We love taking taking RV trips to cities like Washington and Philadelphia. It seems like you can park your RV close to just about any major American city. You just need to know where to look for campsites and moderate your expectations. Many urban campgrounds have small sites, and are not necessarily the prettiest campgrounds in the state. On today’s episode of The RV Atlas podcast, Jeremy interviews Gretchen Holcombe about her recent RV trip to Detroit. She had an amazing time exploring the city and nearby Ann Arbor, and she found a fairly decent place to camp that she definitely recommends.
To listen to Jeremy interview Gretchen about her RV trip to Detroit, click on the media player above. Or to find out more just keep reading!
The following is a Guest Post by Gretchen Holcombe from Boxy Colonial on the Road.
Detroit might not be the first place you think of for a great RVing destination. But after spending a week in the Detroit area last summer with my family, I can recommend an RV trip to Detroit wholeheartedly. It is proud of its history, and packed with world class museums and other attractions. Surprisingly, there are some solid campground options to choose from.
Where to stay on an RV Trip to Detroit:
We stayed at the Wayne County Fairgrounds in Belleville, MI. It is less than half an hour from Detroit in one direction and Ann Arbor in the other. This is a no frills campground. It has narrow, grassy sites and dated bathhouses, but it’s a safe, well maintained, and affordable place to park your RV. The location is also convenient location. There are W/E and full hook up sites available; rates range from $27-44/night.
Other options include the Detroit/Ann Arbor KOA in Ypsilanti (40 minutes from Detroit) and the well reviewed Proud Lake Recreation Area (also about 40 minutes away).
Fun things to do in Detroit
Detroit Institute of Arts
The collection at Detroit’s art museum easily rivals those found in places like New York and Boston. It has amazing paintings from the likes of Van Gogh and Matisse. But it’s also a uniquely Detroit museum; it’s perhaps most famous for the stunning Diego Rivera frescos, “Detroit Industry” in the central courtyard. The current exhibit, “Detroit Style,” all about car design, pays homage to Detroit’s “Motor City” history. The DIA offers an impressive array of options for kid-friendly touring as well. Our 8 year old enjoyed the “Eye Spy” scavenger hunt signs in many of the galleries, and there’s also an app based game called Goose Chase.
Belle Isle is a large public park on an island in the Detroit River. We weren’t really sure what to expect here, but it ended up being one of our favorite spots on our whole summer trip, with plenty to keep us busy for a full day. I fell in love with the turn of the century art deco buildings designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, including the small aquarium and conservatory. We took a guided hike out to the marble lighthouse and beyond for some great views of Canada. And the Great Lakes Museum focuses on Detroit’s shipping history and has some wonderful hands on exhibits for kids and an interesting short film about the history of Belle Isle.
The Henry Ford
We spent a LOT of time at this enormous museum complex that includes the Museum of American Innovation, the Greenfield Village living history museum, and a chance to tour a Ford factory. We bought a membership since that made the best financial sense for our big family, and we took full advantage of it with multiple visits during our week in the Detroit area. The museum is a heartfelt tribute to progress and innovation. There are plenty of cars, as you might expect at a museum founded by Henry Ford. But you can also see the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, and a fun retrospective on the history of American road trips (among many, many, MANY other things).
At the adjacent Greenfield Village, you can tour dozens of historical buildings that have been moved to the museum grounds from all over the country (including the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop and Thomas Edison’s workshop), and you can take a ride in a real Model T. Our family loved watching a baseball game played with 1867 rules and cheering on the home team, the Lah-De-Dahs.
We spent one day in nearby Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor has a fun college town vibe and some nice family attractions. We went for a walk at UM’s Nichols Arboretum, walked around downtown and got some ice cream, and then spent a couple of hours at the Hands-on Museum.
Great Eats Near Detroit
The small city of Ypsilanti is only about 10 minutes from the Wayne County Fairgrounds (or the Detroit/Ann Arbor KOA), and we found that it offered more interesting restaurant choices than the area right around the campground. We enjoyed both Aubree’s Pizzeria and Sidetrack Bar and Grill in the revitalized Depot Town area downtown. And we loved the food, beer, and casual, kid-friendly atmosphere at Arbor Brewing Company.
Thanks to Gretchen for another great appearance on The RV Atlas podcast!