Michigan summers are many things. Predictable, however, does not make the list. From weeks of sweltering heat to what seems like months of monsoon-like rain, Mother Nature seems to be at her most mercurial here in the Mitten. Yet, while I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’d love a few more days of 80 and sunny, the bevy of summertime activities available to Michiganders is expansive enough to accommodate Mother Nature’s fickle folly.
There is quite possibly nowhere more diverse than the Motor City itself. Detroit offers new and exciting adventure around every corner, for every pleasure, and for every curve ball Mother Nature has thrown this summer. Here are a few of the Motown activities topping my to-do list this season:
Take a tour. (I realize this technically counts as more than one item on the list, but there are so many great tours that I could’ve made a top ten of those alone!) The options for tours exploring the city are near endless. If you’re a lover of architecture, take in the beauty of such Detroit landmarks as the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, the Guardian Building, and the Whitney (bonus: this tour includes a glass of champagne!). Or maybe you’re looking for something more eclectic? The Detroit Bus Company has themed tours like the Drunks of Antiquity (exploring historic watering holes) and the Photo Op & Lunch Stop Tour (navigating all of the best picture-taking spots in the D). Motor City Brew Tour also offers an eclectic mix of walking, biking, or bus tours to check out the breweries of the Motor City.
Take your own tour with a stroll on riverfront. Since 2003, the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has been working to bring public access to the riverfront. Though the goal of the nonprofit is to eventually develop from the Ambassador Bridge to just east of the MacArthur Bridge, the project has already transformed the waterfront. Stroll the three miles of the RiverWalk, take breaks in the plazas, parks, and pavilions, or even hang out for some riverfront events (sand volleyball, anyone?). On a nice day, the views are beautiful.
Or why not try a more adventurous way to enjoy those views? Riverside Kayak has classes and events for all skill levels; though the boats launch from Wyandotte (just South of Detroit), events such as the Detroit Eastside Canal Tour offer an exciting perspective on the Motor City. (A portion of the cost for the tour also benefits the Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, so enjoy yourself and practice some altruism in one fell swoop!)
If being on the water sound like a dream day, but you’re not feeling the water sports, head down to Belle Isle Beach to catch some rays. If you get bored of working on your tan, take a ride down the waterslide, walk the trails, or (if the weather takes a turn for the worse) check out the wildlife at the Belle Isle Aquarium.
Chene Park Amphitheater is another great way to experience the waterfront from the Motor City. Fun at Chene Park includes a weekly Battle of the Bands (it’s free!), the Wednesday Night Jazz Series, and many other awesome summer performances. A great way to enjoy some tunes while basking in the breeze from the river.
Coach Insignia, also, affords absolutely breathtaking views of Detroit, the riverfront, and Windsor. Located on the top of the GM Renaissance Center, Coach Insignia is one of Detroit’s premiere fine dining locations. With one of Michigan’s largest wine lists and award-winning cuisine, the views definitely aren’t the only draw for this steak house. Stop in for happy hour or for a romantic dinner for two.
The Henry Ford offers views of a different sort. With 300 years of history covering 200 acres, visiting the Henry Ford is akin to looking back in time. On sunny days, stroll through Greenfield Village and take in the glass blowing demonstrations (one of my favorites as a youngster), 19th century lawn games, explore the grounds, and immerse yourself in this living history experience. If the skies aren’t in your favor and rain is in the forecast, head into the Henry Ford Museum or catch a flick in Michigan’s largest IMAX theater.
Cadieux Cafe is another of my favorite local haunts. This Belgian spot draws patrons for two main reasons: mussels and featherbowling. After entering the restaurant doors and sampling the extensive beer list and delicious mussels, hop on over to the other side of Cadieux Cafe for some sport. You’ll soon realize that two dirt lanes have never been so much fun: throwing giant stones that look like wheels of cheese toward a tiny feather may sound strange, but you’ll find yourself having a blast in no time. While it isn’t exactly a spot that is synonymous with summer, the amounts of rain we’ve had here in the Mitten make it the perfect unique indoor activity to occupy a dreary evening.
If more traditional bowling is more up your alley (get it?), Garden Bowl Detroit is the rainy day stop for you. Since being built in 1913 (making it America’s oldest active bowling alley), the Garden Bowl has become home to Detroit’s original Rock n’ Bowl, with DJs spinning tunes for 16 lanes of glow bowling.
And what would a Motor City summer be without the Woodward Dream Cruise? The traffic it inevitably brings may make metro Detroiters want to pull their hair out, but the Dream Cruise is a truly cool tradition celebrating the nation’s automotive hub. Head down to Woodward to gaze at classic cars, get some good grub, run the Cruise in Shoes 5k, or (if you’re very lucky) cruise the strip in your own vintage wheels.
What will you be doing in Detroit this summer?