The first in a four-part series highlighting unique places and experiences that aid in strengthening relationships with others and yourself. This guide will share ways to get reconnected with your family while enjoying the metro Detroit area.
September 23, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough to see family and get together with everyone like we used to. As we say goodbye to summer and welcome in the fall to metro Detroit, the area has plenty of places both outdoors and indoors for people to gather again, spend time with those they love most, and have a ton of fun.
Visit Detroit has even teamed up with local small businesses and hotel partners to create custom Detroit Experiences so you maximize your time whether you’re on a vacation or a staycation. This guide helps you to spend less time planning and more time reconnecting with your family.
Photos Courtesy of: Bill Bowen
The Detroit Riverwalk was recently named the best Riverwalk in the country, and there is plenty of reasons why. Stretching miles along the Detroit River, the Riverwalk has many different places for families to get together.
At Cullen Plaza and Milliken State Park, there is an outdoor eating and drinking area, place to rent bikes and a carousel for families of all ages. Move just past Cullen Plaza to the Milliken State Park wetlands which shows how wetlands work and learn about the river and more.
As you move northwest along the Riverwalk, you’ll pass the Milliken State Park Lighthouse, and head toward Robert C. Valade Park. There you’ll find more places to eat and drink, a beach to build sandcastles, a playscape for the little ones and more.
Finally, come to an end at Mt. Elliott Park at the northernmost part of the Riverwalk where you’ll find a play ground for kids set up like an old pirate ship and splashpad along with a place for parents to sit down with some food and drinks.
The Riverwalk also includes the infamous Dequindre Cut, which is a greenway running a couple of miles along the former Grand Trunk railroad line. It connects starting at Mack Ave., and runs through Eastern Market, ending at the Riverfront. Rent a bike and bike up and down or stop at the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard for a drink when the weather is just right. Be sure to check out the Instagram worthy incredible art along the entire pathway. Plenty of great murals for spontaneous family photos, so don’t forget your tripods and selfie sticks!
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Belle Isle, the largest city-owned island park in the U.S., is filled with tons of things for families to do.
On the Detroit-facing side of the island, you can head to the beach along the Detroit River with beautiful views of the city. If you prefer a more interactive experience, there’s the Belle Isle Aquarium and Ann Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. Inside the conservatory, you’ll find six different sections taking you to different areas of the world.
If you have nautical fans in your crew, watch the freighters go by and check out the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, which is open weekends and features several exhibitions on shipping, the Great Lakes and more.
You can also hit the driving range on the east part of the island, which is right across the street from the Belle Isle Nature Center where you can view a variety of different animals.
After a day exploring the island, head to Sunset Point and watch a beautiful sunset over the downtown skyline.
Spread out throughout all of southeast Michigan, there are 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks that cover 25,000 acres and offer anything families want to do outdoors.
You can head to the beach and hang near the water, kayak, hike or walk, bike, swim, play a variety of sports, fish, rent boats and much more.
For more information, visit their website to find one near you and see what they offer.
If your family loves to get on the water, there are a couple of different boats that will take you and the family up and down the Detroit River.
Diamond Jack’s River Tours has a sightseeing tour that will show you significant areas along the Detroit River, and they serve food and drinks – for both kids and adults – on board.
The Detroit Princess also hosts lunch and dinner cruises, as well as outdoor sightseeing cruises, for people of all ages.
Photos Courtesy of: Bill Bowen
Greenfield Village is over 80 acres with seven historic districts. You can take a ride on a historic steam locomotive, try glass-pulling, ride a Ford Model T and see inside some of the most historic buildings in American history.
You can step inside Thomas Edison’s lab from Menlo Park, N.J. and see where some of his work was done, see the home where Henry Ford was born, the home where Orville Wright was born and Wilbur Wright died, and the Logan County Courthouse where Abraham Lincoln tried cases in the 1840s.
Right next door, step inside The Henry Ford and see some of the most important artifacts from American history. At over 523,000 square feet, families can spend hours at the museum learning about American history, from the American revolution all the way until today.
There are several presidential limousines, including the one John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot, the bus Rosa Parks was on when she refused to move to the back, the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated and so much more.
You can also see full-size planes, a massive steam locomotive, and a new exhibit showing off the best from auto racing around the world.
With more than 2,000 animals across 25 acres in the heart of metro Detroit, the Detroit Zoo is a great place to spend hours with your family. For those just looking to see unique animals, there are a variety of ones you can see, and there are also zookeeper talks held daily at different exhibits. There, you can learn more about certain animals and also learn how the zookeeprs do their daily jobs and more.
The Australian Outback Adventure allows you to walk through the exhibit which features more than a dozen red kangaroos and three wallabies. Make sure you stay on the path and keep your eyes out, you might see one hopping right by you.
As of writing, the giraffe encounter and railroad are not in operation, but when they are, you can take a train around the zoo and also feed the giraffes.
Detroit is filled with other renowned institutes and museums, and if you want to learn about history, or gather with your family to check them out, there are several. Some of the ones you can see are:
Photos Courtesy of: Chris Gerard, Michigan Science Center, Bill Bowen, Adventure Park and The Henry Ford Museum
There are plenty of places to explore and reconnect with your family in downtown Detroit! The downtown area is incredibly walkable with stores and restaurants all over the place for you to shop, eat, drink and more.
It’s also filled with different parks, where you can sit down and take in the scenery. In the heart of Downtown Detroit is Campus Martius Park, where you can cool off by the fountain, play in the sand at The Beach and even grab a summer-themed drink. If that’s not for you, there’s a large grassy area where the ice rink sits in the winter to play around.
The Capitol Park area, just a few blocks from Campus Martius, is a great place to bring some take-out food, hang in the grass, or even bring your dog at the dog park. It’s surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and more, and there are events happening every week.
Beacon Park is the newest in downtown Detroit and features a huge artificial grassy area and also the Lumen restaurants. There are art installations all around it, and there’s something happening there for the whole family every weekend. It also offers free WiFi for those who may just want to hang and watch a show outside.
Finally, Grand Circus Park on the north end of downtown Detroit is always busy, surrounded by restaurants and entertainment venues like The Fillmore, Comerica Park, The Fox Theatre and more. There is a dog park, fountains and often live theatre, music performances and more.
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While many know of Eastern Market as the place to get fresh fruits and vegetables on weekends, there are also plenty of restaurants and stores to gather with family. Get there early on a Saturday and spend hours shopping, looking at historic buildings, grabbing delicious Detroit food and unique drinks from local breweries and distilleries in the area. When you’re done, you can head over to the Dequindre Cut and walk or bike it all the way to the Detroit Riverfront and continue your day reconnecting with family in the city.
Photos Courtesy of: Michelle and Chris Gerard and Eastern Market Partnership