Michigan's status as an outdoor wonderland is well-known by now to the many hunters, skiers, fishermen and hikers who come looking for a little slice of nature to call their own, if only for a little while. For those who are looking for a less-specific natural experience, and one that's often contained within a city or the like, there will be options for you as well in Michigan. With that in mind, pack up a picnic basket and maybe a little sunscreen—you'll be outside for quite a while—and let's check out 10 of the best parks that Michigan can offer!
Found in Southfield, not too far from Metro Detroit, is a park home to one of the best playgrounds that Michigan can boast. Built with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and built with a farm theme in mind, kids can enjoy slides, jungle gyms, and a host of other structures with a distinctly barnyard feel. Those not interested in—or too big for—such accoutrements can instead enjoy the jogging trails and outdoor grilling spaces that will allow a lunch break to be a hot meal and perfect fuel for more play.
While it may surprise some that one of Michigan's best parks is in the Upper Peninsula, it really shouldn't surprise at all. Located on a beachfront inlet of Lake Superior opens up a lot of possibilities for swimming and sand castles, but the real winner here is the massive wooden play structure offered up for the kids. Containing a minimum of five different plastic tunnels—at least three of these are angled to serve as slides—it's the kind of thing to make even the most video-jaded kid's eyes pop.
South Haven's proximity to Lake Michigan makes it a popular destination, and so there are quite a few noteworthy parks in this town. Kids Corner Park is one of the most distinctive among the lot of noteworthy breeds, as not only will there be picnic supplies aplenty—a shelter, tables and grills—but there will also be a ballfield with bleachers, a set of public restrooms, and a massive castle-themed wooden structure for the kids to enjoy and giving rise to the name.
Holland plays host to Centennial Park, measuring in at 5.6 acres of parkland in one of Michigan's most attractive cities. Many common amenities will be on hand here, including a gazebo, restrooms, a fountain, a reflecting pool, and a whole slate of shade trees to provide comfort on Michigan's warmer summer days. Not surprisingly, tulips are also a part of Centennial Park, and several beds are on hand. Check out some historical markers, a statue of area figure Albertus Van Raalte, and a complete seasonal tropical plant display that's been on hand since the Victorian era.
A park measuring over five miles, and running from Belle Isle—which we'll talk about later, an impressive park in its own right—to the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, reports note, this park is crammed full of exciting offerings. Featuring a complete cafe, a playscape, a set of fountains that visitors can actually run through, those are just the opening act. Detroit Riverfront features its own carousel. Settle in and have a picnic amid a host of offerings outdoors in the middle of one of Michigan's biggest city.
Another of South Haven's entries, Dyckman Park has a little something different depending on the season. In the summer, it's known for its farmers market, and in winter, for its ice rink. A gazebo makes a great place to settle in and enjoy some “people watching,” and since it's right next door to the South Haven Visitors Bureau, it can make a great place to set up headquarters while deciding your next move in South Haven.
Grand Rapids' Ah-Nab-Awen Park offers a great connection to art. Formerly the site of a Native American village, it now shows off a variety of art installations and was built with public input to create the best result. The name Ah-Nab-Awen actually comes with some history. Recommended by the Elders of the Three Fires Council, the name translates as “Resting Place,” making it a fit both with its history and its current use, providing both temporary and eternal rest.
While Addison Oaks in Leonard will require some entry fees, it may well be worth what's paid for. A 1,140-acre park with two lakes, visitors will be able to settle in for a picnic spot on the shores of those very lakes. Going during warmer weather will have extra rewards, as swimming is on hand for those interested. Throw in hiking and biking routes and an entire day of outdoor fun can be on hand at Addison Oaks.
Another park that features some entry fees—though these vary depending on whether or not you have a state recreation passport—Detroit's Belle Isle will still have a lot to offer. In the middle of the Detroit River, it will provide a whole new perspective for visitors, and then follow that up with picnic tables and biking routes. Throw in a complete zoo and recently-renovated aquarium and there's going to be a host of reasons to hit Belle Isle.
In Ludington, this 5,300-acre ultra-park offers a slate of exciting features, ranging from lighthouse tours to guided dune tours. Its proximity to Lake Michigan opens up plenty of new possibilities as well, including boat rentals. Just to top it off, it was ranked as one of the best state parks in the Midwest by no less than Midwest Living magazine, which makes it a prince among princes as parks go.