City Guide 2020: Kiting, Sunset Watching, and Bird Watching

Lift your spirits with these astral outdoor activities
outdoor activities
Photo: IStock

COVID-19 UPDATE: With pretty much all of metro Detroit’s nightlife, entertainment, and recreation options stuck in suspended animation, we’re fortunate to have an abundance of natural beauty within easy reach. With that in mind, for this year’s City Guide we’ve rounded up a number of great nearby places to bike, hike, fish — or just take in the view. Even outdoors, though, it’s important to take precautions. In addition to the usual (wash your hands often and don’t touch your face), the state Department of Natural Resources offers these guidelines: Go out only if you’re healthy. Avoid long-distance travel. Keep 6 feet apart from people not from your household. If the parking lot at your destination is full, leave and choose someplace else. Be safe out there!

After being shut inside for weeks — many of us struggling to work from home while also playing home-school teacher to little ones — we could all use a getaway. Unfortunately, with no way of knowing when the risk of viral infection will subside, it looks like our dreams of basking in tropical sunshine will have to wait. Still, there are plenty of other ways to find solace in the heavens. When our eyes are struggling to detect light amid all this gloom, perhaps the best place to look is to the sky.


Kiting is as good for expending some of that pent-up energy as it is for getting in touch with nature. For an outdoor venue that’s as close to a scenic escape as you’re likely to get in metro Detroit, check out Joseph J. Delia Jr. Park in Sterling Heights. Eighteen Mile Road borders the space to the south, but the walls of untouched forest that bound its other three sides more than make up for the suburban intrusion. Adding to the panorama is a sizeable pond and its resident geese. Plus, sloping hills make for an idyllic kiting excursion that doubles as cardio.

But if the city is more your style, Belle Isle Park may offer a perfect balance. This Detroit oasis boasts an impressive proximity to downtown, as well as spacious, grassy fields that make it the perfect place to fly a kite — so perfect, in fact, it plays host to the Detroit Kite Festival every summer.

Sunset Watching

After you’ve worn yourself out chasing the wind around Belle Isle, take a walk to Sunset Point, located at the island’s westernmost edge. Have a seat on a park bench (after scrubbing it down with disinfecting wipes, of course) and look out over the water as you watch the sun set on mainland Detroit.

Or, if you’re looking for something a little farther off the beaten path, check out another one of Detroit’s green havens, such as Alfred Brush Ford Park. This waterside hideaway is situated 6 miles downriver of Hart Plaza, right where the Detroit River debouches into Lake St. Clair. With half a mile of seawall along the river mouth, Alfred Brush Ford offers sweeping aquatic views to the south and east. But the land also juts out just enough that visitors can see the sun set behind the downtown skyline in the west.

Bird Watching

Aside from those who already consider themselves “birders” (20% of the population, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), many metro Detroiters likely remain unaware that one of Michigan’s premier bird-watching spots is Brownstown’s Lake Erie Metropark, which has been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Visiting birders have observed red-tailed hawks, long-eared owls, and even bald eagles, along with more than 300 other species known to inhabit the area. Spring is an optimal time to head out with your binoculars to catch a glimpse of the warblers and passerines making their yearly migration north. Pointe Mouillee State Game Area in Berlin Township requires a bit more travel (it’s about an hour drive from Detroit, so depending on where you live, it may have to wait), but its range of wetland habitats makes it ideal for spotting an array of winged wildlife. Weekly censuses by the Audubon Society have revealed “impressive diversity and numbers” among the preserve’s feathered population. Frequent flyers include tundra swans, great egrets, and various local species of duck.