Waterloo Recreation Area offers more than 20,000 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor in Chelsea and is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. Especially famous for its campgrounds, mountain biking trails and educational opportunities, guests in the park can walk or ride more than 40 miles of multi-use trail, boat and fish, visit the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, bike the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, rent kayaks and canoes, play on swimming beaches, camp, hunt, play disc golf, and even ride horses.
Directly adjacent to Pinckney Recreation Area, the two open spaces offer a combined 31,500 acres of wilderness to explore and it’s all connected by the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail!
To learn about all the ways you can explore Waterloo, keep reading.
Waterloo Recreation Area offers 18 miles of horseback riding trails accessible to anyone. If you don’t have your own horse, stop by Horse ‘N Around Stables for guided trail rides, riding lessons and even kid-friendly summer camps! Their trail ride offerings include moonlight rides and special occasion BBQ picnic rides with Hotel Hickman Chuckwagon BBQ; to see all the options, dates and prices, click here.
The DTE Energy Foundation Trail is a multi-use trail that loops through Waterloo Recreation Area. Though it’s still being developed and grown—with plenty of help from international mountain biking associations—the trail already offers multiple different loops and more than 10 miles to explore. The planning vision includes five loops with one loop built per year over five years for a total of 25 miles. For more information and updates, click here.
A great way to introduce yourself to our natural surroundings inside Waterloo, The Discovery Center explores the glacial geology of the region, the diverse natural habitats and the many recreation opportunities available in the park and the Chelsea area. Established in 1981, the facility offers educational exhibits, special programs and even year-round events.
Play disc golf.
Located near Portage Lake—along with a boat launch, the public beach, a concession stand and a campground—you’ll find an 18-hole disc golf course open to the public. Be sure to bring your own frisbees!
As the largest park in the Lower Peninsula, Waterloo Recreation Area is one of the most popular places for camping. In total, the park offers nine different campgrounds, which include equestrian camping, modern camping, rustic camping with limited amenities, a group campsite, an accessible and reservable yurt, multiple rustic cabins and a modern cabin. The Sugarloaf Campground even has an ADA accessible playground! To see a full list of campgrounds, click here.
With a whopping 11 fishing lakes inside the park, this is a popular activity in Waterloo. While doing so, you may catch bass, panfish and pike, but be sure to get your fishing license first! For more information on that, click here.
Take a hike.
A variety of trails are available for hiking, including nature trails at the Discovery Center and the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail that traverses from Big Portage Lake to Green Lake and further into Pinckney Recreation Area. Additionally, the new DTE Energy Foundation Trail offers more than 10 miles of loops and will soon consist of 25 miles to explore.
One of the most popular activities in Waterloo is viewing sandhill cranes which nest and migrate throughout the region. Directly adjacent to the park on the west side, you’ll find the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary, a bird sanctuary that consists of more than 1,000 acres and is famous for its sandhill cranes. Also in the park, you may encounter deer, wild turkeys, ducks, coyotes and more.
As we mentioned, the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary is an Audubon sanctuary located on the west end of Waterloo. Though outside the park, the sanctuary offers more than 1,000 acres of trails and wildlife observation opportunities. Renowned for its sandhill cranes, a record 8,177 cranes were counted on one fall afternoon as they landed in Mud Lake Marsh. To learn more about visiting the sanctuary, click here.
Kayak on a lake.
One of the most popular activities in Southeast Michigan, Waterloo offers spectacular settings for still water kayaking. The park’s 11 inland lakes are all available for paddle sports and you can even rent rowboats at the Portage Campground near Portage Lake. Campers can also rent kayaks, canoes and rowboats at Sugarloaf Campground.
Swim at the public beach.
With 11 inland lakes and the recreation gem that is Portage Lake, Waterloo offers tons of water recreation opportunities. Day-use swimmers should head to the public beach at the Portage Lake Unit, and registered campers can also take a dip at the beach accessible from the Sugarloaf Campground.
Hunt for deer, turkey and small game.
Waterloo Recreation Area is open to hunting for all species following regular state regulations. Opportunities include deer, wild turkey and small game throughout the mix of open brush, open meadows, wetland habitat and mature hardwood forest. Hunters should be aware of private lands, hikers and equestrian trails throughout the open hunting areas; to learn more about the open areas, check out the Mi-HUNT map here. And to learn about the proper licenses, click here.
Hit the trails for cross-country skiing.
During our snowy months, all the trails within Waterloo are open for cross-country skiers, offering more than 40 miles of ungroomed exploration. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources put together a map of recommended cross-country ski trails, which you can see here.
Hike on snowshoes.
All the trails within Waterloo are open to snowshoeing throughout the winter. Though they’re not groomed, this offers more than 40 miles of snowy trekking. To see a list of all the park’s trails, click here.
When snow falls, the majority of the park is open to snowmobiling. Check out the snowmobile map here to see these specific areas.
What do you love about Waterloo Recreation Area?
Are you a camper, a horseback rider or a cross-country skier? In the comments below, let us know what you love to do in our region’s largest park!
We know, kids can be the pickiest eaters in the world. And apparently, so do our local eateries, because many of them offer menus and environments that can make even the pickiest kids want to eat dinner.
We rounded up 15 of the best restaurants in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and Saline that offer specially designed kids menus, a comfortable and fun atmosphere, and weekly specials — and some on this guide even offer all three!
The Blue Nile is a casual Ethiopian restaurant in Downtown Ann Arbor offering both delectable plates and all-you-can-eat platters. Both options offer meat and vegetarian foods. On the lunch menu, the all-you-can-eat feasts are available for half the price for children under 12 and children under 5 years old eat for free! You can see the lunch menu online here.
Taking inspiration from real, historic pubs in Ireland, Conor O’Neill’s is the place to go for community fun, social gathering, Irish hospitality, hearty food and great drinks. The pub was even designed and built in Ireland! And their menu amps up the Irish culture even more with meals like fish and chips, Mighty Murray’s Corned Beef & Cabbage, Kate’s Shepherd’s Pie and more. They made this list for the fun atmosphere and their Tuesday special when kids under the age of 12 eat for free with the purchase of an adult meal.
Fresh Forage fills Ann Arbor’s need for both convenience and health as well as quick and locally sourced. The team’s ingredients are sourced from their own family farms and other local farms, and several are even sustainably foraged from Michigan’s deep woods. Using 100 percent compostable materials, they prepare these meals rapidly so the busy people of Ann Arbor can fuel up on the go. Their Kids Menu offers all these healthy ingredients at a low price and prepared in approachable, kid-friendly meals. You can see it here.
At Frita Batidos, the burgers are the main attraction because a frita is a traditional Cuban burger made from spicy chorizo served with shoestring fries on a soft egg bun. And a batido is a tropical milkshake made with fresh fruit, crushed ice, sweetened milk and rum (optional, of course). The team’s Kid’s Menu offers all of that fun in mini sizes plus shoestring fries and fresh fruit. You can see the full menu here.
Harvest Moon Café has been a staple of the Ypsi community for more than 30 years, and their home-style menu offers something everyone can love, including the kids! That’s because their Kids Menu is one of the largest on this guide and offers smaller portions of some of their best creations: fish and chips, a slow-roasted turkey dinner, linguine with marinara sauce and more. To see the menu, click here, and don’t forget to order your free kiddie drink!
Founded by Ron Jeffries in 2004, Jolly Pumpkin began in Dexter and now operates pubs and tap houses in Dexter, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Grand Rapids and Chicago. In the Dexter tasting room and kitchen, you can enjoy their signature sour beers while your kids enjoy kid-sized portions of fried drumsticks, burgers and cheese pizza. On Family Night every Wednesday, kids can eat free with the purchase of any full price sandwich or pizza.
This famous brewery was born in Dexter in 2004 and operates pubs and tap houses in Dexter, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Grand Rapids and Chicago. In Downtown Ann Arbor, you’ll find Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery, a full-service brewpub serving lunch, dinner, brunch, late-night eats and a large kids menu that offers simple selections alongside adventurous choices (plus three delectable desserts!).
The Maíz team has brought a fresh approach to traditional, Mexican favorites and Tex-Mex specialties. Everything on their menu is made from scratch daily and is made with ingredients from local purveyors and farmers, too! Every Sunday from 12 to 10 p.m., kids ages 10 years and under can enjoy up to two free kids meals with the purchase of any adult entree, and they’ll be enjoying some Mexican classics like quesadillas, tacos and arroz con pollo.
Back in 1948 when it opened, The Original Cottage Inn was Ann Arbor’s first restaurant to serve pizza. Today, they still serve some of the best pies in town as well as classic American, Italian and Greek cuisine. On that extensive menu, you’ll also find several smaller, lower priced, kid-friendly selections, including Pita Pizza, Grilled Cheese and Spaghetti with Meatballs.
The Pretzel Bell was the place to be for students, townies and visitors for more than 50 years. When the doors reopened after a brief closing, it became one of the Tree City’s warmest and coziest spots while still functioning as a popular student hangout. The menu offers a modern take on traditional American comfort food with hearty items like fried chicken and signature burgers. That gourmet style extends to the kids menu where you’ll find items like the Lil’ Bell Burger and Mini Mac topped with a Goldfish cracker topping. From Sunday through Wednesday, kids eat free!
Red Brick is a small, family-owned restaurant in the heart of Downtown Dexter where their team offers fresh, innovative food alongside craft cocktails and a warm community atmosphere. Adults can enjoy some of the region’s best, most creative comfort foods, and the kid’s menu doesn’t skimp on quality, either. Approachable selections like homemade mac and cheese and chicken tenders come with a side of fries, sweet potato fries, chips, fruit, sauteed vegetables or celery and peanut butter, and on Mondays, kids eat for free with the purchase of an adult entree!
With more than 2,400 square feet of video screens, 100 different arcade games and 27 lanes of bowling, Revel & Roll might be the most kid-approved option on this list. Because, in addition to offering tons of entertainment, they also offer a gourmet menu that covers all the pub favorites—from buffalo chicken nachos and loaded tater tots to a PB&J burger and mouth-watering pizzas.
Named for Saline’s ancient, historic salt springs, this hometown brewery and restaurant is housed in a beautiful, 118-year-old former church. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive settings in Southeast Michigan, you can enjoy true-to-style ales, wine and cider alongside locally sourced food with stunning stained glass as the backdrop. On Tuesdays, kids eat for free from a menu that includes burgers, sandwiches, pizza and poutine.
The first business that opened in the Zingerman’s Company was this historic deli; it opened in 1982 with a staff of two. Today, the deli is still located in the small, red brick building across from the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, but you can now choose from an enormous menu of both classic and creative sandwiches, breakfasts, salads, housemade Jewish specialty foods, handmade pot pies and more. In addition to offering a great Kids Menu (which you can see here), they host regular events, including storytime tastings and classes! You can check out that schedule here.
At this all-day restaurant, the Zingerman’s team showcases their favorite things about American food—both locally and nationally. The regular menu includes grits inspired by South Carolina, Maryland-inspired crab cakes, Carolina barbeque, local meat from Washtenaw County, produce from local farms, artisan cheeses, micro-brewed beers, and fine wines sourced from all over the country. The Just for Kids menu offers more approachable, smaller portions of some of our favorite Roadhouse flavors, from Mac n’ Cheese and the BBQ Slider to Roadhouse Corn Dogs and a Fish Plate with the fresh catch of the day. You can see the menu here.
Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the entirety of Southeast Michigan are famous destinations for paddle and water sports. This is thanks in large part to the Huron River, a designated National Water Trail that winds through the entire region and has been developed into one of the best, most beautiful, and easily accessible recreation opportunities in Michigan.
So, if you want to try your hand at kayaking or canoeing, this is a great place to start. Keep reading to find out where you can rent or buy the necessities, where you can sign up for programs, classes and guided trips, and where you can go to paddle both on the river and off.
Where to Go
The primary reason Southeast Michigan is a haven for kayakers is the rejuvenated Huron River, which meanders through Island Lake Recreation Area over to Dexter, through Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, then all the way to Lake Erie. And though the river offers fantastic waters for kayaking, it’s not the only place where you can practice your paddling!
As we mentioned, the Huron River is a huge kayaking attraction through Southeast Michigan. It winds through some of our favorite communities and is one of only 18 designated National Water Trails. The river trail sees more than 100,000 visitors every year who paddle, float and fish along the water. The 104-mile river offers 32 access sites, an all-abilities access point in Gallup Park and more accessible access points planned.
The largest state park in the Lower Peninsula, Waterloo Recreation Area encompasses 20,000 acres. Home to 11 inland lakes, visitors can paddle in several different surroundings. Overnight campers can rent paddle boats at Sugarloaf Campground and all visitors can rent at the Portage Campground. For more information regarding park activities, click here.
Operated by the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, Independence Lake Park offers countless year-round attractions. During the summer months, the park’s 360 acres feature trails for biking and hiking as well as fishing, boating and swimming in Independence Lake. Featuring both a small dock and a boat launch, you can take off in your own kayak across the water, or rent paddle boats and rowboats on site.
Just 40 minutes from Ann Arbor directly above Island Lake Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark is one of the most popular parks in the state of Michigan. Throughout the 4,486 acres, you’ll find an 18-hole golf course, a 27-hole disc golf course, a nature center, a farm center, beautiful picnic areas, and the 1,200-acre Kent Lake. Paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and rowboats are available at the boat rental building near Maple Beach; you can get more information here.
An hour north of Ann Arbor, Seven Lakes State Park is made up of farmland, rolling hills, forested land and 230 acres of water. During the summer months, you can rent or bring your own rowboats, canoes and paddle boats. Near the swim beach, you’ll find a boat launch, a concession stand for snacks, restrooms and changing courts as well as horseshoes, volleyball and playground equipment.
What You Need
There’s more to kayaking than just the kayak. Especially if you’re a beginner, there are a few safety items you may want to look into and maybe even a fun accessory or two! If you’re wondering where to start, we suggest stopping by any one of these local facilities or businesses. There, you’ll find local experts, rentals and more.
The City of Ann Arbor operates two rental facilities: Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery. Here, they maintain and offer hundreds of boats available on a first come, first served basis. They also offer guided river trips, still water paddle excursions, river programs, festivals, camps for kids, and an annual canoe and kayak auction. Whether you need a boat, need to ask a question, or want expert guidance on the water, start here.
Adventure Leadership Rental Center is a University of Michigan facility that rents outdoor and recreational equipment to students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. To see their operating hours, click here.
Our Ann Arbor REI is a great place to ask questions about local recreation and buy your own equipment. They also offer regular classes and trainings in recreation topics, from the How to Pack a Backpack Workshop to Kayaking Basics and everything in between.
Dunham’s Sports is the Midwest’s largest sporting goods chain. When they opened in 1937, they were just a small bait and tackle shop in West Bloomfield. Today, they have 230 stores, including one in Ann Arbor and one in Ypsilanti. Their available equipment includes kayaks, canoes, boats, life vests and more.
Play It Again Sports is the go-to sporting goods store for gently used, lower-priced sports and recreation equipment. The Ann Arbor store is located at Westgate Shopping Center.
How to Learn
Paddle sports can be dangerous in some cases, and learning the ropes through classes, workshops or guided trips is always a good idea before you take off alone. If you want to practice with an expert or take a class on the basics, keep reading!
In addition to boat rentals, Gallup Park Livery and Argo Park Livery offer great places to learn through guided river trips. In addition to these seasonally available daily trips, their calendar includes special classes and camps in kayaking, fishing and stand up paddleboarding. To see their programs, click here.
Our Ann Arbor REI hosts regular classes in several outdoor and recreation topics. That calendar often includes workshops like free Kayaking Basics, free Women’s Kayaking Basics, and even SUP Basics. To see the calendar, click here.
Located at Delhi Metropark, Skip’s Huron River Canoe Livery is open seasonally and offers some of the best, guided river trips on one of the most scenic stretches of the Huron River. Their lineup includes tubing and kayaking trips between one and four hours and new Guided Glow Paddle trips, which take place at night in kayaks equipped with color-changing LED lights. To learn more, click here.
Located right on the water in Tecumseh, this family-run paddling company offers guided river trips on River Raisin—one of the world’s most crooked rivers—and paddle practice and excursions on Globe Mill and Standish Ponds. Paddle the Ponds is an especially good option for beginners and kids! For more information, check out the website here.
Heavner Nature Connection & Canoe Rental have four locations to make traveling the Huron River easy and convenient. Their main location is at Proud Lake State Recreation Area with others at Island Lake State Recreation Area, Kensington Metropark and Newburgh Lake in Livonia. Their team offers a variety of trips ranging from one-hour, self-return trips to multi-day journeys with transportation back to the canoe rental. To learn more, click here.
Do you have any tips?
If you love paddling in Southeast Michigan, share your local tips in the comments below!
Spring sees the last of our bitter cold days and welcomes the warm, summer sun back to Ann Arbor. Through the transition, our community celebrates with huge annual events, blooming gardens, bountiful harvests, and plenty of outdoor adventure.
To help you make the most of the season, we created a guide to spring activities in Ann Arbor and our surrounding communities. From the hyper-local community gardens and farmers market events of Ann Arbor to the wilds of Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, here’s everything you need to do this spring. Enjoy!
Spring is planting season, and here in the Ann Arbor area, you don’t have to have an at-home garden to celebrate. In fact, Project Grow operates more than 20 garden sites around Ann Arbor, including plots at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and West Park! To learn more about community gardens in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea and Dexter, check out our list of Community Gardens in the Ann Arbor Area. Our guide includes garden plots you can rent and grow yourself, as well as community gardens maintained for charitable and educational purposes.
3. Go to the dog park.
As snow melts and we get sneak peeks of summer weather, there might be no one else who is as excited as your dog. Your pups are free to play and explore outdoors without snow or cold and in some regional dog parks, they can even play in the water! To help you and your four-legged family members explore the area, we rounded up The Best Dog Parks Near Ann Arbor, Mapped. It includes details on local spots like Brighton Recreation Area where your dog can play on one of the state’s only dog-friendly beaches, Mill Pond Dog Park which is the only local park that offers off-leash water access, and Swift Run Dog Park right here in Ann Arbor — at ten acres, it’s the largest dog park in the city!
Here in Ann Arbor, you can shop the Ann Arbor Farmers Market year-round on Saturdays. But beginning in May, market hours get longer and you can shop two days a week—Wednesday and Saturday. Monthly Food Truck Rallies return in May, too! These community events bring together some of Michigan’s best food trucks once a month from May through October for a full evening of fun in Kerrytown. For complete details, hours and dates on this year’s market, click here.
5. Sign up for a CSA program.
In addition to local farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture—or CSA programs—are an excellent way to get local meat, veggies, fruit and/or eggs directly from a local farmer. These programs invite people of the community (like you!) to invest in a local farm for the season and those paying members get to enjoy the annual harvest however abundant it may be. Typically, you pay a one-time fee at the beginning of the season. Then, you get to be a part of the farm community and enjoy a portion of the harvest every week.
Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental spaces on the UM campus. The botanical gardens include eleven outdoor areas full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials and more. The arboretum spans miles of trails and land with impressive collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs. Together, they provide trails, lawns and stunning gardens—especially stunning during full bloom in the spring.
7. Kayak the Huron River.
Ann Arbor and its surrounding communities have developed along the banks of the Huron River amid countless lakes and ponds suitable for paddle sports. So, whether you want a challenging route down the river or a peaceful float atop a lake, you’ll find the perfect setting right here.
Some of the best places to get on the river can be found in Argo Park and Gallup Park, which are connected by the Huron River and home to the Argo Canoe Livery and the Gallup Park Canoe Livery, respectively. Through these facilities, you can embark on guided adventures, rent equipment and even attend river-themed events like the Huron River Day Festival, which happens every May!
Directly adjacent to Pinckney Recreation Area, Waterloo Recreation Area offers more than 20,500 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor near Chelsea. Especially famous for its campgrounds, mountain biking trails and educational opportunities, guests in the park can walk or ride more than 40 miles of multi-use trail, boat and fish, visit the Gerald Eddy Discovery Center, bike the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, rent kayaks and canoes, play on swimming beaches, camp, hunt, play disc golf on an 18-hole course, and even ride horses. There are 18 miles of horseback riding trails accessible to anyone, and Horse ‘N Around Stables offers guided trail rides and riding lessons.
Together, Pinckney Recreation Area and Waterloo Recreation Area offer a combined 31,500 acres of wilderness to explore and they’re connected by the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail.
10. Grab a spot on the patio.
Our Ann Arbor community certainly loves being outdoors—whether we’re lounging in a park, exploring a nearby trail or simply enjoying a meal under the sun. And there are plenty of places to do all three. When you’re looking for a meal and a patio, check out The 16 Best Outdoor Patios in Ann Arbor. Our guide includes local businesses like Bill’s Beer Garden, a beer garden and community gathering space that’s open seasonally from March through October, and Dominick’s, a local legend famous for potent sangria, Italian-inspired eats and outdoor seating.
Through decades of history, our Ann Arbor area communities have been built around agriculture. As a result, our neighborhoods are home to thriving family farms, year-round farmers markets, several food and agriculture-based organizations, and dozens of community gardens.
This history has cultivated some of the most important organizations serving our communities, too! For example, Food Gatherers runs a Plant-A-Row program which invites gardeners anywhere to grow extra food for community food pantries. A few community gardens even have designated areas for Plant-A-Row and Food Gatherers.
We the People Growers Association is another force behind urban farming in Washtenaw County. This local farm business was founded by Melvin Parson, the man behind several community gardens in the area, and is working to build the We the People Opportunity Center, a world-class, nonprofit, urban farm in Ypsilanti. To find out how you can help, follow the team on Facebook here.
If you want to grow your own food, build community and help our local organizations, gardening is one of the best ways to do it. And while community gardens are great settings, these plots aren’t always easy to find. To help you find your new gardening home, we rounded up more than 35 community gardens operated by volunteers and organizations throughout Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea and Dexter.
Keep reading to learn more about each garden or organization, and keep in mind some sections have information on more than one garden site. Happy planting!
Project Grow is one of the driving forces behind urban farming and community gardens in the Ann Arbor area. This organization operates more than 20 garden sites around Ann Arbor, including plots at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Leslie Science and Nature Center, and West Park. On the list, you’ll also find three different Discovery Gardens which offer raised beds for limited mobility gardeners. To see the full list, click here.
The Pittsfield Township Master Plan includes initiatives to increase local food availability and their first community garden is working to do just that. Open Spring 2019, the Community Garden at Prairie Park will feature more than 15 different beds, six of which are located on an ADA Accessible surface. Other on-site materials include compost bins, an equipment shed, a pollinator garden and rain barrels. For more information on reserving your plot, click here.
The community garden at Frog Island Park is maintained by the adjacent neighborhoods at the north end, and plots are available to rent on a sliding scale. Open to all residents of the City of Ypsilanti and all skill levels, gardeners are welcome to grow both vegetable and flowers. For more information, check out the group, Frog Island Community Garden (FICG)on Facebook.
Parkridge Community Garden | Ypsilanti
Developed and maintained on city-owned land next to Parkridge Community Center, the Parkridge Community Garden is a hidden gem in Ypsilanti operated by a dedicated group of volunteers and community members. To find out how you can help cultivate the garden and when you can attend special events, join the group on Facebook here.
With assistance from Growing Hope and nearby neighborhoods, Normal Park Neighborhood Association developed three community gardens around Ypsi, including Recreation Park Community Garden, West Middle School Community Garden and Midtown Community Garden, which was developed with the Midtown Neighborhood Association. Plots in these gardens are available through registration and are open to all skill levels for planting organic fruits, vegetables and flowers.
The Chelsea Community Garden at Timber Town Park has plots available by reservation so residents can grow their own organic vegetables and flowers. And as a gardener in this tight-knit community, your household is expected to contribute at least six hours per plot in the gardening season to help with composting, mowing, weeding, administrative duties and more. For full details, click here.
Dexter’s community garden is located at 7651 Dan Hoey Road and plots are assigned to residents on a first come, first served basis. They offer three different sizes and types of plots, which you can reserve here.
Gardens developed for educational + charitable purposes
The University of Michigan has several gardens on campus, including the Campus Farm available to students and interns. Many of these gardens aren’t open to community members, but the Help Yourself Garden at the School of Dentistry is open to everyone! Begun in 2014 as a community resource, the garden is maintained by staff, students and faculty from the School of Dentistry. Anyone walking by is welcome to plant, water and weed, take photos, and even harvest your own veggies to take home. For more information, click here.
This community garden began at the Washtenaw County Youth Center in 2008 by local celebrity Lisa Gottlieb. Today, the garden is directed and guided by a group of Washtenaw County Master Gardeners and community volunteers, but students do all the planting, tending, harvesting and cooking. Together, they grow more than 40 types of vegetables and 10 herbs.
Ypsilanti District Library maintains gardens at YDL-Whittaker, YDL-Michigan and YDL-Superior. These include a community vegetable garden, The Learning Garden and a pollinator garden developed specially for bees. Through these gardens, you can learn about growing and cultivating your own garden. The Learning Garden welcomes any aspiring gardeners to lend a hand and learn. Additionally, fresh produce is given away to library visitors during the growing season!
The Seed Library is another great resource for local gardeners at Ypsilanti District Library. Available to anyone at YDL-Whittaker and YDL-Michigan with or without a library card, this library is a collection of seeds that anyone can take from and contribute to.
The land that is now home to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor was once a family farm, and in 2010, they honored that history by breaking ground on one of the first hospital-based farms in the United States. Today, The Farm serves both as a staff community garden and as a tool for hospital patients and the community to learn, heal and eat locally grown food. If you want to taste the food for yourself, stop by the farmers market that pops up in the main lobby every Wednesday. To learn more about the educational opportunities and facilities on-site, click here.
Growing Hope is a local organization that serves to improve our lives and our communities through gardening and through increased access to healthy food. The Growing Hope Urban Farm began with just 1.5 acres in 2008 and has grown into a community gathering space, educational facility and setting where vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers can flourish. To get hands-on at the farm, check out Growing Hops events here which include Farm & Garden Volunteer Days, cleanup days, special celebrations and more.
This farm is located on 64 acres of the Dawn Farm property in Ypsi. When it began, the program served to put the land to better use and that mission has grown into a beautiful cooperative of varied growers, farmers and stewards who have built the perfect setting for flower growing, beekeeping, vegetable harvesting and even sheep raising. Currently, the land is home to an eight-acre food forest, bees, personal gardens, a market garden and Project Mow which is a sheep lawn mowing service. And the member program is driven by a gift and service system rather than a monetary one. Each member is encouraged to give back to Dawn Farm in an appropriate way of their own choosing, whether it’s through homegrown food, education, system design, community outreach or something else. To stay up-to-date on Cooperative events, follow the team on Facebook here.
If we missed your favorite community garden, tell us about it in the comments below.
Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan offer some of the best and largest parks in the state as well as lakes, river access, hiking trails, biking opportunities and more. But when you’re looking for off-leash opportunities for your dog, it can be tough to navigate the rules, permit requirements and available areas.
To help, we rounded up the Ann Arbor area’s best dog parks available to both residents and non-residents. We also included links to important rules and permit information where necessary.
Keep reading to find your dog’s new favorite play area and be sure to mark your calendar for the annual Doggy Dip at Rolling Hills Water Park! It happens every year around Labor Day and you can get more information here.
Though not an off-leash area, Brighton Recreation Area offers one of the state’s only dog-friendly beaches. Available on a section of shoreline at Chilson Pond, dogs are welcome to play in the water but must be on leash and under control at all times. For more information on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources pet policy, click here.
Located in one of Ann Arbor’s best community parks, the off-leash dog play area at Broadway Park is nestled along the Huron River with a designed area for small and large dogs. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.
The Northville park system currently includes two dog parks. The Cady Street Dog Park offers 0.7 acre of fenced-in play area behind the Northville Art House and has open hours every day of the week. A dog park membership, fee and mandatory education session are required before you and your dog can be admitted. That means the environment is kept safe for all dogs and owners! For more information, click here.
Available year-round to dog park members, Canton Dog Park offers six acres of fenced-in, outdoor space for dogs to run and play off-leash. The park’s separated sections are reserved for dogs under 20 pounds and dogs over 20 pounds so large and small pups can play safely, and owners are asked to keep watch over their dogs at all times. For membership information, click here.
Available year-round from sunrise to sunset, the Lyon Oaks Dog Park offers 13 acres of fenced play area, a separated small dog area, benches, shelter and picnic tables. All licensed dogs are welcome, and owners are asked to keep watch over their dogs at all times. To learn more about all the dog parks managed by Oakland County, click here.
The second of Northville’s dog parks, the off-leash play area at Marv Gans Community Park offers four acres of room to roam. The park also has its own parking lot for easy access. Before you and your dog can be admitted, a dog park membership, fee and mandatory education session are required. That means the environment is kept safe for all dogs and owners! For more information, click here.
Boasting a whopping 54 acres total, Mill Pond Park is the largest community park in Saline. In addition to boat launches, sports fields and walking trails, visitors are welcome to enjoy the Mill Pond Dog Park. Covering one acre, it’s the only local park that offers off-leash water access, so water-loving dogs will definitely have fun!
Located behind the Novi Ice Arena, Novi Dog Park offers three acres of off-leash fun with a separate area for small and timid dogs which covers 3/4 of an acre. The remaining one and a half acres are available to all other dogs. To enter the park, you’ll need to take the dog park quiz and be approved for a membership; for more information, click here.
One of three dog parks managed by the City of Ann Arbor, the dog run at Olson Park is conveniently located next to the parking lot. The fenced area is just one of the attractions in the 54-acre park. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.
Paw Run Recreation Area is a private, 18-acre dog park in Dexter. Located on quiet, private property, the park boasts nearly one mile of mowed trails, a play area with a pond, an agility yard, a secure double-gated entry system, seating for humans and water for both humans and dogs. For information on the required temperament test and the various types of memberships and passes available, click here.
Swift Run Dog Park is jointly managed by The City of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County. Located at the northeast corner of the Swift Run landfill, the off-leash area covers ten acres making it the largest in the city. For more information on the park, required permits, leash laws and other dog policies, click here.
Where do you take your dog?
If you have a favorite place to take your dog in the Ann Arbor area, tell us about it in the comments below!
Founded in 1824, Dexter has been built by Washtenaw County’s farm and agricultural heritage. Today, the community offers attractions that celebrate that history as well as a thriving village center. As the unofficial gateway to the area’s lakes and Metroparks, you’ll discover plenty of places to gather, refuel and rest—and you’ll find some of our favorites on this guide.
Keep reading to find out where you need to go, what you need to see, what you can do and which annual events should be on your calendar.
The home of mouth-watering jelly donuts, Instagram-worthy cupcakes, towering cakes, fluffy soft pretzels and freshly baked breads, The Dexter Bakery is a must-visit near Ann Arbor. In 2018, they were even named the Sweetest Bakery in Michigan through the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest! And they’ve been serving their treats in downtown Dexter for more than 100 years.
Located on Main Street and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this local spot offers authentic chuckwagon cooking and cowboy culture. From full slabs of baby back ribs to BBQ pulled pork served Hotel Hickman baked buns, this is downhome cooking you’ll want to eat every day.
One of the community’s beloved breakfast and lunch spots, Dexter Riverview Cafe is a locally owned and operated eatery. Their menu features fresh, homemade oatmeal, homemade biscuits and gravy, pita sandwiches, coneys, and more.
Located in a historic, former farmhouse in downtown Dexter, The Fillmore Bar & Grill is one of the newest additions to the dining scene in town. Inside their relaxed, cozy home, you can enjoy meals made from scratch using only fresh, house-made and locally sourced ingredients. And the drink menu includes craft beer and craft cocktails!
This cafe, bakery and coffee shop is a Dexter original. They use organic and fair-trade products to create delicious sandwiches, hot soups and cravable pastries like freshly baked scones, vegan muffins, and tea biscuits you can pair with loose leaf teas.
Chela’s serves up authentic Mexican food from two locations: one in Dexter and one in Ann Arbor. Their huge menu of tasty dishes includes classics like barbacoa, al pastor and carne asada alongside vegetarian options and creative fusions.
Using only the highest quality ingredients, sourced directly from family farms in Ecuador, Mindo Chocolate Makers crafts true bean to bar chocolate. And while they’re crafting those delectable bars, they’re supporting local economies in chocolate-growing communities and promoting sustainable practices. Want to take a class or a tour? Click here.
The Encore Musical Theatre Company puts together some of the best live shows in the Ann Arbor area. Typically, their calendar year includes six productions of both classics and new shows. To learn about their kid-friendly summer program, click here.
Founded by Ron Jeffries in 2004, Jolly Pumpkin began in Dexter and now operates pubs and tap houses in Dexter, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Traverse City, Royal Oak, Grand Rapids and Chicago. In the Dexter brewery and tasting room, you can taste their sour beers, celebrate new releases, attend special events and more. The Dexter location is also a full-service restaurant, so if you get hungry, you can snag something from the locally sourced and sustainable menu.
Located on 42 acres, Zingerman’s Cornman Farms is surrounded in all directions by flowers, vegetation and jaw-dropping landscape. As both a working farm and an elegant event venue, the space features an exhibition kitchen for events and culinary classes, a chef’s garden, a classic farmhouse, a four-season barn and a stunning tent pavilion. Led by Executive Chef and Owner Kieron Hales, the foods and the hospitality services are born from his experience in Michelin star kitchens and time spent living and cooking in 27 different countries. If you want to visit, check out their event calendar here which includes a monthly pancake pop-up.
The Dexter Area Historical Society is a nonprofit organization which works to preserve the history of the Dexter area. They do this through their two properties—the Dexter Area Museum and Gordon Hall—where they host public tours, educational opportunities and some of our favorite annual events.
Open seasonally, Dexter Cider Mill is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in the entire state. Today, the team makes cider the same way it was made 120 years ago: using locally grown, hand picked apples on an oak rack press. Even their equipment is over 100-years-old! In addition to natural cider, fresh apples, doughnuts, apple nut bread, made-from-scratch apple pies, apple strudel, apple turnovers and hand rolled gingersnaps, you can also purchase homemade hard ciders made on-site.
Open seasonally from mid-July through August, Dexter Blueberry Farm is a local farm where you can pick your own fresh blueberries. And that tradition began all the way back in the early 1970s when the first field was planted.
This 120-acre park is located on the east side of Dexter along the Huron River. Heavily wooded and filled with wildflowers during the spring, the open space offers shady picnic areas, swings, slides, a softball diamond, fishing and convenient places to launch your canoe on the river.
The setting for some of our favorite events throughout the year, Hudson Mills Metropark covers 1,536 acres and features some of the Huron River’s most picturesque scenery. Activities throughout the year include disc golf on two, 24-hole courses, golfing on the 6,560-yard, par-71 course, cross-country skiing, playing field and court games, camping, fishing, canoeing and so much more.
Mill Creek Park in downtown Dexter has a north side and a south side located on each side of Main Street. In Mill Creek Park North, you can explore 2.15 acres via the pedestrian path, over the pedestrian bridge and along the scenic Mill Creek which flows northeast into the Huron River.
Developed in partnership with Huron River Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail is a non-motorized pathway that connects cities, parks, neighborhoods and trails throughout Washtenaw County. Eventually, the trail will span 70 total miles. And a section of those miles already connects downtown Dexter directly to the Metroparks system.
Hosted by the Dexter Area Historical Society, Gordon Hall Days is an exciting and historic community event that features barn raising demonstrations, an antique market, tours of Gordon Hall, arts and crafts, kid-friendly games, animal demonstrations, afternoon tea inside Gordon Hall, the Dexter History Walk, a car show, food and live music. For information on this year’s event, click here.
For nearly 50 years, Dexter Daze has been providing an occasion for our communities’ families to come together and celebrate with artisans and crafters, local businesses and free entertainment. This event is put together each year by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce.
En plein air is the act of painting outdoors, and the Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival invites artists and community members to do just that! Over the course of four days, local and visiting artists will paint in and around Dexter. Then, non-painters can view and purchase artwork at the three-day exhibit in Monument Park.
Every Friday during the summer, the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce hosts this summer series in the Monument Park Gazebo. The free shows start with the Dexter Community Orchestra, continue with other local bands, and include other live performances.
The Dexter Lions Club sponsors Apple Daze in celebration of Michigan’s most famous product: apples! In Monument Park during harvest season, the event includes hayrides, apple pie eating contests, a classic car show, games for kids, cider, doughnuts and candy apples, craft booths, and more.
On the day of Halloween, you can find Main Street businesses open for trick or treaters all day. Then, the holiday culminates in a kid-friendly party in Monument Park during the afternoon—all hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce!
Epic Races celebrates Thanksgiving with a race through Hudson Mills Metropark. This running and walking event features three different distances: a 5K loop around scenic Hudson Mills, a 10K course comprised of two 5K loops, and a quick mile fun run.
An event hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce, Dexter After Dark invites local businesses to stay open late and shoppers can enjoy special sales, giveaways, prizes and more to kick off the holiday season.
This one-mile fun run and 5k in Dexter has become one of our favorite family traditions in the area. The hilly dash through the community allows participants to take in the neighborhood light displays and run in festive costume and lights, too! A portion from each registration is donated to local charities and race day participants can bring non-perishable food items to receive free raffle tickets.
Did you fall in love with Dexter?
If you want to find your permanent home in Dexter, Michigan, click here to see homes for sale in the area.
From Ann Arbor to Dexter and all the way to Northville—Southeast Michigan knows how to welcome Santa Claus! With events and workshops popping up right after Thanksgiving and through Christmas Eve, you and your family will have plenty of opportunities to share your wish lists in person this holiday season.
We rounded up the events, the brunches and the malls that will be hosting Father Christmas himself. Mark your calendars, check for registration or ticket requirements, and get those wish lists and festive sweaters ready!
From mid-November through Christmas Eve, Santa and his shop will be set up in Briarwood Mall every single day. Hours vary each day and there are FastPass options to skip the line. For more information, click here.
The farm fun at Three Cedars doesn’t stop after Halloween. Country Christmas turns the farm into a winter wonderland complete with Christmas trees, wreaths, hot cocoa, roping and photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. The farm will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Click here for hours.
Southern Michigan Railroad keeps this event small and inexpensive so the community’s kids can have a spectacular holiday experience. This December, hop on the train and enjoy a ride to meet Santa himself. From there, the train will take you back to your car for a 30 minute round trip. Book online today before tickets sell out and be sure to bring a toy for Toys for Tots!
The City of Saline is hosting three PJ’s & Stories with Santa events on December 6th. For just $8, kids in their coziest pajamas can enjoy sing-a-longs, crafts, photo opportunities, stories, and treats like milk, cookies and hot chocolate. Pre-register online here.
Situated on 85 acres, this Northville farm has been a landmark in the community for more than 100 years. Here, children and families can experience the joy of animals, agriculture, farmland and forests year-round. Each December, the farm celebrates the season with Santa Visits. Available two weekends in December, families can come to the Holiday Open House to enjoy delicious treats like hot cocoa and cider, shop in the General Store, see the farm in the snow and meet Santa. There is no admission charge for this event but donations are appreciated.
The two Santa Central events at Hudson Mills Metropark on December 9th allow you and your family to meet Santa and take photos with your own camera. Then, you can all enjoy a hayride and make seasonal crafts to take home. For pre-registration information, click here.
Each year, Father Christmas himself comes to Matthaei Botanical Gardens for one day. A Visit with Father Christmas allows parents, kids, individuals and families to come to the gardens for free and get a great, festive photo with Santa.
This year, Brunch with Santa is happening at Kensington Hotel on December 15th from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Past events have included omelet stations, vegetarian options like the Michigan Apple Cherry Salad, potatoes, a dessert bar, and the always popular waffle and pancake topping bar.
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on December 16th, guests to Polo Fields Country Club can eat, drink, visit and take photos with Santa! Prices are $36 for adults, $16 for children between 3 and 12, and free for children two years and younger. To see the menu, click here, and call (734) 998-1555 to make reservations.
It’s not every day you get a craving for freshly baked bread, a warm jelly donut, a fluffy soft pretzel, a scratch-made scone or a decadent macaron. If that list made your craving hit right now, then we have just the round-up for you, because our Ann Arbor area communities are home to some of the best makers and bakers around and they’re providing fresh baked goods that satisfy all those cravings and more.
Keep reading to learn where you can track down the best in local baked goods, including everything from downtown storefronts to online shops and businesses that can only be found at area farmers’ markets. Enjoy!
Avalon International Breads originally opened their humble Detroit storefront in 1997 striving to offer artisan baked goods made with 100% organic flour. Today, they’ve developed the building blocks of the region’s agri-urban economy and operate five storefronts and restaurants total. Their first and only location outside of Detroit is located right here in Ann Arbor where they serve outstanding menus for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner alongside their breads, seasonal pies, cakes, cookies, scones, granola bars and more.
If you’ve ever felt a craving for seasonal donuts, fresh soft pretzels, warm cookies or chocolate éclairs filled with homemade vanilla custard, head to Benny’s. This Saline original churns out some of the best baked goods in Southeast Michigan and it’s all made fresh.
Whether you’re in search of a custom cake, a holiday pie, a morning cinnamon roll, or just a sweet treat for yourself, Big City Small World should be at the top of your list. This hometown bakery makes everything in-house, from scratch and fresh every day; they even candy their own ginger for their orange-ginger scone and the apples in their apple pies come from local orchards!
Regularly available at the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market and Milan Third Thursdays, Czechbox Bakery is the only bakery of its kind in the Ann Arbor area. As a Michigan Cottage Food business providing heritage eastern European baked goods, founder and baker Gretchen Kopmanis creates authentic treats and breads seasonally based on Michigan produce. Check out the website to see what she bakes or to place an order and follow Czechbox on Facebook to track it all down.
The Cupcake Station has five locations in the Ann Arbor area, including one downtown. Made in-house and from scratch every day, you’ll find 24 unique flavors available each time you visit. Stop in to try creations like Cotton Candy Sweet Treat, Hot Fudge Sundae and Strawberry Sunshine.
The home of mouth-watering jelly donuts, Instagram-worthy cupcakes, towering cakes, fluffy soft pretzels and freshly baked breads, The Dexter Bakery is a must-visit near Ann Arbor. In 2018, they were even named the Sweetest Bakery in Michigan through the Sweetest Bakery in America Contest! And they’ve been serving their treats in Downtown Dexter for more than 100 years.
A local, family run and oriented business, Ed’s Bread is a staple of the Saline community and also happens to produce some of the tastiest baked goods in the area. Baked fresh from scratch, their lineup frequently includes muffins, huge cookies, fresh bread, bagels, and some of the best homemade granola in town.
Born from a love of French culture, Le Bon Macaron is a local, family business that offers two of the most charming cafés in Michigan: one in Grand Rapids and one in Downtown Ann Arbor. On the menu, you’ll find French press coffee and espresso from Rowster Coffee, fresh scones made daily, ice cream sundaes with Cone Appetit craft ice cream, French and Italian sodas made with handcrafted fruit puree and, of course, the macarons that have made them famous.
The Lunch Room Bakery & Cafe is the second location of the beloved, plant-based eatery The Lunch Room. As the headquarters of The Lunch Room Bakery, it’s where they make all their breads in-house from scratch. On any given day, the lineup of baked goods available to purchase includes breads, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, cakes, donuts and more. And they’re all vegan!
As lovers and crafters of impeccable cheesecakes, this local business produces some of the best cakes in the region. Though you won’t find them in a brick-and-mortar store yet, you can find their cheesecakes at Cream & Crumb in Ypsi and follow the team on Facebook.
This Ann Arbor shop is a small, locally-owned bakery that offers fresh baked goods with a focus on breakfast pastries. That means they’re the place to go to satisfy every croissant, danish, pillow puff, sticky bun or pasty craving.
Found at local farmers’ markets + Earthen Jar |Facebook
The Simple Pleasures story began when Jasmine wanted her brother to enjoy the same pastries and sweet treats everyone else loved without straying from his strict vegetarian and eggless diet. Today, the venture has turned into a full-fledged baked goods business that caters to special diets, including gluten-free, vegan, eggless and sugar-free. You can find these sweets and breads sold at Earthen Jar in Ann Arbor and several farmers’ markets throughout the area.
Sweet Heather Anne is perhaps the most photographed bakery in Ann Arbor thanks to the team’s jaw-dropping special occasion cakes, macarons and other special order treats. Though they ran their public dessert counter for six years, they recently had to reduce the hours to holidays and events. You can still shop their famous macarons and sea salt chocolate chip cookies online, order for your own special occasion treats, and swing by the dessert counter during holiday hours.
A must-visit no matter what your diet, Tasty Bakery offers high-quality, gluten-free artisan baked goods that are indiscernible from any glutinous treat. Additionally, many of their cakes, cookies, bars, brownies, scones and breads are also soy free, organic, vegan and naturally sweetened. Swing by their bakery or find them at the year-round Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market to taste the difference for yourself!
White Lotus Farms is an Ann Arbor institution specializing in organic produce, homemade breads, artisan goat and cow’s milk cheeses and soothing botanicals. Showcasing the same passion for local, sustainable and handcrafted in every facet of the farm, the bakery produces some of the best breads in Michigan. While the bread is not certified organic, it is made with 100% organic grains and can be found at markets throughout the area, including Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, Argus Farm Stop, and Eastern Market in Detroit.
Housed in a charming storefront no Plymouth Road, Yoon’s Bakery is a Korean bakery based on the French style of baking. The team serves a unique selection of fresh baked goods that includes sweetbreads, savory breads, cakes and fluffy buns stuffed with things like homemade strawberry cream cheese. Yum!
After running Zingerman’s Delicatessen for ten years, owners Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig wanted to improve the flavors by baking their own breads. So, in September of 1992, they teamed up with Frank Carollo and just five other staff members to open the beloved Zingerman’s Bakehouse. Today, 130 staff members and partners make pastries, breads and other treats from scratch daily.
Michigan is famous for its fall foliage thanks to the kaleidoscope of color found in our state’s open spaces, along the shores of our lakes and rivers, across rolling hillsides, and even in our tree-filled cities. And no other city could be more tree-filled than Tree Town.
Though the state’s Gold Coast rates as one of America’s Best Color Drives, according to Travel and Leisure magazine (and we definitely recommend doing it at least once), you don’t have to travel outside of Ann Arbor for a Michigan fall color tour of equally epic proportions.
Right in the city, you can meander the sidewalks and parks of the Old West Side, Huron Parkway or the University of Michigan campus. But if you have a little extra time and a stronger craving for brilliant reds, oranges and golds, we recommend hitting up these regional parks, recreation areas, and even one railroad!
One of the best ways to see Michigan’s changing leaves is to hop on a canoe and cruise down the Huron River. Ann Arbor’s canoe liveries—located in Gallup Park and Argo Park—are open through the end of October so you don’t even need to buy your own canoe or kayak! While you’re in Gallup Park, you’ll get the opportunity to explore the 69 acres that make up the town’s most popular recreation area. Amidst the trees, you can enjoy scenic walkways that traverse small islands and pedestrian bridges as well as more than three miles of asphalt trails available for biking, rollerblading, walking and running.
The University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum began in 1907 and has developed into miles of trails and land home to collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs. These plants transform during the fall to showcase some of the best colors in Southeast Michigan, including golds, reds and even inky purples.
Furstenberg Nature Area is a 38-acre park containing wetlands, woodlands, prairie and oak savannah just west of Gallup Park. Owned and maintained by the city since 1971, the open space offers a half-mile paved trail that loops through the park and a granular trail that goes through the prairie and woods then connects to a quarter mile of wetland boardwalk. The heavily wooded lands boast a huge variety of oaks, maples and other types of colorful trees.
Located on the Huron River in the center of Ypsilanti, Riverside Park consists of 13.8 acres and connects downtown Ypsi with Depot Town. Whether you’re fishing on the river, riding your bike, or walking along the trail during the fall, you’re guaranteed a glimpse of our state’s famous seasonal foliage.
Located just five miles northwest of Ann Arbor, Delhi Metropark offers 52 acres of mature oak trees, open, grassy lawns, playgrounds, softball diamonds and more. Because the park is nestled against a bend in the Huron River, it has become a popular fishing and canoeing destination—both great activities during the fall! While you’re there, you may even spot a great blue heron, turtles or a white-tailed deer.
Each year, the Southern Michigan Railroad hosts Fall Color Tours, seasonal events that explore the area’s changing foliage from the comfort of a train car. Because the rides sell out every single year, the railroad is offering even more seating options now, including the open-air car for fair weather, the historic interurban coach and the entire Memorial Caboose available to rent. Rides depart on October 6th and 7th, 13th and 14th during the Appleumpkin Festival, 20th and 21st, and 27th and 28th. You can get more details on the website here.
Covering a whopping 11,000 acres, Pinckney State Recreation Area is one of our favorite outdoor destinations in the Ann Arbor area. Known for its extensive trail system and chain of excellent fishing lakes, the park also offers over forty miles of multi-use trails, picnicking, playgrounds, beaches, a concession stand, boat launches and rowboat, canoe, paddle boat and kayak rentals.
The largest park in the Lower Peninsula, Waterloo Recreation Area consists of more than 20,000 acres. Across these grounds, you’ll find two modern campgrounds, a rustic campground, an equestrian campground, swimming beaches, several picnic sites, 11 fishing lakes, eight boat launches, 12 miles of interpretive nature trails, 47 miles of hiking trails, four rustic cabins, a yurt, equestrian trails, mountain biking trails, and the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. While exploring these grounds during the fall, keep your eyes peeled for russet red and blazing oranges.
Covering 4,947 acres, Brighton Recreation Area is a hilly, outdoor paradise interspersed with a number of picturesque lakes, 19 miles of trails and a full-service riding stable open through early December. When you reserve a trail ride with Brighton Recreation Riding Stable, you can explore Michigan foliage on horseback!
Combing serene woods with the calm waters of the Huron River, Hudson Mills Metropark offers 1,536 acres of land home to an 18-hole golf course, two 24-hole disc golf courses, a three-mile, paved hike and bike loop, and the nearly five-mile West River Trail which connects to the Hudson Mills loop and takes hikers and bikers on a journey that ends in downtown Dexter.
Independence Lake County Park is one of Washtenaw County’s favorite open spaces thanks to 360 acres, 3.5 miles of hiking and biking trails, two miles of paved trails and, of course, fishing, boating and swimming in Independence Lake. Stroll along the lakeshore to get accustomed to the bright, changing colors then head to the edges of the Indy and Woodcock prairies to see the best color in the park!