As a born and raised Michigander, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea about the gems inside our beautiful state. As it turns out, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface!
With afternoon plans in East Lansing with family, I was on the hunt for something in the area to explore beforehand with my kids. The Michigan History Museum seemed to check all the boxes — family-friendly, hands-on exhibits, and reasonable ticket prices.
About the Michigan History Museum at the Michigan History Center
The Michigan History Museum is located inside the Michigan Library and Historical Center Building in downtown Lansing, just two blocks from the State Capitol Building. The museum is clean, easy to navigate, and child friendly at every turn.
Each level of the museum is set in a one-way flow direction that makes keeping an eye on the kids easier. But, it also ensures that you don’t miss anything along the way.
The Museum Courtyard
As we first entered the building, we were greeted by a courtyard that’s home to an impressive eastern white pine (our state tree!) towering in the heart of the building. You can enjoy this giant outside area from the second floor as well.
Exhibits at the Michigan History Museum
After purchasing our tickets, our first stop was the main floor exhibit, which changes throughout the year. During our February 2022 visit, the exhibit happened to be about the Michigan suffragettes and their work in achieving the right for women to vote.
Second Floor Exhibits
Heading up to the second floor, we couldn’t help but take a moment to admire the big map of Michigan towering up the wall. As you travel through the exhibits, they’re laid out in chronological order, starting with the Anishinaabe — the state’s earliest people — and ending in the mid/late 20th century.
Within the history of Michigan, the museum also ties in the role that our state played in national and world history events. There’s something hands-on for the kids in almost any direction that you look. They’re having so much fun, they don’t even realize how much they’re learning.
The Mining Exhibit
The Mining exhibit was one of my kids’ favorites. As you enter, it feels as though you’re heading into an actual copper mine shaft. The walls are covered in rocks, timber beam supports, mining carts, and tools scattered about with the sounds of miners working around you.
The exhibit is full of information about the growth of the Upper Peninsula through the copper and iron ore mines, as well as the developments of the towns around them.
The Lumbering Exhibit
The Lumbering exhibit captured our imaginations as we wondered what it must have been like to move such huge logs with nothing more than a horse versus so many of our modern conveniences.
From the log pull to the saw blade in the mill, we gained much respect for these lumberjacks and their ability to cut massive trees — in the winter in the Upper Peninsula, which can average 200 inches of snow! — move the logs to the rivers, and then float them downstream in the spring to be milled into lumber.
Third Floor Exhibits
The third floor is all about the 20th century. It highlights the growth of the state through the automobile and manufacturing industries and the roles that those plants played in both world wars with the production of military vehicles for WWI and planes for WWII.
The Roaring ’20s
The exhibits also depict what it was like strolling down the street in the 1920s — you could catch a movie in the theater, get a quick trim at the barber, stop by the doctor’s office, or maybe even do some window shopping.
A B-24 Bomber
In 1940, auto plants began to be converted for the production of war materials, and Michigan was dubbed the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
This exhibit was a fun surprise for our family because it features the front end of a B-24 bomber plane — the exact plane my grandfather was a bombardier in during World War II.
The B-24s were built at the Ford Willow Run Plant near Ypsilanti. The plant was nearly 1 mile long and could build a bomber plane in under an hour. The wall mural of the plant is impressive, to say the least.
The ’50s Decade
Next, we explored a 1950s-era shop and home. Look, kids, no tablets or cellphones to be seen!
Stepping into the 1957 Detroit Auto Show, you’re met with the fun colors and car details that are so representative of that time. The kids had the opportunity to “design” their own custom car in yet another hands-on, interactive exhibit.
Easily, the most toe-tapping, hip-swinging parts of Michigan’s history are Hitsville U.S.A. and the creation of Motown Records. Stepping into a small recording studio, you can choose from a selection of classic Motown hits that can be heard throughout the exhibit.
In addition, the museum is home to the Baby Grand piano that local legend Stevie Wonder played as a student at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing.
Visiting the Michigan Library
There are so many more wonderful exhibits to explore throughout the museum and lots of hands-on and interactive displays. We truly enjoyed our time here and spent about two hours exploring the museum itself. But, there’s more to see in the area.
We also headed over to the Michigan Library, which hosts an impressive multilevel layout. The librarians were welcoming and happy to tell us about everything that we could find in the children’s area.
There were tables, activities related to all things Michigan, puzzles, and an array of books to dig into with cozy seating!
Frequently Asked Questions About the Michigan History Museum
What city is the Michigan historical museum in?
The Michigan History Museum is located inside the Michigan Library and Historical Center Building in downtown Lansing — 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing, MI 48915.
Where is parking for the Michigan History Museum?
The museum parking lot is easy to access on Kalamazoo St. On weekdays, the daily parking rate is $5, but weekend parking is free. The payment system is automated and only accepts credit/debit cards.
How much is Michigan History Museum admission?
Admission to this history museum is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 65 and older, and $4 for children ages 6 to 17. Children ages 5 and younger can get into the museum for free.
However, admission is free for all visitors on Sundays.
Is the Michigan History Museum open?
The Michigan History Museum is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, it’s open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Explore More Things to Do in Lansing & Mid-Michigan
If you aren’t quite ready to call it a day after visiting the Michigan History Museum and the weather permits, take the path between the Justice Building and the State Capitol, following along Michigan Ave, to explore the Lansing River Trail. Or, check out even more things to do in Mid-Michigan.
If you want to learn more about Michigan, there are dozens of other great museums across the state!