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.
The coolest things to do in Detroit Michigan
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.
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.
1. Ride the People Mover
One of our favourite things to do when visiting Detroit is getting around on the People Mover. The 2.9-mile looped system has 13 stations, with automatic stops at popular downtown Detroit 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, the 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 at 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.
2. Motown Museum
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 in the 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 Motown Museum, also known as Hitsville U.S.A. is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Motown Records and the artists who made it famous.
Motown Records was founded in Detroit in 1959 by Berry Gordy Jr. and quickly became one of the most successful and influential record labels in history. Motown’s roster of artists included legends like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and The Temptations.
The Motown Museum allows visitors to step inside the original recording studio where many of Motown’s most famous hits were recorded. Step inside the iconic Studio A and stand in the same spot where Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, and The Four Tops recorded their hits.
- Address: 2648 Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard, 2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208, United States
3. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
You can’t go to Detroit Michigan and not visit the Henry Ford Museum. This is where Detroit resident Henry Ford 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.
There are other vehicles on display, see the bus where Rosa Parks sat and see some other innovations from the Wright Brothers. Or what about the home of the future, Dymaxion House, the most cost-effective, strongest and lightest house imagined.
This is also the place you’ll be able to get your very first glimpse of the Ford Class Model T,. 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 America 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.
- Address: Greenfield Village, Dearborn, MI 48124
4. Henry Ford Rouge Factory Tour
To complement your Henry Ford Museum visit, take a tour Henry Ford Rouge Factory. 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.
It has undergone a recent transformation, showcasing how communities and businesses can thrive together while celebrating America’s past and future.
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 tour as one of the attractions on your list.
5. Detroit Riverfront
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.
The Detroit Riverfront is a 5.5-mile-long stretch of waterfront from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park, along the Detroit River that has been completely redeveloped thanks to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.
The Detroit Riverfront features several parks, including William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, Gabriel Richard Park, and Robert C. Valade Park. These parks offer green spaces for walking, jogging, picnicking, and enjoying the waterfront views. There are also several bike and walking paths that run along the riverfront, providing access to the many attractions along the way.
The riverfront is home to several iconic landmarks, including the Renaissance Center, and the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
- Address: 588 E Jefferson, Detroit, MI 48207
6. The Detroit RiverWalk
The riverfront is also home to the Detroit Riverwalk, a scenic pathway that runs along the riverfront and is a great way to spend an afternoon.
We rented some bikes at Wheelhouse and rode out to Belle Isle. The Detroit Riverwalk and the Detroit Riverfront are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. The Detroit Riverfront refers to the entire 5.5-mile-long stretch of waterfront along the Detroit River While the Detroit RiverWalk is a 3.5-mile pedestrian and bicycle path.
This is one of the best things to do in Detroit rent bicycles or relax and follow the Detroit River as you pass plenty of landmarks including the Renaissance Towers where General Motors has its headquarters. Across the river in Windsor Canada, you’ll be able to spot Caesars Palace Casino, why not get your passport and head over to visit us in the Great White North for an afternoon?
- Detroit Riverwalk, Detroit, MI
7. 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.
- 99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207
8. Downtown Detroit
There are many things to do in downtown Detroit. 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.
9. Tour the Fisher Building
The Fisher Building is a landmark skyscraper located in Detroit, Michigan, USA. It was completed in 1928 and is considered one of the most significant examples of Art Deco architecture in the world. The building is 30 stories tall and stands at 444 feet (135 m) tall. It is known for its ornate facade, which features intricate geometric patterns, sculptures, and other decorative elements.
It was commissioned by the Fisher brothers, who made their fortune in the automobile industry. They wanted to create a building that would reflect their success and be a symbol of the city’s growing prosperity.
The Fisher Building is open to the public during regular business hours, and visitors are welcome to explore the lobby and other public areas of the building. The interior of the building is also ornate with marble floors, frescoes, and intricate details throughout.
There are also guided tours of the Fisher Building available for visitors who want to learn more about its history and architecture. 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.
- 3011 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48202
10. Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Located in Detroit’s Cultural Center in downtown Detroit, 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.
- 315 E Warren Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
11. 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.
Located in Mid Town Detroit, the Detroit Historical Museum has several exhibits featuring the history and life of Detroit’s past. The Streets of Old Detroit exhibits a recreation of a 19th century street where people can see what life was like at the end of the 1800s.
Legends Plaza features statues of famous people from Detroit including Rosa Parks, Joe Louis, and Ty Cobb. And no museum in Detroit would be complete without showcasing the automotive industry. America’s Motor City exhibit features a Ford Model T. You can also view the Glancy Trains exhibit featuring rail cars and a 1916 steam engine.
- Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202
12. 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 Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is one of the largest and most significant art museums in the United States. Located in downtown Detroit, it houses a vast collection of more than 60,000 artworks spanning from ancient times to contemporary art. The museum is located in Midtown Detroit and has been open to the public since 1885.
When you arrive at the Detroit Institute of Arts, you will first notice the stunning Beaux-Arts-style building that is a work of art unto itself, with a grand marble staircase leading up to the main entrance.
Some of the most notable works at the museum include Diego Rivera’s famous “Detroit Industry Murals,” which can be found in the Rivera Court, as well as Vincent van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” and Rembrandt’s “The Visitation.”
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.
- 5200 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202, United States
13. Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) is another museum in Detroit to visit on a rainy day. The museum features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art from local, national, and international artists. The exhibits cover a wide range of styles and mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, installation, video, and performance art.
The MOCAD building itself is a unique attraction as it is housed in a repurposed auto dealership that was renovated by architect Andrew Zago. The building’s industrial design and urban location create a distinct atmosphere that complements the contemporary art on display.
The MOCAD Art Store offers a selection of contemporary art books and the museum hosts a variety of events including artist talks, film screenings, musical performances, and panel discussions.
- 4454 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, United States
14. Campus Martius Park
This Park is a green oasis in the middle of busy downtown Detroit. Among the trees, 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 Martius park.
- 800 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226
15. The Guardian Building
The Guardian Building is a historic skyscraper located in downtown Detroit. It was completed in 1929 and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States.
Today, the Guardian Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most popular places to visit in Detroit. It is still used as an office building, but visitors are welcome to admire the beautiful architecture and art in the building’s lobby and public spaces. Guided tours are also available for those who want to learn more about the history and design of the building.
The building was designed by the architectural firm of Wirt C. Rowland and was originally built to serve as the headquarters of the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. The exterior of the building is adorned with beautiful, intricate details and colorful mosaics, while the interior features marble walls, ornate plasterwork, and beautiful murals.
The Guardian Building is sometimes referred to as the Cathedral of Finance due to its grandeur and opulence. The building has 36 floors and stands at a height of 151 meters (496 feet), making it one of the tallest buildings in Detroit.
- 500 Griswold St, Detroit, MI 48226
16. Eastern Market
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.
- Eastern Market, Detroit, MI
Our favorite neighborhood to explore in Detroit is Corktown. This historic district is home to the historic Detroit Central Depot. It was lost 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 intact.
When it comes to activities involving libations, Detroit can definitely pique 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.
18. Gastropubs of Corktown
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.
19. Royal Oak Neighborhood
Royal Oak is a lively neighborhood in metro Detroit with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. There are plenty of things to do including a visit to the Royal Oak Farmers Market. This indoor/outdoor market offers fresh produce, artisanal goods, and a variety of events and entertainment.
Royal Oak is filled with boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes making it a great place to spend an afternoon. Catch a show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre which hosts concerts and events and you can check out the Royal Oak Historical Museum.
Royal Oak is also home to the Detroit Zoo. I’m not a fan of zoos as we prefer to see animals in the wild. But some people advocate for animals in captivity to help with conservation. The Detroit Zoo is considered a leader in wildlife conservation, and animal welfare, but we choose not to go there.
20. Fox Theatre
Once all the brewing and food are done, you might want to 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 blood.
Once you have enough of touring the factories, museums, and other city attractions, you may be in the mood to be entertained. 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.
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.
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). It features live music but also live shows from Sesame Street to Riverdance
- 2211 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
21. The Filmore
The Fillmore is a legendary music center in Detroit that is popular for live bands. The Fillmore Detroit, also known as the Fillmore Theatre, is a historic music venue located in downtown Detroit. The venue opened in 1925 as a movie theater and was originally called the State Theatre. It was later renamed the Palms-State Theatre in 1949 and then the Fillmore Detroit in 2007.
It is known for its ornate and opulent interior, which features a grand lobby, intricate plasterwork, and a large chandelier. The venue has a capacity of 2,888 people and hosts a wide range of musical acts, from rock and hip-hop to electronic and jazz.
Over the years, Fillmore Detroit has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and many others. The venue has also been used for other types of events, such as comedy shows, corporate events, and private parties.
- 2115 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
22. Movement Electronic Music Festival
It is home to Movement Electronic Music Festival. The electronic music festival in Detroit, also known as Movement takes place during Memorial Day weekend (late May) each year and features a lineup of renowned techno and electronic music artists from around the world.
The festival started in 2000 and has since become one of the most important electronic music events in the world, drawing tens of thousands of fans from all over the globe. The festival is held in Hart Plaza, a riverside park in downtown Detroit, and features multiple stages, vendors, art installations, and other activities.
- The Electronic Music Festival takes place Sat, May 27, 2023 – Mon, May 29, 2023, at 1 Hart Plaza, Detroit
23. Detroit Jazz Festival
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. It is held every September and has been running since 1980.
The festival is held in multiple stages spread throughout the downtown area, including the main stage in Hart Plaza and other stages in nearby parks and venues. The festival is free and open to the public, attracting thousands of jazz fans each year.
The Detroit Jazz Festival is known for its diverse and eclectic lineup, which includes both legendary jazz musicians and up-and-coming artists. The festival features a mix of traditional jazz, modern jazz, Latin jazz, and other jazz sub-genres, showcasing the full range of jazz music.
24. Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre
Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre in Chene Park is a hot spot for live music in the summer and with it being located just off the Detroit Riverwalk on the Detroit Riverfront, you can be sure there will be a lot going on.
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 the 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.
- 2600 Atwater St, Detroit, MI 48207
25. Munroe Street Drive-in
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 district) and you can catch a flick on most nights of the week, weather permitting.
- 32 Monroe St, Detroit, MI 48226
26. Dequindre Cut
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.
- Dequindre Cut Greenway, Detroit, MI 48207
27. Heidelberg Project
A local art scene can really pull a city together and that’s what the Heidelberg Project has done for Detroit. The project was created 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.
- 3600 Heidelberg St, Detroit, MI 48207
28. Catch a Detroit Tigers Game at 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 the summer, you should check out America’s favorite pass time.
If you can’t catch a game, tours are offered of Comerica throughout the year.
- 2100 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
29. Hockey Game at Little Caesar’s Arena
One of the most exciting things to do in Detroit is to see a Detroit Red Wings game. They have a long and storied history in the NHL, and the team has won 11 Stanley Cup championships, making them one of the most successful franchises in NHL history.
Detroit Red Wings fans are some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in the NHL. The Little Caesars Arena replaced the Joe Louis area and is a state-of-the-art arena that provides a great viewing experience for fans. The arena also features plenty of food and drink options, making it a fun and comfortable place to watch a game.
Check the Red Wings’ schedule to see if there are any home games during your stay. Tickets can be purchased online or at the arena on game day, but it’s recommended to purchase them in advance to ensure availability.
- Address: 2645 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
30. Michigan Science Center
If you are looking for things to do in Detroit with kids, a visit to the Michigan Science Center is fun for the whole family. Nearly every city on earth has a science center, and Detroit is no different.
The Michigan Science Center is a great place to explore the wonders of science and technology. It has interactive exhibits featuring space, health and physics. There is a Planetarium where families can learn about space, and astronomy and see the planets and stars. The Dassault Systèmes Planetarium and Science Theater takes visitors on a journey through space in 360 degrees. The Michigan Science Center is also where the IMAX Theater in Detroit is located.
- 5020 John R St, Detroit, MI 48202
How to Get to Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is a major city in the United States and is easily accessible by plane, train, and automobile. Here are some options for getting to Detroit:
By Plane: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is the major airport serving the Detroit area. It is located about 20 miles southwest of downtown Detroit. The airport is served by many major airlines and offers nonstop flights to destinations throughout the United States and around the world. From the airport, visitors can take a taxi, rideshare service, or rental car to reach their final destination.
By Train: Amtrak offers train service to Detroit via the Wolverine line, which runs between Chicago and Pontiac, Michigan. The station in Detroit is located in the New Center area of the city, about 3 miles north of downtown. From the station, visitors can take a taxi, rideshare service, or public transportation to reach their final destination.
By Automobile: Detroit is located near several major highways, making it easily accessible by car. Interstate 75 and Interstate 94 both run through the city, as does the Lodge Freeway (M-10). Visitors coming from Canada can also reach Detroit via the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.
There are also several bus companies that provide service to Detroit, including Greyhound and Megabus. These services can provide an affordable alternative for travelers.
Get your map of the best things to do in Detroit here.
And these are the best things to do in Detroit Michigan. Have you been to Detroit?