Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Pontiac, MI

  • Published 2023/09/03

Embarking on a quest to uncover the best things to do in Pontiac, Michigan?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we’ve highlighted some must-visit spots, it’s imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn’t just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city’s essence.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Gwendolyn Talley, Edna Woolsey, Joyce Sanchez, Sandra Felix, Nadia Chandler, Brenda Herrera and Michael Berger.

Watch a Concert at The Crofoot

Performer at The Crofoot

Thatcommonkid, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In our city, nestled among the hustle and bustle, lies a hidden gem that I’ve come to cherish.

Every time I visit The Crofoot, it’s like being swept away to a different world.

High-ceilinged and expansive, the facility is like a time machine, taking you back with its retro flair.

The Crofoot is known for its concerts and I’ve been to quite a few.

The sound system is top-notch, and the acoustics are simply amazing.

The outside patio, my personal favorite, is a slice of heaven on earth.

With a cool breeze and the soft hum of music, The Crofoot makes for the perfect concert hangout.

The main floor is always comfortably cool, thanks to the air conditioning that works like a charm.

For those of us who like to keep our beverages close, there are plenty of spots to grab drinks, all priced quite reasonably.

The staff, from the bartenders to the front-of-house crew, are always friendly and helpful.

Join an Art Workshop at Epiphany Studios

Having lived in the area for years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Epiphany Studios many times.

I once attended a paperweight workshop with my partner, and we were both thoroughly impressed by the quality of instruction and the fun atmosphere of the studio.

The instructors guiding us were knowledgeable and engaging, making the whole process an absolute joy.

One memorable experience was when I received an incredibly special gift crafted by the talented artists at Epiphany Studios.

They crafted a glass piece that subtly incorporated white, replicating the white chin of my beloved cat.

It was a touching and unique way to remember my pet.

Despite knowing that the studio had undergone some challenges recently, I was more than happy to wait for my gift.

In the end, the stunning piece was well worth the wait.

I can’t recommend their work enough, and I believe anyone looking for exquisite art should consider visiting them.

Celebrating my birthday, my daughters surprised me with a bird workshop at Epiphany Studios.

It was an unforgettable experience.

Unleash Your Inner Sherlock at Erebus Escape

Oh, the thrill of the chase and the joy of the puzzle!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy the raw excitement that comes from solving riddles under pressure.

That’s why I couldn’t resist venturing into Erebus Escape, a local escape room experience that far surpassed my expectations.

My first visit was a revelation.

The intricate design of the rooms, the enigmatic props, and the friendly staff made an impression that I won’t forget anytime soon.

I’ve been to a few escape rooms before, but Erebus takes the cake.

Their rooms aren’t just rooms, they are elaborate worlds designed to immerse you into the game.

Each escape room I’ve attempted has been a unique and challenging thrill.

One time, I found myself trying to solve the mysteries of the eye of the horus, while another led me to plan a daring escape from prison.

Every puzzle was well-thought-out, each more complex than the last, making the experience genuinely challenging.

The only hitch? The ticking clock.

There’s such an abundance of puzzles, it sometimes feels overwhelming to solve them all within the hour given.

It’s a tantalizing race against time.

If Erebus would let me, I’d happily pay for an extra few minutes just to savor the satisfaction of solving every last riddle.

But then again, the time limit is part of what keeps the adrenaline pumping high!

And you’re never alone in your quest.

The hosts at Erebus, like my man Tyler, make the experience feel personal and well-guided.

They’re there to put you at ease, explain the rules, and answer every query before you step into the room.

Tyler’s laid-back attitude and infectious enthusiasm set the tone for an exciting adventure.

Every visit to Erebus Escape is a fresh mission, a new story to unfold.

It’s more than just a location; it’s a captivating world filled with mysteries and challenges.

Stroll through History at the Stately Pine Grove

Let me take you on a journey back in time, to the days of the 12th Governor of Michigan, Moses Wisner.

Right here in our backyard, nestled on Saginaw Trail, lies the elegant Greek Revival-style mansion, aptly named ‘Pine Grove‘.

Trust me, it’s more than just a house, it’s a piece of Michigan’s rich history, preserved beautifully by the Oakland County Pioneer Historical Society.

You can’t help but feel a sense of reverence as you walk around the stately pine trees that have stood guard over the mansion for centuries.

And the mansion itself? Oh, it’s something to behold.

Wisner, having a love for farming, had ensured there was ample land to graze cattle, raise chickens, and cultivate bountiful orchards and gardens.

I am telling you, there’s nothing like biting into one of those fruits right off the tree!

Don’t even get me started on the outbuildings that dot the property.

Wisner was not only a statesman, but also a practical man.

So the property has everything from a smokehouse, ice house, and root cellar near the kitchen, to a greenhouse with an entrance from the dining room, and even a carriage house and hen house.

The mansion tells its own tales.

When Wisner was elected Governor, there was no official Governor’s Mansion in Lansing.

So our Pine Grove became the seat of operations, adapting itself to accommodate the Governor’s responsibilities.

Even after Wisner’s death, his wife, Angeolina Hascall Wisner, continued to maintain Pine Grove until her death in 1905.

In 1945, the Wisner family passed on the mansion to the Oakland County Pioneer and Veterans Historical Foundation.

They not only sold the house, but also generously donated many of the family’s furnishings, creating a living museum for us to enjoy.

Catch Live Performances at Flagstar Strand Theatre

One of my favorite places to experience some culture in downtown Pontiac is undoubtedly the Flagstar Strand Theatre.

It’s a stunning venue, rich with history, and it’s been lovingly restored after years of neglect.

It’s hard to believe that this gem of a theatre used to be a crumbling mess.

But now, it stands as a testament to the revitalization of our downtown area, showing the world that Pontiac is back and better than ever.

One of my most memorable experiences was when Oakland University staged their music department student review there.

The talent of these young vocalists and musicians, coupled with the acoustics and ambiance of the theatre, made it an evening to remember.

And of course, no visit to the Flagstar Strand Theatre is complete without a stop at Charlene’s.

It’s the perfect spot for an adult beverage before the show or during intermission.

The decor is stunning, the bar staff are attentive, and the owner, Mr. B, always makes you feel welcome.

It’s evident that he’s poured his heart and soul into this place, just like the rest of us who are committed to seeing our city flourish.

Feel the Thrill at the GM Performance and Racing Center

Every now and then, I love to swing by an absolute treasure in our city, the GM Performance and Racing Center.

It’s always a thrill to see the latest vehicle they have on display.

They have this unique and interesting setup with engines hanging on each side of the entryway, detailing the meticulous design and superior performance of these machines.

One exhibit I particularly enjoyed was the C7.R powertrain, a showcase of the engine and transaxel, demonstrating the engineering prowess that GM is renowned for.

But what truly stands out and keeps pulling me back is the ever-rotating main display.

On one of my recent visits, the SEMA E-10 Truck concept was the star.

It’s always fascinating to see the different applications and possibilities with electric powertrains.

Now, if only they would allow us to take pictures, that would be the cherry on top.

Still, going there and experiencing everything first-hand is a treat itself.

The GM Performance and Racing Center is truly a hidden gem, especially for those with a passion for race cars.

It’s not just about the present, but also a deep dive into the past and a glimpse into the future of how these muscle machines are made.

Spend a Few Days at Hawk Woods Park and Campground

Sometimes you just need to escape the hustle and bustle of life, and when I do, I always head to Hawk Woods Park and Campground.

This 80-acre of verdant parkland is my go-to haven.

My friends and I often rent the Lodge for gatherings.

The spacious interior, ample seating, beautiful tables, and kitchen space is every home chef’s dream.

The bathrooms are clean which is always a good sign.

The staff? They are nothing short of delightful and always make sure the lodge and the whole park is in tip-top shape.

I love walking the trails, each one carefully marked and maintained for easy navigation.

The diversity of the trails, from nature paths through the woods to a wide walking path around a picturesque pond, means that there’s always something new to explore.

I especially enjoy the boardwalk area near the marsh – it’s a refreshing change of scenery.

But what really catches my eye every time I visit is the sea of wildflowers.

They seem to be everywhere, adding a pop of color to the lush greenery.

It’s a sight that never fails to take my breath away.

In 2020, they added a new events building and log cabins for group camping.

I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet, but from the look of it, they are bound to be fantastic.

Plus, the rental fees seem to be quite reasonable.

Hawk Woods Park and Campground maintains a peaceful and serene atmosphere that is hard to find nowadays.

It’s my personal sanctuary where I can be one with nature, even though the distant sound of highway noise can sometimes be heard.

Go Hiking at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area

There’s something incredibly soothing about the sound of leaves crunching under your boots as you tread along the trails of the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area.

The 4,637-acre park is a sanctuary of serenity and a testament to Michigan’s untamed beauty.

This is where I often retreat to refresh and rejuvenate my spirit.

Walking along the rugged trails, you are bound to be enchanted by the picturesque landscape.

There’s a lovely blend of terrain for all skill levels, so whether it’s a casual stroll or an intense hike, Bald Mountain has got you covered.

Nature lovers are sure to appreciate the lush greenery that seems to burst with life, particularly during the warmer months.

One of my favorite spots in the park is this peaceful body of water that I often find myself sitting by.

I remember one time just swinging in a hammock for hours, taking in the beautiful view, and feeling the stress melt away.

This place truly has a magical way of making the world around you seem to disappear.

The park isn’t just a hiker’s paradise, though.

I’ve had some excellent times here enjoying fishing with my friends and even a delightful Bar-B-Q by the lakeside.

But, remember to stake out a good spot early during peak seasons because the park can get crowded.

And lastly, for the adventurous out there, there’s a shooting range set amidst the hilly and wooded surroundings.

It adds an exciting edge to the otherwise serene atmosphere of the park.

From the crisp, cold winters when wildlife is scarce, to the vibrant, warm summers, Bald Mountain State Recreation Area is a year-round destination that never fails to amaze.

Its scenic beauty and variety of recreational activities make it a must-visit, whether you’re a local or just passing through.

Ride the Waves at Waterford Oaks County Park

I have to say, nothing quite beats a day out at Waterford Oaks County Park.

It’s quite the sight to see that large bucket set up in the kiddie pool dumping water every so often.

And the wave pool? Such a thrill for both us grown-ups and the older kids.

What’s even better is that the park provides tubes for free, so no need to bring your own.

Unlike some other parks, Waterford Oaks County Park lets you bring your own food and drink.

While they stopped selling food on site, nothing really beats a well-prepared homemade picnic.

But, just a heads up, there seems to be a bit of a bee situation whenever food is around.

It’s a minor inconvenience, I’d say, in the grand scheme of things. But still, better to be prepared.

One of my favorite parts about the park though are the wide paths lined with plenty of trees.

Taking a leisurely stroll along these paths is the perfect way to feel immersed in nature without having to leave the city.

As for the playground, I would say it’s more geared towards older kids.

It’s nicely put together with many rocks, but the activities are a bit sparse.

Have a Quiet Moment at The Eternal Mother Temple

Exterior of The Eternal Mother Temple

Shibamouli Lahiri, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Eternal Mother Temple, a place that has become my sanctuary, my solace.

The moment I step onto the sacred grounds of this temple, I am instantly filled with an overwhelming sense of calm and tranquillity.

It’s been a tradition of mine to spend at least an hour here during the pooja time, absorbing the positive energy that flows through the temple.

The chanting of the mantras, the recitation of the sahasranama, it all invigorates my mind and soul, and I can’t help but leave feeling enlightened and invigorated.

Yes, the temple is experiencing a bit of a squeeze due to the ongoing construction work, but I can already see it transforming into something truly spectacular.

Every festival is a grand affair at Eternal Mother Temple.

The special poojas, prasadam, everything is done with such meticulousness and devotion.

And the priest, oh, he is a knowledgeable man who conducts the poojas with such grace and sincerity.

The weekends can be a bit crowded, but that’s to be expected.

After all, who wouldn’t want to start their week on a positive note?

And it’s not just about the spiritual experience.

The architecture of the temple is something that will leave you in awe.

And if you’re lucky, you might just catch a performance by traditional Indian dancers on your visit.

Isn’t that just the cherry on top?

Take a Trip down Memory Lane at the Pontiac Transportation Museum

Having lived in this city for years, there’s one local gem that I always recommend to visitors – the Pontiac Transportation Museum.

It’s not just for Pontiac enthusiasts, this museum has a way of captivating anyone who has an appreciation for vintage cars.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a huge car buff, but there’s something about the rich history and classic design of these old vehicles that just draws you in.

The museum is located in an old elementary school, lending the place a unique charm.

It’s brimming with interesting pieces, each car tells a story of its own.

What’s more, they have the very first Pontiac on display! How cool is that?

The people running the place are fantastic.

From the staff to the board of directors, everyone is extremely knowledgeable about the cars and their history.

Plus, they are so personable, always ready to share a story or answer any questions.

It’s clear that they love what they do.

Despite it not being officially open to the public yet, I’ve had the opportunity to visit during special occasions.

One such event was the 40th Fiero celebration.

It was truly amazing to see the enthusiasm and camaraderie among everyone present.

If this is any indication, I can only imagine how incredible it will be once it’s fully open.

Honestly, visiting the Pontiac Transportation Museum is like taking a trip down memory lane.

It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of technology and design.

Embrace the Winter Thrills at Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort

I have to tell you, there’s something magical about swooshing down a snowy hill on a crisp winter’s day, and Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort has become my favorite spot to embrace the cold and have an exhilarating time.

It’s not just about the skiing and snowboarding, although with 17 different runs, there’s plenty of variety for all skill levels!

On the days when the snowmaking machines have been working overtime, and there’s a fresh blanket of powder, the experience is nothing short of epic.

The lifts are fast, I’ve managed to get in as many as 20 runs in a single day!

But remember, the weather plays a significant role in your visit, so keeping an eye on the forecast is key.

What sets Pine Knob Ski and Snowboard Resort apart for me are the terrain parks.

There are two that I know of – one for beginners and one for the more advanced thrill-seekers.

The expert terrain park is filled with rails and jumps that can challenge even the most seasoned boarders.

But don’t worry, if you’re just starting out, the bunny hill is perfect, even though it can get a bit crowded at times.

The blue and black hills are also a treat.

Keep in mind that the blue hills at Pine Knob are pretty much equivalent to greens elsewhere, so don’t be afraid to give them a try.

And of course, there are multiple lifts and tow ropes to get you back up top in no time.

As for the vibe, it’s always buzzing at Pine Knob.

From the fire pit to the beers, it’s a vibe like no other if you’re into that sort of thing.

And let’s not forget the helpful staff, always ready to assist with ticketing or equipment rentals.

Indulge in Mexican Cuisine at Jalapenos

It’s a Saturday evening, just about dinner time, and I’m craving something flavorful.

Without a second thought, I make my way to Jalapenos, a Mexican cantina known for serving generous portions of traditional eats.

Their relaxed atmosphere is just the perfect setting for a casual yet satisfying meal.

As I step into the eatery, I’m greeted with a warm smile from their staff, which is always a nice way to start a dining experience.

There’s plenty of parking available, but the charm of this place lies in its old, humble structure.

It’s not a fancy, modern building in a posh area, but the authentic Mexican flavors served here have a way of winning you over.

Waiting for my meal, I enjoy their complimentary nachos and salsa, which set the tone for the delicious food to follow.

Each bite of the food is a celebration of rich, Mexican flavors.

One thing that stands out on their menu is the chimichanga, which is absolutely delightful.

To wash down the food, I order a small margarita on the rocks, but don’t let the ‘small’ fool you – it’s quite a generous pour, and the perfect companion to a flavorful meal.

Despite the rush of customers, the service at Jalapenos remains consistent.

The staff is friendly, helpful, and attentive.

There was a time or two when I felt a bit rushed, but it was a small hiccup in an otherwise pleasant dining experience.

Jalapenos is more than just a restaurant for me – it’s a culinary destination that never fails to satisfy my Mexican food cravings.

Each visit is a new opportunity to try something different from their extensive menu.

Enjoy Summer Fun at Waterford Oaks Wave Pool

A typical summer day for me starts at Waterford Oaks Wave Pool, a vibrant water park nestled in a 185-acre preserve.

Not only does it host a thrilling wave pool, but it also features a bicycle motocross track, a sand volleyball court, and even a sledding hill for winter fun.

One time, there was a slight hiccup with the tickets not printing at the entrance and the wave pool needing a reset after two large bursts.

But, the staff took it all in stride.

They promptly and professionally fixed the issues, ensuring our much-loved summer fun continued without a hitch.

The lifeguards and security personnel here truly make the difference, ensuring everyone has a good time while staying safe.

A standout feature of Waterford Oaks Wave Pool is the regularity of the wave sessions.

Every 20-30 minutes, the pool comes to life, mimicking the feel of an ocean right in the heart of the preserve.

It’s like having a little piece of the beach in your backyard.

Waterford Oaks Wave Pool is also a fantastic destination for family outings.

During the 4th of July weekends, my family and I pack a picnic and spend the day here.

The park has plenty of picnic tables and also allows you to bring in your own food.

There are plenty of chairs and shaded areas that allow for relaxation in between splashing and swimming.

For the little ones, the splash area is a definite hit.

With plenty of activities, it keeps them busy and entertained.

Bring Your Little Ones to Peppa Pig World of Play Michigan

A hectic day with kids can be quite overwhelming, but honestly, a trip to Peppa Pig World of Play Michigan brings a delightful change of pace.

My kids and I love it here, especially when we manage to beat the rush hour.

It’s less chaotic, and I can easily keep an eye on them as they frolic around without a care in the world.

The food pricing here is a good relief for the budget-conscious parent.

We often opt for the Papa picnic pack for a mere $15, which includes 4 full-size snacks and 4 full-size drinks – quite a steal.

The entry fee is reasonable too, $68 for 2 adults and 2 kids, and we get to stay as long as we want.

It’s easier to buy tickets online and schedule our visit, though walk-in tickets are available too.

However, the online option gives us the flexibility to avoid waiting times during peak hours.

The best part of the entire experience was my 3-year-old son’s ecstatic reaction.

He simply refused to leave, even after 2 hours.

Peppa Pig World of Play Michigan is squeaky clean, and there’s a ton of play options that keep the little ones occupied.

It’s impressive how the management limits the entry to avoid overcrowding.

The place has been thoughtfully planned and laid out, guaranteeing fun for all kids.

In my opinion, it is best suited for 3-5-year-olds, although slightly older or younger kids won’t feel left out.

The character meet and greet sessions are a charming bonus!

If your little ones are as hooked on the Peppa Pig world as mine are, this place is an absolute must-visit.

Have a Family Day Out at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan

What a sensory delight it is to spend a day at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan!

My son, his little daughters, and I usually reserve our Fridays for a full day at this mesmerizing place, where we immerse ourselves in a world of colorful bricks and enchanting structures.

The moment the doors swing open at 10 in the morning, we find ourselves immersed in a world of creativity and imagination.

It’s usually not crowded, save for a few families and preschool groups.

The kids love the hands-on activities that cater to all age groups, and I typically find myself just as engrossed in them.

And then come the awe-inspiring models of prominent Detroit area landmarks that never fail to leave us wide-eyed.

These intricate structures are a testament to the skill and patience of the craftsmen, and they never fail to astound us, no matter how many times we’ve seen them before.

We also never miss the 3D Dreams Movie during our visits, a thrilling and immersive experience that always has us on the edge of our seats.

A personal tip, though: try to purchase the tickets a night in advance and look for discount codes, it really helps cut down the costs!

One significant change over the years has been the no-food-from-outside rule, but fortunately, LEGOLAND Discovery Center Michigan has a decent snack shop that also serves Starbucks.

Between the two rides, the play structure, the building areas, and all the exploring trust me when I say you’ll need that caffeine boost!

Experience the Paranormal at Erebus Haunted Attraction

Last weekend, my friends and I decided to step out of our comfort zone and embrace a thrilling experience at the Erebus Haunted Attraction in Pontiac.

From the moment we stepped through the ominous entrance, we were completely immersed in this four-level haunted house.

I found the uniqueness of their self-made props and animations exceptionally captivating.

It’s not every day you get to witness animatronic monsters, cinematic effects, and live actors all at once.

Erebus Haunted Attraction was packed when we arrived, indicating its popularity among thrill-seekers like ourselves.

We opted for the fast pass which, for a few bucks more, saved us from the long line.

I must say, it was worth every penny.

Although the large crowd led to us catching the previous group’s jump scares, the overall experience remained undeniably eerie and spine-chilling.

What stood out to me was the dedication and passion of the actors and staff.

Their performances genuinely added to the overall eerie atmosphere and thrill.

My friends and I agreed that this was among the best haunted houses we’ve visited yet.

The best part?

The first 200 visitors each day get a free t-shirt.

Bring Home a Treasure at Dixieland Flea Market

Every time I drive through Pontiac, the sight of Dixieland Flea Market always piques my curiosity.

I have been living here for almost four years, and I finally decided to make a stop and explore the place last weekend.

Dixieland Flea Market is a huge, sprawling labyrinth of vendors, each passionate about their unique collections.

Wandering around, I felt like I was on an adventure, discovering something new around every corner.

The best part is, you can strike up a conversation with the vendors and learn something new about their collections.

Most vendors respect your space and understand if you’re just looking around.

Amidst the randomness, I stumbled upon a section that sells rocks.

It was like finding a hidden gem (pun intended) amongst the clutter.

Oh, and they also have a small section serving hot food, although only one was open when I visited.

Maybe they operate at different hours.

Stroll around Crystal Lake

There’s something unquestionably serene about Crystal Lake.

As the sun rises, the lake’s surface mirrors the majestic hues of the sky, setting the stage for another day of outdoor activities.

I’ve spent countless mornings casting my line into the calm, sometimes grassy waters, waiting for the bass to bite – they have a particular liking for top water frogs, I’ve noticed.

It’s not just about the fishing out here at Crystal Lake, though.

On days when I feel like doing something different, there’s a fantastic golf course nearby.

It’s a great place to unwind and practice your swing or just enjoy a leisurely game with friends.

But the best part?

It’s the sense of tranquility that wraps around you like a warm blanket as you sit by the lake, feeling the cool breeze and listening to the gentle lapping of the water against the shore.

There’s nothing quite like it.

Final Thoughts

After months of exploring and rediscovering my hometown, I’ve come to realize that Pontiac has far more to offer than meets the eye.

From the thrill of Erebus Escape and the cultural enlightenment at The Eternal Mother Temple to the rich history at the Oakland County Pioneer Historical Society, there’s a unique blend of experiences waiting around every corner.

Pontiac, for me, is more than just a city – it’s a hub of diverse experiences, unique places, and warm, welcoming people.

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