Things to Do-Father's Day Weekend Metro Detroit 2016

This is a busy weekend in metro Detroit with travelers and residents finding plenty to do.

One of the largest events is likely to be the Motor Muster at Greenfield Village. This annual event attracts car enthusiasts and casual spectators from around Michigan and the Midwest to showcase the art and design of classic cars.  The cars are lovingly attended and restored and the owners will be happy to share the story of why they chose this particular car and their triumphs and sorrows in restoring it. The importance of the automobile in the history of America, post- WWII simply cannot be overstated and this is a great multi-generational family event.  

For those families whose travels bring them closer to Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Book Festival is a great option. The Street Fair, located on Washington Street, between 4th and 5th has a variety of youth programming on Saturday from noon-5pm. Face painting, balloon art and Fly Children's Art center are among the events featured. 

For a great attraction for those with inquisitive children who love exploring the natural world, you might consider the Cranbrook Institute of Science.  Consider taking advantage of their evening hours-open until 10pm on Saturday. The ticket fees are discounted, the crowds likely to be smaller tonight and if it is a clear night you can go to the observatory. 

Whatever you do-enjoy!



Lunch at Panera Cares-Dearborn

We always try to find places that allow healthy eating options while we travel and Panera often is our go-to place. The sandwiches as you know are fresh tasting, their soups hot and satisfying and their salads interesting. 

Their prices have definitely seemed to increase recently and we rarely go there for a full meal. Often we will split a you pick two, or just have the soup and bread which usually will tide us over until a late afternoon protein bar and fruit break. 

The interiors are usually quite bright and comfortable and I find the coffee to be quite satisfying and the 99 cent cookie upgrade with a meal is a delicious treat. 

For those travelers near Dearborn for whom The Henry Ford is the prime destination have two Panera options to choose from. One is the Panera located at 3112 Fairlane Drive, near shops and many of the hotels off the I-94 expressway. 

The other one is Panera Cares Community Cafe, a non-profit Panera located right in downtown West Dearborn at 22208 Michigan Avenue. This is one of only three Panera Cares Community Cafe's located in the entire US, so you might not be familiar with the concept. Essentially, it is a pay-as-you-can location run by the Panera Foundation. Patrons are encouraged to pay full price or a bit over if they are able, so that customers who may be experiencing economic difficulties can have a discounted meal. Customers who are absolutely not able to pay are requested to volunteer at the restaurant in exchange for the meal. 

Bread for sandwiches and to accompany soup are baked fresh right there at the restaurant.  Bread and bakery items sold on their own are day old from other Panera restaurants, and are priced a bit cheaper than at a traditional Panera, but we have never experienced any significant dips in quality. It is a great place to grab a bag of rolls or bread for a picnic or for the car ride home.

I really enjoy the economic diversity at the restaurant and it is great to see professionals discussing sales projections, college students studying, families have a snack, and individuals who might not ordinarily have a cup of hot soup or fresh salad served in a pleasant, well-lit restaurant sharing the same dining experience. 

The first time I paid it was a bit confusing as you give your order to the clerk, they tell you the suggested donation, then pay right into a small glass receptacle by the cash register. They will give you cash back if you have a larger bill and you can use a credit card, but I don't believe you can get cash back from a gift card. 

It is truly a one-of a kind restaurant in Michigan and the mission to provide high quality food to individuals experiencing food insecurity is one I appreciate. I hope everyone living or travelling in metro- Detroit can stop by this Panera Cares Cafe and leaves a little bit extra to help those in need. 

Traveling can become a bit insulated at times, when the smallest inconvenience can be frustrating. Panera Cares can help one be a bit more grounded and is a reminder at what a luxury travel is and how it is to be savored with gratitude. 

For a passionate video of  Panera founder Ron Shaich at Tedx St. Louis explaining the mission of Panera Cares Cafes

Lunch at Leo's Coney Island Restaurant

Eating out on a budget with the family on vacation is always a bit of a challenge for us. We have a few dietary considerations that add an additional twist.  Plus, anytime we have a chance to step away from tourists and experience life like the people who live in the area, we find it adds some depth to our travel experience. 

I think Metro Detroit has a wide variety of great family and budget friendly restaurants to choose from-places where a wide variety of people dine. 

One of our favorites is Leo's Coney Island, a chain of 50 plus restaurants located throughout Southeastern Michigan, extending from downriver (South of Detroit) up North to Grand Blanc and even Birch Run, there is sure to be one near where you are staying. 

The food is commendable and service generally swift. The ones we have dined at have been clean and well-lit, usually with lots of windows to let in natural light. 

The signature dish at a coney, and Leo's is no exception, is the coney dog-a  hot dog covered in chili. I know many people spend hours debating who has the best chili dog in town, I will simply say my father, who has lived in Metro Detroit his entire life and eaten at nearly every coney around, never says "no" to a coney at Leo's. 

For our family, what is desirable about Leo's is the variety. Our son enjoys getting an omelette, served any time of day, while our daughter really enjoys the Veggie Pita sandwich as does Jenny. For me, my favorites are the small Greek Salad with the delicious dressing on the side, or oatmeal with rye toast. 

Their menu is of course far more diverse, including a wonderful Michigan Salad-a spring mix, with mandarin oranges, walnuts, cucumbers and of course dried cherries as well as a variety of burgers, gyros and other Greek inspired dishes.

Their soft drinks are very large and the coffee has always been decent-for me not go out of my way to get, but robust enough, and hot. 

We enjoyed going there when the kids were younger, because the place tends to be a bit loud and our rambunctious toddlers were not out of place. If you are looking for a place to have a quiet meal alone or engage in quiet conversation, be sure to go off peak hours or you might be disappointed. 

If you are seeking a one of a kind, quirky dining experience you probably would not find Leo's to meet your expectations. If you are looking for a decent meal at a fair price and a menu of choices that will satisfy your entire family, and a down to earth dining experience with regular folks, then you will be delighted at a Leo's. 


Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village

If you are looking for a truly memorable experience for your family on Memorial Day weekend look no further than the Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. 

This annual event brings together volunteer re-enactors, regular Greenfield Village volunteers in costume and the staff to provide a glimpse at what life was like during the Civil War. 

Depending on the weather, it is likely to be quite crowded, but there is so much to see and do on this day, you might not let the crowds be too much of a deterrent. We enjoy getting there early in the morning to smell the coffee cooked in pots over the campfires.  If you go on Saturday, with the extended hours until 9 pm, folks with young children might want to sneak back to the hotel for a nap or a dip in the pool before returning for the evening events. 

In addition to witnessing the campsites, there is musical entertainment, battle re-enactments, and numerous other activities during the day. Definitely check out the Greenfield Village website for more details. 

It is difficult to say that this is a "fun" experience, given the seriousness of the event that is being memorialized but I personally believe the event is tastefully done- honestly providing accurate historical information, without being overdone.  Critics of re-enactments often point to the sanitized nature of the events they portray.  If that is your opinion then this event might not be for you. 

It is difficult to say how an individual child might  be impacted by certain experiences, so of course please use your judgement. If your child is very sensitive or easily over-stimulated then you might want to experience Greenfield Village at a different event. However, the way the event is set-up you can easily avoid all of the battle scenes and explore the other aspects of life during that time period.  

For me, it is a solemn reminder to be truly grateful to live in the time I live in, as this event serves as a clear marker of how much we have progressed and how much has been sacrificed to get to this moment in history. 


Michigan Springtime

Traveling in Michigan in the springtime is truly amazing. The weather has been sunny, mid 60's and blue skies dotted with gorgeous white clouds. 

Being able to get outside and enjoy recreation with the family has been a gift. 

The flowers are rising from their long slumber in places like Kensington Metro Park, Maybury State Park, and the Environmental Interpretive Center at the University of Michigan Dearborn. 


A touch of green-oh so welcome this spring in Michigan!

A touch of green-oh so welcome this spring in Michigan!

We had a delightful weekend  getting outside to ride at Kensington Metro Park. The air was cool in the shade and a bit windy, but we had a great time, seeing the sun reflecting off of Kent Lake, glimpsing a swan nesting just off the shore line. 


The weekend before we spent time at Greenfield Village and saw many more glimpses of spring, including lambs just a few hours old. Taking the time to see the sights in southeastern Michigan this time of year even for a long weekend or a day trip is truly family travel time at its most memorable. 

What do you love about springtime in Michigan?