Detroit is a mashup of elements, including a cityscape full of art-deco skyscrapers, plus old warehouses filled with condos and restaurants. But amongst its more hurried city pace, there are parks and green oases perfect for strolling, biking, picnicking, and kicking back.
Some are family-friendly and attraction-packed, with free concerts and museums to boot. Others are diminutive green spaces with a few benches and flower beds. Whatever your taste, these are the top parks to visit in Detriot.
Belle Isle is the Motor City’s most beloved park. An island idyll in the Detroit River, it packs an impressive amount of attractions into its 987 acres, from the kid-friendly Belle Isle Aquarium to maritime exhibits at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. The fern-filled Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is another highlight.
Come summer, families will love paddling at sandy Belle Isle Beach, with its views of Detroit’s soaring skyline, or spotting critters from turtles to toads at the Belle Isle Nature Center. Beyond that, trails wiggle through 150 acres of woodland and you can rent bikes just across the water at Wheelhouse Detroit.
William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor
William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor spool out along the waterfront, with the paved and popular Detroit Riverwalk running through it. Its centerpiece is the Milliken State Park Lighthouse, a 63-foot beacon that overlooks the Detroit River.
Take a bike ride through the park’s wetlands, and look out for public art – including a curious sculpture of a steel man with pipes protruding from his body. Benches are perfectly placed to take in views across the water of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Palmer Park is a green retreat from the sea of skyscrapers downtown. Located in the northern part of the city, it’s a patchwork of woodland and open lawns that include hiking and biking trails, plus tree-flanked Lake Frances.
There are some nuggets for history buffs, too. Go out in search of the Merrill Fountain, an ornate marble monument. It dates back to 1901 and once stood in front of the Detroit Opera House. You’ll also find a rustic and ramshackle log cabin that was built in the 1880s for philanthropist Lizzie Merrill Palmer (after whom the park is named, along with her husband Thomas W. Palmer).
You’ll find this urban park just west of Campus Martius. It’s dominated by row-upon-row of raised beds filled with organic vegetables, plus seasonal blooms planted to attract bees and butterflies. If you’re into contemporary art, there’s also a particularly striking sculpture of a sundial.
Best of all, though, the park is right next to Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island, rival vendors of Detroit’s famous, chili-sauce-smothered beef hot dog. Grab yours to go and eat it on one of the long wooden benches that are scattered about the garden.
Eliza Howell Park
Taking over about 250 acres of northwest Detroit and spreading out alongside the wiggling Rouge River, Eliza Howell Park feels worlds away from downtown. You might entirely forget that you’re in Motor City as you wander trails winding through hardwood forest and fields bright with wildflowers.
Nature lovers will feel right at home here. The park provides a habitat for more than 100 bird species, from the red-tailed hawk to swallows to blue jays. You might also glimpse a coy white-tailed deer or red fox amid the trees.
One of Detroit’s newest green pockets, Beacon Park, opened back in 2017 and sits somewhere between an al-fresco events space and community hub. Well-kept and compact, it comprises an open lawn that hosts free concerts, exercise classes, and eclectic food trucks, plus a restaurant with a rooftop and patio. It particularly shines in the winter months, when it’s bright with creative light installations.
A favorite with cyclists, the Dequindre Cut is an urban greenway that follows an old railroad line for two miles. It begins down by the river, eventually spilling into Detroit’s buzzing Eastern Market. Saddle up and take to the paved pathway, keeping your eyes peeled for colorful murals emblazoned on walls under bridges. Grassy patches open up on either side of the concrete – perfect if you’ve packed a picnic – and metal benches stud the route, too.
Campus Martius Park
Right in the middle of downtown Detroit sits Campus Martius Park, which has earned itself the moniker of Detroit’s Gathering Place – and for good reason. From families to lunching workers, the neat little park attracts all kinds of Detroiters with its giant fountain, food trucks, and tree-shaded benches.
Its landscape shifts with the season, too. In winter, the place is decorated with twinkling lights and home to a large skating rink. In the summertime, the ice is swapped for sand, and the area is transformed into an urban beach – complete with umbrellas, palms, and Adirondack chairs.
Grand Circus Park
Four-legged companions aren’t forgotten in Detroit’s park system either. Grand Circus is home to the city’s top-rated dog park that plays host to everything from canine ice-cream socials to doggy pool parties.
For human park-dwellers, this half-moon-shaped space has a large fountain, a slew of memorial statues, and plenty of tables and chairs arranged under a leafy canopy. It’s located right next to Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
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