Park Perfection: Top Spots For Al Fresco Dining

April 22, 2024
Delicious picnic with strawberries, croissants and appetizers on the board and rose wine. Beautiful sunset light near the sea at sunny summer day for al fresco dining

As the sun brightens and temperatures rise, nothing quite captures the essence of the warmer seasons like a meal in the park. The Metro Detroit area offers a variety of beautiful parks that serve as ideal locales for these seasonal outings. From sprawling landscapes to bustling waterfronts, there are some excellent spots to host your next gathering. Paired with the blooming flowers and leafy shaded areas, al fresco dining with delicious dishes is a great way to spend time with family and friends. 

The food itself can be simple or sophisticated. Consider a grab-and-go meal from any one of Metro Detroit’s terrific restaurants or bars. You can make it a brunch special with hearty egg dishes or great fruit plates. It could be a large dinner with fried chicken, coleslaw, and a sweet treat to finish. Another idea is to create an all-dessert extravaganza, bringing in treats from area bakeries that offer sweets that will make you swoon. 

Here are a few Metro Detroit locations that have a great selection of outdoor sites where an al fresco dining setup is as easy as the spot is beautiful…

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99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit

This 982-acre park is a floating paradise of dining opportunities on the Detroit River. You can bring a blanket or look for one of the many park tables found around Belle Isle. There are great spots such as near the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, where you can eat and then take a tour of the historical treasures inside and outside. You also can check out the beach, the marble lighthouse, or the historic aquarium, all of which would be great spots for snacking and exploring.


9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston

For those who prefer a serene setting, Independence Oaks Park in Clarkston is the spot. As the largest park in Oakland County, Independence Oaks is acclaimed for its natural beauty, encompassing over 1,200 acres of pristine landscapes. It features pavilions along the waterfront, over 12 miles of natural and paved trails for hiking, and even a sandy beach for swimming. Set up near one of the playgrounds if you have littles or by one of the other recreation areas. The park’s peaceful and expansive environment makes it an excellent choice for an afternoon gathering.


1340 Atwater Street, Detroit

Stretching along the Detroit River, the Detroit RiverWalk offers a vibrant urban al fresco dining experience. With its well-maintained pathways, lush gardens, and ample seating areas, it’s perfect for those who enjoy picturesque views and people-watching. As you’re downtown, it’ll be easy to pick up a bite from one of the many restaurants in the area, with the only difficulty being the decision of choosing which one. One part perfect for meeting up is the Gabriel Richard Park on the east side of the RiverWalk, which has a fountain, butterfly garden, playgrounds, and lush greenery. 


1901 Grand River Avenue, Detroit

Located in the heart of downtown Detroit, Beacon Park is known for its lively atmosphere. It hosts numerous events throughout the year, from live music to night markets. Its modern design and light installations create a unique setting for a meal, making it a favorite among those looking to enjoy the skyscrapers and big-city vibes. Spanning over an acre, Beacon Park has an eatery onsite, Lumen, among its green spaces. 


40620 Utica Road, Sterling Heights

Dodge Park in Sterling Heights is a haven for recreational enthusiasts. Offering everything from sand volleyball courts to splash pads and concert pavilions, it has something for every member of the family. The park’s outdoor areas are nestled near water features and playgrounds, ensuring a fun-filled outing. At Dodge Park, there are plenty of lush areas to have a meal and throw a frisbee before exploring the trails throughout the park that are along the Clinton River. 


24915 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills

Heritage Park in Farmington Hills is not to be overlooked. This sprawling 211-acre park features a pond, 4.5 miles of walking trails, and multiple play areas. “Heritage Park in the City of Farmington Hills is the perfect place for a meal in the great outdoors! Whether it’s just your immediate family and a bagged lunch, or you’re looking to reserve a shelter for a full-fledged family reunion, Heritage Park has the space and tons of activities,” shares Bryan Farmer, Deputy Director of the City of Farmington Hills Special Services Department. “And, don’t forget to visit the Farmington Hills Nature Center, which offers exhibits on the flora and fauna in Metro Detroit, including a life-sized oak tree and animal home exhibit, native fish aquariums, and hands-on learning stations for kids. Admission is always free! At 7 p.m. on select Thursdays June through August, bring your dinner and a blanket to the outdoor amphitheater in Heritage Park for ‘Stars in the Park,’ the City’s free summer concert series!” On the north end of the park, you’ll find the splash pad and concessions by one of the gathering areas and playgrounds, along with horseshoes, volleyball, and a ball pit. Pack your lunch and plan to spend the day at Heritage Park. 

This article has been updated to include new information. The original article was published on April 23, 2021, and was authored by Karen Dybis.