Category Archives: To do in Metro Detroit

Campus Martius in September

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” Let’s go to the BEACH!” is my B’s number ONE request after school every day. Campus Martius has made a beautiful beach to run, jump and play in. With both sun and shaded seating, a water fountain to wash your feet in plus a HUGE fountain to gaze at, your kids will be happy you came. Bring their sand toys if you really want to knock their socks off!

The Compuware building is just a few feet away with clean public bathrooms and benches to rest for a moment in the air conditioning. The indoor fountain is amazing to watch and will give your kids a giggle. Street parking is readily available and lots of little eateries (mostly well-known national chains) are all within a hundred yards.

The “beach” has a bar and patio geared toward adults too with a full service bar where you can enjoy a beer and stick YOUR toes in the sand. On the flip side of the fountain is a beautiful grassy area with tons of bistro seating and a gelato stand. The stage area has programs listed on the Campus Martius site year round.

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What’s your favorite time of year to visit Campus Martius?

Apple Picking in August?

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It was a beautiful, sunny, somewhat muggy August morning. We decide to go pick some delicious peaches to make the perfect cobbler. Our last grasp at summer … CRUSHED. At Erie Orchards the winter hit so hard not enough peaches came in for u-pick… buuuuut, some Pink Lady and Macintosh apples were available.

We have on our sun hats, sunscreen and we are sweating… Picking apples… It was surreal. That didn’t stop us from picking a BUSHEL!!

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We filled four HUGE bowls and placed them in the sunniest window in the house because they were a little green inside AND out!

Apple pie will just have to do! Plus, some apple cobbler, apple sauce, cubed apples for oatmeal, dehydrated apple slices…

What’s YOUR favorite apple recipe?

Lake Erie Metro Park

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Lake Erie Metro Park is AWESOME! We arrived at 10:00am on a hot August Saturday morning for a wonderful adventure. We started with a guided tour ($3/per person, although most are free) that began at their Nature Center and went along the Cherry Island Trail over bridges and through the woods along the lakeshore.

We were enchanted by a mother Monarch butterfly laying her precious eggs on the leaves of the milkweed plant. As we walked along the man-made dike between an estuary and Lake Erie it was as if we had been transported back in time. The lotus and lily flower fields, in full bloom this time of year, were wafting their delicate scent across the breeze in the most exotic way. It’s hard to believe we are less than 30 miles from DETROIT!

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This 1400 acre wood also has an amazing bike/ hike/ jog trail that will take you from the Nature Center to the wave pool, along the lakeshore, over marshland, past ponds and the deep woods. My preschooler wasn’t about to let a perfectly good play ground distract him from his botanical exploration… Ha ha! The tire swing wins out!!

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They have river cruises to the lighthouse, kayaking, fishing, beaches and more and that’s just summertime fun. We have been lucky enough to have adventures there in every season. Please see their events calendar at http://www.metroparks.com and have your own Metro Detroit adventure!

*as always, these are my opinions and experiences. I was in no way paid or compensated to write this about the park.

Hiking with a Preschooler

Dandelions, red-tailed hawks, pregnant bumble bees and more! We learned about vegetation, creatures big and small, winged and scaled… all during our two hour “riverside ramble” at Lake Erie Metro Park. Although this guided hike was on a paved path and only took us about a half mile, it was FULL of fun and really interesting facts about the wildlife that literally is in our backyard. My 3 year old may have been more interested in the trail mix (because it had chocolate nibs in it this time) but he gabbed endlessly to all those who would listen about how you can EAT dandelions, how Wood ducks LIVE in trees and how bees burrow in the GROUND!!

We are not planning our next family vacation around a hike on the Appalachian Trail but this was a great hiking introduction to our preschooler. He loves to run, throw rocks (not AT anyone) and dig with sticks. My responsibility, I feel, is to ALSO impart on him the love and respect our family has for the natural world. It’s easy to get caught up in a concrete jungle full of man-made things but Nature is the original architect and it’s pretty awe-inspiring!

We’ve experienced newborn babies in Spring, Maple syrup tapping in the last glints of winter as well as hiking and campfires all summer. The parks open at dawn and close at dusk. Admission is per car and is $5.00 per day or you can buy a yearly pass for $25.00 and get into all of the metro parks year round. This is NOT the sticker you can buy for an extra $10 when you renew your license plate every year, those are for State Parks like Belle Isle. Bathroom facilities are clean and plentiful. There are traditional playscapes, paved hiking trails and boat launches. There is also the amazing feeling of “getting lost” within a completely safe and comfortable environment. So whether you want to check out the wave pool or run on a dirt trail to train for your next marathon, these parks are amazing!

Setting up a hike with an interpreter at the Lake Erie Metro Park was simple and very inexpensive. The main website www.metroparks.com/events has a complete list of ALL of the activities coming up at a park near you.

 

 

Comerica Park on the Pepsi Porch…best seats in the HOUSE!

Relaxing with a twisty straw at our seats on the Pepsi Porch

Relaxing with a twisty straw at our seats on the Pepsi Porch

The sun was hot, the Tigers were…lukewarm. We cheered for our home team, jeered the opposition and ordered food and drink from our seats, it was a great time! For under $50 per seat, I think these seats were a score. The view was awesome. The little one who cannot sit still for long had room to stretch, stand up, swivel his chair all the way around, rock back and forth and we all got to enjoy the game. Next time you consider buying tickets for a Tigers game, ask for the Pepsi Porch, you will not regret it.

I am not a die hard fan of baseball. For me, to go to a game it has to be an experience. I want to sip something new, taste something new and not have to wait in line for a stinky bathroom. That is asking a lot for most stadiums, unless you pay for a suite. I heard from a friend the Pepsi Porch was a great place to go, especially with kids. I took a chance for a “special occasion” and went above our usual bleacher seat purchase. I sipped locally brewed beer, munched on strawberry-marshmallow kabobs and shared cotton candy with my two favorite people. The crowd-free restrooms were less than 50 feet away from the seats and were spic and span. There are comfy couches all around and a full service bar, plus the “wave” was a BIG DEAL in our section.

Comerica Park is great when it comes to family entertainment and customer service. We rode the all Tiger carousel and the Baseball Ferris Wheel with ease (just $2 per rider). A quick visit to the Customer Service center (nicely air conditioned) for our birthday boy and we walked out with a certificate, rubber Detroit Tigers bracelet, baseball and mini bat. Too bad the birthday boy was turning 43 and the customer service representative gave it all to our 3 year old, but he should’ve known better, ha ha! I love that he’s a kid at heart!

Let’s Go Tigers!

Campus Martius Christmas

Campus Martius is right in the center of the hub of downtown Detroit. In winter the ice skating rink, majestic tree and small business mall (complete with beer tent parents) is a destination to build memories and traditions. During the holiday season when my far-stretched family comes to visit we always make it a point to spend some time there.

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We strolled around the rink, admiring the agile and the fallen in their glory and their agony respectively. The lights of the small business mall beckoned and we purchased some Detroit memorabilia. My sister a shirt, for mom a mug, a sweater and a set of coasters. The husbands marveled at the biker gear and beer accessories. I nibbled some Germack nut mix and coveted a Warhol- esque canvas that could be made from your own photo. Something for everyone! Then we all agreed the beer tent was a good idea.

Live music is always enjoyable to me, but it’s especially fun when you can watch your three year old jam out like nobody’s watching. I swear, we really should’ve thrown a tip jar down. He was entertainment for a while until his interest waned and we moved on.

Inside of the Compuware building Santa himself is available from noon-6pm for unlimited photos with your own camera for FREE! No one else was there so we had a blast. B was very apprehensive initially but warmed up when we all got in the picture together.

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The massive waterfall inside the lobby a few feet away allowed B to be amazed long enough for everyone to enjoy a hot cocoa from Tim Horton’s. The ATM helped us get more loot to head back out again and enjoy more winter traditions. Along our exploration we stumbled upon a sidewalk chess board in front of the DTE Energy building.

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What fun family memories are you creating with your family this season?

Letters to Santa

Writing a letter to Santa has an entirely different meaning today than ever before. As a child it was a letter of hope and optimism. As a parent I am holding my breath, smiling through my teeth and hoping my child writes down what we bought him because if not, we’re screwed! Luckily, he did ask for the big gift we bought- whew!

Visiting The Henry Ford Museum is our family tradition to write our letters and visit with Santa. It’s also a fantastic place to explore for my little guy. Drive a huge combine machine, change the tires or muffler on a car in a Texaco shop or build Legos to your hearts content, there are hours of cold weather fun to be had! Older kids (a.k.a parents) can fold paper into a model airplane and launch it in a “test area” or power a light bulb with a crank. Literally hundreds of planes, trains and automobiles to touch, sit in, climb on and discover.

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Step 1: Write a letter to Santa

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Step 2: Check it twice

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Step 3: Send it to the North Pole

Seems simple.

I’m glad it worked out this year. I still feel like just a little bit of Christmas magic was in play. Tis’ the season!

What Christmas traditions do you have in your family?

Detroit Time Machine

Greenfield Village is an authentic time machine that can transport you into Edison’s workshop and the very chair he used while inventing the incandescent light bulb or into the Wright brothers family kitchen. Take a horse and buggy ride, cruise in a model T Ford or chug along on a steam train.

The one hundred year old carousel is magical and the village green is the perfect spot for a family game of “tag”. You can bring your own picnic lunch or enjoy a healthy snack (most likely grown or made in the Village) from one of their shops. With all of that, they’ve gone and topped it!

Introducing (drum roll, please) the new playscape!

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A huge Firestone tire replica spins round and round in one corner and the two-story water tower shines in the weak October sun, highlighting three ways to go up and down! It’s fully fenced in with a staff member at the entrance/exit to guide young explorers. It has something for every age group, even the adults! Our first time there we spent two hours and only explored half of the playscape!

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Of course there’s a Ford flatbed truck! Climb in the drivers seat, turn on the engine and imagine yourself trolling along. Just in front of its bumper is the sandbox, of course it wouldn’t be complete without a life-size excavator, right? Then there is the ten foot high pumping station that spits out real water (even at the end of October) and the swing set that will delight infants and gymnasts alike.

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You can sing “row, row, row your boat” at the top of your lungs!

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Learn about the physics of water flow…

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Place different shaped wood pieces at different intervals to create a damn or a waterfall…

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Regardless of your intent, you won’t be able to stop the mystical time tunnel that is, Greenfield Village.

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Potty details:
Proper restrooms with changing tables, family restrooms with rockers for nursing and real soap and towels to dry are everywhere throughout the village.

Cost:
This place is not cheap. We do get a membership each year with ride passes and at nearly $370.00, it is triple the cost of our zoo or science center memberships, but completely worth it.

Parking:
Easy and free if you are a member. Easy, still, even if you’re not a member, they just add the cost onto your ticket,

As always, these are simply my own opinions and observations. I did not in ANY way get compensated for this review.

Do you have a favorite play area around town? Write it in the replies, or if you’ve already written about it, post your link 🙂

Family Fun at Farmer Charley’s

Farmer Charley’s off Nadeau Rd. and interstate 75 is our favorite place for family fun for two reasons… The HOPPER and the Pumpkin CANNON!

The Hopper is a HUGE bounce house floor (25 yards X 10 yards, maybe?) buried in what looks like a sandy beach volleyball court next to their corn maze. Our kid looooves a bounce house and this one is huge and more importantly, well-monitored by a staff member. Only a few kids of equal size allowed on for two minute intervals. You may not, but I have an unusual fear of a head injury being caused by this “kid-friendly” activity, but here, I feel SAFE(er), more than anywhere else at least.

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The pumpkin cannon is something we cannot find anywhere else and we talk about ALL YEAR! The crew welded their own metal pieces together, painted it army green and powered it with an air compressor (so no “kick back” like a real big gun/cannon, for those of you who may be familiar). For $20 we got about twenty minutes of punkin’ chunkin’ fun!

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The farm even has huge wooden “targets” cut out and painted for Halloween. There is something so satisfying about having those mini pumpkins SMACK and SPLATTER against the face of a jack-o-lantern.

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I’ll be honest, this is something we ALL look forward to!

They have a smorgasbord of activities at this family farm that are all kitschy and totally awesome. I couldn’t get pictures of everything and still enjoy my family because it’s a thrill a minute!

1) Pig races with an announcer and prizes.
2) Hayrides back to the pumpkin patch
3) A very challenging corn maze that was laser cut into their field to look like Spider-Man this year. They take a poll on their Facebook page every year.
4) Barrel train rides with a souped up riding mower as the engine driven by a descendent of Mario Andretti.
5) A huge firepit is lit every night that you can warm up to or buy s’mores kits at their bakery and roast ’em up!
6) Their bakery has apple cider slushies, warm apple cider, hot cocoa, coffee and every type of fancy cookie and doughnut you may be craving.
7) A massive dirt/sand box with toys
8) A few tether ball poles (the only thing my kid likes more than jumping is hitting/throwing a ball)

We practiced roping cattle…

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Racing rubber duckies…

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There is a tent where they make fresh kettle corn right in front of you. Next door is a snack shack you can order any number of artery-clogging fried goodies, including corn dogs on a stick, quite a novelty! You may not bring your own food, so try to eat beforehand. There is a huge tent with lots of picnic tables however, if the mood strikes you to sit and nosh on some carnival-esque foods.

The fun was everywhere to be had, even in the most simple of things. They had tractors from a nearby dealership that we loved exploring, pushing buttons and honking the horn.

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We rolled around and around all over the great lawn in plastic drainage tubes. This idea was genius!

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Of course, no farm would be complete without farm animals. We enjoyed petting, feeding and talking to the goats, cow and sheep.

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Thursday nights are family night, so if you bring a can/box of non-perishable food you can get a discounted admission. It was also not as crowded (read, less lines) on a Thursday night versus a weekend afternoon. We purchased “bounce back” tickets at half price before we left to visit again.
I hope we get to use them again this week, my trigger finger is getting itchy 😉

Potty details:
Port-a-John use only, but they are not totally horrible. Plus, my kid looooves a urinal. Hey, anything to encourage potty-training, right?

What’s your favorite Fall Family Fun place to visit?

Back to Detroit (…Waldorf)

Seasonal scents of applesauce and soups dance down the hallways with the sounds of children singing and making music. As my little guy leans his head on my shoulder, still not sure about coming back to “school”, his tense muscles begin to relax and he starts to peek up. Slowly, he asks to slide down so he can walk on his own as we approach Miss Maggie’s Parent-Tot Classroom.

Leaving our shoes and bags in a cubby outside the room entrance, Miss Maggie greets us warmly, washing B’s hands for him with a cloth warmed with lavender and water. I wash my hands too and bring the cloth to the tot-sized table as we take a seat and begin to chat with our neighbors while peeling and slicing apples from the mounding bowl on the table. Everyone joins in as an easy rhythym begins and the children start to lose interest in the apple slicing and explore the simple wooden toys in a peacefully muted play area.

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Miss Maggie invites the class to sing the “Good Morning song” with lots of big movements that encourage the children to stretch and giggle. This easily transitions into holding hands for a lively game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie where the “cows are in the meadow eating buttercups” (B’s faaaavorite part). After independent play and quiet parent observation she offers some talking points about the development and education of our tots and then prepares the table for snack.

I absolutely love that we MADE our own snack from scratch, have been smelling it cooking the entire morning and will now get to share it with our friends! I was nervous at first about the bowls and teacups being “real”, in other words they would break if they dropped, but it feels very special and sweet to be sipping out of them. The very shape and weight of a teacup seems to encourage delicacy.

Of course the children should have “real” tools to work with, and in twelve weeks I’ve never seen one break once. A candle is lit and a non-denominational “blessings on our snack” is said before we pour water or tea from glass pitchers into our grandmother-esque teacup and pass a bowl of almonds or berries around the table to top our freshly made applesauce. What a treat!

A relaxing, bonding and educational morning for my son and myself. I feel a collective “sigh” as class comes to a close and we pick up our bags and our tots to head outside to the beautifully natural play area.

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The Detroit Waldorf School has given my son and I a local opportunity to connect with nature and our neighbors once a week. The six week parent-tot sessions are short enough to get a good sized sample of the Waldorf education model and early childhood curriculum without a huge commitment. It’s definitely been a joy for us.

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