T-Rex Dinosaur At The Cranbrook Institute Of Science

Discover the Michigan Science Center + 6 Additional Hands-On Science Museums in Michigan

Michigan has numerous museums, and some of the best are places where visitors can get in on the activity. Not only are these Michigan science centers fun, but they also encourage exploration and foster an appreciation for science and learning.

Michigan Science Center, Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via Amanda Shaffer

Michigan science centers are in many locations, but one of the biggest and best is the Michigan Science Center. The mission of this Detroit science museum is to inspire young minds and help them explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts dynamically.

One of the best ways to gain an appreciation for science is to engage in hands-on learning. With more than 200 interactive activities, pop-up demonstrations, and live shows, the MSC does just that, inviting visitors of all ages to touch, engage, and enjoy.

Michigan Science Center, Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via @hi.i_am_chie

Getting to Know the Michigan Science Center

Located at 5020 John R Street in Detroit, the Michigan Science Center strives to offer visitors of all ages a fun, interactive experience that stirs their curiosity.

Detroit-area businessman Dexter Ferry is credited with creating the vision for the Detroit Science Center and founded the center in 1970. In 1978, the center relocated to Midtown Detroit, adjacent to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The DSC operated until 2011 when it closed due to monetary issues. In September 2012, a new organization, the Michigan Science Center (also known as MiSci), took over operations, and the center reopened in December 2012.

Michigan Science Center-Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via mamamexicanaenusa

MiSci’s Hands-On Activities and Wonderous Exhibits

Sparking a curiosity about science and the world around us is very easy for visitors, thanks to the center’s many exhibits.

The Smithsonian Spark! Lab invites visitors to become innovators and inventors through conversation, hands-on activities, and interactions with facilitators to imagine the endless possibilities around them.

The Health Gallery encourages visitors to discover the importance of fitness, good nutrition and making decisions for good health.

The Motion Gallery allows visitors to explore properties of energy and matter with hands-on activities like simple machines, magnetic fields, and more.

Math Mountain challenges youngsters to test their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills.

The STEM Playground allows young visitors to explore aspects of building, such as planning and foundation, as they discover concepts like how to position sails for boating and how forces act on an airplane.

Michigan Science Center, Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via Amanda Shaffer

The Centennial Lab is a place for visitors to meet educators and docents for hands-on activities that include topics like chemistry and physics.

Roads, Bridges, and Tunnels is an area that invites visitors to become engineers. Here they can walk across the 80-foot Mini Mac Bridge, work in the U.S. Steel Fun Factory, and much more.

The Nano Gallery engages visitors of all ages in interactive activities around nanoscale science. Hands-on exhibits explain the basics of the science as well as real-world applications.

Waves and Vibrations is a gallery that’s all about experimentation with sounds, waves, reflection, and more. It includes hands-on tools like a walk-in kaleidoscope, seashell pipes, and more.

Earth. Wind. Weather. includes 10 exhibits that allow visitors to learn about amazing and powerful natural phenomena. Visitors can command ocean waves, step into a tornado, and so much more.

Michigan Science Center, Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via Amanda Shaffer

Michigan Science Center has a heavy focus on interactive learning. We love how the museum encourages visitors to actively participate in exhibits, which fosters a deeper understanding of scientific concepts for my children. The museum is ideal for families, students, and science enthusiasts. When we take a visit to the science center, it is not just a trip; it’s an exploration of all that science has to offer.

You’ll find this science center in the heart of Detroit. There is a small parking lot available as well as street parking. It is in the heart of the museum district, so we usually always tie our trip into visiting the neighboring Detroit Institute of Arts. The science center offers diverse interactive exhibits and engaging displays, making science entertaining for even my youngest scientist.

Amanda Shaffer
Michigan Science Center, Detroit - Spring In Metro Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via @hi.i_am_chie

Exploring Michigan Science Center Theaters

The center’s numerous galleries offer no shortage of fun activities. But the facility also has several theaters offering more fun ways to enjoy science.

The IMAX Dome Theatre is the largest theater in Michigan, featuring custom-designed seats, surround sound, and a three-story dome. Visitors can enjoy a rotating selection of movies featuring animals, national parks, science, and more.

The Planetarium invites visitors to explore the mysteries of the night sky with some memorable children’s characters. In this fun show featuring Sesame Street characters, visitors will get the perfect introduction to space, learning about the sun, the moon, and the stars.

The Toyota 4D Engineering Theater features a state-of-the-art projection system with 3D viewing options as well as enhanced lighting and space. This allows visitors to have a more immersive experience as they enjoy learning about topics like extreme weather, sea creatures, and more.

The Science Stage is a live show featuring plenty of science fun. Talented performers conduct an exciting variety of presentations and programs to the delight of audiences.

Michigan Science Center-Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via turner246

Michigan Science Center FAQs

Where is the Michigan Science Center?

The center is located at 5020 John R Street in Detroit.

What are the Michigan Science Center’s Hours?

The center is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How Accessible is the Michigan Science Center?

The Michigan Science Center offers plenty of accommodations for visitors to ensure everyone who wants to visit the center can. Seating areas are available throughout the center, wheelchair rentals are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and numerous bathrooms are located throughout the building.

Where Do I Park to Visit the Center?

There is metered parking around the center and nearby lots, including several at Wayne State University, are available.

Cranbrook Institute Of Science-Detroit
Cranbrook Institute of Science | photo via corinnerayburn

Visit More Interactive Michigan Science Centers

Cranbrook Institute of Science | Bloomfield Hills

The Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills offers something for everyone. The complex includes an art academy, museum, science institute, and Cranbrook House and Gardens.

The museum’s exhibits are in permanent galleries, but there is also a changing exhibition hall, a planetarium, an observatory, nature trails, and an outdoor science garden.

The permanent exhibits at Cranbook are many. They include an astronomy gallery, a rock exhibit about the formation of Earth, and an ice age exhibit where visitors can see and touch rock carved by glaciers.

The planetarium is in an intimate theater that allows visitors of all ages to experience and explore the wonders of the universe. Visitors can enjoy a 360-degree experience with surround sound and LED lighting.

T-Rex Dinosaur At The Cranbrook Institute Of Science
Cranbrook Institute of Science | photo via Stefanie Caloia

My children love to run up and down the long and narrow motion gallery at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, following giant metal marbles moving in an endless loop through the kinetic machine until they become part of the exhibit.

At the other end of the museum, a life-sized mastodon replica wears a warm scarlet scarf on our recent winter visit. Around that dapper gent are the real-life mega bones of megafauna found in nearby towns: toothy jaws, pointy ribs, and colossal vertebrae.

Elsewhere, a T-rex towers over its displayed descendants and you can stand at the mouth of a Megalodon ready to swallow you whole.

The museum offers more opportunities for immersion: a planetarium, with shows appropriate for a range of audiences; hands-on activities; crafty creations of ice age phenomena; sparkly crystals; and holographic tour guides. 

Like a marble, you could move through the museum’s layout in a continuous coil, spiraling up your knowledge as you learn something new each time around.

Like my kids, you might linger in the motion gallery, transfixed by rolling, spinning, balancing balls.

Like me, you may get stuck, mesmerized in the mineral gallery. Just don’t let the megafauna catch up to you.

Stefanie Caloia
Impression 5-Lansing
Impression 5 | photo via exploremichiganmore

Impression 5 Science Center | Lansing

Since 1972, the Impression 5 Science Center has been a favorite of families looking for hands-on fun. Every exhibit here features interactive elements so children of all ages can enjoy learning in action.

Visitors can enjoy hands-on activities around every corner. Pop: A Bubble Experience allows visitors to step inside a body bubble and experiment with equipment to understand the structure of bubbles. Nano allows visitors to discover a world they can’t see by exploring the world of nanoscale science. Spectrum invites visitors to experience the electromagnetic spectrum with activities like a life-size Light Mosiac.

No matter which exhibits you choose, all of them are designed to be fun and encourage learning. Discover one or all of them to enjoy the center’s full range of interactivity.

The Reptarium -Utica-
The Reptarium | photo via theworldoflaureolivia

The Reptarium | Utica

If you’ve ever wanted to spend a morning with a baby alligator in your arms or have a python resting on your shoulders, the Reptarium in Utica is a unique place to visit. This Macomb County zoo focuses specifically on reptiles and offers visitors of all ages plenty of opportunities for interaction.

The Reptarium opened in 2018 and has quickly become a bucket list destination. Visitors can interact with boa constrictors, pythons, geckos, tortoises, alligators, lizards, a two-toed sloth, and much more.

Visitors are encouraged to hold and handle the reptiles. Experienced zookeepers are on hand to help with interactions and to provide information about the care and maintenance of the animals.

Child Playing At A Water Table
Sloan Museum of Discovery

Sloan Museum of Discovery | Flint

As a part of the Flint Cultural Center, the Sloan Museum is a wonderous place of discovery. It re-opened in 2022 after expansion and renovations to offer more than 107,000 square feet of hands-on space.

In addition to seasonal exhibits, the museum has a variety of fun, permanent exhibits. These include Hagerman Street-Early Childhood Learning Gallery, which features an interactive child-sized neighborhood and a three-story tree house; the History Gallery, which features artifacts related to Genesee County, items from pop culture, and video and audio exhibits; and an automotive collection of historic vehicles dating back to 1904.

Whether you’re looking for some kid-friendly interactive fun or you’re a history buff, the Sloan Museum offers plenty of space for discovery.

Leslie Science & Nature Center | Ann Arbor

This fun nature center is in a public park and is a perfect activity for exploring Ann Arbor on a budget. The center features trails to explore, a critter house, and raptor enclosures, and admission is free.

The trail through Black Pond Woods allows visitors to explore plants and animals in the forest year-round. Visitors can keep their eyes peeled for tracks, nests, and other signs of animal activity. Fast-walking visitors can finish the entire trail in about 20 minutes.

The name raptor may make you think of dinosaurs, but it refers to birds who grasp with their talons. The birds at the center are trained to educate visitors and they can be viewed in their enclosures during daylight hours.

Raven Hill Discovery Center-East Jordan
Raven Hill Discovery Center | photo via ravenhilldiscoverycenter

Raven Hill Discovery Center | East Jordan

Raven Hill was established in 1991 and remains a unique Northern Michigan spot where kids and adults can experience hands-on fun by linking history, the arts, and science.

Located in a unique rural setting with forests, fields, a pond, and a swamp, Raven Hill offers variety for everyone. The main museum features hands-on activities, including Earth and life science activities, sound, light, motion, and more. There’s also an animal room with reptiles and amphibians that visitors can meet and hold.

The grounds also feature an amateur radio station, an outdoor Earth tones music garden, an accessible treehouse, an interactive connections trail, a one-room schoolhouse, and much more.

Raven Hill also has plenty of activities that educators, homeschoolers, and those who want to try a variety of interactive fun at home. 

Raven Hill Discovery Center is currently open on weekends or by appointment.

Michigan Science Center, Detroit
Michigan Science Center | photo via Amanda Shaffer

Visit One of Michigan’s Hands-On Science Centers

Whether you spend an entire day at the Michigan Science Center, make a Northern Michigan trek to the Raven Hill Discovery Center, or visit another Michigan science center, you won’t be disappointed.

Visiting a hands-on science center in Michigan allows visitors of all ages the opportunity to understand real-world science concepts. These museums also help visitors to understand interesting everyday scientific phenomena such as weather and gravity.

No matter the time of year, any time is a great time to visit these centers. You’ll learn more than a few things, and you’ll have a lot of fun while you do.

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