Detroit’s Belle Isle is a beautiful natural space in the middle of the Detroit River. It offers a range of public facilities including sporting fields, a beach and conservatory. The 982-acre (397-hectare) park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, a renowned American landscape designer who also worked on Boston’s “Emerald Necklace.”
Take in Olmsted’s design with a jog or stroll through the grounds. There are three lakes and a lagoon, as well as plenty of space for picnics and facilities for barbecues. Kids will love the playground with tunnels and swings, and it won’t take them long to hunt down the park’s giant slide. They’ll also enjoy the waterslide at the Belle Isle beach, the only beach along the Detroit River.
Sports fans can get their fix over by the old Field House, where there are volleyball courts, and baseball, rugby and soccer fields. Golfers can tee off on the full-length driving range or practice on the putting and chipping greens. See fallow deer, several species of turtle and all kinds of amphibians at the Belle Isle Nature Zoo. There’s also a butterfly garden and a nature trail around Blue Herron Lagoon.
Visit the Gothic-style aquarium to admire the architecture and fish native to the Great Lakes area. Wander over to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory to see the orchid collection, fernery and rose garden. Boat enthusiasts will be rapt with the hands-on exhibits and one of the world’s largest collections of scale models at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum.
Walking around the park you’ll notice landmarks like the James Scott Memorial Fountain and two cannons captured from the British in 1812.
Belle Isle is open every day of the week. Operating hours for facilities vary, so call ahead or check the website for details. By car, the park is about 15 minutes from downtown. Public transportation doesn’t go onto the island.