How to Kick Off & Spend Your Summer Vacation

Board games, bike rides and sprints through the sprinkler will keep your kid busy for only so long this summer break – and those will all probably be booooooooring by the end of June. There are still two months to plan for. What’s an enterprising parent to do without letting her progeny plug themselves into a video game for 10 straight weeks?

Luckily, living in Michigan, the answer is quite literally all around you.

“The best way to enjoy summertime in Michigan is by being outside,” says Matt Pedigo, chair of the Michigan Wildlife Council. “And if you spend all day inside at work, planning a quick weekend getaway with your family – even just a day trip – is a perfect excuse to soak up some of that summer.”

Spending time fishing at a local recreation area is a great way to spend time together as a family, as well as build a connection with the outdoors. Featured: Fishing on Frenchman’s Lake, Chippewa County

Thanks to the abundance of wooded areas and waterways in Southeast Michigan, nature hikes, fishing trips and quick car-camping adventures are all within an hour’s drive from any metro Detroit home. And with studies showing that today’s kids spend considerably less time outdoors than previous generations did, a day or two in the woods or out on a lake can spur a lifetime of interest in wildlife.

“Spending time with your child interacting in nature is a great way to build a bond not only with each other, but with the environment, too,” Pedigo says. “You can make lifelong memories while you’re starting a valuable conversation about the importance of being considerate in the outdoors.”

A car camping trip can allow you to immerse your child in the outdoors, even if it’s just overnight. In Southeast Michigan, there’s always a campground well within an hour’s drive. Featured: Recreation 101 – Introduction to Camping, event held on Belle Isle.

To start that conversation, Pedigo had these suggestions for getting out of Dodge (or Dearborn) for the day and getting in touch with your wild side:

Recreate away
There are seven state recreation areas and one state park within an hour of metro Detroit. Most have overnight camping capabilities, making for a nice, user-friendly introduction to sleeping on the ground if you’ve got a first-timer in your midst. Car camping is a great way to feel like you really “got away” for the weekend and can turn an overnight excursion into a dynamic memory builder.

Those areas also feature lots of hiking trails, horseback rentals and swimming spots. In addition, two locations recently became home to new floating water parks. Jump Island at the Brighton Recreation Area features an inflatable iceberg, slides, runways and obstacles that kick the average day-at-the-beach experience up a few notches, and the WhoaZone at the Holly Recreation Area offers four different routes at various levels of difficultly, and includes a giant springboard, “wiggle bridge” and half-pipe.

There’s no shortage of places in Metro Detroit for an impromptu overnight camping adventure, including many state parks and recreation areas. Featured: Recreation 101 – Introduction to Camping, event held on Belle Isle.

Drop a line
Probably the best way to get up close and personal with nature is to literally get hands-on with it. A fishing trip to Belle Isle, along the St. Clair River or in many of the ponds, lakes and streams around Detroit will allow you to teach a wide range of skills … including patience. This map allows you to search for fishing-friendly spots by county. And a good way to, ahem, get your feet wet is the Kids Fishing Fest on June 10 in downtown Detroit. The event includes free snacks, free bait (yes, those are two separate things) and a limited number of free poles to borrow. Just make sure at least one person in your outing knows how to get a fish off a hook before you go!

And pro tip: If you’re planning to drop a line in the water, don’t forget to pick up your fishing license before you head out. It’s not only the law, but it allows you to financially support conservation efforts in Michigan, as fishing and hunting license dollars go directly toward activities like wildlife habitat rehabilitation and endangered species management.

Island fever
Harsens Island in Clay Township is one of metro Detroit’s hidden gems. Located on the northern bank of Lake St. Clair, Harsens Island is less than a two-hour drive from Ferndale, but it’s like a pocket universe of adventure: Within a few minutes’ walk, you can go fishing, bird-watching, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and boating.

It’s located in the largest freshwater delta in North America, and if you decide to try your luck with a rod and reel, you may just snag one of the biggest fish in Michigan: Harsens Island is the Sturgeon Angling Capital of Michigan, but the marshes and wetlands also make this island famous for world-class bass, muskie, pike, perch and walleye fishing.  

At its website,, the Michigan Wildlife Council can help keep your conversation about nature going long after you get home from your weekend adventure. There are plenty of real-life conservation stories that demonstrate the necessity of managing native plants and animal populations in order to help them thrive – and possibly provide answers to some of the questions you may have been asked but weren’t getting a strong enough phone signal to search online at the time.

What are you outdoor plans for this summer? Share them with us!


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