Whether you’re interested in autoes, art, music, history, sports, or nightlife, there are plenty of awesome things to do in Detroit to satisfy your interests. Here you are able to spend a morning visiting a world-class art museum, cycle along the riverfront in the afternoon, and rock out to live music while sipping a Michigan craft beer at night.
Detroit is a city that goes by many different names. You may know it as the Motor City, Detroit Rock City, or Motown, but I call it home. I was born just outside of Detroit and spent the better part of my life there until moving off to college simply up the road.
While my hometown built the news for all the incorrect reasons for several decades, Detroit has been experiencing a major renaissance in recent years. There’s a saying around Motown that runs” Detroit hustles harder ,” and that never-say-quit attitude has brought new life back into the city.
I’m excited to share some of the best Detroit attractions with you along with some local tips-off to attain your visit to the Motor City an unforgettable experience! If you’re ready to see the best that Motown has to offer, read on for some of the best things to do in Detroit. 1. Take a Walking Tour
The best way to get acquainted with the Motor City( or any city, for that matter) is on your own two feet. As long as you’re not visiting in the dead of wintertime, downtown Detroit is a perfectly walkable place.
If you’d like to learn more about Detroit as you stroll, is moving forward and sign up for one of the free walking tours with Detroit Experience Factory. These only run on Saturday, so if you don’t happen to be in Motown over the weekend you are able to simply follow their excellent map to make your own walking tour of the city.
Along the style, you’ll spot some of Detroit’s most famous landmarks, such as the fist of Joe Louis and the Spirit of Detroit. In addition, you’ll get to take in some of the city’s incredible architecture. Be sure to bring your camera along for this one! Running on a walking tour is definitely one of the best things to do in Detroit.
2. Detroit Institute of Arts
While Detroit may be famous for its automobiles and music, there’s also a fantastic art scene here. Art fans are in for a real treat when travelling to the D thanks to the city’s numerous museums, galleries, and street art.
To begin your art adventure in the city, head to the Detroit Institute of Arts. This world-class museum is home to one of the most important art collectings in the United States and features over 100 galleries in all. It’s definitely one of the top Detroit attractions and a must-visit.
The inner courtyard of the museum features the famous Detroit Industry frescoes by Diego Rivera. These 27 panels depict the automotive industry at Ford Motor Company and Rivera even considered them his most successful work.
There’s so much to find at the Detroit Institute of Arts that you can easily spend an entire day there. The museum is open from 9AM-4PM Tuesday to Thursday, 9AM-10PM on Friday, and 10 AM-5PM on the weekend. Tickets are $14 for adults,$ 9 for seniors,$ 8 for college student, and$ 6 for youth ages 6-17. You can find the museum on the map here.
3. Rock Out
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Detroit is going out to see some live music. After all, the issue was Detroit Rock City! No matter what night of the week it is, you’ve got plenty of options for rocking out in Detroit.
Shows here run the gamut from massive international touring bands at the football stadium to tiny dive bars with local bands looking to make a name for themselves. Whatever your musical tastes are, there’s something playing for you in Detroit. Rock, jazz, electronic, hip hop, classical- the list goes on and on.
Some of my personal favourite places to watch a concert in Detroit include the Fillmore, the Majestic Theatre/ Magic Stick, and the Masonic Temple. To find out what’s playing in Detroit, I recommend checking out the calendar of events from the Metro Times or Jambase.
4. Hang Out in Campus Martius
One of the best places to visit in Detroit is Campus Martius. For those who aren’t Latin intellectuals, the name of this downtown Detroit park entails” Field of Mars .” The original was the most populous area in Rome, and this one is a great place to kick it in Motown.
Before we get into the fun things to do in Campus Martius, a little history lesson. Back in 1805, the city was destroyed by a huge fire. Augustus Woodward, the first Chief Justice of the Michigan Territory, set about rebuilding the city centred around this park.
After some major renovations in 2004, the park is now home to statues, gardens, a nice fountain, and a few places to grab a snack or a beverage. In the winter months, you’ll find an ice skating rink here, while the warmer months feature a fun little beach in the middle of the city.
If you happen to be visiting Detroit in the autumn, you are able to attend the festive Christmas tree lighting here the Monday before Thanksgiving. Whichever season you visit in, be sure to add a stop in Campus Martius to your listing of things to do in Detroit. You can find the park on the map here.
5. Motown Museum
Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Michael Jackson- these are just a few of the legends who recorded music right here in Detroit. As such, one of the top Detroit attractions is the Motown Museum, AKA Hitsville, USA.
Motown founder Berry Gordy purchased a photography studio in 1959 and transformed it into a recording studio. Over the following decade, countless hit songs were recorded here in Studio A. In short, the Motown sound was born in this very building.
Motown Records moved such an operation to Los Angeles in 1972, and many believe the heart of the label was lost in the process. In 1985, the Motown Museum opened up to continue the legacy of this important piece of musical history.
The Motown Museum is open from 10 AM-6PM Tuesday-Sunday from May to October. During the autumn and winter it’s also closed on Sundays. Tickets are first come, first serve, and often sell out on the weekend. It expenses $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and children ages 5-17. You can get directions to the museum and find it on the map here.
6. Take the RiverWalk
These days, one of the top things to do in Detroit is taking a stroll along the RiverWalk. Part of a greater transformation of the Detroit riverfront as a whole, this 3.5 -mile trail is the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air and get some exercise in the Motor City.
Along the trail, there are several parks, fishing quays, picnic regions, and even a carousel. While strolling here is just fine, there are also plenty of places where you can rent a bike. Whether you walk or ride, it’s a scenic area to expend a few hours in.
Work on the RiverWalk is ongoing as it continues to expand. For now, it starts at Joe Louis Arena downtown and stretches to the Milliken State Park. Make sure you stop here for a great photo op with the lighthouse!
The RiverWalk is hands down one of the coolest places to visit in Detroit, so be sure to add it to your itinerary. You can get directions to the RiverWalk by checking the map here.
Wandering along the riverfront is one of the top things to do in Chicago as well. If you’re heading to the Windy City, don’t miss it.
7. Explore Belle Isle
I expended most of my life in the Detroit area, and my favourite place to go in the city is definitely Belle Isle. This nation park is actually an island in the Detroit River in between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. From one side of the park you can see downtown Detroit, and from the other you are able to catch a glimpse of Windsor. Pretty cool, eh?
Belle Isle has actually had quite the interesting history. Once a playground for the well-to-do with a casino, zoo, and band shell, the park fell into disrepair for many years. It became a nation park in 2014 and it has been on the up and up ever since.
There’s plenty to see and do on Belle Isle to warrant spending an entire day there, especially during the warmer months. You can check out the greenhouses at the conservatory, visit the aquarium, hit a bucket of golf balls, or just sofa on the beach. It’s definitely one of the most fun places to visit in Detroit.
It’s free to visit Belle Isle, but you need a Michigan Recreation Passport to drive onto the island. These cost $31 for non-Michigan residents and they get you access to all country parks for the entire year. If you’re just visiting and don’t think it’s worth it to shell out the dough, you are able to only cycle or walk across the bridge to access the island for free.
Belle Isle Park is open from 5AM-10PM every day. For directions, check the place on the map here.
8. Eat and Drink, Detroit Style
I don’t know about you, but I always love to try local snacks and drinkings when I travel. There are plenty of tasty made-in-Detroit options that you should definitely sample when visiting Motown.
If you’ve ever heard someone call soda “pop” and wonder why, that’s because of Faygo. This Detroit company coined the word long ago and still creates unique carbonated beverages such as Rock& Rye and Redpop. Another classic Detroit drink is Vernors ginger ale, which goes especially well in a Motown Mule cocktail.
Moving on to the snacks, we have to start with Better Made potato chips. Founded back in 1930, they still churn out delicious assortments of chips such as red hot BBQ and salt& vinegar. I know I’m a local and may be biased, but I truly suppose these are the best chips around!
To satisfy your sweet tooth, you are able to pick up a box of chocolates or try some ice cream from Sanders. If you’d like to live out your own version of Charlie& the Chocolate Factory, you can even take a guided tour of their factory. You’ll require some wheels, though, as it’s about a 30 -minute drive outside of downtown Detroit in Clinton Township. Check the map for directions here.
9. Take the Coney Island Hot Dog Challenge
We can’t talk about eating in Motown without mentioning the classic Detroit Coney Island hot dog. This culinary masterpiece is a beef frankfurter in natural casing, topped with an all-meat chili, diced white onions, and yellow mustard.
Don’t you dare set ketchup on this hot dog!
If you’re wondering why the Detroit-style hot dog is named after a place in New York, well there’s really no definitive answer there. I can give you a little history lesson, though…
Back in 1917, a Greek immigrant named Gust Keros opened American Coney Island in downtown Detroit. His brother moved to town several years later and eventually opened Lafayette Coney Island right next door. Both are still in business to this very day, although ownership of Lafayette has since changed hands.
One of the top things to do in Detroit is taking the” Coney Challenge” where you try a hot dog from both establishments to ensure which one you like best. I have my personal favourite, but you’ll merely got to go try them both and decide for yourself! You can find American on the map here, and Lafayette is literally right next door.
10. Catch a Professional Sports Game
As you may have noticed by now, Detroit has a lot of nicknames. In addition to being called the Motor City, Motown, and Detroit Rock City, it’s also commonly known as Hockeytown. That’s because the city is home to the Red Wings, who have won more Stanley Cups( 11) than any other American squad.
The Wings recently moved into a new home downtown at Little Caesars Arena, which is now one of the top Detroit attractions. The regular season runnings from October to April with home games every few days. They share the arena with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, so there’s a good chance there will be a game on if you’re visit in fall/ winter.
Detroit is actually one of only two cities where squads in all four major sports play downtown( Denver being the other one ). In addition to the Red Wings and Pistons, Detroit is home to the Tigers( MLB) and Lions( NFL ). The Tigers play at Comerica Park and have games very often from April to October, while the Lions play eight home games at Ford Field during the season starting in September.
Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, catching a game is one of the best things to do in Detroit. Depending on the game, you can even score last-minute tickets for super cheap!
11. Check Out the Heidelberg Project
Of all the Detroit attractions, it’s really hard to beat the uniqueness of the Heidelberg Project . This outdoor art project has a very inspirational story and message behind it.
Artist Tyree Guyton returned to his neighborhood on Heidelberg Street after serving in the army only to find that it” was like a bomb went off .” After the riots of 1967, poverty and blight made this a place where people were afraid to walk, even in broad daylight.
With the help of his wife and grandpa, he began painting homes with brightly coloured dots and attaching salvaged items to them. They continued to transform abandoned houses and plenties into one big art project, eventually developing a non-profit community centre around it. It’s a fascinating place to visit and a great cause to support, so be sure to add it to your list of things to do in Detroit.
The Heidelberg Project is just a short drive from downtown Detroit. There’s plenty of street parking so you can get out of the car and walk around, or you could just catch an Uber there. Alternatively, it’s not a bad motorcycle ride if you rent some wheels. You can find it on the map here.
12. Ride the People Mover
To be honest, the public transportation in Detroit isn’t great. What can I say? It is the Motor City after all. That told me about it, things are slowly improving as mass transit finally comes to Motown.
While it isn’t exactly the most useful or profitable system, the People Mover is pretty cool as a tourist attraction. This elevated light rail train circles downtown Detroit, stopping at 13 different stations along the way.
A ride on the People Mover only expenses $0.75 and offer some nice views of the city. It’s an easy way to get between some of the top Detroit attractions such as the RenCen and Greektown.
The People Mover operates between 6:30 and midnight from Monday to Thursday. It stays open until 2AM on Friday, operates from 9AM-2AM on Saturday, and from noon to midnight on Sunday. You’ll need to pay in cash or pick up some tokens to use for your rides.
13. Explore Eastern Market
Eastern Market has been a Detroit institution since style back in 1841. That stimulates it one of the oldest urban farmers markets in the country! It’s a fun place to explore and definitely earns its place among the top places to visit in Detroit.
On a visit to Eastern Market, you are able to shop for fresh render, dres, art, jewelry, and so much more. In total, around 225 different vendors set up here. There are also several excellent cafe, eateries, and bars in the area. You could easily spend all day exploring Eastern Market.
The market is at its busiest on Saturdays, when upwards of 40,000 people visit. The Saturday market operates year-round from 6AM-4PM. There are also seasonal markets on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Be sure to check their website for all the relevant information about the many different markets.
While you’re in the area, be sure to grab your camera and search for amazing street art. The annual Murals in the Market festival brings artists from all over the world here to brighten up the neighborhood with eye-catching murals. Get directions and check the location of Eastern Market on the map here.
14. Visit Greektown and Mexicantown
Many cities in the US are home to a Chinatown or Little Italy, but not that many have a Greektown or Mexicantown. Detroit has both! Exploring these neighborhoods should certainly be on your list of things to do in Detroit.
Greektown is located right smacking in the heart of the city near the stadia and theatres. Here you’ll find the popular Greektown Casino as well as a handful of awesome Greek restaurants.
I love eating at Pegasus in Greektown, especially ordering saganaki. This appetizer of fried cheese comes to your table on fire as your waiter yells “Opa!” It’s quite the dining experience. You can find Greektown on the map here, and can get there via a ride on the aforementioned People Mover.
Over in southwest Detroit, you’ll find the region known as Mexicantown. Mexican immigrants began flocking to Detroit in the 1920 s due to turmoil in Mexico after the revolution. These days, Mexicantown is a thriving neighborhood full of Mexican-owned shops.
I actually live in Mexico now and can attest to the fact that the Mexican food in this part of Detroit is legit! If you’re craving some tacos, this is where you’ll want to head. You can find Mexicantown on the map here.
15. Go for a Bike Ride
Detroit is definitely still the Motor City, but it’s also a very bike-friendly place. More and more bike lanes are being installed in the city every year as cycling becomes a more popular means of getting around.
As I mentioned above, the RiverWalk is a great place to go for a bike ride in Detroit. There are several places that rent motorcycles along the road. You can also find bike rentals all over the city at the various MoGo stations. A day pass costs$ 8 with limitless 30 -minute journeys. If you use the motorcycle longer than that, it costs an additional$ 4 for each 30 minutes.
If you don’t feel like paying for the car pass to visit Belle Isle, cycling is a solid alternative. The island is a great place for a leisurely bike ride, especially on a nice sunny day.
To truly experience cycling in Detroit Rock City, you are able to join the Slow Roll. This weekly bike ride brings out tons of people for the working group ride through the streets of Motown. Thousands show up, many with some impressively tricked out bikes.
The group satisfies on Monday nights and takes winters off for obvious reasons. Keep up with their Facebook page for their 2019 schedule.
16. Explore the RenCen
Dominating Detroit’s skyline, the Renaissance Centre is a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers on the riverfront. Usually known as the RenCen, it’s the world headquarters of General Motors.
The RenCen has been one of the top Detroit attractions for quite some time. Come here to admire Michigan’s tallest build from outside, and then head in to explore a bit. Make sure you check out GM World, which showcases some of the company’s latest vehicles.
There are also plenty of different shops, cafes, and restaurants inside the complex if you want to stay a while. While the restaurant on the top floor recently shut, a new one will be moving in on the 71 st and 72 nd floors soon.
You can actually take a free tour of the RenCen if you’d like. They run from Monday-Friday at both noon and 2PM. Check their website for more details about the tours and all else on offer there.
17. Cruise on the Detroit Princess
If you enjoy being out on the water, you might want to add a river cruise to your list of things to do in Detroit. The Detroit Princess Riverboat is a massive 5-story cruise boat that holds up to 1,500 passengers.
On this dinner cruise of the Detroit River, you’ll get to enjoy some incredible views of the city along with a mouth-watering meal. Chefs carve up prime rib and juicy pork tenderloin, and there’s also a buffet with a wide range of choices.
In addition to the views and dinner, you’re treated to some live Motown classics. Each level also has a full bar put in, making this one amazing floating party!
Prices and times for the Detroit Princess cruises vary depending on the season. Adult tickets cost between $55 -7 0 and typically last from 7-9: 30 PM. They also have a lunch cruise which is a bit cheaper. Be sure to check their schedule and volume your tickets in advance for this one.
18. Visit the Henry Ford Museum
Without the vision of Henry Ford, there’s no doubt that Detroit would not be what it is today. In fact, his Model T vehicle changed the entire world! Ford founded this museum in an effort to preserve the history of his time, especially the Industrial Revolution that he helped spur.
There’s a lot to see and do here, as it’s actually the largest indoor-outdoor museum complex in the entire US. You can visit the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, which began as a collecting of historical objects by Ford himself. Here you can see the limo that JFK was assassinated in, the bus Rosa Parks refused to give up a seat on, and even an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!
In addition, you are able to explore the fascinating Greenfield Village. It’s a collecting of houses from the 17 th century to the present and is meant to show how Americans have lived and run since the country was founded. There are nearly 100 different builds here that were all moved from their original locatings and arranged in a village.
If you want to see how vehicles are attained in person, you are able to sign on for a tour of the Ford Rouge Factory. Here you’ll get an in-depth look at the construction of the Ford F-1 50, America’s most iconic truck.
There are several different options for tickets and tours, so be sure to check their website to pick which one is best for you. The museum is located in Dearborn, which is about a 30 -minute drive from downtown Detroit. You can find it on the map here.
19. See a Great Lake
We have a saying in Michigan that goes” Great lakes, great times !” Indeed, my home state is surrounded by the five great lakes- Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.
While Detroit is actually located on the river, you don’t have to travel too far to visit the Great Lakes. Head north from the city for about an hour and you’ll find yourself on Lake Huron. Alternatively, you can go south for approximately half an hour to reach Lake Erie.
You can visit the Great Lakes in any season, but my predilection goes to the summer months. On the weekends, you’ll find lots of people coming out to enjoy a day on the water. Angling, swimming, wakeboarding, and more are all on offer at the Great Lakes.
Visiting one of the Great Lakes is definitely one of the top things to do in Detroit. The problem is you likely don’t have a boat with you. If you want to get out on the water, you’ll want to find a tour to do so.
20. Catch a Local Festival
Attending a local celebration is always fun when travelling. Motown hosts festivals all throughout the year of all shapes and sizes. We’ve got plenty of music and food festivals, as well as several dedicated to automobiles and boats, which should come as no surprise here.
Even though the winter months can be unbearably cold, that doesn’t stop Detroit from having celebrations! Every January, the North American International Auto Show takes over the Motor City. Other car-related events include the Detroit Grand Prix race and the Woodward Dream Cruise.
As far as music goes, the city that invented techno throws one of the best electronic music celebrations in the world. Movement takes over downtown’s Hart Plaza every Memorial Day weekend and features an amazing lineup of international artists.
Country fans may want to check out the Downtown Hoedown, while jazz devotees can come to town in September for the Detroit Jazz Fest. The latter is actually the largest free music event in North America, with over 120 bands!
21. Sample Michigan Beers
There are plenty of states brewing up great beers, but few do it better than Michigan. That’s not just me boasting as a native Michigander, either- 5 of the top 10 beers in the country come from the Mitten! I’m happy to see that my personal favourite- Bell’s Two Hearted Ale- is actually atop the list.
With all these astounding brews, you’ll want to be sure to sample a few on your visit to Detroit Rock City. It’s not hard to find Michigan craft beer in the city, as we’re quite proud of our brews.
One excellent bar where you can try several different Michigan brews is HopCat, where they have quite an impressive selection of beers from all over. This is the perfect place to pre-game before going to a sporting event or concert downtown.
If you want to try some brew that’s made right here in Detroit, you’ve got quite a few alternatives. Local breweries include Batch, Atwater, and Motor City Brewing Works. Just check the map here to find the Detroit brewery that’s right for you. My advice – hit them all!
Ready for Detroit?
Many travellers skip over my hometown of Detroit in favour of visiting places like New York or LA. Don’t get me wrong- I love the Big Apple and Tinsletown, but there’s just something special about the Motor City.
I hope this article has shown you how much Detroit has to offer as a travelling destination. Us Detroiters are very passionate about our city, and I think we have good reason to be at the moment. Detroit Rock City is doing amazing things these days. Come and ensure for yourself!
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