Add These Family-Friendly Southeast Michigan Destinations to Your 2021 Summer Bucket List

Get up close and personal with reptiles and owls, kick back with a concert in the park and more in Awesome Mitten’s Metro Detroit #MIAwesomeList.

WDET’s “How to Summer” is a season-long series that offers insider tips and advice from social media and listeners on how to maximize the season. This week we bring you some family-friendly ideas to add to your Metro Detroit summer bucket list.

Editor’s note: The following was originally published on and is adapted and republished here with Awesome Mitten’s permission.

Courtesy of Leah Heffner
Courtesy of Leah Heffner

After last summer when we spent the season in quarantine, the husband-and-wife team behind a Michigan-centric website has some ideas for families to discover some of the state’s hidden gems.

“We know people are ready to get out and explore Michigan this summer and we are so excited to help them do that with #MIAwesomeList,” says Leah Heffner, who owns and runs Awesome Mitten with her husband, Matt.

The Jackson-based couple and their team mapped out scores of ideas for Michiganders to get out and explore from corner to corner, coast to coast, and everywhere in between in Michigan. Each bucket list item includes a day-trip itinerary, highlighting a few of the best activities in the area, along with places to grab a bite, an ice cream cone or a cup of coffee.

They kicked off #MIAwesomeList May 31, and they offered the following bucket list ideas to check out in metro Detroit.

What’s on your bucket list? Share it with us by emailing or share on social media by tagging us and using the hashtags #WDETSummer and #MiAwesomeList.

Visit the Animals at the Howell Nature Center

Courtesy of the Howell Nature Center
Courtesy of the Howell Nature Center

For more than five decades, the Howell Nature Center has been working to preserve the natural beauty of Livingston County while simultaneously caring for injured wildlife in need of rehabilitation.

Today, the nature center’s mission remains the same — to care for animals with the hope of releasing them into the wild once again. However, there are some animals that simply require full-time care, and you can head to the Howell Nature Center to meet them for yourself.

As you walk through the Wild Wonders Wildlife Park, you will be introduced to various creatures such as a majestic snowy owl, a portly porcupine or a zorro gray fox.

Catch an Outdoor Concert in Downtown Plymouth

Courtesy of Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Courtesy of Plymouth Downtown Development Authority

After a year of silence in Kellogg Park, Downtown Plymouth is ready to rock again this summer. The Friday night concert series, dubbed “Music in the Air,” began in June and ends Labor Day weekend. Some of the upcoming shows include Magic Bus, Steve King and The Dittilies, and more. Check out the full schedule here. (Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out Art in the Park, where more than 400 artists from around the country will be showcasing their work.)

It’s free to attend the concerts, and most people come by with their lawn chairs and their favorite carry-out meal from one of the many local restaurants in town.

While in town, make sure to check out Awesome Mitten’s suggestions for local spots to grab a pizza and more.

Hold a Snake at the Reptarium

While there are several zoos that you can visit in Michigan, there are few in the state that focus almost exclusively on reptiles. The Reptarium in Utica is a reptile zoo that opened in 2018.

Not only is this zoo home to more than 200 animals, but visitors also have the opportunity to handle many of them. This zoo encourages safe interaction with its animals, allowing people of all ages to learn more about slithering snakes and scaly lizards.

Go Camping at Hayes State Park in Irish Hills


A post shared by ryan smith (@ryanrsmith9)

If you are looking for a place to camp that is close to Metro Detroit — yet feels like it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city — then head to Hayes State Park in Irish Hills.

This 78-acre park not only has a designated camping area with plenty of spaces, but it also has a swimming beach as well as two places to launch a boat.

In addition to being a convenient campground that is full of natural beauty, it’s also situated nearby the best attractions in Irish Hills.

For the full list of metro Detroit bucket list ideas or to find maps and itineraries to create your ultimate summer bucket list adventure, go to Awesome Mitten’s website.

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  • Dorothy Hernandez
    Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played '80s music in the middle of the night.