Getting Outside in Metro Detroit

Oh, 2020. I’ve got a few choice words for you.

But instead of ranting, I’ll find a silver lining. In an effort to SIMPLY STAY SANE this spring and summer, our little family has taken to the outdoors in a big way. And not only has it ensured our adequate vitamin D absorption, it’s opened our eyes to pockets of metro Detroit that we’d never have known about otherwise.

If you’re also in the mood for a new-to-you environment, consider the below options. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for a Google Map that will point you to each one!)


The New Robert Valade Riverfront Park, Detroit (More info)

Walk the riverfront and you’ll end up strolling right past this new park, which – bonus! – has a free fenced parking lot just across the street. It’s a wide open space with great river views in addition to a small playscape, several tables and picnic areas, bright orange adirondack chairs and loads of sand for playing or getting cozy in.

If you fancy a cold bevy, Atwater Brewery is just a two-block walk away. Or, bring your own cold drink, find a chair and chill while the sun sets, which is our preferred way to enjoy this location. {Side note: Once COVID concerns lessen, the DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center, nearby, is a great stop for families.}


Seven Lakes State Park, Holly (More info)

About a 45-minute drive from downtown Detroit, Holly’s Seven Lakes is a lovely little park that offers nearly everything you’d want for a day in the sun: water, trees and lots of space. We packed a picnic and found a comfy spot on Big Seven Lake to enjoy it before we hiked the Dickinson Lake trails. Keep an eye open for some cool wooden-stick tents crafted in the woods!


Nichols Aboretum, Ann Arbor (More info)

Do as I say, not as I do. Do not bring a stroller into the arboretum. You’ll regret it. Instead, wear a baby carrier or bring your toddlers who can run around the grassy slopes of this gorgeous park. You’ll find winding, canopied trails like the one in this photo, a tubing-friendly river, open fields and in season, a peony garden that will make you swoon. Parking is … nonexistent. So be prepared to park on a side street nearby and walk into the arboretum on foot.


Bald Mountain Recreation Area, Auburn Hills (More info)

Just past the former site of the Palace is this large park, which boasts a pretty fantastic beach as well as plenty of undulation, setting it apart from other trails in the area. I’ve heard that somewhere, there are even two rustic cabins that can be rented overnight. We stuck to the “south” park, which had seven miles of wooded trails, but the “north” park has even more.


Rochester Park, Rochester (More info)

Tucked in downtown Rochester, this park is perfect for families with little ones in strollers; it features a mile of smooth, paved pathway. And better yet, most of the path runs alongside Paint Creek, a pretty little waterway that’s perfect for splashing around and duck watching. Lots of large trees create shady spaces to sprawl out on during hot days, but luckily, it doesn’t take long to swing into one of Rochester’s ice cream parlors on your way home.


Belle Isle Beach, Detroit (More info)

Our most frequented park, Belle Isle is as convenient as it gets for city dwellers. Drive over and you’re likely to easily find parking on whichever part of the isle interests you most. You can seek out the point, which offers great Detroit skyline views (especially at sunset) and is always the busiest, or find a patch of grass near the water on the more secluded side to spread out. You’ll find lots of pavement for biking and walking, and also trails for stomping around. If you’re looking to cool down, head to the beach, where there are nearly always a good amount of folks playing in the water, whether they’ve staked space in the sand or are hopping off an anchored boat.

Friends tell us that the water at the beach is some of the cleanest in the area since it’s filtered by the channel that it runs out of. Not sure how accurate that is, but I know that it makes me feel better about hopping in ;)


Eastern Market, Detroit (More info)

It seems obvious to head down to Russel Street on a Saturday morning, but the market is actually a great place for strolling on less crowded days, too. Park your car, grab a smoothie from Beyond Juice and explore the market’s many, many murals (perfect for photos, including our own engagement pics!) and small shops. If you want to keep moving, mosey on over to the Dequindre Cut and enjoy the city’s eclectic paved path.


Brush Park, Detroit (More info)

I’m suggesting Brush Park because, well, we live here and love it, but you could really take a house-peeping walk through any of Detroit’s historic neighborhoods (Indian Village is another fabulous option, with it’s GOR-geous mansions and stately trees lining the lots). Walk over to For the Love of Sugar and pick up a coffee and macaron before admiring the mix of old homes, modern construction and long-vacant lots that fill this neighborhood. Head down Brush Street, where you’re treated to pretty views of the city and its sports arenas, and then walk back up Woodward Ave. to gaze at Little Ceasar’s Areana and the development surrounding it.

See below for a Google Map highlighting each of these spots and leave your own favorite outdoor destination in the comments.

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