Category Archives: To do in Metro Detroit

Fabulous Ferndale!!!

Date night in fabulous Ferndale! One mile north of the city limit at 9 mile & Woodward Ave. is the hopping little city center of Ferndale. I’ve been following The Hungry Dudeand based on some eye-popping pics he posted I have been trying to get to One- Eyed Betty’s for months.

Finally, one of my hubby’s favorite bands Half Light Music was playing at The Magic Bag so I convinced him to have a beer and some appetizers first.

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It was a Friday night around 8ish so we had to wait awhile for a table, but that was just perfect for me to get to taste MORE of their enormous beer menu (yahoo!). We sat down to friendly, helpful servers who guided our selection of two different beers and two apps (our eyes were DEFINITELY bigger than our stomachs!) it was all amazing! I’m not sure if it was the fact we were out alone for the first time in a month, the high alcohol content of the beer or the fabulous food, but I was experiencing Nirvana when the Pork Belly Poutine and the cutting board sampler came to the table.

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This photo does the food absolutely no justice…it was salty, crunchy, gooey, cheesy AND savory…

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I hadn’t even noticed the horrible glare off the menu when I took this picture because my eyes were tearing up in delight!

What’s your favorite date night spot or one you’ve been eyeing??

Detroit Metro Parks (and other places to skip stones)

Sometimes you just need to get outside and get immersed in nature. Deep forest, marshlands, estuaries, lakes, water fowl and everything that goes along with it. Without traveling more than 30 minutes from Greektown, you can find peace and tranquility in the form of Metro Parks.

Detroit Metro Parks are as diverse as the city itself. Many have Nature Centers with turtle tanks and local wildlife hides for show and tell. We’ve attended many pre-registered events for a meager $3.00 that gave B inspiration for weeks of imaginative play.

There are paved running trails that are stroller friendly and more rugged trails lined with mulch. Whether you like a colorful playscape or a deep, dark forest, there is something for everyone!

One of our favorites is Lake Erie Metro Park because of the children’s play area and tiny beach nearby to throw rocks into the lake (B’s favorite pastime). This past Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous weather and the park was the perfect place to stretch our legs. We packed a picnic lunch and spent a few hours climbing, swinging, digging, sliding and skipping.

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Another favorite of ours for toddler-sized nature walks is Oakwoods Metro Park where the 700ft. nature trail surrounding the Nature Center is perfect for B’s interests, legs and attention span.

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A balcony overlooking the river/estuary was perfect for skipping stones with B.

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The path was perfect for exploring. We searched for different sizes, shapes and colors of leaves for our seasonal nature table. We found leaves, insects, spiders and birds to observe quietly. We collected acorns, chestnuts and bark that had fallen around the trail. It was punctuated enough for B and diverse enough to hold the adults interest for the morning.

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Do you have a favorite spot in nature that you love to spend family time?

A is for A P P L E

Apples, apple cider, apple cider slushies, apple cider doughnuts, apple butter, apple cake, applesauce, apple pie… I felt like the character Bubba from the movie Forest Gump, except no shrimp! I want B to know where his food comes from. Since he eats about five apples a week, I want him to know they grow on trees and not believe they somehow form from the big fruit bowl on our kitchen counter.

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All told, it took about thirty minutes for my two and a half year old to pick a half BUSHEL of johnagold, red delicious, macintosh and fuji apples. That’s about fifty apples. All from the trees themselves, any he picked off the ground were rejected from the bag (someone’s got to do quality control!). It seemed like that part should’ve taken longer.

Since we had driven an hour to get to the orchard and the weather was more Indian Summer than Autumn, we set out to see the rest of the sprawling orchard and seek out more toddler friendly fun.

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There were chickens to feed…

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Goats to be amused by…

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Cool, old tractors to explore…

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Apple cider AND apple cider doughnuts made it home with us, barely

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We each enjoyed (thoroughly) an apple cider doughnut and a shared apple cider slushie (which I never knew existed, new Fall craving MUST HAVE) while browsing their amply stocked apple-everything country store.

It was a relaxing, windows-down kind of day. All the way home we talked about goats, chickens, tractors and trees. We also talked about how yummy a fresh baked apple pie would be for dessert that night. When we arrived home, we set out on the task of doing just that.

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Rollllllllllll it…

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Pat it…

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and give it a milk and sugar wash (old bakery trick)…

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Mark it with an “A” (not a “B” as in the nursery rhyme) for apple, then put it in the oven for my family and me!!!!

Erie Orchards was definitely worth the trip for all of the family fun it provided. No fees to park or play, just pay for the apples you pick. On weekends there are pony rides, hay rides, a pumpkin shaped bounce house and always an act performing (see their events page). I prefer the quiet peace of a weekday morning, personally. Bathrooms are port-a-johns only, but some of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. We shall be back!

Have you been to an orchard to pick apples with your family? What are your family Fall traditions…

Mai Tiki Wanna Playa?!

Beach, bonfires, brisket and Paul Bunyan combined with Tiki huts, sand volleyball and waves… am I still in Michigan?!? Yes, about three hours north of Detroit (give or take traffic). We took a little family weekend getaway to Oscoda, MI and had a BLAST!

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It was pleasantly Autumn weather in northern Michigan. The water was chilly, but not polar bear and refreshing to feel the waves lapping at your feet and soothing your soul.

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We tossed around a frisbee, zipped down a twelve foot high metal slide (it was AWESOME) and tried our hand at some beach volleyball.

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The resort is made up of vibrantly colored little cottages on the beach where you can step outside your front door and stick your toes in the sand. Mother Nature put on an awe-inspiring light show at sunset. (We took this picture with our iPhone, imagine it in living color, insane!)

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A mix of sun and clouds wasn’t exactly August beach weather, but we were happy to play in the sand, building and demolishing sand castles. Sand toys, balls and frisbees were all available for free to guests.

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The town hosted a Paul Bunyan Festival the weekend of our trip (September 20-22, 2013) with bountiful sights to see! A doggie costume contest, a brisket and ribs contest (yum), a wood carving contest (think chainsaws and bear statues) and plenty of carnival food and rides. There was even a real life Paul Bunyan giving free axe throwing lessons, now THAT was a sight to see!

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There was a huge wooden slab target surrounded by massive hay bales to arrest any wayward axe tosses. Most people landed the target with no problem. Paul Bunyan’s favorite advice to give is often something I say to my two and a half year old, “finesse not force”. We sat and watched men and women of all ages and physical stature give the axe throwing a try, it was definitely something I will not soon forget.

Resort Details:
Mai Tiki Resort
3322 N. US Route 23
Oscoda, MI 48570
989-739-9971

We liked:

The beach

The kids pay area

The full kitchen

There was a bonfire on the beach every night with wood and chairs provided

The box fan in the unit (there is central air, but the fan helped as a noise buffer for our toddlers bedroom)

The charcoal BBQ grill for each unit

Free wifi

Flat screen TV with cable that also accepted a DVD player (movies for our toddler to watch as needed, it rained for about two hours one day).

We brought:

Food to grill and snacks to munch

Marshmallows and sticks to roast them
(There is a Walmart, other chain stores and mom & pop shops within a few miles north and south of the resort to buy whatever you need)

Charcoal and lighter fluid

Paper towels, plates and napkins because there is no dishwasher

Kitchen towels, bath towels AND beach towels (we will also bring tupperware for food storage and our own sponges for dish washing next time)

Oh yes, we brought beer and wine too

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Sure, I would have liked an updated decor with tile floors and new everything, but for the price and locale, it really was a good value. I can appreciate that sand and lake weather can beat down the exterior and interior of a place more than I could imagine, but the manager/owner seemed to take care with heart. There was always a friendly helpful answer to every question we had both before and during our stay. Even when we locked ourselves out, he was kind and gentle with helping us back in.

We really liked our stay and would go back again.

In no way did the resort compensate me to write this review, as always, these are just my opinions.

Where was your last weekend getaway?

Flying on a Tuesday

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Another beautiful day in Detroit. Seventy-seven degrees, slight breeze, sunny blue skies smiling down on everyone, it is a MUST to get down to the Detroit Riverfront before cool Autumn comes rolling in. The playscape is beautifully designed with parents and kids of all sizes in mind. Benches in both sun and shade, clean, lined trash bins and a spectacular backdrop.

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The perfect spot for swinging and sliding!

As we are still in full potty training mode, it was extra nice to be able to park within a few feet in the Rivard parking lot (free). We are still lugging our froggy potty around with us everywhere so B has a familiar spot to relieve himself. However, he did also use the public facilities here today, exercising his new found ability to pee standing up. The restrooms were clean and fully stocked. There was no kiddie potty like at schools or museums, but it was a public restroom that didn’t induce the gag reflex, always a good thing.

We played for about an hour and then headed over to visit Eastern Markets Tuesday vendors in Shed 2. Food trucks, live street performances and of course sampling of all the delicious jams, pickles, sweet breads and fruits. The smells and sounds are a treat for the senses and we always walk away with both our belly and our mind on FULL.

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So much to do! The staff at Eastern Market are amazing at inspiring and utilizing local talent giving creativity a direct pipeline to the lucky foot traffic twice a week.

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We even got to see the championship Detroit Waldorf School jump rope team in action! They performed some amazing feats and then opened it up for everyone to get a try. Totally cool.

What’s your favorite “last days of Summer” thing to do?

678 Mile(s): A Top Ten list

Six hundred and seventy-eight miles one-way in a car, twice in five days… Just me and my toddler… TOP TEN:

1. I love the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike.

2. I hate the tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (holy $28!!).

3. I hate driving in the rain. Especially when I have to keep adjusting the speed of my windshield wipers.

4. I hate driving next to trucks when there is no shoulder, we are on a mountain, in a tunnel AND in a construction zone. I blame having watched too many action movies where things tip over and blow up!

5. I get extremely aggravated, irritated and irrationally angered by people who leave their blinker on for MILES!! C’mon people, don’t you HEAR it, SEE it?!? I mean, HOW, HOW do you not know?

6. I love that the Maryland Welcome Center rest stop has a Play scape!! INGENIOUS!! Note: the two people we saw both times through this past week keep this place as immaculate as Italian grandparents kept their tomato gardens… a true beacon on the long, long road.

7. I love that B must have two quarters and a shiny penny to crank out those “penny pincher” commemorative pennies at each and every opportunity. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered half of the machines are not working (at least the ones we encountered between Michigan and Virginia).

8. I love the ocean, buuuut the beach is sandy. Sandy in such a way that no matter WHAT you are wearing, eating, drinking or laying/sitting on, you will be getting sand in your mouth and every other unmentionable, uncomfortable crevice possible. I always forget this when I enthusiastically plan a day at the beach.

9. Hotel pools feel SO chlorinated that I always want to do a Silkwood-style scrub down afterward. (It’s an 80’s movie, called Silkwood, watch it)

10. I love my family. They came in from three states just to hang out for a weekend. I love my sisters gourmet, no-carb, perfectly portioned dinners (I think I lost weight, thanks sis!). I love my brothers constant joking about how he hates the water and hates heights, but he is special forces in the Navy and jumps out of airplanes INTO water for his job! I love the scruff of my dads beard on my cheek when he gives me a BIIIIG hug every time I see him.

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My hubby had to work this Holiday weekend so I called my long distance family and arranged a last minute gathering of a few of us in Virginia Beach. I’m glad we came!

Tell me about YOUR Labor Day weekend…

Detroit is Two-Faced

Detroit is two-faced! Or is it us that is two- faced toward her? I suppose your opinion would be based on your most recent experience.

You may be in love with the D today because your summer taxes are paid, the weather is perfect and you just had a fantastic lunch outdoors at your favorite local spot. Whereas, tomorrow you hate her because you ran over a broken bottle, got a flat tire AND a parking ticket (as a result of not moving your disabled vehicle) and the Tigers lost to the frighin Royals, ugh!!

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Is the glass half full or half empty?

I chose to love the city on Sunday. I chose to be an optimist. Even though my dear hubby was stuck at work, I took a picnic lunch to him for his break and then took B to the River Walk to burn off some of his boundless toddler energy. I parked near my old building (free parking on Sundays) and walked through the Renaissance Center (because who doesn’t like a good puzzle on a Sunday) to the gleaming blue waters of the Detroit River.

Free Parking

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Gerbil Tubes Shooting off the RenCen

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Enjoying the sunshine and watching the boats.

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We sauntered down the River Walk past all of the pooches on the pet walk, the joggers and even one brave woman on rollerblades speedily pushing a stroller (woah!) to Wheelhouse Detroit where you can rent any bike complete with gear, totally awesome!

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The fountain and carousel were a big hit with B!

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The outdoor seating was plentiful, the grills were turning out some quality eats and the sun was beaming. We had just eaten our picnic lunch with Big Daddy, but once B caught sight of that slushie machine, there was NO WAY he was leaving without one. Sooo, my little man got his “special treat” of red dye #40 and he couldn’t have been happier.

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The playscape was just big enough for B to get his “swing on” but not get lost in an intricate web of shoots and ladders like some we’ve been to. It had beautiful benches, flowers, waste receptacles and clean, kid friendly bathrooms. There was also a HUGE free parking lot two feet away. Note to self, park there next time if not bringing a stroller!

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Here is the dichotomy: All of this beauty, cheer, food and fancy drawing your eyes to the river and the joys of being near it, but if you turn around… It’s a chained off, barren, seagull infested blight.

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This is where we make our choice
to love her or hate her, or maybe the third option is just allow ourselves to feel both. Isn’t that what a relationship is all about?

What are your most recent experiences in Detroit?

Thunder Over Michigan

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Our first air show as a family was a hit! I hadn’t been to an air show in years and was happily surprised at how much they had to offer. Three generations of our family enjoyed a perfect weather day celebrating America.

Amazing planes from the last century parked on the Tarmac for all to see and TOUCH! Very cool for B! Then later, these same planes were started up (hello gas and fumes!) and flown through the sky with finesse.

My favorite was a re-enactment camp depicting accommodations, weaponry and tactical gear from each of the major American wars from the last century complete with veterans in their official uniforms to tell their war stories. Another surprise was a WWII battle re-enactment with cannon fire and an ambush by the Germans. It seemed to be a HUGE hit for the young boys ages 7-9 years old (even more so than the bouncy house area)!

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We brought a picnic of fruit, trail mix and PB&J sandwiches, a blanket, some folding chairs and enjoyed five hours of non-stop fun. B barely made it to the car before he fell asleep
(Very unlike him!) from the running around, sun and yes, bouncy houses. The Kid Zone was worth the trip in B’s opinion.

The real action was in the skies however, the aerobatic planes were incredible. Just watching from my spot on the ground made my stomach turn, I could only imagine actually being up there! AMAZING!!

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Deets:
Admission is FREE for kids 15 & under. Adults $35 but I bought a Living Social deal for half off plus a deal on parking (usually $15). All told I spent $77 for four adults and one child to park and enjoy. I felt like I got MORE than my money’s worth!

For additional fees you could take a ride in an actual plane or dine in air conditioned comfort in a special luxe tented gallery. We did spend $10 for an all day pass, versus $3 per jump, for B to jump in the bouncy houses, which, in my opinion was 100% worth it. There were also rock climbing, bungee swings, tennis and other kid-centered activities. I feel confident that any child or adult could find something to spark their interest here. The day was perfect enough, where even an indifferent teen could simply relax and soak up the sun while the family browsed around. There was certainly enough security, military and fire safety personnel present to put a parents mind at ease.

Food: Check their website for any changes but this year (2013) you could bring in anything that did not require a cooler. No alcohol or barbecues of course 🙂

No Smoking! They real reason was because the planes on the Tarmac were going in the air and were fully fueled up causing fumes that are extremely flammable. I just thought it was great to be at an outdoor event and not have to choke through clouds of smoke – blech!

Bathroom: Port-a-poetry’s only for the general admission folks. There were running water portable sinks to wash hands at every cluster and they weren’t disgusting (as far a port-a-potty’s go) . B got to use his first urinal, because there was no way I was going to try to balance my toddler over an open hole of excrement. I was impressed at his skill! Of course he let daddy take him potty after that.

Charitable: Proceeds from the event went to funding the Yankee Air Museum http://yankeeairmuseum.org/ and the bomber plant where the original “Rosie the Riveter” became a National hero.

Have you ever been to an air show?

Wine/ Hard Cider Tasting

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The Northville Cider Mill and Winery was a perfect spot for a Saturday night date with my hubby. We went for a tasting (yes, I bought a LivingSocial deal, I know, I’m addicted) and found a place we’d love to return to again with or without a toddler in tow.

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The outdoor space is absolutely charming with hand painted adirondack chairs and live music (check schedule). The menu states you can bring a picnic or order a pizza and get it delivered, love it! The atmosphere is artsy but not stuffy. VERY laid back staff are chatty, cynical and intuitive, as needed.

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The crowd was varied, which I love. 20’s- senior citizens were all mingling happily. Some were tasting, many were just enjoying a bottle of their fabulous hard cider or local red wine. The whole place has a very “come as you are” attitude. Attire was everything from flip flops and t-shirts to polo’s and pressed khaki’s. The parking lot had everything from beach cruiser bicycles to muscle cars to range rovers. Truly, “come one, come all and enjoy” could be their motto.

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Although my husband and I were in and out before any real “standing room only” crowds converged, it was a bustling bistro. I overheard one group saying how they had been there the past weekend really late and it was like “tailgating at a polo match”. That brought some vivid imagery of Julia Roberts mixed with Prince William to my crazy mind, but it sounded fun at any rate!

Deets:
Location: 630 Baseline Rd., Northville, MI (one block south of Novi Rd. and 8 mile Rd. intersection on the residential block of Baseline)

The party is Friday 6-10 pm & Saturday 4-11pm only (for now)

The bathroom: clean and family friendly

The front patio/open green space: perfect for relaxing on a picnic blanket nibbling treats (or pizza delivery) and sipping locally sourced and bottled hard cider and wine.

We brought home a bottle of Rockin’ Hard Cock Cider (yeah, the taste was great but the name, hysterical!) to take to our out- of- state family the next time we visit. We need to represent Detroit and show them how we do it!! Ha!!

http://thenorthvillewinery.com/

Disclaimer: I was not in anyway compensated to write this review. I visited this establishment and I am simply offering my genuine opinions.

Heritage Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

Filling a bucket with water, dumping it out, squishing mud and sorting pebbles, oh yeah, “these are a few of B’s faaavorite things”! B and I joined some of our mommy crew and set out to donate some time to enhance the beauty of Metro Detroit. The http://taylorconservatory.org/ is nearly 100% volunteer based and offers a community garden, fairy garden and botanical garden. While we wanted the children to get hands on experience with growing plants and donating their time, we also were lucky to get a beautiful day of perfect weather and sunshine.

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Potty Deets:
There is a clean baby friendly bathroom inside the building across the parking lot (about two ABC song verses away) that houses the Petting Farm entrance. We brought our froggy potty this day however.

Food:
It is completely BYO and there are so many picturesque spots to enjoy a meal or a snack, my vote goes to the wooden log benches by the by the slate floor pavilion.

Cost:
FREE
*if you choose to check out the Petting Farm it’s $4/person 1 & up. Cash only.

But wait, there’s more!
There is a brand new playscape (built summer 2012) next to another pavilion with picnic tables that B and I have enjoyed when he was just one year old and still getting the hang of walking. I have also seen someone rent a bouncy house and have it installed right next to the play scape and host her daughters fifth birthday party under the pavilion. It looked AMAZING!

Where is your favorite green space to take your family on a perfect picnic weather day?