10 ways to keep summer alive a while longer
Summer in Michigan: Lakes, beaches, boating, trips up north, warm nights, outdoor activities galore and so much more.
It’s the shortest of seasons (or so it seems), and the hardest to let go of. And while Labor Day traditionally marks the end of summer in these pleasant peninsulas, we’re here to tell you that it’s not over yet. We have nearly a month before the pages of the calendar turn to fall, so get out and make the most of it.
Here are a few suggestions to savor the last days of summer from The Detroit News staff:
Picnic by Kent Lake in Kensington MetroPark
I have been talking about taking a picnic supper to enjoy by the water all summer, and now I’m going to do it.
This beautiful and serene lake created by a dammed section of the Huron River provides plenty of cozy spots for a quiet picnic for two. Take your bikes or canoe then stop along the way on this gorgeous 4,000-acre-plus section of Southeastern Michigan between Milford and South Lyon.
Boat rentals are also available, as are horse trails, a disc golf course, nature center and hiking-only trails. Pack some baguette sandwiches made with prosciutto and brie and arugula and a cold pasta or grain salad and your favorite beverage. You may hate saying goodbye to summer, but you’ll be giving it quite the send-off.
Enjoy the restored Scott Fountain at Belle Isle
There are few places in Detroit as lovely as the Scott Fountain at Belle Isle, especially at twilight, when a hazy violet light washes over its pearly marble surfaces, giving a sheen to the five-tier fountain. If an early moon is out, it’s even more supernatural a sight. And now that the fountain and its infrastructure have been restored, you can once again see plumes of water jetting up from the turtles, dolphins, lions and figures of Neptune.
But the water flows only on the weekends, and the best time to bask in the misty air is a warm day — like now. With the later early evening light in Michigan at peak beauty in late summer and early fall, it’s the perfect time to visit the fountain and lounge in one of the new Parisian-style cafe chairs.
The Scott Fountain was built with money left to the city in 1910 when Detroiter James Scott died. Scott may not have done much for Detroit in his lifetime — he was pretty roundly pilloried as a scoundrel — but the $500,000 spent in 1910 to construct this beauty has given joy to generations of Detroiters.
Sit with friends in an outdoor beer garden
There’s merely drinking outside in the sun, and then there’s raising a glass in a German-style beer garden (or beirgarten). It’s an activity that can go well into the fall, but it’s best when the weather is warm and the beer is cold.
A proper beer garden has long tables, hearty suds and maybe some food. Some of our favorites are the outdoor spaces at Ashley’s (7525 N. Wayne in Westland) and Griffin Claw Brewing Company (575 S. Eton in Birmingham). Both offer plentiful communal seating and access to each restaurant’s full menu as well as beer selection.
In Ann Arbor, Bill’s Beer Garden goes strong through Halloween. Located in the gated parking lot of Downtown Home & Garden (218 S. Ashley in Ann Arbor), Bill’s serves about a dozen Michigan beers on draft, and more in cans. They also have wine, soft drinks and food from Mark’s Carts.
Soak it up at a splash park
Before the weather cools off for good, get the kids to one of Metro Detroit’s splash parks.
A new one recently opened in Palmer Park, which replaced a pool that had been damaged by vandals. Many of the Huron-Clinton Metro Parks such as Indian Springs, Lake St. Clair and Kensington boast water playgrounds, too. Hurry, though, as most of these attractions plan to close for the season after Labor Day.
Wander the deep woods
Americans — and in particular, kids — are so disconnected from the natural world these days, social scientists have given it a name: Nature Deficit Disorder. It turns out that the forests from which we emerged millions of years ago are key to our mental health. So invest in a little psychological stability by getting out into the woods this summer, before shorter days and colder weather discourage the impulse.
Metro Detroit is fortunate in being surrounded by parks that specialize in this particular therapy. On the west side, the Pinckney State Recreation Area (8555 Silver Hill, Pinckney) offers the scenic Crooked Lake Trail, a moderately difficult 5.1 mile loop that takes the adventurous through hardwood forests, marshes, grassy hillsides and past three inland lakes.
The Woodland Trail at Indian Springs Metropark (5200 Indian Trail, White Lake Township) is a 3.6-mile loop ideal for beginners, that lazily winds through wet forests, fields and meadows en route to a boardwalk through a marsh to isolated Timberland Lake.
North of Rochester, the moderately difficult White & Blue Trails at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area (1330 E. Greenshield, Lake Orion) combine to form 3.6-miles of wooded bliss, with entertainment provided by cool views of five lakes, not to mention ponds, streams and marshy areas. So strap on your boots and get walking.
Michael H. Hodges
Eat BBQ ribs
Summer isn’t the only time to eat ribs, but it’s the best time.
Something about the hotter months makes biting into a rack of ribs that much better. The sweet meat, the succulent sauces: They taste like summer the same way apple cider and donuts taste like fall.
There’s an urgency for rib eating this year for me. Windsor’s Tunnel Bar-B-Q, an international favorite for 73 years, is closing its doors for good on Monday. The land has been sold to the University of Windsor, and the casual ribs joint — the first thing you see when entering Windsor via the tunnel — is in its final days. Generations of Detroiters have been enjoying its savory sauces during quick trips to Canada — I grew up heading there with my dad before Red Wings games — but the tradition is coming to an end.
So grab your passport and make one final run for the border to enjoy one last taste of Tunnel Bar-B-Q’s famous ribs, and one last taste of summer.
Head to Saugatuck
There’s no better place in the state to enjoy the last few weeks of summer than Saugatuck. From perusing the quaint downtown shops to the Lake Michigan shore, Saugatuck offers a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Metro Detroit.
Before hitting the beach, check out the area’s sand dunes. The 40-minute tour of area’s sand formations are stunning. Make reservations in advance at saugatuckduneride.com.
I forgot to mention the food and wine. Restaurant Tolousse is a must-visit, and I discovered my favorite wine years ago at Tabor Hill’s Saugatuck Wine Port downtown on Butler Street. There, you can sample the many products produced by the southwestern Michigan vineyard. Top of my list? Classic Demi Sec.
Paddle Lake Michigan
More than once this summer, I’ve waded into Lake Michigan to gauge whether the water was warm enough to give stand up paddle boarding a try. Each time, the lake felt just a little too chilly for comfort, and I winced when I witnessed newbies plunge into the water — and howl.
But now, with the lake sure to be warming after some hot, humid days, I’m headed to Traverse City — or maybe farther north to Sutton’s Bay on the Leelanau Peninsula — to finally give this fast-growing sport a whirl. Paddling serene water seems like the perfect way to embrace the waning days of my favorite season.
And if the waters are still too cold, I’m going to rent a kayak and explore the shore along Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Michigan has gorgeous waterfront state campgrounds nestled among its abundant coastlines. The end of summer offers a terrific time to see them without the crowds and enjoy fishing, canoeing, birding, hiking and swimming.
A favorite is Port Crescent State Park, at the tip of the thumb, just outside Port Austin. It offers three miles of sandy beaches on Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay. In addition to the campground, which has tent and RV sites, many overlooking the water, there's a day use area featuring a pavilion, wooden boardwalk and a swimming beach.
Across the state is Silver Lake State Park, which has about 3,000 acres along Lake Michigan. In addition to Silver Lake and the forest, the dunes are a major attraction here — including a 450-acre off-road vehicle area.
Golf up north
The golf is splendid, but it can be almost secondary. As Barry Owens puts it, a buddy trip up north is “a vehicle for camaraderie.”
Owens operates Treetops Resort in Gaylord, where you’ll find a golfing trifecta: 81 holes, plus disc golf and the soccer/golf hybrid known as footgolf.
It’s a gorgeous facility — the nine-hole Threetops course has been rated the best par-3 track in the country — but there’s no monopoly on scenery or quality when it comes to Northern Michigan golf.
In Lewiston, Garland Lodge & Resort has three public courses. Grand Traverse Resort in Acme has three as well. Arcadia Bluffs, Bay Harbor … the list is almost endless. Too bad we can’t say the same for summer — but there’s always the fall.