On November 19, 1928, the Detroit Historical Society opened the Detroit Historical Museum in a one-room suite on the 23rd floor of the Barlum Tower, earning it the nickname of highest museum in the world. These days, Detroit’s Cultural Center accommodates the museum in an 80,000-square-foot space, where interactive exhibits preserve more than 300 years of city history. Frontiers to Factories traces Detroit's transformation from French-frontier outpost to industrial city, while America's Motor City celebrates its automotive dominance with a changing display of classic vehicles and a 1903 Model T that guests can sit in. Streets of Old Detroit brings the 19th century to life with recreated cobblestone streets that wind past stores of the era such as a five-and-dime, a soda shop, and a barbershop for powdered wigs.
Thanks to recent renovations, the society has expanded its chronicle of Detroit with three new permanent exhibitions. Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy covers the ways the city's industrial infrastructure adapted to demands of World War II, and The Gallery of Innovation includes videos about renowned innovators and hands-on activities involving trial and error. As The Allesee Gallery of Culture examines the city's cultural history, its Kid Rock Music Lab lets visitors create and share their own music using interactive displays. Outside, the Detroit Legends Plaza honors the city's sports, entertainment, and media legends with cemented handprints and signatures from stars such as Lily Tomlin and Martha Reeves.
Nestled within the historic Hitsville USA quarters of Motown Record Corporation, the Motown Museum dazzles the optic nerves of audiophiles with retina-regaling displays that flash back to the golden age of music. Foray into the historic duplex that enshrines the restored apartment of Berry Gordy Jr. before tiptoeing through Studio A to reverberate ripened rumors fresh from a grapevine within its iconic echo chamber. As they follow the trajectory of rhythm-and-blues history, visiting duos can pore over a comprehensive collection of photographs, memorabilia, and invisible air molecules once inhaled by famous recording artists. Bask in the soulful warmth of the Marvin Gaye exhibition or burst into synchronized moonwalks while ogling Michael Jackson’s signature glove-and-hat ensemble.
SemSeg's Segway experts equip urban explorers to cruise through Detroit at up to 12.5 miles per hour during self-guided tours. A brief orientation covers proper techniques for turning, stopping, and impromptu jousting. Then, motorists hop aboard scooters and travel up to 24 miles on a single charge. The long battery life allows motorists to cruise down the Riverfront, circle 14-acre Hart Plaza, and crisscross the Rivard Plaza in a single trip. Though SemSeg encourages DIY tours, their guides lead weekend tours through downtown and down the Riverwalk.
The Detroit Science Center lets aspiring engineers and scientists get their tiny hands on more than 200 exhibits that explore space, biology, and physical science. Glimpse the mysteries of space travel or learn the fundamentals of electricity and magnetism that fuel online dating logarithms. A virtual universe of swirling stars and planets awaits inside the Dassault Systèmes Planetarium, where live presenters lead you on an intergalactic adventure followed by earthbound questions and answers. The Chrysler IMAX Dome theatre brings state-of-the-art technology and cinematronics to the 67-foot wide, four-story tall screen. The theatre immerses visitors in a rotating schedule of shows; currently, guests can explore Arabia, visit the Hubble, or allow the adrenalin-pumping excitement of NASCAR in digital surround to vroom off the screen and into unlicensed eyeballs.
Offering unique "backseat" tours of Detroit, tour guide and Michigan native Joseph C. Krause hops into tourists' cars where he guides them through the streets and sights of the city. Often taking roads less traveled, his tours take visitors on an insider's route through the ever-evolving metropolis where he sheds light on little-known facts. Tour routes are entirely customizable, Krause is a wealth of knowledge on any trip, which can last anywhere from a few hours up to an entire day.
For an art museum, the flat, cracked facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is shockingly stark, yet there's beauty in its realness. The walls that once framed an abandoned car dealership now host Barry McGee's "Untitled" mural of writ-large graffiti on the building's exterior, greeting people with an uncompromising sense of honesty that permeates through to the art collection within. MOCAD's informal approach to art exhibition shares a kindred spirit with few other museums, with exhibits that swap museum-imposed artifice for relatable, raw beauty. That didn't go unnoticed by The New York Times, who hailed the collection for "seeing the seediness, and celebrating it."
Never straying from a mission to present contemporary works that reflect the current culture, inspire dialogue, and engage the community, MOCAD's stunning exhibitions narrate the history and future of the Motor City. Public programs such as lectures, literary readings, live music performances, films, and children's educational activities further engage visitors, and the MOCAD store offers exclusive t-shirts, magazines, kid's toys, and jewelry.