Fun, refined, and upscale—that’s what Oakland County is all about.
Located just a 20-to-40-minute drive away from Downtown Detroit, Oakland County is home to tree-lined suburbs and contemporary cities that will make you fall in love with the finer things in life. The mesmerizing cafes, family-run eateries, chic malls for shopping, and the outdoors to connect with nature, makes Oakland County a great place to spend the summer.
What’s more, start counting the lakes in Oakland County, and you will run out of fingers and toes quickly unless you have hundreds of digits to get the job done. Oakland County features the most number of lakes than any other county in Michigan. Nonetheless, the exact number of lakes dotting the landscape varies depending on who you ask.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there are nearly 358 lakes in Oakland County. In contrast, Oakland County Parks says there are 1,468, and the book—History of Oakland County Michigan by Thaddeus DeWitt Seeley counts 450. However, irrespective of the exact number of lakes, they do allow for several outdoor activities.
Additionally, there are nearly 13 Metroparks in Oakland County that give visitors and residents an equal chance to indulge in various activities like hiking, swimming, biking, geocaching, and much more.
From the buzzing downtowns like Rochester, Ferndale, Birmingham, and Royal Oak to the Detroit Zoo, you will never run out of things to do in Oakland County with your friends or family. And here is a list of the top things to do in Oakland County that will ensure you don’t miss out on anything.
1. Detroit Zoo
Spreading across 125 acres, Detroit Zoo, with its naturalistic habitats, is every animal lover’s paradise. The zoo’s major exhibits are the Australian Outback Adventure, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Arctic Ring of Life, Penguinarium, Holden Reptile Conservation Center, Great Apes of Harambee, and Butterfly Garden. Additionally, the place also offers a wide array of exciting activities for people of all ages year-round.
Detroit Zoo holds a popular event every year during winter called the Wild Lights when the entire zoo is adorned with Christmas lights and holiday cheer. The zoo also features a Zoo Brew where adults can drop by to enjoy live music, craft beer, and zookeeper talks. If you are a fitness enthusiast, consider taking part in the Run Wild for Detroit Zoo, which is a 5K and 10K marathon that raises money for animals at the zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.
After the pandemic, the zoo opened in June 2020, and timed tickets are now available online on their website. Discount tickets come at $14 for adults and $10 for kids. Though all indoor viewing areas and retail stores are currently closed, a few dining options are made available for curbside services such as Dippin’ Dots stations, American Coney, Buddy’s Pizza, and more.
2. Farmers Market
The Farmers Market was found in 1922 in Pontiac, and it has been resting at its current location in Waterford (just across the county complex) since 1953.
A producer-only market, the Farmers Market offers the freshest produce Oakland County has to offer. From the famous Michigan cherries to summer favorites like ripe tomatoes and sweet corn, if you are craving the best seasonal fruits and vegetables when in Oakland County, this is where you should be.
The market features a basic architecture with indoor and outdoor stalls that are surrounded by parking and remain open three days a week—Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays—from May through December. From January through April, the market only opens on Saturdays.
Recently, the market has undergone some sprucing up with benches, flowerpots, and food trucks offering breakfast and lunch. Furthermore, free activities and special events are held throughout the year, such as food truck rallies and community garage sales.
Nutrition and health programs are also organized by Michigan State University Extension and Master Gardeners alongside the monthly events like a corn roast, a movie night, and a wine/jazz/food evening.
3. Groveland Oaks
Situated on the banks of Stewart Lake, Groveland Oaks in Holly is just 1.5 miles drive away from northern Oakland County. The park features a massive hookup of lot size 50′ x 50′, modern campsites, group camping areas, eight cabins, four yurts, and two island pavilions for parties. The camping sites are available for individuals, families, and groups.
Additionally, Groveland Oaks features miniature golf, pedal boat and kayak rental, a sandy beach, fishing pier, bike rental, basketball and volleyball courts, three large children’s playscapes, bike skills courses, paved trails, skateboard park, and the Blue Water Grill concessions/campground store. So, regardless of your age or interests, you will always have an activity to indulge in.
Fall happens to be the perfect time to visit the Groveland Oaks to take in the outdoors, watch the changing colors of the fall landscape, and enjoy the crisp autumn air. You can make reservations up to 11 months in advance. Both camping sites offer themed weekends and family-friendly events that will make your camping trip more memorable.
4. Red Oaks Waterpark
A family-friendly waterpark, Red Oaks Waterpark, located in Madison Heights, a few miles east of I-75, is a fun summer destination for families. The waterpark provides plenty of options to keep you entertained throughout the day.
Of the multiple attractions here, the most popular ones are the giant triple-fume waterslide, the relaxing lazy river, and wave-action pool, which can be easily accessed right as you enter.
A long bridge takes you from the entrance to the children’s water playground with 68 features. However, the main attraction here is the massive bucket that sits atop the water playground.
Children often get excited sitting in the pool, waiting for the giant bucket to fill up and pour down on them. The river ride, wave pool, and the children’s water playground are heated.
Ample lockers and well-maintained facilities are available throughout Red Oaks Waterpark. Nevertheless, when planning to visit Red Oaks Waterpark, make sure you set aside a few hours as the place is extremely popular and highly crowded even on weekdays.
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