Soak Up the Sun at Metro Detroit’s Best Family Picnic Sites

Grab your picnic basket and head out to one of the best picnic areas in metro Detroit.

Dotted with parks, crisscrossed with streams and bordered by Lake Michigan and the Detroit River, there are plenty of picturesque picnic spots to choose from in southeast Michigan.

Pack up a picnic and head out to one of these picture-perfect local spots. Most of these sites also include family-friendly activities on site too like playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails and more.

This article was recently updated on March 5, 2024 by Metro Parent’s Audience Development Manager, Katina Beniaris. The update included her checking the latest information on picnic locations and adding additional tips when planning a picnic with kids, aligning Metro Parent’s mission to provide the top parenting resources for local families. Questions? Please reach out to katina@metroparent.com.

Family picnic spots in metro Detroit 

Detroit Riverfront
Photo credit: Nadir Ali

Addison Oaks

Two lakes stretch across this 1,140-acre park in Oakland County’s northeast corner. Picnic spots are right along the beach. Swimming permitted; call for times. You might also want to bring a pair of sturdy shoes for hiking or bikes to check out the Fat Bike Mountain Bike route.

Beacon Park

This is the largest of the parks downtown and has plenty of room for you and your family to spread out and enjoy your spread. Rotating interactive installations for the whole family are a highlight at this park.

Belle Isle

If you haven’t visited Belle Isle, the island park in the middle of the Detroit River, now is the time! Choose from an array of standard picnic tables or find your own spots and rent a bike to cycle through the island, visit the beach, go to the nature zoo, or make your way to the aquarium.

Bishop Park

Located in downtown Wyandotte and along the Detroit Riverfront, this downriver city park is great for family picnics. It’s complete with a concession stand, picnic deck, tables and shelters, restrooms and — for added family fun — playground, basketball courts and fishing pier.

Camp Dearborn

This campground offers 626 acres of hills and lakes to picnic near, and after you have your meal, there’s plenty of amenities to enjoy, including mini golf, paddle boats and a playground.

Campus Martius Park

The ice rink disappears in the summer and is replaced with a pop-up beach with sand and all. It’s the perfect spot to lay down your towel or blanket and have a meal. There’s also volleyball and shovels for the little ones.

Clark Park

Take a summertime trip to Clark Park in Southwest Detroit for fun on the tennis courts and playground or in the winter to use the ice rink. It’s a popular choice for family picnics, which is no surprise as there is green space in abundance at this large park. Plus, it regularly hosts festivals, concerts and special events.

The Detroit Riverfront

Reaching more than five miles from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle, you can stop and have your picnic with the Detroit skyline as your backdrop. The riverfront area includes a café, playscape, fountains to run through and a carousel, too. Parking is available near Cullen Plaza.

Elizabeth Park

This “island” park located on the shores of the Detroit River offers amazing views to enjoy on a lazy summer day. This happens to be the oldest park in Wayne County and the first county park in the state of Michigan.

Greenfield Village

An extension of The Henry Ford Museum, this outdoor historic village includes old-time shops to visit, a carousel to ride, and other fun discoveries within the grounds. Family picnics are permitted. You might want to bring some extra cash, however, to buy ice cream cones for dessert. (Note: Outside alcohol is not permitted).

Groveland Oaks Paradise Island

Venture across the bridge to Groveland Oaks’ Paradise Island to spot your perfect picnic locale. Once you’ve put away the picnic fixings, visit the playground (the largest playscape in Oakland County!), try a round of mini golf or for the teens in the group, check out the skate park area.

Heritage Park

An extensive wooden playscape beckons kids to play pretend and explore this park in Canton. There’s a lake nearby with a trail all around it and several spots to choose from to lay down a blanket for your picnic. Don’t forget about a kid favorite: the splash playground!

Hudson Mills Metropark

Northwest of Ann Arbor, this wooded 1,549-acre park includes several amenities besides just amazing picnic spots. Trek along the 2-mile Acorn Nature Trail. There are also soccer fields, softball diamonds, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts.

Independence Oaks

If you’re making a day of your picnic, come with a blanket and use a spot in the grass or at a table. After your meal, play at the volleyball courts, visit the Wint Nature Center, head to the ball field, or watch the sunset at the gazebo.

Innovation Hills

Enjoy your meal while viewing the water sculptures, rivers, ponds and a hiking trail. There are picnic tables, too.

Lake Erie Metropark

The park has picnic areas, picnic shelters, playgrounds, a wave pool and more.

Lakeshore Park

The amenities include a new large pavilion, outdoor grill, benches, tables and a library kiosk.

Lake St. Clair Metropark

Picnic beside the banks of Lake St. Clair at this 770-acre park. With the price of your vehicle admission, enjoy the paved trail, beach, sprayscape and more. For an additional fee ($5/person, free/30-inches tall and under) you can go for a swim at the Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Marshbank Park

Has two universally accessible playgrounds, two sand volleyball courts, a soccer field, two ball fields, fishing pier and a picnic area.

Milford Central Park 

This 12-acre site has plenty of room for picnics. Located near a playground, basketball courts, tennis court and more.

North Rosedale Park

  • Address: North Rosedale Park neighborhood, Detroit

This four-acre park has a playground, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. There is a Community House that has, “Little Icy’s Luncheonette” available for you to purchase your lunch or feel free to bring your own.

Palmer Park

This city favorite is over 100 years old and has 281 acres. The park has a playground, biking trails, tennis courts, athletic fields, woodlands and meadows for the perfect picnic.

Plymouth Township Park

This picnic spot has it all — and there’s no cost to go! Eat your picnic at the shelter next to the playground. Your kids will finish fast once they know they can go to the SprayScape afterwards, open dawn-dusk.

Rolling Hills County Park

This 439-acre park includes both paved and nature trails for your kids to explore before it’s time to pick your picnic spot. Bring your poles to try to catch a fish or two. Or, bring your swimsuits to visit the water park (additional fees apply; open Memorial Day through Labor Day).

Scripps Park

With a branch of the Detroit Public Library next door, this little park on the edge of the Woodbridge neighborhood in Detroit is a quiet gem. A playground and dog park is in the park, too.

Quick tips for family picnics

Family Picnic Tips
Photo credit: Lauren Jeziorski

Picnics can be a relaxing way to enjoy a day outside with the family. But be warned: it only takes one simple mistake or leaving a few crucial items at home before your little one has a meltdown. Here are some tips and ideas for making picnicking a breeze with kids: 

  • Check your selected location’s hours. Even parks that are open to the public generally close at sunset, and if you plan on having a picnic dinner, you don’t want to overstay your welcome and get caught in the dark. 
  • Pack simple foods. Ideally ones that don’t require too many utensils or dishes to create. Look at our photo above to get some inspiration such as how we packed carrots and dip, and pre-layered our salads in Mason jars. If you still want to get creative, scoop marshmallows and chocolate chips in a banana, or create bite-sized Jell-o treats, poured into lemon peels.  
  • Not a home chef? Skip the cooking altogether and pick up prepared foods like pasta salad, snack boxes, sandwiches, beverages and even desserts at your favorite grocer. 
  • Don’t forget the plates and utensils. Use disposable ones for quick, mess-free clean up, or bring a separate bag you can use to store dirty dishes until you get home. Extra garbage bags never hurt, either. 
  • Keep clean. Hand sanitizer, wet wipes and paper towels or napkins are essential, unless you want your kids wiping their messy hands (and mouths) on the grass. 
  • Pack water — more than you think you’ll need. Enjoy a juice box, sweet drink or adult beverage with your picnic meal, but be sure to hydrate if you’re planning to spend the day outside. 
  • Check the weather, dress accordingly and plan to spend some time in the sunshine. Wear hats and sunglasses, and apply plenty of sunscreen. It’s always best to stay out of the direct exposure to the sun to protect skin even with sunscreen.
  • Bring a stroller or wagon. This will make it easy to load your picnic equipment, as well as make it simple to transport tired out kiddos back to the car. Speaking of equipment, having access to a picnic table is ideal, but not always an option. If you need a comfy seat, pack a camping chair or stroller. 
  • Plan for fun! A picnic isn’t just about the yummy summer food. Bring some outside games, especially a ball or bubbles, or pick a location that’s near a playground, walking trails or other kid-friendly activities. 

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