Nestled against the lush forests and lakes of northern Oakland County, the small town of Clarkston, Michigan invites visitors to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of small town life. From canoeing down gentle rivers to perusing mom and pop shops on historic Main Street, Clarkston offers a charming variety of activities and attractions.
1. Explore Downtown Clarkston
Historic downtown Clarkston along Main Street provides visitors with a wonderful glimpse into classic small town America. Brick buildings house an array of locally-owned boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and more. Start off with a fresh-brewed coffee and homemade pastry from The Clarkston Union restaurant and barista bar. Grab a scoop of delicious ice cream at Stained Glass Creamery before browsing for antiques, art, jewelry and more at charming shops like Nostalgia Antiques Mall, Pleasant Valley Collectables, and Patty Cake Home. Don’t miss The Clarkston Cookie Company, serving incredible flavors of gourmet cookie dough. On warm days, eat al fresco while people watching at Cafe Cortina or The Fed Community restaurant with their dog-friendly patios. With its pedestrian-friendly streets, variety of local businesses, and community vibe, downtown Clarkston offers an idyllic spot for strolling and relaxing.
2. Enjoy Nature at Independence Oaks County Park
Address: 9501 Sashabaw Rd, Clarkston, MI 48348. Just 7 miles north of downtown Clarkston lies the tranquil natural oasis of Independence Oaks County Park. This 1,286 acre Oakland County park provides endless opportunities for outdoor recreation amid diverse habitats. One of the park’s biggest highlights is its seven peaceful lakes. You can swim at or fish in Crooked Lake or explore Round Lake in a paddle boat, canoe, or kayak rental from the boathouse. Walk about a mile of paved trail around Round Lake taking in gorgeous scenery. The park also contains 15 miles of wooded hiking and biking trails, with paths looping through wetland areas on boardwalks, pine forests, and wildflower meadows. Other activities include visiting the interpretive center, playing disc golf, geocaching and observing wildlife like great blue herons, swans, beavers, and more than 200 bird species in this serene natural escape.
3. Paddle Down the Clinton River
For scenic outdoor recreation just minutes from Clarkston, head out on the Clinton River Water Trail. Clarkston sits near the northern section of this extensive network of designated and accessible launch sites along the river. Choose from places like Clinton River Crossings Canoe Livery in Auburn Hills, River Bends Park in Shelby Township, or Yates Park in Rochester. You can then paddle downstream taking in forests teeming with wildlife, views of charming towns, and glimpses of historical landmarks. The river ranges from quick moving in some parts to slow and lazy in others, allowing peaceful floats downstream. Canoeing, kayaking and even tubing during summer are all popular ways to experience the Clinton River, appreciation its natural beauty and role in Oakland County’s development.
4. Tour Historic Clarkston Village
Step back in time with a stroll through Clarkston’s lovingly preserved historic village area. Eight historic buildings built from 1820 through the late 1800s surround the village square, giving a glimpse into early 19th century life. Standout structures include the Clarkston Union restaurant in an 1892 general store, the 1840s era Furtaw House, and the charming white Mills Park Band Shell from 1940. Walk inside the 1750s log cabin homestead from the Lake Erie frontier and the 1884 former jailhouse turned welcome center. Interpretive signs tell the story of each building along with fun facts about early local life and businesses. The village square also contains vintage farm machinery, aDepreciation Station kids play area, community garden, and quaint gazebo. Learning about Clarkston’s rich history while admiring this historic square makes for an engaging walk.
5. Shop for Fresh Produce & Flowers at Clarkston Farmers Market
For delicious local eats and supporting small businesses, Clarkston’s bustling Farmers Market is a weekly summer tradition. The outdoor market sets up in the parking lot of Renaissance High School north of downtown. Here you’ll find booths selling just-picked fruits and vegetables like juicy peaches, ripe heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and fresh greens. Flower vendors have displays of stunning locally grown bouquets and plants. Grab a bite of ethnic food while perusing homemade jams, honey, baked goods, arts and crafts. You can also chat with the passionate growers behind your farm-fresh fare. Socializing with community members while stocking up on provisions makes the Clarkston Farmers Market a great weekend activity.
6. Spend a Day at DTE Energy Music Theatre
Address: 33 Bob Seger Dr, Clarkston, MI 48348 Clarkston’s top attraction bringing big name concerts and entertainment is the famous DTE Energy Music Theatre, known locally as “Pine Knob.” This 15,274 seat open-air amphitheater set on a scenic pine wooded hillside has been hosting music legends and hit artists since 1972. Check their calendar for upcoming country stars like Kenny Chesney, rock bands like ZZ Top, comedians like Sebastian Maniscalco, and classic acts like Steely Dan and Earth, Wind & Fire. Pine Knob also hosts popular summer festivals including the Jazz & Blues Fest and Arts Beats & Eats. Pack a picnic or eat from the diverse food stalls while enjoying world-class performers in this outdoor mountainside venue with excellent views and acoustics.
7. Go for a Jog or Ride on the Polly Ann Trail
Active travelers will love taking advantage of the hiking and biking opportunities offered by the Polly Ann Trail, accessible right from downtown Clarkston. This 20 mile recreation trail stretches from Ortonville northward, with 2.5 miles passing through Oakland Township north of town. Road cyclists in particular appreciate the long uninterrupted stretch. Runners and walkers will enjoy wooded sections like the path around Sashabaw Meadows Park. Pick up the trail at the Main Street trailhead then head out for scenic exercise surrounded by tranquil nature, with possible wildlife sightings.
8. Catch a Big League Baseball Game
For a fun family activity as American as baseball and hot dogs, head to the Dort Federal Event Center to see the Great Lakes Loons play. This minor league team are a Single-A affiliate of the MLB Los Angeles Dodgers who play a 76-game season from spring through early fall. Enjoy an up close view of future big leaguers and the intimacy of minor league ball from seats around the friendly confines. Kids will love chasing down autographs, watching Bernie the mascot, and participating in fun between-innings entertainment. With tickets under $15, souvenirs under $20, and $2 Tuesdays, a Loons game makes for an affordable game day excitement during sunny Michigan months. Exploring the Polly Ann Trail lets you travel between charming communities while maintaining your fitness routine. Clarkston, Michigan offers visitors charming small town vibes, outdoor recreation, and historic appeal by the scenic lakes and rivers north of Detroit. Exploring Clarkston allows you to bask in the welcoming vibe of a tight-knit community and the beauty of small town living.