Best Outdoor Activities in Detroit: Detroit, MI Outdoor Activities & Recreation Guide
If you live in, are thinking of moving to, or want to visit Detroit, Michigan, you probably want to know the different ways you can spend your free time. While most people think of Detroit as purely an urban environment, there are also plenty of things to do, both in the hot summers and cold winters.
Detroit is the largest city in Michigan, and it borders some beautiful bodies of water such as the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Plus, Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, is just a short drive away. Read on to discover some of the best outdoor activities in Detroit to try out the next time you find yourself in the Motor City.
Belle Isle Amenities
- Belle Isle Aquarium
- Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
- Belle Isle Nature Center
- Dossin Great Lakes Mseum
- James Scott Memorial Fountain
- Belle Isle Beach
- Belle Isle Golf Range
- Sunset Point
Belle Isle Park, known simply as Belle Isle, is a 2.5-mile-long, 982-acre island park located in the Detroit River. This park isn't just a place to go for a nice outdoor stroll, though—it is home to many cultural, historic, educational, and entertaining activities including Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Belle Isle Nature Center, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the James Scott Memorial Fountain, and more.
The park's history dates back to 1863, where the oldest building in the park called the White House (now used as the administrative office) was built. In 2014, Belle Isle became Michigan's 102nd state park.
In addition to the many attractions available to visit in the park, there is also a myriad of activities to participate in while at Belle Isle Park. There are many nature trails, as well as places to walk, run, and bike. You may even rent a solo or tandem bicycle. Additionally, many water activities are available to choose from, such as kayaking, fishing, and rowing. Belle Isle truly is a great destination for anyone, whether visiting solo or with family or friends.
Eastern Market Amenities
- Free parking
- Spread across six sheds
- Seasonal specialty markets
- Free activities
- Programs for learning how to start a food business
Another fabulous outdoor place to check out in Detroit is the Eastern Market. There are many great products to purchase at the Eastern Market, from fresh produce to baked goods and meat, but this market has much more than just food. The market is open on three separate days, and each day is known for its own unique vibe.
Eastern Market's Saturday market may be the most well known, as it houses over 225 market vendors and boasts about 40,000 visitors in one day during the busy season. The Saturday market is open from 6 AM to 4 PM year-round and has been a Detroit tradition for over 125 years. The Sunday Eastern Market is a bit different, as it also showcases local artists, jewelers, musicians, cooks, and more. Open from June through September, various fun events are held on Sundays while the market is open from 10 AM to 4 PM. Also open from June through September is the Tuesday Market, a scaled-down version of the weekend's market with additional free offerings like Zumba and Yoga classes for attendees.
Typically, the Eastern Market is also a popular place for tailgating for the city's NFL team, the Detroit Lions. Market Tours are even available for tourists to learn more about the market and the area that the Eastern Market is held in. There are various tours to choose from, such as Preservation Detroit Eastern Market Tours, Urban Agriculture Bike Tours by Wheelhouse Detroit, and Feet on the Street tours.
Detroit Zoo Amenities
- 15 habitats
- Seasonal events
- Full-service restaurants
- Animal encounters
- Virtual education
Who doesn't like to visit a great city zoo with their friends and family to learn and discover about wildlife and animals? Located in Royal Oak, the Detroit Zoo has been open since 1928 and aims to demonstrate leadership in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, as stated by the Detroit Zoological Society. The zoo hosts both public and private events, such as charity walks, corporate events, and even weddings!
The Detroit Zoo is home to what they describe as one of the most extraordinary centers for penguins in the world: the Polk Penguin Conservation Center. This $32 million penguin center that opened in 2016 and received the 2017 National Exhibit Award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) houses a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area and is home to more than 75 penguins. Maybe penguins aren't your thing? The Detroit Zoo is also home to more than 2,000 animals of over 200 species, ranging from the European legless lizard to the polar bear, with many in between.
Greenfield Village Amenities
- Liberty Craftworks
- A working farm
- Real, driveable Model Ts
- Steam-powered train
- Ford Rouge Factory
If you know anything about Detroit, you probably know that it is called the "Motor City." Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was born on a farm in nearby Greenfield Township. Also notably, Ransom Olds, the automotive designer who claimed to have built his first steam-powered car in 1884 and his first gasoline-powered car in 1896, as well as founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in 1897, was raised nearby in Lansing.
Though Greenfield Village pays homage to these great inventors with activities you can enjoy such as riding in a Model-T or jumping on a real steam-powered locomotive, it also highlights other inventors and innovations. Visitors can see a replica of the lab where Thomas Edison had his "lightbulb moment" or the actual bicycle shop and home where the Wright brothers lived and worked, which was moved from Dayton, Ohio to Michigan in 1937.
For anyone interested in the history of Michigan or curious to see the places where some of the most inspiring innovation occurred, Greenfield Village is a unique place to visit.
Dequindre Cut Amenities
- Urban artwork on display
- Paved for walking and biking
- Leashed dogs welcomed
- Gratiot Ave–Mack Ave access
- Proximity to the Eastern Market
- Passes Wilkins Street Plaza
Last but not least, the Dequindre Cut Greenway, an urban recreational path, is a creative and interesting place for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy outdoors in Detroit. Opened in 2009, this two-mile greenway was formerly a Grand Trunk Railroad line and features beautiful examples of urban graffiti and artwork, with its 20-foot-wide paved pathway. Another great thing about this pathway is that it offers a connection between the East Riverfront and Eastern Market with a pedestrian link, as well as access to several residential neighborhoods in between.
Besides its views of artwork in the city, the Dequindre Cut runs alongside the water, giving marvelous views of the East Riverfront and West Riverfront. About three million visitors walk the greenway annually, and multiple attractions can be found along the way. From Dequindre Cut, you can access Gabriel Richard Park, Cullen Plaza, and Harbortown, amongst other destinations.
There are often various events happening around this urban recreational path, which you can find by keeping up-to-date with the featured events calendar.
Visit Detroit's Outdoors Today
No matter what you plan to do when visiting or moving to Detroit, Michigan, it is obvious that there are many outdoor activities to discover in this city. Whether you want to be active and participate in some walking, biking, or water activities, or even if you'd like to simply visit some historic or entertaining outdoor areas, Detroit has plenty to do outside.