The Stuff You Must Do in Metro Detroit This Summer
Summer in metro Detroit is a beautiful and fleeting thing. We metro Detroiters spend as much time as possible enjoying the great outdoors during these hot summer months. Take advantage of our fantastic waterways with a boat tour, jet ski, canoe or kayak. Hike, bike, or camp in a state park. Barbecue with the family at one of the Metroparks. Attend an outdoor concert. Enjoy the state's agricultural bounties and visit a U-Pick fruit farm. Spend a Sunday afternoon leisurely brunching on a patio. Yadda yadda. There's nothing wrong with any of these things – they're great! we love them all! - but instead of running the same-old rundown of metro area parks and rec and etc., here's a few things that you might not already know about it that you need to do this summer.
If you do absolutely nothing else indoors this summer, you absolutely MUST go to the Cranbrook Art Museum for their current exhibit Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America. The exhibit pays homage to Michigan's significant contribution to the modernist aesthetic in both architecture and design. And even better news: there's still plenty of chances to enjoy the outdoors while visiting Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. Join one of their tours of the stunning Cranbrook campus, a National Landmark Heritage site, every Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
Okay, so it's not metro Detroit. But it IS a beautiful, lush wine country nestled along the shores of Lake Erie that produces excellent, eclectic, affordable wines. There are also several outstanding farm-to-table restaurants to enjoy while you're in this technically-foreign wine country, which also happens to be only an hour's drive from Detroit – as compared to tourist-infested Traverse City, Michigan's most comparable wine region four hours away. Another interesting point to note: the Lake Erie North Shore region has the largest number of female winemakers in all of North America.
The Henry Ford Estate itself is no longer open to the public, but the sprawling grounds still are. Step out of Dearborn and into a land that could just as easily be in the middle of a picturesque countryside, miles from the next nearest person in any direction. There are ponds, a river, a forest, gardens, a brick walkway covered in lilacs, and plenty of indigenous wildlife (this is a favorite spot for nature photographers and birdwatchers). Hike along the river and through the forest on miles of trails, or relax by the pond and read a book.
Playing the ponies is a time-honored American tradition, and you can do it right here in Hazel Park. Sure, the facilities aren't exactly "sexy," but it is a brilliant bit of fun to lay down some bets, drink some beers, and momentarily pretend that you're Hunter S. Thompson at the Kentucky Derby (which is, as he says, decadent and depraved). It's kind of a weird piece of old Vegas in the Midwest, and an absolutely necessary bucket list item for all metro Detroiters.
Okay, so this one is a pretty popular "best of metro Detroit" list item, but with good reason: it's one of the few classic drive-in theatres left in the country, which makes metro Detroiters among the only people able to experience this straight-out-of-the-movies movie-watching experience. They run new releases and always in double features. You can listen to the movie on your radio or through radio-mounted speakers, and while the theatre is open year-round, summertime is the best time to enjoy it. If you're a stickler for silence while watching a movie, this probably isn't for you – the drive-in is more of a social experience, and there's a lot of chatter from people in other cars.
The Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor is a 123-acre park located just minutes from downtown Ann Arbor on the eastern edge of University of Michigan's Central Campus. Known particularly for its peony collection, there is a wide variety of native species and miles of woodchip-covered trails for jogging. During the summer, there is also Shakespeare in the Arb, live performances of Shakespeare plays performed in an outdoor setting in the natural environment. There is no fixed stage because, well, all the world's a stage, is it not?
There is an ever-increasing number of hiking and biking trails being constructed throughout metro Detroit with plans to eventually connect them all throughout the state and into Wisconsin. But the Paint Creek Trail stands out among the others. This 8.9-mile stretch runs from Rochester to Lake Orion in scenic northern Oakland County, and is the oldest rail-to-trail line in the state of Michigan. While on the trail, stop by the Paint Creek Cider Mill, open seven days a week year-round.
The concept is pretty simple: you find the art, you keep the art. So here's how it works: an artist creates a custom piece of art (it can be anything – a miniature painting, a sculpture, whatever). They write their Twitter handle with the hashtag #FAFDET on the back of the piece and hide it somewhere in the city. The artist posts a photo clue on the Free Art Friday Detroit Facebook page, and whoever finds it gets to take it home. This global concept launched in Detroit in 2011 by some of the folks at Skidmore Studio, Free Art Friday seeks to promote creativity in the city, and past participating artists have included Kresge fellow John Dunivant. While this is a year-round weekly event, it's much more pleasant to search the streets for free art in the summer than the winter.
We all want a little bit of magic in our lives, don't we? And with the current popularity of all things supernatural and fantastic – vampires, werewolves, Harry Potter and his fellow wizards, murderous kings and dragons – fairies are finally coming into vogue. In Ann Arbor, there are dozens of miniature doors dedicated to these tiny, magical creatures, and all you have to do is look closely … and maybe believe, even just a little. Click the link for a map with all of the current fairy door locations located throughout Ann Arbor.
This major music festival in Australia is coming stateside for the first time ever, and it's coming to the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills. This is a major score for metro Detroit, with potential to draw summer festival circuit tourists – like Coachella in its earliest days. Headliners include Sigur Ros, The Dismemberment Plan, and the National. Not familiar with those names? The important thing to know is that these are major names on the indie scene (still indie enough to legitimately be called "indie," both new and veteran) and this festival has major indie cred.
Nicole Rupersburg is a freelance writer, regular contributor to Metromode, Concentrate and Model D, and popular Metro Detroit food blogger. Read her blog at http://www.eatitdetroit.com.
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All Photos by David Lewinski Photography