Hot Hoods: Awesome Hidden Gem Neighborhoods in Southeast Michigan

From Foxtrot to East English Village and Maywood Estates, take a look at a few of Southeast Michigan's most family-friendly neighborhoods.

Illustration of the Detroit skyline

Perhaps at no other time in recent history has residing somewhere. with a strong sense of community been more appreciated than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many local families consider their neighborhood a “hidden gem,” an idyllic place to lay down roots, raise a family and create lifelong friendships.

These 11 family-friendly neighborhoods across four counties each offer a unique backdrop against which lasting childhood memories can’t help but be made.

Georgetown South

Location: Beverly Hills near Lahser and 13 Mile roads

What families love: Georgetown South’s many and varied family-focused events make this community a standout. Some of the more unique events include an outdoor movie night to mark the beginning of summer, a neighborhood Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning and Frinkstock, an end-of-summer concert featuring musical performances, a food truck and a closing performance from GT4, a group of four resident dads. There are many adults-only events as well including a progressive dinner, girls night out, guys night out, and a euchre night.

“Georgetown reminds me of the neighborhoods people grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s,” says mom of four Jenny Bolten. “Kids run from house to house, ride bikes, rollerblade, and play in the woods and rivers. During COVID, the neighborhood quickly created bins where people could share puzzles, books, etc. There were social distancing happy hours and grocery runs. Everyone looks out for each other.”

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Says her 10-year-old son Jack, “It’s actually the best neighborhood that God has ever put on this planet.”

Keatington

Location: Lake Orion

What families love: The neighborhood boasts its own private lake (Lake Voorheis) open only to residents and their guests. It features a beach, swim area, paddle boats, volleyball nets, a playground, picnic tables, a grill and restrooms. When not at the beach, many residents flock to adjacent Orion Oaks, a park popular for its many trails.

Keatington is all about family events with an annual Easter egg hunt, Fourth of July bike parade and fireworks show, family campout at the beach, and the always popular “Kids Day” event where treats, games and bounce houses are the main attractions. Adults have their own special events including the annual corn roast. The most recent iteration of this event required guests to dress as they did in high school.

Mom of one and Keatington resident Alexis Giera has lived in the neighborhood for eight years.

“We love this community and can’t imagine living anywhere else,” she says. “We have a wide variety of ages in our subdivision and people never want to leave. Some people will sell their current home to move to another home in the neighborhood. We are such a close community.”

Waterstone

Location: Oxford Township, just northwest of the village of Oxford with entrances off Burdick/Seymour Lake Road and M-24

What families love: Encompassing 1,372 acres of land, Waterstone features eight single-family home communities, two attached home communities, a senior living complex, 27 holes of championship golf, 15 lakes, and several private parks with sandy beaches. About 600 acres of Waterstone are dedicated to recreation with many open spaces, parks and walking paths throughout. Within walking distance of downtown Oxford, Waterstone is close to shopping, dining, theater and city events.

Marissa Mazur has lived in Waterstone for five years with her family, including her 11-year-old son.

“Waterstone is beautiful and well kept with rolling hills and curving streets,” she says. “It’s a safe, majestic, friendly space to roam. It has a neighborhood feel in a rural locale with a great little downtown. It’s that old-school ‘can I borrow a cup of sugar?’ type neighborhood.”

Foxcroft

Location: Bloomfield Township at Maple and Telegraph roads

What families love: With abundant green space and numerous parks, Foxcroft offers seemingly endless areas for play, exercise and social gatherings. With 100-foot trees, Foxcroft’s Gracey Park is the site of neighborhood Easter egg hunts and Halloween parades. Windmill Park features two play structures, a sand box, tennis court, picnic tables and a large stone fireplace with built-in grill perfect for bonfires with neighbors. It’s here where the family-friendly Fall Fest annually takes place.

During the quarantine, Foxcroft families have come together organizing scavenger hunts, sharing painted messages of hope and hosting a traveling zoo where families set up stuffed animals in their front yards for neighbors to enjoy during their daily strolls.

“Foxcroft is best described as a retro gem,” says eight-year resident and mom of two Erin Berish. “More so than any surrounding neighborhoods, Foxcroft features original architecture, incredible landscaping and large beautiful trees. It feels like we’ve found our place in the world. Living here has made us realize we can have our little piece of zen and still be in the action close to cultural activities and amenities.”

Mt. Vernon Village

Location: Washington Township

What families love: Mt. Vernon Village is a hop, skip and a jump from Stony Creek Metro Park, a veritable playground for both kids and adults. Beaches, trails, fishing and the great outdoors are all for the taking at this popular park accessible by foot for residents.

For neighbors looking for something a bit more low key, there is also a large green space. It’s here that neighbors hold many events, kids gather for pickup games of soccer or football, and others plant gardens. Family-focused events abound and include a yearly Easter egg hunt, a chili cook-off with bounce houses and kid-friendly activities, and a neighborhood pumpkin painting gathering.

Says Autumn Peters, mom of three and a one-year resident of Mt. Vernon Village, “We love it because it’s quiet but so close to lots of shopping while still giving us access to a huge park.”

East English Village

Location: Detroit bounded by Harper Avenue on the north, East Outer Drive on the west, Mack Avenue on the south, and Cadieux Road on the east

What families love: East English Village includes about 2,100 mostly Cape Cod, colonial and tutor-style homes. The neighborhood is a little more than a mile from Baldwin Park, which touts a baseball diamond, football fields, sledding hill, playscape, dog park, picnic tables and walking trails. The neighborhood’s many family events have included a neighborhood garage sale, Easter egg hunts, an annual holiday party and a Halloween trunk or treat. The mostly three-and four-bedroom homes all feature backyards great for play.

East English Village Association President Bill Barlage says the best part of the neighborhood he has called home for the past 24 years is how it welcomes people of all backgrounds.

“We have met some incredible people here,” he says. “It’s safe. It’s a nurturing environment, no matter who you are. We have single parents, traditional families, gay families — a little bit of everyone here. It’s what really makes us special. We don’t care who you are, just be a good neighbor.”

Maywood Estates

Location: Sterling Heights

What families love: Maywood Estates is just across Clinton River Road from Farmstead Park, one of the major reasons Ashley Chan is happy to be raising her two children there. The park offers a playscape, soccer fields, swings, volleyball nets, a basketball court and ample green space for family picnics. The trails behind the Farmstead Park connect to Dodge Park where many city events are held.

“It’s a special community with all different houses — not totally cookie cutter,” Chan says. “The beautiful part of the neighborhood is the people living here. I have found some wonderful mom friends who have offered me support.”

When asked by her mom about the neighborhood she calls home, Chan’s daughter says, “I love my world. I want to live here forever.”

Royal Oak-Beverly Hills

Location: Northwest corner of Royal Oak, bordering Beverly Hills and Birmingham

What families love: Halloween is ushered into the Royal Oak-Beverly Hills neighborhood by the Royal High School Marching Band. It’s part of an annual celebration that takes place the week prior to Halloween. Residents big and small don costumes and follow the marching band in a parade to Pioneer Park where a trunk-or-treat follows. It’s one of many family-friendly events that make this neighborhood a Royal Oak gem.

Other events include an Easter egg hunt, spring fling, ice cream social and picnics at the park. Speaking of parks, five lie within the boundaries of the neighborhood offering abundant play space for kids of all ages. Sidewalk-lined streets offer safe thoroughfares for walking, strollering and scooting, and provide convenient access to ice cream shops and restaurants along Woodward.

Plus, the neighborhood is a bike ride away from downtown Birmingham, and the Detroit Zoo and downtown Royal Oak are just a short drive away.

Ted Page is the long-time president of the Royal Oak Beverly Hills Improvement Association. Out of the 940 homes in the neighborhood, he speculates he knows the owners of at least 500 of them.

“It’s a neat group of people,” he says. “It’s single families, blended families, young families, old families, elderly folks aging in place. It’s an all-inclusive neighborhood.”

University District

Location: Detroit between 6 and 7 Mile roads and Parkside and Livernois

What families love: City living with lots of living space make for an appealing combination among growing families. The University District offers both in spades. Many four- and five-bedroom homes line the streets of this neighborhood located near Belden Park, which the University District helps maintain. Other nearby parks include Ella Fitzgerald Park and Palmer Park. Residents also frequent the nearby playground at Gesu School. Family-friendly events include an Easter egg hunt and chess club competitions.

“The diversity that is present in our city and neighborhood is something that is very meaningful to me in the way that we are raising our kids,” says Amber Hunt, vice president of the University District Community Association and the mom of two. “They’ll be experiencing diversity in a way that is very true and very real. The things we’ve learned just by living here are well beyond things we ever would have been exposed to anywhere else.”

Hickory Grove Estates

Location: Pittsfield Township near where Platt meets Michigan Avenue/US-12

What families love: Hickory Grove Estates is a neighborhood of about 50 homes in close proximity to three parks (Lillie Park, Prairie Park and Marshview Meadows). Mom and neighborhood resident, Meredith Nickerson, enjoys the plot her family maintains at the nearby Pittsfield Township Community Gardens. She enjoys hiking with her son and dog through the miles of trails in the nearby Pittsfield Preserve. Families in the area enjoy the Pittsfield farmers market as well as the Pedal Pittsfield and Harvest Festival events. The area’s many no-cost opportunities for family entertainment through the township mean plenty of family fun throughout the year.

“To me, the best part of this neighborhood is the access to outdoor play,” Nickerson says. “This has been a lifesaver during quarantine. Many of my neighbors have come together to help each other out during the stay-at-home order, and we’re always looking out for one another’s kids.”

Normal Park

Location: Ypsilanti at Congress and Summit streets

What families love: Close to Depot Town, the campus of Eastern Michigan University and downtown Ypsi, Normal Park encompasses about 700 homes. Its three parks make it a magnet for families who enjoy the picnic shelter and play structure at Recreation Park, the swings and play structure at the Chapelle Playground, and the toddler-sized play equipment at the Edith Hefley Tot Lot. The Rutherford Community Pool is another major attraction for families.

Normal Park hosts many family-friendly events including a Halloween parade, Night of Lights, a hot cocoa and cider stroll and a neighborhood garage sale. Normal Park resident and mom of two, Kate Barker, credits the pool, the people and the location with making her neighborhood the ideal place to raise her family.

“We have all generations and a diverse group of folks here,” she says. “The neighborhood is LGBTQ friendly and feels very inclusive. It has meant a lot to know so many of our neighbors and to feel the sense of community and belonging that comes from that.”

How To Get Your House Ready To Sell

It might sound impossible, making a home sale-ready with kids under foot. It’s not. Keely Flynn, the super mom of three behind tidyish.com, got it done quickly recently after 11 years in her house. Within 24 hours she had a bidding war on her home by following a few of her own pieces of advice. We convinced her to share them:

Find a Realtor who knows how to communicate with you and understands your end goal.

Be realistic about what you can do and what you can afford to have done for you. Can you paint or do you have to hire it done? While Flynn painted the walls to get rid of the colorful world she created in the space, she needed to hire experts to fix places in sheetrock.

Look at everything that would make your home perfect and decide if repairs are in the budget or can be recouped in the sale. Fresh paint and fresh flowers, yes. The $20,000 new landscaping? Probably not.

Declutter, declutter, declutter. “That’s not even half the battle, it’s three quarters of the battle,” Flynn says. Take everything off the shelves and counters and only put back what is immediately functional and helps make your house appear as appealing as a great Airbnb or hotel on the beach. “You want your house to feel breezy,” Flynn says. “When you walk in, what does that feel like? Are you are struck by the essence?”

Quiet the space. Go neutral with grays and beiges and remove the personal stuff, no matter how painful it might feel. “You want them to walk in to immediately see themselves,” she says.

Make sure to hire a great photographer. It’s usually something the Realtor might set up but “it’s definitely something to double down on.” Not only will the photos highlight the best of your space in great lighting, they will be a keepsake for the kids down the road.

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