Detroit, MI

You Must Visit these Four Iconic American Museums in Detroit

Rene Cizio

Photo by Rene Cizio/author

I love nothing more than a good museum and Detroit has them in spades. Here are four of my favorite Detroit Historical museums - each an important and irreplaceable part of America's history.

Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum showcases 300+ years of Detroit's rich history with real-life exhibitions. My first visit to the museum was on a field trip as an elementary school student and I'll never forget it. In the basement, there is a complete recreation of the streets of Detroit from 300 years prior.

It's called "Streets of Old Detroit and it exhibits old cobblestone streets that are difficult to walk on and shop windows that are so detailed and spectacular they've never left my mind. There is information about the various industries and many recognizable business names.

Upstairs they have more modern exhibits honoring Detroit like the Kid Rock Music Lab and Motor City Music featuring a lot of Motown history. Another good one is Detroit: The Gallery of Innovations showcasing Detroit's contributions to developing new ideas. Metro Detroit has more innovators than you are likely aware.

Find it at 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

You can't talk about Detroit history without the African American story. Founded in 1965, the museum holds the world's largest permanent exhibit of African American culture. Can you believe that? The museum has long been a standout and it continues to be to this day.

It now holds some of the most important modern African American artifacts in existence. It's home to the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection and the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection. It also houses an impressive compilation of documents about the labor movement in Detroit called the Sheffield Collection.

My favorite part of the museum is the interactive exhibit "And Still We Rise: Our Journey through African American History and Culture," named in honor of the great Maya Angelou poem. It features a walk through the lives of various African Americans and re-tells their trials and triumphs in a riveting fashion.

Fun Fact: Designed by Detroit architects Sims-Varner & Associates the domed building is also a treat to behold.

Find it at 315 E. Warren Ave. Detroit, MI 48201.

Motown Museum

As a museum lover, I have been to a great many of them. There are few I love more than this one. I know many people who have visited and everyone says the same thing - they sang and danced all the way through. Few museums leave you feeling so inspired and upbeat as the Motown Museum.

Created by Motown founder Berry Gordy's sister Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, the museum holds the most impressive collection of Motown history anywhere in the world. It's also the place where history was made as the home of Hitsville U.S.A. and the famous Studio A.

They have Micheal Jackson's famous glove, dresses from the Supremes and the candy machine young Stevie Wonder used to get his candy from! It is a time capsule and a walk-through history unlike any other. Highly recommend!

Find it at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48208.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village

These are technically two separate museums, but they go together and are well worth spending two entire days visiting. Yes, two entire days - that's how big and impressive these are.

The Henry Ford Museum is a showcase to America and the people who've made it what it is. They have Rosa Parks' bus, the car Kennedy was assassinated in, the chair Lincoln sat in at the theatre and thousands of other important artifacts, automobiles (the Weinermobile), from every decade and important moment of American history. The museum even has Washington's army cot and Thomas Edison's last breath sealed in a tube. It's doesn't get more real than that.

Greenfield Village is an outdoor museum and collection of homes and facilities important to history too. There you'll find Thomas Edison's laboratory where he invented electricity, the bike shop the Wright Brothers owned when they developed flying and many other interactive displays. The village is complete with actors that walk around and provide demonstrations and hold conversations about their time in history - and never break character. I think some of them think they really are those characters!

Find it at 20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124.

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