Get Lost in Nature at These Five Southeast Michigan Gems
I have found one very simple approach to enhancing my family’s health: heading outside. This is because people outside move more. In fact, I can stand by the fact that inside kids can’t possibly be getting the minimal amount of movement they need to maintain a healthy BMI. But when heading outside, the first question is always where to go. I recommend starting with your local parks and recreation department, branching out to nearby cities and counties, and then checking out what the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has going on.
If you happen to be in the southeastern part of the state, like me, you’re in luck because I’ve done some of the leg work for you and provided my top five places to go outside. These are the places that are so engaging you can easily stay all day. Usually there is varied topography and lots of options for hiking or water play. There are shady spots and sunny spots and shelters to run under if you get caught in the rain. There isn’t much time left in summer vacation, so don’t miss out on Southeast Michigan’s top five places to get lost in nature.
Howell Nature Center in Howell has a massive sandbox, climbing ropes, outdoor instruments, a fort-building area and a water feature that’s a mix of a waterfall and a flowing stream. There’s also Wild Wonders Wildlife Park featuring an amazing hike through the woods, all the while viewing Michigan native animals such as bobcats, porcupines, deer, beavers and eagles. They ask for just a small donation of $5 per adult and $3 per child.
Proud Lake State Recreation Area in Wixom offers river swimming, a swimming hole, dock jumping, fishing, kid-friendly hikes, the best trees around for climbing, dazzling pine forests and fun boardwalks.
Heritage Park in Farmington Hills is home to a mouth-dropping nature center with all sorts of little critters, free-play areas and bird/squirrel/the occasional deer viewing area. The sensory trail has a huge teepee, long house, chimes and sandpit, plus there are hiking trails, a river, sand volleyball courts and a huge playground. And it’s completely free!
Spicers Orchard in Fenton is the place to go to pick berries and cherries, go on wagon rides, see all sorts of fun farm animals, have fun on a huge farm playground and even try out a zipline.
Kensington Farm Center in Milford is a place you’ve probably already heard of. You know, the place with a splash pad, waterslide, massive beach, paddle boat rentals, nature center, gobs of amazing trails, playgrounds and, of course, a huge farm. Make sure not to miss the Kids Cottage area—it looks simple since it’s just a massive field with a little cottage, wooden tractor, and corn maze. But my kids just love exploring and using their imagination here. Daily cost to get into the Metropark is just $7.
About Me: My name is Ginny and I’m a former math teacher turned mom of four. My passion for getting kids outdoors has led me to co-found a blog called 1000 Hours Outside, which promotes the health, social, educational, and developmental benefits of time immersed in nature for children of all ages. My work on 1000 Hours Outside was recently chosen as one of three finalists for the Michigan Governor’s Council “Champion for Health” Award which honors an individual for their work promoting healthy lifestyles at a grassroots level.
Photo credit: Jim Best