Eastern Market: Shed 5 Saturdays for Families

Detroit's Eastern Market is gearing up for the Spring Season when all shed's open and market-goers from all over Michigan and northern Ohio flock to one of the gems of the midwest-Saturday at Eastern Market.

But Eastern Market is open year round and Shed 5 is where it is happening-especially for families.

Shed 5 at Detroit's  Eastern Market

Shed 5 at Detroit's  Eastern Market

Shed 5 during the winter contains everything you love about the Eastern Market experience-the fresh fruit and vegetables, the small batch jams and scones, the locally roasted coffee, the candles, the t-shirts, the live music, the fun, lively atmosphere-but on a smaller scale. 

In some ways, for families, the Shed 5 experience on an early morning on a Saturday in March, might be the best introduction to the market. 

The parking is easier.  I pulled right into a spot on the street just north of the shed off of Orleans and had an easy one block walk to the entrance. 

The crowds are smaller too. Sometimes, the sheer size of the summer Saturday experience can overwhelm younger children. 

One of the other benefits of the smaller crowds (at least in the early morning) is that you have more time to talk to the vendors without feeling rushed.  It was great to spend a few minutes learning more about Jen's Dressing and the great work done by the Detroit Food Academy and their delicious Mitten Bites. The student I spoke to has already earned several scholarship through the Detroit Food Academies, excellent blend of small batch baking and entrepreneurship-congratulations!

We always like to encourage our kids to ask questions to learn about the products or the owners. It is a great way to practice social skills and language skills-and it just makes it more fun! 

I was able to get over to the Dequindre Cut, just about two blocks from where I parked and was amazed by the Mirror Mosaic Building. It's worth a trip down just to see it. I can imagine it becoming a great photo op for the wedding party going for an urban feel or for the artistic senior pictures. 

Mirror Mosaic Building near Detroit's Eastern Market at the Dequindre Cut

Mirror Mosaic Building near Detroit's Eastern Market at the Dequindre Cut

Try to get over to Shed 5 early Saturday over the next few weeks and enjoy a wonderful family friendly experience in Detroit's Eastern Market. 

Family Questions for Discussion

1. What is the importance of Detroit's Eastern Market to metro-Detroit?

2. What are your favorite fruits and vegetables to get at Eastern Market?

3. Why is it important to eat healthy foods and how does Eastern Market promote that?

4. What are some of your favorite stalls at Eastern Market?

5. Take a look at the architecture and artwork nearby- what do you notice? 

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Looking for a great musical soundtrack to listen to on your way down?

 

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?

 

 

Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade

A cultural highlight for the summer was the Michigan Opera Theatre Summer Serenade July 28th at Grand Circus Park in Downtown Detroit.  

Although the day was hot and humid, the evening breeze and sun sliding behind the tall buildings made for a wonderfully comfortable evening. 

I haven't been to Grand Circus Park for an event yet, so I was not sure what to expect. The park is located away from the river and near Comerica Park, located right across from the Michigan Opera Theatre.  The park, a mere few acres,  an island in the middle of an intersection,  was created in the mid 1800's and has been a gathering place for workers and residents since then. It was taken to the next level as a premiere gathering spot as part of Quicken Loans' Dan Gilbert's vision for revitalization. 

Fortunately, there was no Tiger game that evening, so traffic and parking were simple. Not quite sure the best way to park or if we would need our lawn chairs, we looped once around the park before finding great parking directly across an entrance for only $6.  

We passed the lone food truck for the evening which specialized in BBQ. We had already eaten, but definitely appreciated the bottled water for only $1.00 per bottle. A deal for sure!

The stage was set at the western edge of the park and metal bistro tables and chairs were set up for an excellent view. The warm-up act, the Violin Divas were in mid-set so we quickly found seats as the violin ensemble enthusiastically played a lovely piece. They bill themselves as recreational, but they were quite competent and I look forward to seeing them play in their own right. Check them out on youtube! 

I walked around a bit between acts and was delighted to see such a great crowd-young, old, multi-cultural, enjoying this perfect summer evening. A father and toddler aged son were playing with the bean bag toss, workers coming right from the office, or perhaps dinner downtown, were loosening their ties and enjoying the breeze. The park also features an outdoor ping pong table and other activities to enjoy during the evening. There were also highly visible security guards who chatted easily with the crowds but I am sure provided many folks with peace of mind. 

In a matter of moments a journalist provided introductory comments and then the strains of Brindisi from La Traviata,   sung by the five member troupe erupted from the stage. The vocals were at the forefront the entire evening, accompanied simply by digital piano. The performers dressed in evening casual, seemed relaxed, befitting the park like setting. There were so many highlights from the evening, but a true stand out for me was of course Summertime, the vocals gliding through the upper register, effortlessly, the melancholy melody befitting this late summer evening, a wearied respite in a city that is perpetually renewing itself. 

 

I would definitely go back for another event. If your family enjoys cultural experiences in an urban setting, then you would likely not be disappointed by this inexpensive evening. It could be a great introduction to a genre of music that they might not otherwise listen to, in a comfortable urban park setting, providing the opportunity for those with young children to play outdoor games and dance while listening to some of Michigan's most talented musicians. 

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  http://paneracares.org/our-mission/

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. 

 

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. 

Enjoy!

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

A Positive Sign!

A most hearty welcome!

 

These attractive green and gold signs are a bold welcome to travelers and residents alike. It features Henry Ford's early Quadricycle circa 1896. A Quadricycle is located in the collection at the museum of the Henry Ford and online through their digital collection. Dearborn was almost 100 years old by that time, starting as a farming village along the Rouge River. 

Today, there are not a lot of Quadricycles or farms, but there is still plenty for travelers to do, especially for those that love eating and history!

Besides the obvious destinations of The Henry Ford, The Automotive Hall of Fame,  or the Arab American National Museum one probably wouldn't choose Dearborn as a travel destination. But once there extending your visit for a day or two to check out the small Dearborn Historical Museum, shop at an independent store, walk through a historic neighborhood, play at a park or grab a great meal. 

There are many wonderful independent and franchised restaurants throughout the city. Some  popular family oriented eateries include Buddy's Pizza, La Pita, Panera Cares, Al-Ameer and Noah's Deli. There are so many more for all tastes and budgets, so it is worth checking one out!

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/