On our trip to Port Huron last month, we decided we wanted to stop somewhere fun about halfway to break up the drive. Plus we had all day and didn’t really need to get to Port Huron until 5pm or so. I asked around for suggestions and the winner was to come up through Lansing instead of through Detroit and check out the R.E. Olds Museum.
Something you need to know about my family: we love museums. We go to as many as we can, as often as we can. Whenever someone says they just aren’t a “museum person” it makes me sad. It’s one of our favorite family activities–even my four year old tends to enjoy it (although he gets bored faster than the rest of us).
The RE Olds Museum is in Lansing, MI, very close to the beautiful state capitol building. I did not grow up in the midwest and I’m still working on all my midwestern geography. When we saw the state capitol building I said, “Wow that is so pretty but what is it? Lansing isn’t the capital of Michigan!” and all of my classically educated children GASPED and squealed “Yes it is!” hahaha. OOPS.
The museum is off the main road but hidden a bit. We almost missed it. The staff was super friendly and helpful. We were there in the middle of the day on a Friday and we were the only people there for most of the time. It was also pretty cheap as far as museums go. They charged us a family rate of $15. What?!? Hooray for inexpensive learning!
So how do we make sure learning happens at a museum instead of just aimless wandering and pointing at cool cars? I try to spend time with each child having conversations about what we see. For example, there was this 1/2 scale of a car next to a full size car.
I actually made my ten year old do the math out with me and figure out why the half scale model seemed so small. He was so amazed when he figured it all out! Many of the oldest cars listed what their price was new back in the 1920s, etc. So we talked about inflation and pulled out my phone and calculated what those cars cost in today’s dollars.
There was a wall that had a timeline of R.E. Olds. He lived at the same time as Walt Disney so I took that as a great opportunity to have a Five Common Topics discussion (it’s a classical education tool, I’ll talk about it often, and explain it soon!) with the two oldest. We compared R.E. Olds and Walt Disney’s lives and accomplishments against what was happening in the world at the time and how their inventions may have influenced each other.
There was a section on the types of vehicles that R.E. Olds contributed to World War II. So we all stopped and recited all the memory work we knew about World War II (the countries, the leaders, Pearl Harbor, etc). We were the only people there at the time so I did not feel bad singing about Pearl Harbor in public. Not sure I would’ve done it with an audience. 😉
It was interesting to see the progression of cars from the first motorized vehicles through the last Oldsmobiles made. We enjoyed posing for pictures with some of our favorites.
If you find yourself in Lansing, Michigan with a few hours to kill, I highly recommend this museum. It’s fun, it’s affordable, and the staff is friendly. Can’t beat it.
Another note: the people of Lansing are some of the most friendly people I have ever encountered anywhere. Even the cashier at the fast food place we went to for lunch was just so cheerful and friendly that it made our day brighter. It was my first visit to Lansing, but I really doubt it will be my last. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the city.