop by the museum and purchase a ticket in advance. You'll be glad later when you zoom by the people waiting to get in. 

Must Do:
 Ask questions. In addition to being personable and entertaining, the docents are very knowledgeable. Go ahead and try to stump them. 

The Fine Print:
 Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The last tour begins at 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for Seniors (62 years old and over) and Children ages 5 to 12. 

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