Category Archives: To do in Metro Detroit

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 🙂

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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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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?