Things To Do In Detroit: Summer Family Edition

For those of you who may be new here, or may not know, we are a Michigan born family. Hubby and I were raised in Southeast Michigan, in the suburbs of Detroit. All three of our girls were born and raised in Dearborn, before our move to Central Florida. Therefore, we know a lot about things to do in Detroit summer, and the surrounding areas. 

We’ve made it back to visit family and friends every summer since our move away. It seems we are more like tourists now. Always looking for something new to explore, even though we still have our staple favorites. Here you will find a variety of things to do in and around Metro Detroit during summer. 

Things To Do In Detroit

Belle Isle State Park

Belle Isle is an island on the Detroit River, and nestled between Michigan and Canada. Summer of 2019 we spent an afternoon at Belle Isle Park. Although we were only there for part of a day, we are able to do and see plenty. 

Belle Isle Aquarium

Opening August 18, 1904, Belle Isle Aquarium is America’s oldest aquarium. At opening, it was the third largest aquarium in the world, which is crazy to know. Why? Because it’s not really that large compared to so many others nowadays.  

You can find collections of water bearing species from all over the globe, and most notably the Great Lakes. Also, it is home to the only know collection of all 7 species of gar in North America. Best to visit on a day that’s not too hot, because it is not air-conditioned. It was pretty hot the day we were there, and the only relief is a small room they allow the kids in to do some hands on activities. 

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Neighboring the aquarium, is the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, which also opened in 1904. Several things make this place special. First, it’s currently “the oldest, continually operating conservatory in the United States.” Second, it’s home to the largest municipally owned orchid collection in the country. The collection was donated by Anna Scripps in 1955, and thereafter named to honor her generosity. 

The conservatory is filled with native and exotic flowers, plants, trees. and much more. During summer, the surrounding grounds are filled with many beautiful flowers and plants. The day we visited, there was a wedding party holding rehearsal. What a great place for an outdoor ceremony! 

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Growing up in a boating family, and living on the water for many years, I can’t believe it took me this long to visit the Great Lakes Museum. The underdog of our day, I was very impressed with the wide range of exhibits, and hands on activities for the kids. 

The Gothic Room of the Detroit III passenger steamer, and the pilot house of the SS William Clay Ford were among my favorite parts. Sadly we couldn’t explore the outdoor exhibits because they were working on the new landscaping. I personally would have loved to see, and take pictures with the anchor from famous Great Lakes shipwreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald freighter. Just may need to head back next summer.

Outdoor Adventure Center

After reading about this place, I decided to share, even though we’ve never visited. Outdoor Adventure Center brings the great Michigan outdoors to Detroit’s riverfront. You can find OAC in the historic Globe Building, along the Detroit riverfront. Filled with exhibits, activities, simulators, and much more. This will be on top of my list of places to visit when we go back next summer. 

Tiger Game

How about taking the family out to the ballpark? We haven’t done this in several years, but always have a good time when we do. Especially when we’ve gone with extended family. 

For the little ones, ours enjoyed the carousel and mini ferris wheel. Some nights you may eve catch a firework show. 

Dearborn

Henry Ford Estate – Fairlane

Sadly the inside of the estate is closed for restoration, but still worth a visit, just to walk the grounds. The home of Henry and Clara Ford is located on the University of Michigan Dearborn campus. Sitting along the River Rouge, you are free to roam around the mansion.

Follow the meadow to the northwest, and you come to stunning landscape work of Jens Jensen. Beautiful limestone layered dam and walkway, large pond, and many walking trails. 

To the other side of the home, is a rose garden, koi pond, and walking paths. Enough here to keep you busy for a couple hours, bring a blanket and lunch for picnic. 

The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village

One of my absolute favorites to share with you Greenfield Village, and you can read all about it in our blog post HERE 

Greenfield Village is an 80 acre sanctuary filled with over 300 years of American history. It also makes it one of the best educational travel destinations. You will find many original buildings, such as the court house in which Abraham Lincoln practiced law. 

Flat Rock

Motor City Canoe Rental

Can you believe in all the years I lived in Michigan, I never went canoeing? Suppose I was to busy boating, and wave running. Summer of 2019, I got to mark another one off the bucket list, as we went canoeing on the Huron River. 

You can find Motor City Canoe Rental about 30 minutes south of Detroit. Canoe along the Huron River, with several different location options. We chose Atwater Paddles in Flat Rock. TIP: Eat at Atwater Tacos, right near the canoe launch. 

Grosse Pointe Shores

Edsel & Eleanor Ford Home

Although you can’t tour the home of Henry and Clara Ford right now, you can tour the home of their son, Edsel. The Edsel and Eleanor Ford home is about 20 minutes north of Detroit on Lake Sinclair. 

Of all the historic homes I’ve toured, this has by far been my favorite. We loved everything about it, and you can read our full review HERE

Ida

Whittaker’s Berry Farm

Several summers ago, the girls and I went strawberry picking with my sister, cousin, and their kids. Whittaker’s Berry Farm is about an hour south of Detroit, in Ida. Perfect for a road trip day. Ida is not far from historic Monroe, which is Michigan’s third oldest community. You can find Whittaker’s Berry Farm on Facebook.

New Boston

Oakwoods Metro Park

Not far from Motor City Canoe, is Oakwoods Metro Park. Easily could be part of a day trip to canoe, and visit the park.  Summer of 2018, we went with family, and the kids had a cousins day. 

Oakwoods Metro Park has a nature center, walking trails, bike trails, and more. Plus, you can find two other Metro Parks within a short distance, both which have swimming pools too. 

Royal Oak

Detroit Zoo

Back when we lived in Michigan, for several years we were zoo members. During our summer visits back to see family, we’ve still gone back to spend time here. 

You must see their butterfly house, and arctic encounter. For the arctic encounter, you walk through window tunnels, and the polar bears swim over you. Don’t miss riding the train too.  In addition, the Detroit Zoological Society runs the Belle Isle Nature Center in Belle Isle Park.  

Festivals

One thing we all look forward to every summer are the festivals. You can find multiple festivals happening on any given weekend, all summer long around the Detroit area. 

Which kinds of festivals? Everything from arts, crafts, church, boats, cars, music, beer, pierogi, and so much more! I found this great resource of festivals for all over the US and Canada, but here you can find the Michigan Festivals. Most of the church festivals can be found on the Detroit Diocese website, and church links.  

Final Thoughts

This is just a small portion of all the things to do in and around the Detroit area during summer. I feel Detroit doesn’t get the recognition it should. I’m sure because I lived there almost 40 years, I know where to go and what to see. 

20 thoughts on “Things To Do In Detroit: Summer Family Edition

  • April 2, 2020 at 9:46 am
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    Detroit is a perfect family destination, would love to check out the Ford estate.

    • April 2, 2020 at 10:38 pm
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      One of the favorite things I did last summer. Happy we finally got there!

  • April 2, 2020 at 11:13 am
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    Detroit looks like a fun place to visit. I especially love visiting estates, castles, museums, and such. I would so love to be there right now with all this virus stuff going around!

  • April 2, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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    What a comprehensive list of things to do in Detroit. I am hopeful to travel sooner than later and can add this as a stop on our bucket list.

    • April 2, 2020 at 10:38 pm
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      I’m ready to get back traveling too. Hope you get up there!

  • April 5, 2020 at 1:39 am
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    This looks really cool. I had never really had the desire to go to Detroit before reading this, I thought it was mostly industrial but you have now changed my mind! Also, what kind of camera do you use for your photos?

    • April 5, 2020 at 1:25 pm
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      That’s my hope, to share there is so much more to Detroit! I use either my iPhone 11, or a Canon Rebel.

  • April 5, 2020 at 2:18 am
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    wow! that is a lot of things to do for the kids! definitely will keep them busy during a summer holiday!
    thanks for this

    • April 5, 2020 at 1:27 pm
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      And there is so much more!! Detroit is really a great place to visit.

  • April 5, 2020 at 12:06 pm
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    This is a great post about Detroit. Thanks for all of this info!

    • April 5, 2020 at 1:28 pm
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      Thank you!! Hoping to encourage more people to see how great it is in person!

  • April 5, 2020 at 3:07 pm
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    Wow! I’ve traveled within in the U.S. a lot but I’ve never been to Detroit. This is a really good list! Being a mom, I love doing things that my toddler would love so my favorites are Belle Isle Aquarium, canoeing at Flat Rock & The Detroit Zoo. I hope we get to visit soon!

    • April 5, 2020 at 4:48 pm
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      I hope you get to visit too!!

  • April 5, 2020 at 3:37 pm
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    This is not at all how I imagined Michigan. It sounds like a great vacation spot. I’d really love to see the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and the Greenfield Village. Thanks for sharing your trip!

    • April 5, 2020 at 4:49 pm
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      It certainly does not get the recognition it deserves!! Hope you get a chance to visit!

  • April 6, 2020 at 11:20 am
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    I lived in Michigan (Ypsilanti) as a young child but we moved away when I was 6 and I have few memories of it. I hope one day to visit the state as an adult and see some of these places!

    • April 6, 2020 at 8:58 pm
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      What a fun trip that would be. To go back and visit where you used to live.

  • April 6, 2020 at 11:02 pm
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    I have never been to Detroit but I know my family would love each and every one of these ideas so we will need to plan to check it out sometime.

    • April 8, 2020 at 11:48 pm
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      I hope you get to visit one day.

    • May 5, 2020 at 9:57 pm
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      I hope you get to visit!! There’s something for everyone!

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