14 Things to Do in Detroit: A Motor City Guide

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Things to do in DetroitDetroit is the largest city in Michigan. It is known as the Motor City because it has been the center of the American auto industry for over a century. In the last few years, Detroit has been under major revitalization. It is a great city to visit. Today, I want to share fifteen things to do in Detroit. If you have 48 to 72 hours in Detroit, it’s a must that you check out these places.

14 Things to Do in Detroit

Motown Museum

The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and more all got their start with the Motown record label. I’ve been a fan of the Motown sound since I was a kid. Several people in my family had records and tapes of Motown artists. The Motown Museum is a must-visit if you’re in Detroit. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

I had the chance to see where some of the greatest artists of all recorded and did business. What was great about the museum was that some rooms hadn’t changed since the 70s. Barry Gordy’s apartment still looked like it did over 40 years ago.  The calendar in one of the offices was still on the March 1973 date! It’s amazing how they kept things preserved in the museum. Whether you have 48 hours in Detroit or more, you must visit the Motown Museum.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, is a treasure trove of American history, culture, and technological milestones. This place isn’t just a museum; it’s a celebration of the creative and inventive forces that have driven America. You can practically feel the pulse of history here, from Rosa Parks’ defiant bus ride to the Wright brothers’ pioneering flights.

Walking through its exhibits, you get to see firsthand the objects that tell the story of America. There’s the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, a tube supposedly containing Thomas Edison’s last breath, and George Washington’s camp bed, among others. The automotive section is a car lover’s dream, with everything from the first Ford Mustang to the original 1896 Ford Quadricycle showing how the car industry evolved.

Comerica Park

If you are a baseball fan, you can’t come to Detroit without seeing the Tigers play at Comerica Park. Whenever I go to a new city in the spring or summer, I try to get a baseball game in. Comerica Park was done right. Comerica Park isn’t just a ballpark; it’s an experience. From the towering statues of Tigers legends that greet you at the entrance to the expansive views of downtown Detroit, the park perfectly blends modern amenities and classic charm.

Each game has an electrifying atmosphere, partly thanks to the passionate local fans and the traditional ballpark features like the manual scoreboard and the iconic carousel. The park also offers a variety of food options, from classic hot dogs and beers to local specialties, ensuring a delightful visit for baseball lovers and casual fans alike. Whether you’re catching a home run on a sunny day or enjoying a night game under the lights, visiting Comerica Park is a highlight for any sports enthusiast.

Detroit Lions Game

Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions roar, recently earned the top spot in the NFL for game day experience, according to the “Voice of the Fan” survey. This accolade speaks volumes about the superb service, amenities, and vibrant atmosphere that envelops fans during a Lions game at this iconic stadium.

At Ford Field, the culinary experience is as diverse and dynamic as the game itself. Fans can savor various dishes, from local specialties to exclusive game day treats. Tailgating is an integral part of the pre-game ritual, with dedicated spaces like Pride Plaza buzzing with activities, food, and drink, setting the stage for an exciting day. The stadium’s premium suites offer an elevated experience with VIP parking, comprehensive food and beverage selections, and unbeatable action views for those searching for luxury.

The excitement doesn’t end with the final whistle. Detroit’s lively nightlife and culinary scenes beckon, with the Detroit Brew Trail offering a taste of local craft beer and various eateries serving everything from classic Detroit-style pizza to gourmet dining. Nestled in the heart of downtown, Ford Field is a stone’s throw away from top-notch hotels and entertainment spots, making it a perfect anchor for a memorable visit to Detroit, whether cheering on the Lions or just soaking up the city’s vibrant culture

MGM Grand Detroit Casino

You must check out the MGM Detroit Grand if you like to gamble. I heard that Detroit has a few casinos, but I didn’t know that the MGM would be one of them. This casino made me feel like I was in Las Vegas. The MGM Grand had a lot of machines to play with and a couple of bars & restaurants to choose from. It’s one of several casinos in the Detroit area.

Additionally, the Detroit Riverfront offers a peaceful escape with its well-maintained paths and lush green spaces, perfect for a stroll or an invigorating jog. Along the way, cultural and historical markers enrich the experience, providing insight into Detroit’s significant role in the Underground Railroad. With the stunning backdrop of the Detroit River and the Windsor skyline, the Riverfront serves not only as a scenic retreat but also as a place of reflection and historical appreciation.

If you can’t make it to the MGM Grand Casino, you can check out this Michigan online casino.

Belle Isle Park

With its 985 acres on the Detroit River, Belle Isle Park feels like a hidden treasure within the city’s embrace. This vast island combines natural splendor, historical depth, and cultural highlights in a grand and intimate way. Stepping onto Belle Isle, the panoramic views of Detroit and Canada immediately strike you, offering a picturesque setting that’s hard to forget.

The James Scott Memorial Fountain is at the heart of Belle Isle’s allure, a spectacle of water and light that never fails to mesmerize its audience. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is a haven for plant lovers, where one can wander among rare and exotic flora from the globe’s corners. The Belle Isle Aquarium, known for being North America’s oldest continuously operating aquarium, invites curiosity about the underwater world with its unique displays and historic charm.

For those drawn to the outdoors, Belle Isle doesn’t disappoint. The island’s diverse habitats are crucial for migratory waterfowl, making it a prime spot for bird-watching and nature walks. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park harmonizes with nature. It offers many activities, such as swimming, biking, fishing, and paddling, ensuring every visit is full of discovery and enjoyment.

Eastern Market

One must-visit destination in Detroit is the Eastern Market, the largest historic public market district in the United States. On any given Saturday, this open-air market comes alive with over 150 food and business vendors offering various products, from local produce and gourmet cheeses to unique crafts and eclectic art. The market is a place for shopping and a vibrant hub for experiencing Detroit’s community spirit and culinary delights.

Visitors can explore specialty shops like the renowned Detroit vs Everybody store, which epitomizes local pride with its iconic apparel. Additionally, for those interested in local spirits, several vendors offer uniquely crafted Detroit gin and whiskey tastings, giving a taste of the city’s growing craft distillery scene.

Greektown

The Greektown area is next on the list. It’s an entertainment district in downtown Detroit. Greektown has several bars and restaurants, including Pizza Papalis and Fishbones. The Greektown Casino Hotel is also located in the district.


The Riverfront

The Riverfront is good for a quick run or walk. You can also take beautiful pictures of the view. This area is good for all ages. It’s one of the best free things to do in Detroit. Directly across the river is Canada. Something else that I liked about the Riverfront was that the Gateway to Freedom International Underground Railroad Memorial is located there. The memorial pays tribute to African Americans who fought for freedom when everyone didn’t have it.

Detroit Institute of Arts

If you are a fan of the arts, you must visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. It’s one of the largest art museums in the country. There are over 100 galleries there. The art collection is valued in the billions. If you have 48 hours in Detroit, check out the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Next up on the list is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The museum was founded in 1965. It has over 35,000 artifacts and is the world’s largest exhibit on African American culture. It’s a must-see if you want to learn more about black history.

Take a tour of the Guardian Building

The Guardian Building, towering over Detroit with its 40 floors, is an Art Deco gem that draws in those who appreciate architectural beauty and historical depth. Finished in 1929, it’s often referred to as the “Cathedral of Finance,” reflecting Detroit’s architectural wealth and the early 20th-century ambitions of the city.

What catches the eye immediately is the building’s distinct orange “Guardian Brick,” a material found nowhere else. Stepping inside, you’re met with a stunning lobby with a vaulted ceiling embellished with Rookwood pottery, Pewabic tile, and marbles from Italy and Africa, creating a rich visual symphony.

The interior of the Guardian Building showcases the exceptional skills and artistic flair of its creators. The space is alive with vibrant tiles, detailed mosaics, and ornate metalwork, all coming together to form an artistic spectacle. Not to be missed is the central banking hall, where the acoustically engineered ceiling and a grand mural by Ezra Winter celebrating Michigan’s industrial spirit offer a feast for the eyes.

Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoo, located in Royal Oak, Michigan, spans 125 acres and is home to over 2,000 animals from more than 200 species. Its commitment to animal welfare is evident in actions like the 2005 decision to stop keeping elephants, recognizing the negative impacts of confinement and cold weather on these animals.

Visitors are drawn to exhibits like the Arctic Ring of Life, one of North America’s largest polar bear habitats, and the Australian Outback Adventure, where people can walk among red kangaroos and wallabies. The zoo also boasts the National Amphibian Conservation Center, celebrated as a “Disneyland for toads.”

The Detroit Zoo goes beyond just displaying animals; it emphasizes conservation, education, and interactive experiences. For example, the Giraffe Encounter lets visitors feed giraffes from a high platform. Its history, dating back to its foundation, is marked by landmarks such as the Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain, which doubles as a splash pad and ice rink, highlighting the zoo’s long-standing bond with the community

Green Dot Stables

This spot was near our hotel, so we decided to eat there twice. Green Dot Stables is a restaurant that specializes in sliders. The sliders cost $3. They had several kinds to choose from. My favorites were the Fried Chicken Caesar Slider and the Coney Dog Slider. They also had fries, soups, salads, desserts, and drinks. If you are looking for good food for a great price, you should check out Green Dot Stables.

Bonus: Windsor Canada

Canada is literally across the river from Detroit. I couldn’t go to Detroit and not visit Canada for a few hours. There are two ways to get to Canada from Detroit. You can go via the underground tunnel, or you could take the bridge. We took the tunnel going and took the bridge on the way back. Windsor is the city you will arrive at once you cross the border.

Windsor was a lot quieter than Detroit. The only thing we did was go to the Caesars Windsor Casino. The casino was a lot more chill than Greektown and MGM Grand. I played a couple of slot machines and won $70! I’ll call that a successful trip. If you have some spare time while in Detroit, Windsor may be a good place to visit for a couple of hours.

Travel Resources

Tripadvisor

To learn more about Detroit, you can check out TripAdvisor. You can find reviews and lists of other things to do.

Expedia

Expedia is a travel company that offers a website for reviewing and booking trips. The site also provides information on hotels, cars, destinations, and more.

Image Credits: DepositPhotos

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Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.