UPDATED APR 20, 2020
Green spaces and open parks aren't necessarily what most people associate with Detroit. But whether you're looking to cycle, swim, play tennis, or just lounge on the beach, the city has just the place for you.
If you’ve spent five minutes in Detroit, you know that Belle Isle is the crown jewel of our parks system. And Detroiters have a right to be proud. The list of opportunities on this island gem is nearly endless, with athletic fields, courses, and courts for every imaginable sport (making the $11 recreation pass totally worth it). There’s a beach, there’s an aquarium, there’s a giant slide, AND there’s an enormous fountain. And it doesn’t stop there — you’ll also find a conservatory, kayak and pedal boat rentals, and a mysterious abandoned zoo here, too. To cap off a perfect day of picnicking and play, post up at Sunset Point for unparalleled views of downtown.
In the shadow of the abandoned Michigan Central Station, you’ll find not one, but two parks from which to enjoy a vantage of this iconic structure. Roosevelt Park bridges Corktown and Mexicantown, providing a nice spot to park your bike while you refuel with BBQ, tamales, or a cold brew. And the Detroit Dog Park is a new addition just around the corner, full of frolicking four-legged friends burning off some energy.
Office workers can have it pretty bad—gray cubicles, fluorescent lighting, the lingering scent of old coffee and microwave popcorn—which is why Campus Martius is so clutch for the downtown crowd. Escape from the 16th floor and enjoy 2.5 acres of green space, food trucks, and the Woodward Fountain on the daily. And with seasonal fun like a winter skating rink and an artificial beach in the summer, you can get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air any time of year.
Break out your rollerblades or lace up those running shoes! The Riverwalk is our top pick for people watching while breaking a sweat. This 3.5-mile trail runs the breadth of Downtown Detroit and is jammed full of street performers, dogs, cyclists, and joggers, making it a nice place to unwind after work. Throw a frisbee around in West Riverfront Park, get back to nature in the Milliken State Park Wetlands, or join a summer volleyball league and hit the sand.
Conquered the Riverwalk and ready for more? The Dequindre Cut Greenway connects the Detroit Riverwalk with Eastern Market, allowing you to extend your run or ride an extra two miles… and perhaps snag a locally-grown snack at the end! Plus, the walls of the sunken greenway are lined with bold murals by local artists for a visually appetizing route.
The newest addition to Detroit’s downtown park system has positioned itself as a prime gathering space in the entertainment district. You’ll want to keep track of all the fitness- and food-related events going on here — we’re talking free yoga and cycling classes, volleyball leagues, food trucks, festivals, and a summer night market. Outside of free, fun community events, swing through Beacon Park to catch some vitamin D or to stretch your legs during the workday.
Head to River Rouge Park and get away from it all without ever leaving the city. This 1,100-acre park on Detroit’s far west side boasts seven miles of meandering trails, 15 acres of restored prairie, and a butterfly garden to help clear your mind. Aside from a walk in the park, there’s an Albert Kahn-designed bathhouse with three Olympic-sized outdoor pools and a short mountain biking trail circling the Rouge River. And did we mention ponies? Check out the Buffalo Soldier Heritage Center in the middle of the park for an extra dose of glee in your day.
Detroit is legendary for its street art, and the Lincoln Street Art Park is a perfect example of how art is driving Detroit’s revitalization. This-formerly abandoned industrial site is home to stunning, otherworldly sculptures made from recycled materials. The park is a project of the same team that facilitates Recycle Here! around the corner, so be sure to drop off those bottles and cans (and see some bonus murals!) while you’re in the neighborhood.
This enormous park is 40 minutes outside of Detroit and boasts a truly mind-boggling array of year-round activities. In the summer months, drop in for boating, fishing, swimming, paddleboarding, disc golf, and twin 240-foot water slides. It’s a great place to train for a race, too, with an 8.5-mile trail through rolling, wooded terrain around the lake. And don’t even think about resigning yourself to a treadmill in the basement this winter! Kensington Metropark opens up 12 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails (with rentals!), sledding hills, and toboggan runs to keep your fitness regimen on track.
What do tacos and ice hockey have in common? You can find them both in Clark Park! Nestled in the vibrant heart of Mexicantown, Clark Park serves as a town square for the neighborhood’s residents, with ample space to play and relax. Grab a Jarritos and some tamales at one of the many fine venues on Vernor and post up in the park for the perfect picnic. Or join in a pick-up hockey, basketball, or softball game, depending on the season.
The Rouge River Greenway connects a whopping 19.5-mile stretch of parks from Dearborn to Northville and is sure to keep you busy whether you’re on foot, bike, or blades. Take note of all the activities along the way—ultimate frisbee, sledding hills, soccer fields, a dog park—and you’ll find yourself heading west just about every weekend.
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