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Step out of Ann Arbor and into history, creativity with these Washtenaw County museums

Local museums explore history, STEAM fields, world in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area

(Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Step away from the hustle and bustle of busy Ann Arbor by stepping into one of its many museums. Open to the public, these museums help visitors and townies embrace local history, learn about the past and get hands-on with activities. 

Escape the summer heat (and crazy foot traffic) with fun programming, interesting exhibits and educational events. 

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
220 E. Ann St. 

With creative, hands-on exhibits and events, the downtown museum inspires exploration in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics fields. Its unique and interactive learning experiences allow visitors to build, destroy, create, envision and tinker with ideas, concepts and exhibits. 

The Hands-On Museum is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8 p.m., depending upon the day. Tickets for adults and children are $12.50; however, the price drops to $5 on Thursday nights after 5 p.m.

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
434 S. State St.

Hidden away in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology houses ancient artifacts, creative collections and exciting exhibitions based on fieldwork projects undertaken by the museum. Learn about initiatives and research done by University of Michigan students and faculty or learn about the painted mummy coffin in the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing.

The museum also has special online exhibits that can be accessed through its website. 

The Kelsey Museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

University of Michigan Museum of Natural History
1105 N. University Ave.

Located in the Biological Sciences Building on central campus, the natural history museum houses all sorts of creatures, from the giant Quetzalcoatlus to a small herd of mastodons. Get a look at how fossils are prepared at the Fossil Prep Lab or sneak a peek at the night sky through the Planetarium & Dome Theater.

Make sure to look up! There are two prehistoric whales swimming in the skies of the atrium. 

The museum is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has extended hours until 8 p.m. Thursdays. 

Read: University of Michigan Museum of Natural History to reopen April 14

Kempf House Museum
312 S. Division St.

Build in 1853, the home-turned-historical museum offers visitors a look into the lives on Ann Arborites of the past. Located downtown, the nonprofit organization is dedicated to preserving the unique architecture of the Kempf House as well as the stories it can tell. 

It is open April through May and then again from September to December on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

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Museum on Main Street 
500 N. Main St.

Open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., the Museum on Main Street is run by the Washtenaw County Historical Society. Collecting notable history from Washtenaw County, the small museum preserves Washtenaw County history and offers a glimpse into Ann Arbor history.  

The museum rotates exhibitions over the course of the year. The current exhibit, “Butter,” takes a look at butter-related art by contemporary artists. 

Call ahead to book historical tours!

University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 S. State St.

From its permanent pieces to visiting collections and exhibits, the University of Michigan Museum of Art saves visitors from muggy summer afternoons. Free events from evening concerts to artmaking and exhibition discussions are all open to the public and occur regularly throughout the week. 

While browsing the many galleries, stop by the UMMA cafe to pick up a snack or drink. 

The UMMA is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Read: University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor to open UMMA Cafe soon

Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum and Archives
220 N. Huron St. - Ypsilanti, MI

Take a trip over to Ypsilanti and check out the Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum and Archives. Operated by volunteers from the Ypsilanti Historical Society, the museum is situated in an 1860 home. See the clothes worn by Ypsilanti residents over the years in the Costume Room or peep at some old-  toys in the Toy Room. For even older area history, the Ypsilanti Room houses information about area artifacts, businesses and war relics. 

The Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum and Archives is open Tuesday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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