When you think of places to go with your family, do you ever notice that the flashier things come to mind first? The museums, amusement parks and movie theaters are a big draw – and rightfully so. But in summertime, there really is no place lovelier to spend an afternoon than the park.
And southeast Michigan has a bounty of beautiful parks that offer an array of family fun. Tops among them are the 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks, which stretch across nearly 24,000 acres of land along the Huron and Clinton rivers.
"Our water facilities, our beaches and our hike-bike trails can provide outstanding family activities all summer long," says Denise Semion, chief of communications.
Meet the parks
The parks include Delhi, Dexter-Huron, Hudson Mills, Huron Meadows, Indian Springs, Kensington, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, Lower Huron, Oakwoods, Stony Creek, Willow and Wolcott Mills. Of the 13, Kensington and Stony Creek are the largest, spanning over 4,000 acres per park.
Metroparks offer families with differing tastes the opportunity to do all the things they want in one area for just $5 a day or $25 annually for a vehicle pass. They've got something for the water lovers, nature enthusiasts and those who just want to lounge and take in the fresh air and sunlight.
For instance, spend the day biking along the two-mile hike-bike trail at Lake St. Clair Metropark and enjoy picturesque lake for which it was recently renamed (it was formerly called Metro Beach).
"You get a big water view without a big water price," Semion says. Or grab some friends and take a canoe ride down the Huron River at the Dexter-Huron Metropark.
At Lower Huron Metropark's Turtle Cove Aquatic Center, take a dip, soak up the sun, get drenched by a 300-gallon dumping bucket or zip down one of the two waterslides that the park has to offer.
Sports lovers can even play golf, tennis, basketball or volleyball at Metroparks. And once you've taken part in all the activities, enjoy a meal at one of the many designated picnic areas located throughout each park.
Nature centers rule
Semion also suggests checking out the interpretive programs that help families learn more about natural, historical and cultural resources. There are hundreds of family-oriented programs teaching kids how to fish or taking them on a bug hunt, for example.
Nature centers will educate you and your family on fish, reptiles and amphibians, to name a few. They can be found at Indian Springs, Kensington, Lake St. Clair, Oakwoods, Stony Creek and Lake Erie.
Meet some farm animals and get a taste of farm life by visiting the farm centers at Kensington and Wolcott Mills. Take a few steps back to glimpse how the grist and feed mill once operated at the Historical Grist Mill, also at Wolcott. Observe plants and wildlife in their natural habitats at Hudson Mill's activity center – or get a view of pond life at Indian Springs' Environmental Discovery Center.
And if you really want to get educated in the natural and cultural background of southeast Michigan, head over to Lake Erie Metropark and visit the Marshland's Museum and Nature Center.
"(Kids) will remember catching a fish, sliding down the waterslide or visiting some of our farm center and meeting some of the farm animals," Semion says.
So take a break – and head to a Metropark near you!