Enjoying the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center-Detroit

If you are longing to give your young children a taste of the true Michigan outdoor experience while visiting the Metro Detroit area, then spend a few hours in the heart of downtown at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center and Milliken State Park. 

Located at 1801 Atwater Street in the warehouse district along the Detroit River, this wonderful facility will provide a great taste of the true Michigan Family Travel experience- nature, culture and togetherness. 

We arrived a bit early one Sunday for our trip to the Outdoor Adventure Center so we ate our picnic lunch, then left the free gated parking lot and walked around outside at Milliken State Park and Harbor which is immediately across from the Outdoor Adventure Center.  This is billed as the first urban state park. As we proceed along the walkway towards the river, we saw interesting sculptures, a family preparing for a birthday party in one of the park pavilions, a person meditating, families roller blading, and a large freighter.

If you have not had the opportunity to see one of these massive freighters it is amazing. This vessel was so long and tall that it seemingly blocked out the Windsor skyline, leaving us truly awed by the properties of physics that allowed this vessel to remain afloat!

Freighter on Detroit River

Freighter on Detroit River

We lingered for a while, the children snapping photos of the interesting juxtaposition of nature and the urban landscape and enjoyed the fresh air.  

Michigan has an abundance of interesting lighthouses that have played an integral part of our cultural history and Milliken State Park and Harbor has a replica of one of our favorites- the Tawas Point Lighthouse.  A great link for more information is provided through detroitriverfront.org- so be sure to check that out. 

Replica of the Tawas Point Lighthouse

Replica of the Tawas Point Lighthouse

It was now a few minutes after noon and we walked across the street to the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. There is an  entrance fee- at the time of our visit it was $5 for visitors 12-62 and $3 for under 12's and seniors. 

Then we proceeded left from the admission desk and were plunged into a gallery featuring beautiful life-sized statues of animals one might see "up north." In all honesty, after over forty years of trying, I am resigned to the fact that this replica might be the only elk I see!

There are also historical figures in this gallery providing information about the important contributions they made to the development of Michigan and our nation. 

As one proceeds there is a glass aquarium featuring fish one might see in one of the many inland lakes, rivers or one of the Great Lakes. Young children will likely enjoy the immersive feature of this exhibit. 

Our daughter had an interesting experience trying to paddle the kayak along the digital river as the kayak gently rocked from side to side. We all enjoyed walking across the wooden suspension bridge connecting the giant woodland scenery. 

Of course, spending time among the replicas and artificial scenery is no substitute for the real thing, but I do believe the Outdoor Adventure Center serves its purpose well- to educate, entertain and inspire visitors to take a chance at the real thing. Michigan has such an abundance of great state parks, metro parks, city and township parks that are usually amazingly well maintained and feature outdoor opportunities for young families desiring nature walks, to more intense multi-day backpack immersion. 

Although our older children enjoyed it, we all agreed that were they under 12, they would have truly loved it. Still, none of us walked away from our two hours  at Milliken State Park and Harbor and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center feeling disappointed. In fact, we reminisced about great camping trips we have had in Michigan and motivated us to try to get one more in this fall!

Family Travel Questions for Discussion

1. Who was Milliken State Park and Harbor named for? Why do you think they named this park after him?

2. How do freighters float?!!!!

3. What is the significance of the Detroit River to Michigan's development-historically and now?

4. How big are elk?

5. Who were some important figures in Michigan's history? Who was your favorite?

6. How many type of fish did you see in the underwater exhibit?

7. What are some of the fish you might find in a Michigan lake or river?

8. How important is fishing to Michigan?

9. What are some interesting facts about birds you might find in Michigan- the Bald Eagle or the hummingbird for example? 

10.  What is a yurt?

11.  What are some outdoor adventures you are inspired to try? 



Scenes from a Michigan Summer

We hope you have had some time to have some fun this summer. It's been hot and muggy for sure, but the mornings have been cool enough to get out for some good rides at Island Lake and Maybury. The evenings have been cool enough to enjoy ice cream and fireworks with family in Glennie, or sitting at the beach at Petoskey State Park marveling at the beauty of the sunset over the harbor. 

We have also enjoyed connecting with friends at outdoor concerts in downtown Farmington, including one of our favorites-Ralph's World. Ralph put on an amazing show engaging the entire crowd of toddlers to senior citizens with his witty, bouncy tunes and generous heart. A true delight. 

One of our favorite things to do is reflect on some of the memories we have been making and here are just a few we want to share with you. What are the  wonderful scenes from your Michigan Summer? 


Things to Do Independance Day Weekend 2016

The weather in Michigan is looking glorious for outdoor family fun this long Independance Day Weekend- with temperatures in the low 80's and no rain expected.  This may put a hold on many fireworks displays due to the very dry conditions, but families who choose to get out and about will find plenty to do. 

Perhaps you will be camping in the Alcona County Campground or visiting friends in Glennie, located in the Huron National Forest. If so, you might consider taking a break from kayaking on the Au Sable and head to town for the parade and festival. The parade features local groups and stores in a classic small-town 4th of July Parade. In years past we have enjoyed goats pulling small children in wagons as well as a variety of tractors and bands, and the occasional semi sneaking in a bit early to continue its run down M-65. 

Visitors near South Haven will definitely have plenty to do-an art fair, parade, fireworks plus the many hiking, boating, fishing, shopping and eating experiences that are typically available.  Many years ago while camping at Van Buren State Park, on 4th of July weekend, we fell in love with this charming town. It was a chilly weekend,  and our teeth chattered as we dipped into Lake Michigan and capped our adventure off with a delicious ice cream cone in town. In the evening, we were excited to be able to see the fireworks display near the waterfront. The pleasant, well-mannered crowds and the majesty of the fireworks display over the water, with boats moored off shore made for a picturesque experience that I cherish to this day. 

In the Metro Detroit area, as well as throughout the state, most towns will have a parade and you should check out their websites for more information.

Plus, Greenfield Village is hosting its annual concert series, Salute to America with the DSO, June 30-July 3.  Ticket prices are about $25. We used to enjoy watching the fireworks over the treetops from our back window while humming a few bars of the 1812 overture. We have often wondered why the 1812 Overture is so frequently linked to 4th of July celebrations, but that is probably the topic for another post. 

I find that we enjoy our travel experience greatly when we step away from the tourist scene for a bit and see towns and villages celebrating their unique local cultures. Every parade has its own basic format-floats, politicians, bands, but each works with these elements in ways that express their own culture in a colorful way. 

Whatever you do, enjoy, be safe and appreciate the courage of our countrymen in 1776!

Scenes from Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village 2016

We were able to spend a few hours on Saturday evening at the Civil War Remembrance at Greenfield Village this year. The weather was quite warm for this time of year and very humid. The women in their heavy dresses and the men in their long wool pants, shirts and coats perspiring and red cheeked, but not complaining. 

Many were sitting around small fires, cooking their evening meals-mostly stews or boiled potatoes. 

Evening Scenes from Greenfield Village Civil War Remembrance

The Dodworth Saxhorn Band performed on the village green in front of the Town Hall. The band was in fine form, performing music from the Civil War era and the evening sun and the Greenfield Village Town Hall, bedecked in patriotic bunting provided a stunning backdrop for the band. 


Greenfield Village Town Hall

Greenfield Village Town Hall

We treated ourselves to vanilla frozen custard and bottled water. The small sized custards are decent sized so we choose to split two of them for four of us.   

Many of the houses were closed in the evening, so if this is your only planned visit to Greenfield Village this year, you will want to come before 5pm to experience more of the activities. Still, we enjoyed the more relaxed, less crowded atmosphere. The trains, Model-T's and carousel were all running, and many families seemed to be enjoying those experiences. 

The Dodworth Saxhorn Band, a 19th century brass band playing on period instruments plays at a variety of places and are well worth checking out.  Their version of Grafulla's Favorite Waltz is available on iTunes®.


Lunch at Lue Thai Cafe-Dearborn

For a traveler looking for fresh Thai food in a clean, modern setting, look no farther than Lue Thai Cafe on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. 

One notices quickly, the bright colored walls, the well lit room, and it's small space which make it distinct from other typical eating establishments. 

During a recent lunch, the restaurant was filled to capacity, but the quick, yet attentive staff kept the customers circulating. Still, we never felt rushed as we ate our delicious food. We were pleasantly surprised to be served vegetarian soup and shrimp chips prior to our meal. The soup was a simple cabbage soup with rice noodles, subtle and not too salty. I had one of my favorite Thai dishes-a Thai cabbage salad, Yum Ka Lum Pee. It was moderately portioned, and the flavors were delicately balanced. Jenny had Thai Peanut which was equally tasty. 

We loved the serving dishes-white squares, with rounded edges which made the presentation of the food even more compelling. 

It reminded me of a restaurant one might find in a neighborhood in a larger city, where the food is fresh and tasty, the decor creative, the service efficient and welcoming, but nothing pretentious or fussy about it. 

If your child does not like Thai Food, their kid's menu serves chicken strips or wings as well as other more authentic kid friendly Thai dishes. A teenager or travelling companion who does not like Thai might enjoy the Grilled Chicken Salad or Apple Salad to tide them over until you can get them to the burger place next door!

I found their lunch portions to be filling and satisfying, but as we split dishes, we did not have leftovers. So, if you are expecting humongous portions with leftovers to put in a cooler or hotel fridge for later, you might be let down. The restaurant is a bit small, so if you have young children who like to stretch their legs or have a stroller you might want to come right before or after the lunch/dinner rush. 


Check their website or facebook page for hours and menu/prices, but I found the prices to be reasonable.

Walking Maybury

On a delightfully sunny April morning in southeastern Michigan the best way to explore is on foot. The Metro Detroit region has an abundance of walking spots to suit many families needs and one of the finest is Maybury State Park located in suburban Northville, Michigan. 

It is 900 plus acres situated on a former TB Sanitorium. Remnants of its former purpose are subtly interwoven into the the landscape. There are informational signs that describe the past purpose of certain sections of pavement and open spaces, which the curious minded and history fans will find delightful. 

These are non-obtrusive and one might walk for quite a while and become lost in the beauty of the trees, hills and meadows. 

This is a multi-purpose area and has challenging mountain bike trails, horse trails, a paved walk/run trail and several miles of well-marked dirt paths. 

A simple out and back walk on the paved path leading from the comfort station off the Eight Mile Road entrance could take one 15-20 minutes. One could walk the entire unpaved path over the course of several hours and quite easily forget one is in the midst of a well-populated suburban locale, the distant road noise is usually quite diminished, especially towards the center of the park. Although, it is faintly audible during various points of the day, the road noise generally is quite unobtrusive. 

Many families with younger children enjoy the paved paths which are easier for strollers or smaller legs. There are a few simple playground structures within the park so children can play and parents can picnic and let the beauty of nature perform its healing wonders. 

The cost of admission to any of Michigan's state parks is approximately less than a meal for two at a fast food restaurant and affords a family a year's worth of access. 

Please note there is no camping here and one likely would not travel to this area simply to see it. Still, it provides a wonderful respite to many locals and families seeking nature and exercise in the western suburbs of Detroit might find it quite pleasing. 

There is a small farm that is no longer affiliated with the state park that is located adjacent to the grounds off of the Eight Mile exit that some young children may enjoy. There is a separate fee for the farm. More information can be found at the Northville Community Foundation website at http://www.northvillecommunityfoundation.org/

For more information please see the Maybury State Park link at the Michigan DNR site, or the Friends of Maybury at http://www.friendsofmaybury.org/