Children Posing As Astronauts
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Out of This World (Yet Affordable!) Family Fun in Flint & Genesee County

For our family, winter is a time when we settle down and re-group as a family. That means, less go-go-go and more cozy activities close to home. Living in the Flint and Genesee area has never disappointed us with the winter activities – both cozy and adventurous!

As always, the #MIAwesomeList is packed with tons of winter activities we could experience without going too far from home in the chilly weather. The Flint area is surprisingly filled with tons of indoor activities to keep winter exciting. Between museums, car shows (not just for summer around here!), and parks, there is no shortage of fun. 

Thank you Explore Flint & Genesee for bringing us out of our winter hideaway to experience some of what the area has to offer during these cold-weather times!

Our Explore Flint & Genesee Winter Wanderings

What We Did

  • Watched a show at Longway Planetarium
  • Checked out the Sloan Museum of Discovery
  • Hit up Totem Books 
  • Explored For-Mar’s nature center and snowy trails
  • Spent the day at Chrome & Ice – Flint’s Back to the Bricks Classic Car Event

Where We Ate

  • Fenton House in Fenton
  • Italia Gardens in Grand Blanc
  • Donna’s Donuts in Flint
  • Blackstone’s Smokehouse in Flint

Explore Galaxies, Science, and Local History in Flint

We started off our winter expedition by visiting East Kearsley St. – this street is home to the learning staples in the city: Longway Planetarium, Sloan Museum of Discovery, Whiting Auditorium, and the Flint Public Library.

During warmer weather, the street is walkable – perfect for spending the day wandering around. There’s plenty of parking at each location though, so with it being so cold out, we parked easily at each location, with no parking fees.  

Discover the Space and Earth at Longway Planetarium

Having never been to a planetarium before, the kids weren’t sure what to expect once we arrived, and honestly, I wasn’t either. I checked out Longway’s website beforehand to see what shows were available and then we were headed on our way.

When we arrived, we were informed that the show we originally wanted to see (Space Academy: Black Holes) may have been a little too intense for the kids (ages 6 and 9).

After some review, I do wish we would have stayed for the show anyway, as the online description states it’s great for grades 3 and up. However, we were referred to the next show (Serengeti) as great for all ages, so we hung around for that show.

Since we are from the area, our tickets were discounted – great to know if you live around Flint!

Children Posing As Astronauts
Fun at the Longway Planetarium! | photo by Heather Stern

On our way into the planetarium for our scheduled show, the kids loved checking out the wall murals of planets created with glow-in-the-dark paint and black lights. It sets the tone for the adventures that take place in the auditorium!

Once we were seated in the auditorium, we were pleasantly surprised that the seats allowed us to lie back in order to see the entire ceiling screen – so much better than craning our necks to see all the sights!

Girl Looking At Space Mural
The murals at Longway Planetarium are so cool! We had fun checking them out – the glow-in-the-dark one near the theater deserves to be seen in person! | photo by Heather Stern

The Serengeti show was wonderful and so full of new information. We watched the yearly migrations of wildebeest and how their very existence is so central to the ecosystem of the Serengeti.

The kids loved seeing the baby animals on the screen and the wide shots of the grasslands. I do wish that we had seen a space-centered show, but we already discussed and we definitely want to head back soon for one!

Science and History Immersion at Sloan Museum of Discovery

After checking out the gift shop and murals at the planetarium, we hopped in the car and made the short drive over to the Sloan Museum of Discovery. Again, there was plenty of parking, which was so nice with the chilly wind – we didn’t have far to walk at all.

Walking into the museum, we were met at the check-in desk where our tickets were free because we are from the area! It was a lovely surprise. I’m always so grateful to communities that offer their residents free or reduced fees to experience activities and promote learning. 

Kids Playing A Science Game At A Museum
Learning the periodic table and how to make different elements at the Sloan Museum. | photo by Heather Stern

To our delight, we were immediately met with the hands-on science learning area. This area was filled with different scientific activities that museum-goers could immerse themselves in and experience science firsthand.

The kids loved the periodic table station where they could choose on a screen different elements to create new ones. Also a big hit – the water table! And next to the water table? A play area with climbing areas and a slide – you know we spent some time there!

Child Playing At A Water Table
The water table was a big hit for kids of all ages. | photo by Heather Stern

There’s a huge maker space in the area as well – we didn’t go inside but did check it out from the window. Adults and kids alike can grab a spot at a table and then have access to all kinds of supplies in order to try their hand at making science come to life in whatever ways they find most interesting. I’d love to take a full day and play around in there!

Around the corner from the hands-on area is the history portion of the museum. While my son loved the science part, my daughter enjoyed reading about the history of the Flint area and checking out artifacts from different time periods.

We played a game that taught us a bit about how the fur trade worked back in the day and even got to try our hand at chopping down a tree with a double-sided saw – hard work!

Girl Reading About The Flint River
Reading interesting facts about Flint in the history section of the Sloan. | photo by Heather Stern
Child Playing A Game At A Museum
Learn fur and goods trade skills with this game in the history section of the Sloan. | photo by Heather Stern

And of course, you can’t have a Flint history museum without representing classic cars! There’s an entire section dedicated to cars throughout history, so if you have a classic car buff in the family, it’s definitely worth checking out. My husband could have spent hours in this area of the Sloan. 

Child Looking At Vintage Cars
So many cool vintage cars to see! | photo by Heather Stern

For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum

For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum is one of our favorite places to explore in both winter and summer months. They always have interesting programming going on and the trails are both easy to walk and full of exciting new things, no matter the season. 

Girl Standing Near A Tree House In Winter
The treehouse is peaceful in winter. A great spot to check out the river below. | photo by Heather Stern

Since it was so cold during our visit, we didn’t walk too far. We did check out our favorite spot by the creek – the treehouse. The kids love climbing up there looking down on the trails. 

Children Looking Out Over A Snowy Landscape
The kids always love seeing out over the trails and the river that flows through For-Mar. | photo by Heather Stern

What we really came for was the nature center! Since we do a lot of our hiking in the summer evenings, the nature center was new to us – it’s always been closed when we come around. This time, we were able to check it out and I’m so glad that we did!

The staff greeted us at the door and were so incredibly kind and helpful in letting us know what areas to check out. We loved being able to see the different fish, frogs, and turtles they had in tanks and feeling the pelts that they had on display. 

Child Looking At Science Nature Exhibit
The nature center at For-Mar has a lot of fun hands-on activities to check out. | photo by Heather Stern

Flint and Genesee County Classics

We love discovering restaurants and events that are “classic” to the area and there are so many in the Flint area. Some, I’ve been wanting to try for ages and just now got around to. And now that I have? We will become regulars (ahem, Donna’s Donuts). 

Chrome and Ice Back to the Bricks Classic Car Event

My husband was pumped about the Chrome & Ice car show. He’s a classic car buff and wanted to spend nearly the entire day looking at the cars and chatting with their owners. The show was held at the Dort Financial Center and parking was $5. Admission for adults was $10, but children under 12 were free!

Arena Filled With Vintage Cars
Multiple arenas were filled with vintage cars – a hot-rod lover’s dream! Gotta protect those cars from the winter chill. | photo by Heather Stern

When were entered, we were met with an array of exotic cars and there were some very cool ones! After drooling over the high-end cars, the kids each grabbed a bag and headed off to check out the vendor tables.

Our favorite featured vendor? Gellyball Flint! Our son had a blast with the GellyBlaster target shooting. The best part of the event was the classic cars that took over two arenas.

For my car-loving husband, the opportunity to be googly-eyed over cars during the winter and not just during the summer months was a dream. 

Child Standing In Front Of Vintage Hot Rod Car
Wishing he could take this car for a spin, I’m sure! | photo by Heather Stern

Nostalgia at Totem Books

I love a good bookshop, so walking into Totem Books was the ultimate winter-comfort space. From the fully functional cafe to the rows of books and records and the children’s area, there is nothing lacking in this bookstore. 

Child Walking Through Aisles Of Books At A Bookstore
So many books! I could’ve stayed all day to browse in this cozy atmosphere. | photo by Heather Stern

My little superhero-lover was enthralled with the selection of vintage comics and superhero books, he couldn’t decide what to choose! We eventually walked out with a graphic novel, coffee, and lots of smiles.

I’d love to head back and choose a record for my collection and maybe spend some time just sitting in one of the cozy chairs near the window with one of their lattes or a bubble tea. A dream for book lovers, really, I didn’t want to leave! 

Child Looking At Vintage Comic Books At A Bookstore
Can’t go to Totem Books without checking out the comic book selection! | photo by Heather Stern

Treats from Donna’s Donuts

Our family cannot simply go on any type of adventure without checking out sweet treats in the area. I’ve been hearing over and over from other locals that Donna’s Donuts are the best to be found in the area, but I just never got out that way to experience the hype.

I’ve heard that the lines can be crazy in the mornings (both on weekdays and the weekends), so we headed to Donna’s at an odd hour, 3 pm on a Sunday, to be exact. And guess what? No line! 

Child Near A Display Case Of Donuts
Look at all those options! And this wasn’t nearly all of it. | photo by Heather Stern

We walked right into the small donut shop and were astounded by the selection! Because we cannot control our sweet tooth, we left with a baker’s dozen of their donuts. I made sure to leave a tip because the kids had the person working the counter running back and forth between the cases grabbing their donut choices. 

Flint Donnas Donuts 4
Donna’s Donuts | photo by Heather Stern

We drove over to For-Mar afterward and each enjoyed a donut in the parking lot before heading into the nature center. My favorite? A red velvet donut that was on special. Yum! Also delicious: chocolate donut with mint frosting, sour cream donut, and the chocolate bismarck!

Children Biting Into Donuts
Yum! Doesn’t get much better than that first big bit of donut. | photo by Heather Stern

Pasta and Chicken from Italia Gardens

Italia Gardens is another Flint and Genesee County dinnertime staple with locations in Flint, Grand Blanc, and Davison. We headed to the Grand Blanc location and were pleased to find that the atmosphere was casual and fun, not your typical Italian restaurant. 

Restaurant Front
Heading in to stuff our faces with pasta. | photo by Heather Stern

For our first visit (of many to come, I’m sure!) we made sure to get some pasta, but the kids tried out the chicken tenders, and dang! Those are some good chicken tenders! My husband and I went the traditional route with chicken fettucini alfredo and chicken tetrazzini, both delicious.

I’m not going to lie, we were way too hungry to stop for photos of our food, so please trust us in this – everything looked, smelled, and tasted amazing. 

Live Music and BBQ at Blackstone’s Smokehouse

Blackstone’s Smokehouse in downtown Flint is an absolute gem – located near the Capitol Theater, you can find parking in front of the building or a paid lot the next street over. We parked there for $5 and the walk was short and sweet.

This restaurant used to be a clothing store and has been revamped for guests to enjoy delicious barbeque, live music, and the original brick walls and steel ceilings. 

Restaurant Front
Blackstone’s Smokehouse – located right on The Bricks in downtown Flint. | photo by Heather Stern
Wall Mural Painting
Blackstone’s Smokehouse | photo by Heather Stern

Our kids loved the live music – we enjoyed cover tunes by Jason and Andy, who took turns wowing the small crowd with their talents. My little guy was pumped to see the guys play guitar and was entertained from start to finish (big for us!). 

Child At A Dinner Table
Enjoying the music and the mac n’ cheese. | photo by Heather Stern
Musicians On A Stage
Great covers by Jason and Andy. | photo by Heather Stern

The food was delicious! My husband ordered the brisket with a side of their famous mac and cheese, while our youngest got the kids’ mac and cheese. My daughter and I opted to share the Smokehouse Roadhouse Burger, topped with the house blackberry BBQ sauce, and a plate of the famous mac and cheese, topped with brisket.

We are definitely planning on going back – maybe for a mom and dad date night to try some of the yummy adult drinks!

Mac N Cheese And Brisket
That mac n’ cheese and brisket – mouth-watering. | photo by Heather Stern

Get Your Game on at Fenton House

When we are looking to round out our family adventure days on the way home, we always make sure to stop at Fenton House for their famous breadsticks and the arcade in the back of the restaurant. 

Child At An Arcade
Hitting up the arcade at Fenton House – so many games to choose from! | photo by Heather Stern

I don’t think we’ve found a breadstick in the area that can rival that of Fenton Houses – they are always hot, salty and buttery, the perfect stick, in my opinion. We grab a basket and sit in the back area where there are tables set up, right near their very own arcade!

This is not like your typical restaurant “arcade” with old crusty games, no. Fenton House has dedicated this space to new arcade games. You load a card with tokens, win tickets and can even win prizes at the end.

Our favorite game is the newly installed Hungry Hungry Hippos game – the four of us can play together!

Arcade Game
How Hungry Hungry is your hippo? Who do you think won this round? | photo by Heather Stern

Want to Explore More in Genesee County this Winter?

The Flint area is full of winter activities for all ages and interests. Here are some more places that are worth the trip: 

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