I rode the giant slide on Belle Isle in Detroit and survived

The same can’t be said for my butt, though

The infamous giant slide. (Jack Roskopp)

You’ve seen the viral videos. You laughed, you cringed and you probably thought to yourself that there’s no way you’d go down that giant slide in Detroit after watching people tumble down it and land on their backs and butts.

When I saw the video, I wanted to know when could I go down the slide. I’ll take any opportunity to embarrass myself for a good laugh and live to tell the tale.

In case you’re wondering about this giant slide in Detroit and why it was shut down after the viral videos of folks riding it went viral, let me fill you in.

The giant slide is on Detroit’s Belle Isle, and has been open and operating for decades. Plenty of Detroiters have fond memories of taking rides down the giant slide, but something was off when the slide reopened last week after it was closed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apparently, the DNR (who operates the giant slide) put a coating on it, causing the slide to run a lot faster, which meant riders who leaned back a little too far, or lost control of their bodies, got sizable air after every hump, especially the further down the slide they got.

The slide was closed pretty soon after it opened once the videos of riders thumping their backs and butts on the slide went viral. Two days later, the DNR announced that the slide would reopen the following weekend after some maintenance was done to slow down the slide. They even released an instructional video on how to properly ride the giant slide without getting any air.

As soon as I heard that the slide was reopening I knew I had to ride it. Having not grown up in Detroit, it was always something I wanted to do, so there was no way I was missing my chance. If the DNR said it was safe to ride, I was down like a clown.

I arrived on Belle Isle about an hour after the giant slide opened Friday afternoon, and there was already a decent crowd ready to see if riders were going to be busting their butts. There was TV crews, radio folks and spectators with their phones out hoping to capture the next viral moment.

There were more people there just to watch the spectacle than actual people lined up to ride the slide, which was mostly children and teens. I think after watching the videos, most sane adults would pass on the slide. It’s not worth it to have to spend the day at the chiropractor after taking a tumble.

There were a few brave adults, like me, who were ready to take on the challenge, and my nerves immediately began to go down as I saw a majority of the riders have fun and safe rides down the slide. Sure, some people got a little bit of air as they were riding the bumps towards the bottom of the slide, but overall it looked fun and nothing like the videos I saw circulate online.


The Belle Isle giant slide is open yet again! 🤣😬😵‍💫 #fyp #detroit #belleisle #giantslide

♬ original sound - Something Good

You can watch the video of me going down the slide by clicking here.

That didn’t meant there weren’t a few folks who didn’t understand the concept of “don’t lean back,” which was told to riders by nearly anyone working.

One woman tried to catch her baseball hat as it flew off her head while riding the slide, which of course made her launch off the bumps and get major air. By the time she made it to the bottom she was practically rolling off the slide.

While she looked like she was in a ton of pain, I just couldn’t help but laugh a little! When you’re told so many times not to lean back, you can’t help but giggle when they don’t listen and turn into one of the riders from last weekend.

It soon became my turn to ride, and I have to tell you, I was so ready.

I walked up the steep stairs and noticed DNR workers spraying the slide with water, which apparently was another way to slow the slide down. While I’m not sure how that works (wouldn’t water just make it more slick?), I trusted that these people were doing the right thing.

Once it was my turn to go down, I got my body inside the burlap sack and a little voice inside my head started to tell me that I was a complete fool for doing this. But another voice told me to “do it for the Gram” so I started to scoot myself to edge until I took off.

Honestly, I don’t remember much from the ride because it happened so quickly. It was all going pretty hunky dory until I hit the third or fourth bump that I started to feel myself get some air. Was it because I was filming myself going down the slide so I didn’t have complete control over my body?

Yes, it was 100% why I started to get some air on the bumps. I was paying way more attention to my phone than leaning back. Now, I didn’t fly so much like the folks in the viral videos, but I for sure landed on my butt pretty hard, especially on the last bump. You can even hear me let out on “oh, god” in the video as I land the last little hump.

I also had so much speed that I practically slid into the railings where camera crews and onlookers were filming with glee. Was it a little embarrassing? Sure! Will I have a bruise on my butt tomorrow when I wake up? Probably! But was it also fun? Yes!

It’s nice that the DNR not only reopened the giant slide, but made the adjustments so that it’s fun for any age to do it. The giant slide is so niche and specific to Detroit culture, so it’s wonderful to see it open again and making people laugh.

And now that I know it only costs $1 to ride, I will for sure be back until it closes again for the season after Labor Day.

So thanks for the fun, giant slide! I may have a bruise on my butt for a few days, but the thrill was 100% worth it.

About the Author:

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.