A Family Walk at Cranbrook Gardens

Just off a narrow, winding street in Bloomfield Hills hides one of the great manor style houses of America's early twentieth century. Cranbrook House and Gardens is situated on over 100 acres of rolling hills, formal flower gardens, wooded trails and streams, in addition to the science center, art museum and educational campuses. 

A family seeing a respite from the weariness of travel or just the stresses of daily life would surely find rejuvenation in the natural beauty of Cranbrook Gardens. Thanks to the generosity of several major donors, families visiting during the 2016 season are treated to free admission. 

Begin your visit by parking in the lot off of Lone Pine and acquiring a map at the visitors center where restrooms are also located. Although the admission is free this season, visitors are still encouraged to donate to help maintain these lovely gardens, as they are maintained by a non-profit garden society. Additionally, please note the gardens are open only during the hours of 9-5 so please don't plan a late evening stroll after the day's activities!

While it would be quite difficult to truly become lost, the trails and paths do meander a bit and there are many lovely sites tucked back into the woods or in an unexpected location, so using the map is highly advisable. 

Some of the highlights for us including walking across the small bridge and heading to  the amphitheater. Once you get to the amphitheater be sure to stand on the stage and look out at your imaginary audience and perhaps sing a verse or two of your favorite song, or recite a Shakespeare soliloquy- you would not be the first to do so and the kids will have a great time.

Many people also head to one of the smaller gardens on the west side of the house and sit as the water in the fountain provides a lovely focus for reflection and peace. 

Be sure to stand in the garden on the east side of the house and look at the lovely formal garden below you ending in a trail up a hill and through an archway to the art museum grounds.. If you are lucky and no one is standing in the arch, it appears as if the arch leads to the sky itself. 

This garden is a popular site for senior pictures, engagement pictures and the like, but any family would be sure to want to be prepared to take many photos of their children and family on these gorgeous grounds. 

If one is planning a visit, please be sure to check out the website to be sure there are no special events on the day of your visit and know that admission to the gardens is free in 2016 but admission to the house, science center and art institute still require a fee. 

Family Travel Questions to Discover

1. What is the history of the Cranbrook House and Gardens-when was it built, for whom?

2. How many statues are located within the gardens?

3. What style house is the Cranbrook House?

4. How does a sundial work? 

5. How many fountains are there in the gardens?

6. Do some flowers attract more bees than others? Why is that? 

7. What type of mammals, birds and insects did you observe during your visit?



Walking Dearborn's Ford Field

One of our favorite things to do is getting off the beaten path while we are travelling and experiencing life as a local. A great way to get a glimpse into local life is through walking. This is not always easy as you may not know the route or neighborhood that will be safe or easily accessible. I find that asking the hotel desk clerks or restaurant employee is often a simple way to get decent insight into the local walking scene. 

If you are travelling in the Dearborn area, a decent walk would be at Ford Field. This is located between Michigan Avenue and Cherry Hill and Military and Brady in West Dearborn. What is nice about this location is it's ease of parking, and its variety of walking options. Plus, it is usually very well used so you rarely feel as if you are alone in an isolated area, which can be a disconcerting experience if you are travelling. 

If you are interested in a short stroll, I would recommend parking in the Cherry Hill lot on the north of the park. According to Mapquest the address to Ford Field is 22051 Cherry Hill. From here you can stroll down a small hill, either paved or if your children prefer on the grassy hill itself. Then I would proceed to the small covered bridge where you can stand and watch the Rouge River pass below you.  If you turn around here and return back up your total walk would be less than 1/2 mile. Then your children may want to play on the playscapes at the top. However, if you are interested in extending it you can travel east along the river on the woodchip trail at the end of the parking lot that ends at Brady. You could either turn back here or continue north on Brady to Cherry Hill, turn left on Cherry Hill and return to the parking lot. This would make your walk closer to 1 mile in length. 


A longer walk would be to walk the outer border, a large rectangle. From the Cherry Hill parking lot, I would consider walking west to Military. At Military I would turn left and travel down the hill south to Morley. Be sure to keep close tabs on young children as part of this walk feels a bit close to the road. Although Military is posted at 30 mph, this feels quite quick when the autos are but a few feet away from you.  At Morley I would turn left, walking through a pleasant historic neighborhood, featuring the Charles Kandt house on the south side of the street. A few blocks past the Kandt house is a charming Little Free Library, be sure to stop and see what the caretaker has available! When you get to Monroe you can either turn left and descend the hill back into the park area. This walk would be approximately 1.5 miles. If you have the energy, you can continue walking to Brady street, turn left here and continue up to Cherry Hill. Turn left at Cherry Hill and return to the parking lot. This would be closer to a bit over two miles. 

This area features two playground areas- one at the top near Cherry Hill and the other accessible from the Monroe Street entrance. Dearborn's Ford Field also has large grassy areas to play catch, run or kick a ball, a couple of ball fields, grills and picnic tables as well. It is usually very family oriented and your children will likely soon be playing tag on the playground while you chat with another parent about their favorite restaurants or dessert locations. I have found that many people in Dearborn, like many places in Michigan, are not particularly gregarious, but they are very friendly and helpful once you initiate conversation. 

If you are looking to get out of the hotel and tourist experience a bit and live like a true Dearbornite, walking, playing with your children, enjoying a picnic in the park, then you will find your experience at Dearborn's Ford Field to be quite agreeable. It is not lush or home to famous gardens or amazing vistas, but it is quite honest, down to earth and accessible, much like the town and region itself.