As spring is itching to arrive, we too are clamoring to get out of the house and explore once again! We want to wander around and see pretty things. Don’t you? Luckily, there is an isle in Detroit that makes this possible on any given weekend – even throughout the annoying Midwest winter.
Belle Isle | Detroit, Michigan
Belle Isle Park is located in Detroit and is one of the Michigan State Parks; therefore a Recreation Passport is required for entry. However, as long as you have the proper Recreation Passport (typically $11-$16 per year) to get onto the Belle Isle, there are several free things to enjoy once you get there!
Desperately needing an opportunity to wander, we decided to head over and spend some time on Belle Isle over the weekend. It was cold, it was winter, but none of that really mattered.
Once on the island, we found no lack of things to keep us entertained. It was fun. It was certainly beautiful. And the best part was that many of the attractions on the island were free to enjoy.
4 Free Things to Do on Belle Isle During the Winter
Because most of the attractions required no entry fee, we were really able to do a lot as a family. If we entered an attraction that the kids didn’t particularly care for, we could just pop over to the next. No biggie – no wasted money. I think this was a big part of why we had such an amazing day together; we were free to spend it how we wanted.
So what were some of the amazing experiences we had? Well, I’d love to share them with you.
1. Dossin Great Lakes Museum
Such a great location for families! This museum has a great mixture of kids activities to engage them in learning, while also offering adults interesting knowledge about the great lakes; including information on some of the shipwrecks that have taken place. This location also offers artifacts and an amazing view of the Detroit River.
2. Belle Isle Nature Center
I never knew that Belle Isle was home to several European fallow deer; they look nothing like the deer we typically see in Michigan. Although, at the Belle Isle Nature Center, we were able to see them close up and even feed them. It was certainly interesting to hear the stories about how they may have arrived on the island and the efforts to keep them healthy after overpopulation and illness placed strain on the herd.
Along with meeting the fallow deer, the Belle Island Zoo is also home to several amphibians, bees, and local wildlife. We loved the opportunity to learn about them as we wandered around the grounds.
There is also an outdoor play area for kids at this location if the weather is warm enough.
3. Belle Isle Aquarium
You really need to see this place! Not only is it fun to see and learn about different fish species but the building itself is mesmerizing. Green tiles cover the walls and ceiling; almost reminiscent of fish scales. . .
4. Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Just when it feels as if winter has become a bit too overbearing, a trip to the Belle Isle Conservatory helps to lift the weight. Wandering through rows upon rows of brightly blooming flowers is exactly what’s needed. The smell of fresh dirt brings joy to my heart as if a chance meeting with an old friend.
If the weather permits, a walk in the outdoor gardens can also warm your soul. Just don’t forget to gaze back upon the unique structure of the conservatory from afar. Beauty can be found both inside and out.
5. James Scott Memorial Fountain
Even with the freeze of winter and lack of water, it is easy to spend countless moments soaking in the beauty of this fountain.
And Then When Summer Arrives. . .
the fun continues with athletic fields, a beach, a giant slide, and fun recreational rentals!
Important Things to Know About Visiting Belle Isle
Hours of Operation: Belle Isle Park is open year-round Sunday-Saturday from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Individual attractions may have their own hours of operation.
Recreation Passport: Required to access Belle Isle. Get one on location or at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport.
Parking: Available at several locations on the island. Most attractions have their own parking areas for easy access.
Pricing: Once on the island, it is free to access many of the attractions. However, donations are accepted and appreciated at each.