It might be known for cars and Motown more than as a popular travel destination, but there are a lot of things to do in Detroit, and for that reason alone it should be on your radar. Once you know about all the cool things to do in Detroit, the city is going to end up being on your best places to visit list for next summer guaranteed.
Michigan sits in the Great Lakes region between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. (It is less than three hours from where we live in Canada and has often been a go to destination for us) Detroit is Michigan’s largest city although it is not the capital of Michigan. (That title goes to Lansing.) Detroit Mi is known as the motor city, and rightly so as it is considered the car capital of the world. That’s thanks to the fact that the four major car founders decided to use Detroit as the hub of their operations in the first part of the 20th century.
The coolest things to do in Detroit Michigan
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While the city’s automobile roots remain strong, these days it is known for many other things. Everyone can enjoy food, art, museums and so much more when you visit the city of Detroit. Up next we’re going to tell you about 15 things to do in Detroit that are going to make you want to pack your bags right now.
Ride the People Mover
One of our favourite things about Detroit is getting around on the People Mover. The 2.9-mile looped system has 13 stations, with automatic stops at popular downtown locations. It costs only .75 to ride and it took us to a lot of Detroit’s top attractions including the GM Renaissance Centre, Joe Louis Arena, former home of the Detroit Red Wings and Downtown. It’s a great way to get a lay of the land. Renting a bike is another great way to get around Detroit as well.
Where to Stay in Detroit
- The Marriott at the Renaissance Center is located directly on the People Mover making it a good central location. Located in one of the 7 towers of the Renaissance Centre, this is a great location in Detroit.
- Doubletree Suites by Hilton – We enjoyed our stay here in Fort Shelby, a historical district the train station. The Fox Theatre and Detroit Opera House are nearby, and some of the area’s notable landmarks include Masonic Temple and Ambassador Bridge.
Detroit Institute of Arts Museum
It might be surprising to learn that a city known more for its assembly lines and car production is also one of those destinations you should visit for arts and culture. Detroit is home to numerous museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum.
The center has a massive collection of pieces from around the world. The Detroit Institute of Arts is made up of 100 galleries that host significant American works as well as those from Europe and Asia. This is not the only art museum, there are several others you can check out like the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Detroit is the birthplace of Motown and if you want to visit the best piece of Motown history, you need to check out the Motown Museum. This is one of the best things to do in Detroit, Michigan. The museum is housed in two houses, one of which belonged to an old resident that opened up the first Motown recording studio in the house.
Located int he original recording studio and headquarters, the two small houses that house the legacy of Motown may look ordinary from the outside. However, when you get inside you can feel the excitement of seeing where the legendary Motown artists like Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 got their first break.
The Henry Ford Museum
You can’t go to Detroit Michigan and not visit the Henry Ford Museum. This is where Detroit resident Henry Ford got into some activities that would make him rich. It is where he started the legendary Ford Motor Company and when you visit you’ll get a taste of how Ford made it happen. You also get to see the best artifacts that represent Henry Ford’s vision and life.
If you’ve never seen the Ford Class Model T, this is the place you’ll be able to get your very first glimpse. The Model T Ford is the very car that got the whole world to use cars. Outside of the Henry Ford Museum is Greenfield Village and it is one of the things to do in Detroit that you can’t miss.
Greenfield Village is an outdoor museum that is designed to look like a village from when Ameria was first settled. More than 100 historic buildings were brought in from Detroit Mi and from all over the US to make up Greenfield. This is one of those attractions you must not miss.
- Take a Tour of the Ford Factory to see vintage cars and race cars like the Model, The Secret Experimental Room and how cars were made in the early 1900s.
Museum of African American History
Located in Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History holds a special place for many of Detroit’s residents. In fact, the museum is very special because it is the largest permanent African-American exhibition in the world.
A visit to the institution will take on a trip through African American history with displays dedicated to African American inventors, artists, and more. The original museum was established in the 1960s in a house belonging to Charles H. Wright and was moved into the present 120,000 sq. ft place in the 1990s.
Detroit Historical Museum
If you want to know about things to do in Detroit Mi that will take you back in time then visit the Detroit Historical Museum. The museum will answer all of your questions from what the city looked like back then to what everyone was like back then. You can even check out an old map or two to see how the city has changed over the centuries.
There are many things to do in Detroit in the downtown core. The best way to get to know Detroit is with a walking tour. You get a chance to walk among the locals and get a feel for the heartbeat of the city. There are a variety of operators that run walking tours. Regardless of which one you go on, give yourself about two hours to enjoy the full experience.
While you’re on the walk you’ll come across places like the Detroit Opera House, Comerica Park, The Fillmore, and the Fox Theater as well as restaurants, pubs, and museums. Note down the stuff you like and come back later to check it out. Detroit is really well known for its live jazz scene so it might be worth it to give yourself a night on the town to experience it. Give yourself about two hours for the walk to get the most out of the experience.
- This highly rated tour takes you around the top places in Detroit to see Belle Island, the Fisher Building, the historic Fox Theater and more.
Belle Isle Park
This picturesque island is also the largest park owned by any city in all of the United States. The park is beautiful all year round but is especially nice to visit in the spring and summer when the weather is warm. You can walk the whole island and enjoy a picnic in one of the many green areas. It is one of the more popular attractions in the city.
Alternatively, if you’re up for some adventure, this is the place to have it. You can check out the Belle Isle Conservatory as well as the island’s aquarium, fountain, museum, and nature center. You can also golf on the island, as well as get a tan on the beach in the summer. Essentially, Belle Isle is your one-stop shop for all kinds of experiences and attractions on the map. If you’re looking for things to do in Detroit, you can come to Belle Isle Park and do all of them in one place.
Campus Martius Park
This Park is a green oasis in the middle of busy downtown Detroit. Among the trees, and bushes and flowers are stages for performances as well as public art. If you’re lucky enough to be in Detroit in the winter, you will definitely want to visit the ice skating rink at this Detroit Mi park.
Food and Entertainment in Detroit
Detroit has all sorts of options when it comes to its tastes and entertainment. You can use local websites to find out where Detroit residents eat and play but for a beginner’s guide check out our suggestions.
One of the super fun eating options in Detroit is its food trucks near the Eastern Market. You can find falafels and hummus, smoked barbeque, shrimp tacos as well as classic burgers. One of the things people really love about going to Eastern Market is their macaroni and cheese truck. Regardless of what you choose the tastes are amazing as the food is made in small batches and served hot.
Our favorite neighborhood to explore in Detroit is Corktown. This historic district is home to the historic Detroit Central Depot. It was losed in 1988 and was at risk of being torn down, but now this 18 story relic is getting a facelift thanks to Ford rebuilding the iconic central train station. It is a beautiful piece of architecture that deserves to remain in tact.
When it comes activities involving libations, Detroit can definitely peak your interest. Detroit is also known for its old-fashioned dive bars where you can go in for a pint and talk to the locals. Some of the bars play live music and also serve classic bar food. Slows Bar BQ is an award-winning BBQ that serves slow-cooked meats that will melt in your mouth as you dip each bit in your choice of five specialty sauces.
If gastropubs and microbrews are more your thing then you can check out places like Motor City Brewing Works. Gastropubs and microbreweries like it are popping up more and more in the downtown with the local scene attracting more young artists and professionals.
Once all the brewing and food are done, you might want listen to some live music at one of those classic Detroit attractions. The city is the home of Motown so live music is in its blooks. It is home to Movement Electronic Music Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival. Listening to the best live music at the jazz bars is one of those activities you’ll find locals and travelers enjoying together. Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre in Chene Park is a hot spot for live music in the summer and The Fillmore is a legendary music center in Detroit that is popular for live bands.
But music is everywhere and when you walk into a classic venue, it’s like you stepped back in time. You don’t know whether the crooning is from the Detroit of today or Detroit of old, all you know is you’re relaxed and you love it. You can check out the City of Detroit website to find out more about the entertainment attractions around the city.
Ford River Rouge Complex
Touring a factory doesn’t usually top anyone’s list of things to do on vacation, but you might want to make an exception. The Ford River Rouge Complex is home to attractions courtesy of the Ford Motor Company. It houses the factory and machinery that has kept the giant automaker up and running for decades. As a visitor, you’ll be interested in visiting the Ford Rouge Factory Center where there are six Ford factories.
You can tour the assembly-line facilities and get a taste of what it takes to build a Ford. It is something you have to see at least once in your lifetime before factories are taken over by robots and there is nothing to see. This is also one of those kids attractions that children remember visiting for a lifetime, so travelers with kids should definitely put the Ford Rouge Factory as one of the attractions on their list.
Once you have enough of touring the factories, museums and other city attractions, you may be in the mood to be entertained while sitting down. If so, the Fox Theatre might be one of the things of interest. It is the perfect place to head to for a movie or a show. The Fox Theatre is considered a national historic landmark as it has been in use since the 1920s.
I was actually a little giddy when I first laid eyes on the Fox Theatre, it is one of five historic theaters built by movie producer William Fox (the other four being in Brooklyn, Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco)
Attractions at the theatre included superstars like Shirley Temple and Elvis Presley to name just a few. It has also hosted all sorts of shows from Sesame Street to Riverdance. The theatre’s entertainment value is one thing, but it is also worth visiting for the architecture and spectacular interior alone. You’ll find Persian, Italian and Moor inspiration throughout, making it a spectacular place to visit and soak in the decades of culture.
Munroe Drive in
There was a celebration when Detroit opened up its Drive-in this past January, and for good reason. Drive-ins seem to have been relegated to the 1960s in most states – but not in Detroit where you’ll find them still in use. If you want to get a feel for what it was like to sit back and relax in your own car and take in a show this is one of those great experiences. This drive-in destination is located in the city’s Monroe district (Detroit’s first theater districts) and you can catch a flick on most nights of the week, weather permitting. This movie setup is especially useful these days as social distancing is in effect everywhere.
Dequindre Cut is something between a public art space and a public green space. This was part of a CN rail line before it was converted into a greenway close to the Eastern Market. These days you’ll see couples, families, and young people walking, running, and biking along Dequindre Cut. The wonderfully unique thing about this 2 mile long space is that the work of local graffiti artists is allowed to shine bright. The street art brings a rugged human aspect to the natural green space running from the Detroit River to .
A local art scene can really pull a city together and that’s what the Heidelberg Project has done for Detroit. The project was cxreated by local artist Tyree Guyton in the 1980s and still lives today. What was once a small art project has now turned into a movement aimed at revitalizing communities affected by political and racial clashes.
The project includes old houses and other things that have found new life thanks to community artists. the artists have turned what were blights to the community into street art with inspiring installations that are recognized around the globe.
It has been named the best riverfront walk among all US cities and for good reason. Besides its spectacular views are all of the activities you can take part in. Taking a walk goes without saying, but you can also take a boat ride along the riverfront.
You can also rent bikes and go for a whimsical bike ride. There are also plenty of kids attractions like a splash park, carousel, and several fountains they can also play in. You’ll also find lovely pieces of street art for Instagrammable pics for your travel map.
Catch a Detroit Tigers Game – Comerica Park
Growing up, The Toronto Blue Jays had a real rivalry with the Detroit Tigers. So when we visited Detroit, it was pretty exciting to see the home of the baseball team even though the park I grew up with was Tiger Stadium. Comerica Park opened in 2000, and when you are in Detroit in summer, you should check out America’s favourite pass time.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are tons of things to do in Detroit, just check out a local tourist map. You’ll see the downtown is dotted with things to do all year. You can catch a show, skate on an ice rink, visit historical attractions and find all sorts of places to tuck into dinner and drinks at the end of the night
If you look at any website that provides information about US tourism, you’ll find that Detroit is one of those destinations that gets rave reviews. Many people say it is one of the best trips on the map in the US. If you look at a map of Detroit you’ll see much of the area is designed for travelers as well as for families. You just need to use your common sense and you’ll be sure to have one of your best trips ever.
Visiting Detroit, Michigan is one of the best ways to understand the history of America. The city has many institutions dedicated to bringing travelers the story of America’s past. From the indoor and outdoor museums to the historical venues, Detroit is almost like walking into a library for those who have an interest in America’s past. There are many other things to do in Detroit that are modern too. You will find adult and kids attractions in parks and modern art museums as well as public art spaces.
Yes, it is safe and just like in any major city, it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings. During the day you’ll see that all sorts of attractions and experiences bring travelers to the downtown so you feel quite comfortable. However, just like all good travel books say, it is a good idea to stay in well-lit and frequented areas if you are out and about late at night.
And these are the best things to do in Detroit Michigan. Have you been to Detroit?