Few cities have anything this splendid: an island park of nearly 1,000 acres. Accessible by a vehicle bridge only ten ... More
Few cities have anything this splendid: an island park of nearly 1,000 acres. Accessible by a vehicle bridge only ten minutes' drive from downtown, Belle Isle has been Detroiters' favorite place of refuge and recreation for 150 years or more. It's a great spot to watch the magnificent ore freighters gliding down the river. Around the island, there are two yacht clubs, a swimming beach, a children's zoo an aquarium, a conservatory, formal gardens, ball fields, handball courts, tennis courts, an old lighthouse, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a senior center, lagoons, a woods with white-tailed deer, a golf course and many picnic areas. The Scott Fountain with its grotesque gargoyles provides a great evening light show. A drive around the island any time of year is a great break for a busy day.
Belle Isle (beautiful island) was once the home of General Alexander Macomb whose memorial statue is on the island. In the 1880s the park was designed and landscaped by park designer Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed New York's Central Park. There are several picnic shelters and a variety of things to do and see on Belle Isle.
Two of Belle Isle's most impressive sights are the Belle Isle Aquarium and the Anna Scripts Whitcomb Conservatory. Both were constructed in 1904 and the Aquarium was the nation's oldest operating aquarium until it was closed in 2003 due to budget cuts. The Conservatory is still the nation's oldest operating conservatory. The conservatory was designed by famous architect Albert Kahn who designed Ford Motor Company's Highland Park Plant, the Detroit Police building, the Fisher building and the Belle Isle Casino as well. The conservatory is named in honor of Anna Scripps Whitcomb who left her 600 plant orchid collection to the city. During World War 2 bombing of Great Britain by the Nazi's rare orchids were saved and transported to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. The conservatory contains perennial gardens, annual flower beds, a rose garden, a lily pond, a cactus room, a fernery, a palm house in the large dome, and tropical economically important plants in the south wing such as bananas, oranges, coffee, and sugar cane.
The James Scott Memorial Fountain was built with $500,000 donated to the City of Detroit by James Scott to build a fountain for him on Belle Isle. It was designed by Cass Gilbert and was built in 1925. On one side a sitting statue of James Scott, the other, a beautiful fountain that not only shoots out water but at light puts on magnificent light show. The fountain is open from early spring to about August I would say although I am not sure. It is constructed of Vermont White Marble and has 109 water outlets in the shape of human heads, dolphins, turtles, lionesses, and animal horns.
The Belle Isle Water Slide and Beach open the second week in June and are open through Labor Day. For only $3 you can enjoy the slide all day long and starting July 13th on Sunday's from 6 to 8 p.m. you can enjoy Jazz on the beach.
The Belle Isle Casino located not far away is used for occasional public events, weddings, and available for rental. When the original casino burned down in the late 1880s Albert Kahn designed the current casino and erected in 1908. It is a very nice Renaissance Revival building with a terracotta roof and gives the viewer a sense of feeling on the Mediterranean.
Adjacent to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is the Nancy Brown Carillon Peace tower. It stands 85ft tall and is dedicated to Detroit News writer Nancy Brown who raised most of the money from her readers.
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is the world's largest collection of scale-model Great Lakes ships and maritime memorabilia. The Museum includes the pilothouse from the S.S. William Clay Ford freighter and the bow anchor of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. It is only open Saturdays and Sunday 10 am to 4pm, but is open Year-round.
No park is complete without Athletic complexes. Belle isle is a 36-acre athletic field for softball, baseball, football, soccer, rugby, basketball, and track. There are also handball and racquetball courts.
The 200-acres of woodlands that are drivable by car are very beautiful and are north of the island by the golf course and lighthouse.
The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is an exhibit I haven't visited but supposedly all the 200 deer that were on the island are fenced in and being taken care of.
Belle Isle might be the most famous part of Detroit. From being a kid playing in the huge playground to older an partying there, its always a great time. Some times it does get kind of crazy, but all around great place for everyone
It was crowded but alot of people were taking advantage of the day an had a bunch of reunions going on, plus there was a wedding photo session at the fountain which was great....They have a water park, beach, and picnic tables. It's also home to the Detroit Boat Club. I was throughly impressed and am glad I went to see it....Detroit should be proud and do whatever they can to preserve and continue the use of this park for future generations.
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