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The Layover: Outdoor Day Trips near Detroit Metro Airport

The Detroit Metro Airport - a world-class hub for domestic and international travel alike - provides weary travelers with an amazing opportunity to explore our region during long layovers. Here's our list of 5 recommended day trips for visiting outdoor enthusiasts.

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Welcome to Detroit! Well, kind of - really, welcome to your layover at Detroit Metro Airport, an award-winning destination in its own right for its high quality of passenger experience. Detroit Metro Airport, and specifically its McNamara Terminal, is also a Delta and SkyTeam hub that services regular direct flights from Amsterdam and Buenos Aires to Tokyo and Riyadh. More specifically, the Detroit Metro Airport directly connects our region via 13 airlines to hundreds of global destinations.

Practically, this means that thousands of travelers pass through the pristine corridors of the Detroit Metro Airport on a daily basis. Of those airline passengers, a sizable proportion will find themselves with a few hours to burn - maybe even a day or more - before their next flight whisks them away. Sure, such travelers could spend their layover à la Tom Hanks in "The Terminal" and never leave the confines of DTW. However, if you have 5+ hours between flights and have stiff legs craving a little exercise, we strongly encourage you to stray from the herd and cave in to a little wanderlust.

The legendary Anthony Bourdain, whose passing I'm still mourning, once headlined a show called "The Layover." The premise of the show involved Bourdain spending anywhere from 24 to 48 hours in a city, maximizing his exploration time within micro-adventure confines. Bourdain's narration during the show's trailer includes this final synoptic tagline: "This is what I would do in one action-packed adventure."

Locals and travelers alike, if you're looking to turn your stop at Detroit Metro Airport into an action-packed adventure, here are the five activities that we at Expedition Detroit would do to maximize your limited time around the Motor City.

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ETA from Detroit Metro Airport: 35 minutes

Experience Highlights: Downtown Detroit; Detroit Riverwalk; Dequindre Cut; William G. Milliken State Park; Hart Plaza; Southwest Greenway; and panoramic Detroit River views

Equipment Needed: Comfortable walking and/or running shoes

Cost: Free

If this is your first time ever to the Detroit region, then your best bet for a highlight reel experience is exploring the world-famous Detroit Riverwalk. The reigning three-peat champion of USA Today's "Best Riverwalk in America" designation, the 3.5 mile trail guides its nearly 4 million annual visitors on a "best of the best" tour of the City of Detroit's outdoor ecosystem. Expect energetic plazas with family-friendly events and vendors, historical monuments, live music, street performances, all while enjoying striking views of the vibrant Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario. The Detroit Riverwalk also provides intrepid hikers and runners with direct access to Belle Isle Park, the Dequindre Cut, and the freshly-minted Southwest Greenway.

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PADDLE THE HURON | Oakwoods Metropark

ETA from Detroit Metro Airport: 15 minutes

Experience Highlights: Paddling along the Huron River National Water Trail

Equipment Needed: Swimsuit, sunglasses, and sun protection

Cost: $20 -30 USD for kayak or canoe rental; Metroparks pass also may be required for entry if parking on site

Situated surprisingly close to Detroit Metro Airport, the scenic woodlands and picturesque views of the Huron River are waiting for you at Oakwoods Metropark. While each of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks offer unique outdoor experiences for their visitors, Oakwoods provides layover passengers with the opportunity not only to visit the famous wetlands of Southeast Michigan, but to explore one of our region's greatest assets: the Huron. Motor City Canoe Rental offers canoe and kayak rental options for paddling enthusiasts looking for a hands-on experience on the river.

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HIKE THROUGH HISTORY | River Raisin National Battlefield Park

ETA from Detroit Metro Airport: 25 minutes

Experience Highlights: Downtown Monroe, Michigan; River Raisin National Battlefield Park

Equipment Needed: Comfortable walking and/or running shoes

Cost: Free

Beyond serving as the closest national park site to Detroit Metro Airport, River Raisin National Battlefield Park provides a living memorial to the single bloodiest battle ever fought on Michigan soil. The park and its immaculate visitor center memorializes the 483 American, British, Canadian, and Native American lives that were lost during the park's namesake War of 1812 battle. Any visit to River Raisin will provide visitors with an immensely impactful historical experience and an opportunity to hike or run along the well-maintained and educational River Raisin National Battlefield Park trail.

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EXPLORE NEW SHORES | Windsor Riverfront Trail

ETA from Detroit Metro Airport: 40 minutes

Experience Highlights: Downtown Windsor, Ontario; Windsor Riverfront Trail; public art exhibits; panoramic plazas; and the Trans-Canada Trail

Equipment Needed: Comfortable walking and/or running shoes

Cost: Border crossing fees ($16 - 20 USD)

Did you know that the Detroit region is slated to represent the new "Trails Capital of North America?" That's right - thanks to our city's southern neighbor of Windsor, Ontario, outdoor enthusiasts can readily turn an American layover into an international adventure. After crossing the border via either the Ambassador Bridge or Windsor Tunnel, the quintessential Windsor Riverfront Trail eagerly waits to greet you with its public art displays, beautiful gardens, expansive plazas, and can't-beat views of the skyscrapers of Downtown Detroit. The completion of the Gordie Howe International Bridge will make the Detroit-Windsor connection even more efficient - and expeditious - with pedestrian-only lanes that will link the Trans Canada Trail with the Iron Belle Trail.

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ETA from Detroit Metro Airport: Destination-dependent; 1 hour 35 minutes at most

Experience Highlights: Hiking or trail running adventure; expertise of local guide; exploring natural beauty of Southeast Michigan

Equipment Needed: Comfortable hiking or running shoes

Cost: $25 - $70

We may be a little biased, but if we had to recommend only one experience around the Detroit Metro Airport, we would be honored to host you on one of our guided adventure trips! Expedition Detroit is proud to offer the largest variety of guided trips within 11 pristine Michigan state parks in the Detroit region. From first time hikers to world-class trekkers and trail runners, our guides can't wait to lead you on your perfect adventure in Detroit's great outdoors.

From Detroit Metro Airport, the closest Michigan State Park where Expedition Detroit offers guided hikes is also one of Michigan's most beautiful, unique, and historic: Belle Isle Park. Setting off from the Ralph Wilson Gateway, this guided hike traverses Belle Isle's southern shore, providing hikers with stunning views of the Windsor shoreline, the vibrant Detroit River, and the industrial freighters passing by. You will also pass by the Belle Isle Lighthouse, Blue Heron Lagoon, and locally-named "Hipster Beach" on the route.

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Detroit is the Motor City: if you want to get around this corner of the world, you're going to largely need four wheels to do so.

From Detroit Metro Airport, the ground transportation options include rental car, taxis, rideshare applications, and public transportation. Rental cars will obviously provide you with the most freedom, but are also the most expensive means of transportation and require an off-campus shuttle. Taxis and rideshare applications like Uber and Lyft provide destination-specific transportation and are readily available from Detroit Metro Airport, although we also strongly recommend pre-arranging your return rides before leaving the airport.

While the most cost effective, public transportation has represented one of the logistical thorns in the Detroit region's side for generations. We only recommend that you consider utilizing the Detroit Metro Airport's public bus services if you plan on visiting the Detroit or Windsor Riverwalks, both of which are accessible via bus lines that pass through the Rosa Parks Transit Center.


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