The kids are out of school and the city is at its best — it’s summer in Detroit. Whether your family consists of nature lovers, sports enthusiasts or history buffs, these Detroit area attractions promise the perfect summer day for the whole family. Pack up the kids and hit the road — or the sidewalk — for fun family options everyone will love.
Detroit, MI 48226
Price: $3 water slide
Belle Isle offers something for everyone, both outdoors and in. The half-mile beach offers swimming, sunning and lounging, and for $3, the water slide provides a perfect activity for hot summer days. Fishing spots abound on the piers and bulkheads around the island, while paddle boats are available to take onto the water. Enjoy handball, racquetball and baseball courts, a miniature golf center, driving range and putting greens, lighted tennis courts, baseball diamonds, a soccer field, and a half-mile running track. The Kid’s Kingdom play area gives young ones a chance to burn off energy, while the bicycle, hiking and nature trails offer options for adults to get a workout as well. The Nature Zoo and Borreal Wetlands Forest feature native Michigan plants and animals, and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory houses plant species from around the world, including one of the largest orchid collections, with roughly 600 plants.
8450 W. 10 Mile Road
Royal Oak, MI 48067
Price: $14 adult/$9 child/$12 senior/$5 parking per vehicle
There’s more to do at the Detroit Zoo than just look at the animals. The zoo is also home to a 3-D/4-D theater that plays family friendly short movies throughout the day, a 36-foot wood and brass carousel, a virtual reality Wild Adventure Ride, and a six-foot spherical dynamic display that projects simulations of the earth and its environment. The Giraffe Encounter allows visitors to feed the zoo’s giraffes from a special elevated platform. This special attraction is generally open from Tuesday to Sunday throughout zoo hours, weather permitting. Tickets are $5 and are limited to 50 people per feeding. Several restaurants and snack kiosks provide fare from popcorn to pizza, burgers and fries, sandwiches, and even coney dogs. Picnic areas are available for visitors who bring their own meals, but alcoholic beverages are not permitted. Of course, the animal exhibits are not to be missed as habitats represent the Australian outback, African forests and grasslands, Asia, the Americas and the Arctic. Other environments feature reptiles, amphibians, otters, penguins and a butterfly garden.
The Detroit Riverfront
Detroit, MI 48243
Spanning three miles on the banks of the Detroit River, with two and a half more in the works, the Detroit Riverfront has developed into a scenic, entertaining and educational destination. From Hart Plaza’s Underground Railroad memorial and Horace E. Dodge Fountain to the labyrinth at Gabriel Richard Park, the Detroit Riverfront offers sights and activities for all ages. Rivard Park, just east of the GM Renaissance Center, is full of kids activities, featuring the Cullen Family Carousel, Riverwalk Cafe, Boll Family Water Feature and KaBOOM! play area. Riverboat tours and bicycle rentals are available from third-party providers as well. In-laid granite and standing glass maps of the Detroit River and St. Lawrence Seaway provide the opportunity for a quick geography lesson. Further east, the Milliken State Park features information on wetlands and conservationism. The Riverfront also offers public art installations, a butterfly garden, parks, an amphitheater and a variety of festivals throughout the summer to appeal to the whole family.
Henry Ford Museum
20900 Oakwood Blvd.
Dearborn, MI 48124
Price: $17 adult/$15 senior/$12.50 youth/free children 4 and younger
Summers in Detroit aren’t without rain, so when the weather prohibits outdoor activity, bring the family to the Henry Ford Museum for a day of inspiration and education. The museum’s permanent collections celebrate the American spirit, from innovators to activists. Follow the development of planes, trains and automobiles, explore the many American inventions that made the country a manufacturing powerhouse, and tour R. Buckminster Fuller’s vision of the house of the future, the Dymaxion House. The Presidential Limousines exhibit includes the car in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated, a chilling reminder of a bleak time in American history; a similar effect is elicited from the Lincoln chair from Ford’s Theatre. The IMAX Theater offers the largest 3-D-capable screen in the area, at 62 feet high and 84 feet wide. Restaurants at the museum offer a variety of simple meals and snacks. If the weather clears, step outside and step back in time at Greenfield Village.
2240 W. Buno Road
Milford, MI 48380
Price: $5 daily vehicle permit
Located on 4,500 acres surrounding Kent Lake, Kensington Metropark offers something for everyone to enjoy on a sunny summer day. Hike or bike the trails, swim at Martindale Beach, or play the 18-hole golf course or 27-hole disc course. Hold a picnic in one of the park’s picnic shelters or out in the open air. Fish from the shore or from a boat in the lake; boats are available to rent hourly. The entire family may enjoy the Splash ‘n’ Blast water slide from May 26 through Labor Day; tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for kids 2 to 15. Educational opportunities abound at the farm and nature centers, as well as on the hayrides and Island Queen lake tours, which are $5 for adults and $3 for kids 3 to 12 and seniors.
Related: Best Picnic Spots in Detroit
Jennifer Walker is a freelance writer living in Detroit. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.