Things To Do In Detroit, Michigan – Belle Isle Park

In my previous post, I discussed the things to do in Detroit, Michigan along the scenic Detroit River that divides the United States and Canada. One of the places I mentioned is Belle Isle Park.

It is a natural fit for those who want a break from the civilization of Detroit with its extensive network of hiking trails for them to take in the natural beauty which includes 150 acres of wooded areas and three lakes. This scenic island park is home to five key attractions and I am going to cover them here.

Belle Isle Aquarium

(Photo courtesy of Maia C via Flickr)

Belle Isle Aquarium is located on Inselruhe Avenue in the south central part of Belle Isle Park. It is the oldest aquarium in the country, having opened in 1904. The aquarium is especially noted for its extensive collection of gar fishes which is basically a group of long and slender fishes that look like needles. In fact, this is the only aquarium in North America known to house all seven species of gar fish.

Another thing to take note of regarding this aquarium is its beautiful arched ceiling covered in green glass tiles. This is meant to make you feel like you are underwater. In addition to housing the gar fishes, the aquarium also houses a large variety of both freshwater and saltwater marine life for you to check out. The aquarium consists of one long room with both sides of the room having a row of water tanks.

So, you will want to check out one side first and then after you are done, you can head over to the other side. There are sixty water tanks in total housed there. Sure, it may seem like a small aquarium, especially when compared to SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium, but it is charming. And what’s even better? The aquarium is free for you to visit.

Belle Isle Conservatory

(Photo courtesy of sara hattie via Flickr)

The Belle Isle Conservatory is connected to the Belle Isle Aquarium. If you are into plants, this is the place for you. The conservatory houses a series of stately greenhouses that are home to many plants including flowers, ferns, and cacti. The building is divided into five sections. They are the Palm house, the Tropical house, the Cactus house, the Fernery, and the Show house.

The signature feature of the conservatory building is the 85-foot high central dome. It houses palm trees and other tropical plants. The grounds of the conservatory is also beautiful too. A lily pond is located on the grounds between the conservatory and the aquarium. It is decorated with 200 tons of moss-covered limestone boulders. The Japanese koi live inside the lily pond.

Located on the western grounds of the conservatory are perennial gardens neatly designed in a rectangular fashion. Within the center of the western grounds is the Levi Barbour Memorial Fountain that was designed by famed sculptor Marshall Fredericks. As is the case with the aquarium, the conservatory is free of charge for everybody to visit.

(Photo courtesy of A Healthier Michigan via Flickr)

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

(Photo courtesy of Corey Seeman via Flickr)

The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is located just south of the conservatory and the aquarium on the southern shores of the Detroit River. As the name indicates, this museum is primarily focused on the Great Lakes. It places a special emphasis on the role that Detroit played in regional and national maritime history. The museum covers the last three hundred years of history.

There are a total of six permanent exhibits available at the museum. The first one is called Miss Pepsi. It explores the history of speedboat racing in Detroit and how the three Dossin brothers, Russell, Walter, and Roy, and their love for speedboats. You will learn about how they went about building the legendary speedboat, the Miss Pepsi, in the 1950’s.

The Miss Pepsi went on to set speed records and win numerous races over the next two years which is something that no boat or owner had done before. The speedboat is now on display at the museum. Outdoor Treasures is the second exhibit at the museum. This is an outdoor exhibit that houses a collection of maritime artifacts.

A few examples include the massive bow anchor of the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald, naval cannons that were used during the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, and a Coast Guard utility boat. You will be given the opportunity to captain a Great Lake freighter at the museum’s William Clay Ford Pilot House.

The freighter, the S.S. William Clay Ford, was one of Detroit’s most noted freighters. The Gothic Room exhibit is the first exhibit you will see upon entering the museum. It houses an impressive replica of a gentleman’s lounge that was housed inside a early 21st century cruise ship, the S.S. City of Detroit III.

The Richard and Jane Manoogian Ship Mode Showcase exhibit is where you can view more than 150 models of Great Lakes ships from the past three hundred years. Built by the River is the museum’s newest exhibit. It explores how the Detroit River served as the engine for Detroit’s growth and development. This museum is also visited free of charge.

Belle Isle Nature Center

(Photo courtesy of Michigan Municipal League via Flickr)

The Belle Isle Nature Center is located on Lakeside Drive at the eastern end of Belle Isle Park. This is basically the island park’s zoo. It features indoor animal habitats, a bee exhibit, bird observation window, and an outdoor native butterfly garden. The nature center’s focus is on the animals that are native to the US state of Michigan. When you enter the nature center, you will be greeted by a big fireplace which is nice.

The natural center takes the form of a big circle. Make no mistake, you won’t find a whole lot of animals there, especially when compared to the Detroit Zoo, but if you happen to be on the island park and love animals, then the nature center is for you. Oh and just in case you haven’t guessed, it is free of charge. Probably the best part about visiting there is getting to see the beehive.

This is where you can observe the bees at work as they go in and out of the building. Bird-watching is another highlight of the nature center. There is a nice spot where you can just sit (or stand) and enjoy the birds.

James Scott Memorial Fountain

(Photo courtesy of Mkrajenke12 via Wikimedia)

The James Scott Memorial Fountain is located on Sunset Drive on the western end of Belle Isle Park. This is a majestic fountain that you won’t want to miss. The fountain is designed like a series of Vermont white marble bowls. It contain 109 water outlets that take the form of cute statues of dolphins, lions, turtles, and human figures.

The fountain is 510 feet across and its center can spray water 125 feet into the air. This is yet another free attraction for you to check out.

All in all, Belle Isle Park is a great source for things to do in Detroit, Michigan. It is connected to mainland Detroit via the MacArthur Bridge.

Detroit Hotel

If you are looking for a hotel to stay at overnight in Detroit, I am happy to help you out. Here is a hotel I would suggest you to book your stay with.

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center

This hotel is located in downtown Detroit on the Detroit River. It takes up the taller, circular tower within the GM Renaissance Center complex that, at 73 floors, is the third tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. Should you get hungry and want a place to dine at, Fuell is the hotel’s onsite restaurant. For takeout food, you can head to Motor City Pantry which is also located onsite.

If you are looking to order coffee, you can head to the onsite Starbucks. Located on the 40th floor of the hotel lies a 24-hour fitness center. This will allow you to enjoy some gorgeous views while your workouts. Seeing that this is the third tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, don’t be surprised to find yourself in a hotel room with sweeping views of downtown Detroit, the river, and even Canada.

As far as hotel rooms are concerned, you can expect to have WiFi, coffee makers, and mini refrigerators at the very least. The average rate for a standard room range from $229 to $462. You can head here to explore your booking options and/or check out some photos.

What are your thoughts? Have you spent any time in Belle Isle Park before? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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