Experience the Outdoors of Detroit

Michigan is often near the top of must-visit lists for outdoor lovers, especially those who like water sports.

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Michigan is often near the top of must-visit lists for outdoor lovers, especially those who like water sports. While the city of Detroit may not conjure thoughts of pristine outdoor landscapes ready to be explored, thrill-seekers should give Motor City a chance with these adventure-packed options. If you’re ready for some outdoor fun, check out these four places in Detroit.

Outdoor Adventure Center

Established by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Outdoor Adventure Center invites you to enjoy a taste of the state’s wild places — without leaving the city and all indoors. The interactive exhibits allow visitors to climb the giant roots of a 35-foot bur oak tree, peek through a lightning-strike fissure into a bear’s den, and then walk through its branches on a suspension bridge.

A panorama view of the Detroit, Michigan skyline from the Riverfront Trail on a bright sunny day shows and a bright blue sky and  skyscrapers

If you love winter pursuits but not the frosty bite of sub-zero weather, hop on a snowmobile simulator to enjoy a ride through the state’s snowy expanses without losing feeling in your fingers and toes. Other exhibits allow you to stand inside a full-size eagle’s nest and step into a beaver lodge set in the wetlands. The OAC is a great destination for kids and adults alike.

Detroit River

The 28-mile Detroit River flows past downtown between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, providing an easily accessible option for getting outdoors. Kayak under bridges and along the city’s shoreline, including several waterfront parks with amazing views of the skyline as a backdrop. Join a tour with one of several outfitters, such as Riverside Kayak Connection, and paddle around Belle Isle, or explore the lagoon and historical canals.

You can also step ashore to check out the botanical gardens at the Belle Isle Conservatory. Nearby, the Belle Isle Nature Center offers an up-close view of Michigan wildlife. An observation window provides great views of native and migratory birds as well as the island’s fallow deer.

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Kensington Metropark

To enjoy an oasis of natural beauty packed with outdoor activities, head to the sprawling 4,500-acre Kensington Metropark, located a short distance from downtown on the outskirts of the city. Boasting nearly 35 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding through wooded and rolling hills, the park is a popular destination, even in the frigid winter months. Take advantage of deep snow to do some sledding and cross-country skiing.

Green grass, trees, and blue sky with clouds in a Detroit metropark on a summer day.

In warm months, take a dip at one of two beaches along the 1,200-acre Kent Lake, or rent a canoe or rowboat to explore the wilderness along the shoreline. Hop aboard the Island Queen III, a 46-passenger pontoon boat, for a relaxing tour of the lake and its resident sandhill cranes, swans, and other birds.

Dequindre Cut

Named for a former rail-line “cut” below street level, the two-mile Dequindre Cut near downtown is a paved greenway and haven of urban nature for joggers and bikers. Get some sun strolling or jogging along the walkway, or test your endurance by hopping on a bike — check out Wheelhouse Detroit for bike rentals — and hitting the bike lane.

View of downtown Detroit at dusk near the riverfront with skyscrapers in the background.

Colorful street art and graffiti-covered walls are still in place long after the cut’s 2009 opening, and artists are welcome to add to the art. The greenway starts at the city’s popular Eastern Market on the northern end and finishes at the RiverWalk on the shores of the Detroit River in the south.

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