Cranbrook Institute of Science grants visitors an up-close look at a collection of more than 150,000 objects and artifacts that adorn 11 galleries dedicated to natural history and science. Interactive exhibits let visitors feel the fur on a mastodon model, run their fingers along a meteorite, and touch the cast taken from the floor of a now-extinct 500,000-year-old sea. More wonders of the natural world fill the Erb Family Science Garden, where flow pools cascade over three terraces dotted with native plants. To study the world above terra firma, the institute holds nighttime sessions in its research-grade observatory and screens space-related films in its planetarium.
Behind the museum, more than 150 species—from jamaican fruit bats to the malaysian flying fox, the world's largest bat—flap freely through the Bat Zone. During award-winning live shows highlighting how they adapt to living at night, the bats emerge into daylight along with fellow nocturnal critters, two-toed sloths and convenience-store clerks.
For more than 75 years, Cranbook Academy of Art has enjoyed a reputation as one of the nation's leading independent graduate schools for art and design. Renowned graduates such as designer Florence Knoll, architect Hani Rashid, and fiber artist Nick Cave all honed their craft on the verdant 315-acre campus, where crammed lecture halls are replaced with small studios and students enjoy one-on-one mentorships with the Artists-In-Residence. Designed to inspire creativity as much as possible, the academy supplies each student with his or her own private studio space, and allows artists to design their own program of study without formal boundaries or beret-based dress codes.
The Cranbrook campus is a work of art in itself, owing the design of its original buildings to famed Finnish architect Ellel Saarinen. The academy further inspires its graduate students and the surrounding community with a museum that grew out of the eclectic personal collection of George Booth in 1930, and has grown to focus on the art, craft, design, and architecture of the 20th, 21st, and 22nd centuries.
Marvin Yagoda, the owner of Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, has amassed mechanical oddities and coin-operated machines since 1960 and regularly updates his collection of curiosities with new additions. A champion of all things outlandish, Marvin ensures that no nook or cranny in the 5,000-square-foot space remains unembellished with treasures such as P.T. Barnum's famous Cardiff Giant, as featured in RoadsideAmerica.com, or the AutoWed, America's first and only coin-operated wedding-ring dispenser for on-the-fly unions, replete with wedding music and an AutoDivorce voucher. Rafters atop 40-foot ceilings anchor low-flying model planes, and walls cloak themselves in vintage photos and pictures. Modern machines mingle with antique contraptions, whose old-timey noises and quaint images whisk visitors away to days of yore as effectively as a coal-powered wormhole.
A concession stand ensures that players remain sated and hydrated, and a prize shop enables guests to trade in their hard-earned game tickets for rewards such as figurines, toys, and yacht cruises with the Pac-Man family. To share its quarter-munching contraptions with as many visitors as possible, the museum remains open 365 days a year and offers free admission.
Named one of the city's best cultural museums by CBS Detroit, the Holocaust Memorial Center is among America’s first Holocaust museums. For more than 25 years, the HMC has memorialized the senseless murder of millions, promoting tolerance while sending out a call to action to prevent future discrimination, hate crimes, bullying, and genocide by keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and the lives it claimed.
Starting near the museum's lobby, an illustrated timeline tracing 4,000 years of Jewish history leads into The Museum of European Jewish Heritage, which highlights Judaism through artifacts and displays. From there, a ramp descending beyond a 22-foot window display of Nazi propaganda leads into an exhibit on The Final Solution. Here, displays and audiovisual installations usher visitors toward the Survivors' Theater, where live presentations by Detroit-area survivors illuminate the atrocities' personal costs. Daily tours are led by the museum's caring, expert educators, who guide guests through the exhibits while encouraging them to internalize the lessons for use in their own lives.
New to the museum is the Weisberg Gallery, where a Holocaust-era boxcar stands as a reminder of the scale of the period's atrocities. The museum also welcomes traveling exhibits such as Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow, a collection depicting the story of Jewish professors fleeing Nazism and finding teaching positions at historically black universities. The exhibit explores the encounter between these scholars and their students, the impact the relationships had on one another, and the effect on the Civil Rights Movement and American society.
Post-war exhibits cover the Nuremberg Trials, honor the righteous individuals who risked their lives to resist the Nazis or save Jewish lives during the war, and pay homage to those who perished with a memorial flame. The museum also houses a well-stocked library, where guests can research their genealogy with materials dedicated to European Jewish history. Beyond its core exhibits, the HMC hosts special exhibits encompassing photographs, art, and history, in addition to sending survivors to speaking engagements throughout the city and hosting the Kindertransport Memory Quilt, whose patches represent the experiences of Jewish youth rescued from Eastern Europe.
As the sun rises and sets on the shore of Lake St. Clair, it illuminates a historic mansion surrounded by 87 acres of gardens, meadows, and lagoons. The light catches the elm and sugar maple trees, blue lilacs, and other local florae, treating guests to the same idyllic views that Edsel Ford—the only son of Henry Ford—used to enjoy with his wife, Eleanor Clay Ford, and their children. Built in 1929 and now open to the general public, this historic house and its surrounding grounds give visitors a glimpse into the everyday lives of one of America's most prominent families.
Edsel and Eleanor Ford were renowned for their progressive design tastes and support of the arts, and these forward-thinking sensibilities are readily apparent throughout their Gaukler Point home. Detroit architect Albert Kahn chose to characterize it as a cozy escape from city life by recreating the aesthetic of a Cotswold village cottage, complete with stone roofs, vine-covered walls, and lead-paned windows. But the Ford's decidedly modern style is still visible—for every antique and stuffed and mounted Model T, guests can also spot the sleek, custom-made furnishings and leather-paneled walls recommended by interior designer Walter Teague. The acres outside those walls were shaped with equal care by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen, who chose to accentuate the area's natural beauty without giving any indication of manmade interference.
Of course, the Ford House would be incomplete without the invention that made the Ford name—the automobile. Reflecting that legacy and Edsel's own passion for designing vehicles, the garage houses a 1934 Brewster Town Car, a 1938 Lincoln K Brunn Brougham, and a 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, each of which was customized to Edsel's specifications. The crown jewel of the exhibited collection—when it is not being displayed at car shows and museums across the country—is Edsel's treasured 1934 Model 40 Special Speedster, a vehicle that he personally spent years conceptualizing and then refining into a sleek, aluminum-bodied roadster.
More than 100 years ago, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant was on the cutting edge of innovation—the first 12,000 Model Ts were made on its premises. But over the years, the building became neglected, and in 1997, afraid that the bulldozers were lurking around the corner, ready to raze the premises, a committee was formed to investigate saving the plant. The Model T Automotive Heritage Complex purchased the New England–mill-style structure two years later, transforming it into an auto museum and National Historic Landmark that still has its original red bricks. Today, the museum is one of the oldest automotive plants open to the public in the city of Detroit.
The venue’s exhibits chronicle not only Ford’s rise to the forefront of the automotive industry, but also lesser known tales. Visitors can learn about other car models built there, such as the Model N, and about other automakers, such as Wayne and Brush. They can also learn about the lives of 20th-century auto-factory workers, who—with six-day workweeks composed of 10-hour days—built cars assembly-line style or, before cars, horses.