Nestled right on the border with Canada, Detroit is a brilliant city to visit if you’re driving through the northern states, or visiting the best places around Lake Erie itself. Now, let’s be honest, Detroit sometimes gets overlooked instead of close-ish cities like Chicago, but there are heaps of the best things to do in Detroit dotted all across the city.
So, to help you get the most out of your time visiting Detroit, I wanted to share some of the key places to visit and experiences you have to have whilst you explore the city. After all, it’s Michigan’s biggest city to see.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Detroit. Have the best time exploring.
1.) Detroit Historical Museum
If you’re into your history, then the Detroit Historical Museum is a must-visit when in Detroit. Not only that, it’s a great place to visit if you want some time away from plodding the streets… which can get chilly in the winter.
Once inside, the museum has heaps of exhibits and thousands of artefacts, including the city’s founding, the auto industry, and the Motown era that have all made Detroit the city it is today.
There’s a small entry fee, but totally worth it for all the exhibits. You’ll get to learn so much about French migration to Detroit and learn more about the underground railroad which is so enlightening.
Afterwards, if you’ve got time, take a ride over to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. It’s a museum that tells the story of the Ford Motor Company and its presence in Detroit. Historically, the plant was where the first Ford Model T was built and it is now a museum. It’s one of the best things to do in Detroit if you want to explore the city’s automotive history.
2.) Eastern Market
Probably one of Michigan’s most famous markets, the Eastern Market is packed full of stalls and has been going since the 18th Century. Now, we love the Saturday Market which has hundreds of local vendors that make Detroit so great. Just be sure to arrive hungry, you’ll be stopping to buy loads of delicious treats while there.
This all being said, if it’s art and crafts you’re after – then head to the Sunday Market. You’ll have everything from local jewellers, artists, musicians and so much more. Just be prepared for crowds, the markets do get busy on weekends.
3.) Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the largest art museums in the United States. With over 65,000 works of art, visiting is easily one of the best things to do in Detroit once you arrive.
You see, the museum’s collection includes paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, and art. Just make sure to plan your times well, it can take hours to see everything you want.
Once inside, we loved the Diego Rivera murals, the European Galleries, and the Japanese Garden. Honestly, it’s amazing.
If art isn’t your thing, head over to the Historic Fort Wayne that was built in the 18th century. The fort is now a museum that offers tours and exhibits on the history of the fort and the city of Detroit. Plus, if you time your visit right, you’ll get to see a reenactment too.
4.) Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Visiting the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (or the Wright Museum) is a must-do when in Detroit. Not only is it the largest museum in the world dedicated to African-American history and culture but it’s also a museum that showcases frank accounts of African-American history.
Once here, there are heaps of seasonal and permanent exhibits, including; slavery, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Just be sure to avoid a Monday visit, it’s closed then.
Afterwards, take a visit to the Detroit Public Library which is one of the largest in all the United States. The library has over 2 million books and other artefacts and offers a variety of services, including computer access, storytime for children, and English classes for adults.
Though, for me, it’s the building that really stands out. It’s just beautiful to see.
5.) Motown Museum
The Motown Museum, or Hitsville USA, is a museum dedicated to the history of Motown Records right within Detroit itself.
You see, the record label that launched the careers of many famous musicians, including The Supremes, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye started in Detroit.
Inside, the museum’s exhibits include interactive displays, artefacts, and memorabilia from some of its artists which is so brilliant to see.
Just be sure to book your Motown Museum tickets in advance. You can be waiting quite a while if you just rock up and want to gain entry.
6.) Belle Island
Just off the shores of Detroit, Belle Island is a vast park with walkways, trails and heaps of history to explore.
Once cut off from the mainland, there’s now the MacArthur Bridge that connects the island to Detroit itself. This all makes it super easy to visit and a great way to spend a more relaxing day in Detroit.
After heading over to Belle Island, be sure to head on the Blue Heron Lagoon Trail and visit the Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse is one of the best things to do in Detroit if you’re into the island’s history.
Also, if you visit in summer, head to Belle Isle Beach which is a lovely place for a stroll or kayak in the area.
Oh, and don’t forget! If you want to learn more about the Great Lakes and Lake Erie, head to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Island itself. It’s a lovely visit for an hour or so and well worth seeing if you love natural history.
Finally, for a great sunset, head to the aptly named ‘Sunset Point’. It’s a gorgeous view on a sunny day.
7.) Fox Theatre
If you’re familiar with Detroit, then the Fox Theater needs little introduction. It’s colossal and the theater itself is just stunning to see.
Almost 100 years old, the Fox Theater is steeped in history and well worth visiting for one of their regular shows.
You see, throughout the year, the Fox Theater hosts a variety of concerts and performances, including Broadway shows, pop concerts, and classical music performances.
8.) Detroit Princess Riverboat
Want to head onto Lake Erie? Then you need to board the Detroit Princess Riverboat. It’s one of the best things to do in Detroit and hands-down lots of fun. Make sure to book a cruise that suits you best… they have everything from sunset tours, Motown Shows… even murder mysteries.
Afterwards, book this small-group walking tour of Detroit. It’s a great way to learn more about the city’s history and find some hidden gems if you’re short on time. We found it really useful to save time and the tour guide was so passionate. We loved it.
9.) Most Holy Redeemer Church
Want to see more of Detroit’s older buildings? Then get yourself over to the Most Holy Redeemer Church. It’s one of the best things to do in Detroit if you’re interested in the city’s religious history.
Founded back in the 1800s, it is totally impressive, especially with the Roman basilica-style architecture that is so beautiful.
Afterwards, head over to the unfussy and informal Duly’s Place Coney Island for a bite to eat. It’s an old-fashioned diner that serves one of the tastiest chilli dogs in all of Michigan. Don’t miss it.
10.) Campus Martius Park
Probably best thought of as a city square in Detroit, Campus Martius Park is well worth taking a stroll over to, especially in the winter and summer months.
You see, there’s often loads of events that happen; like beach days and ice skating. Plus, there are loads of restaurants all around this area too.
That being said, if nothing is going on when you visit, you’ll likely want to miss this spot. From a visiting perspective, it’s fun, but only when actual events are going on.
11.) Hart Plaza
Just shy of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Hart Plaza is totally easy to visit when you’re strolling the shoreline by the Financial District.
Once here, you’ll be able to board the Detroit Riverboat Princess and spot the Horace E. Dodge Fountain, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Sculpture, too. Keep your eyes peeled for the Jazz Festival that happens every year, too. It’s a hoot!
If that’s not your thing, head to one of Detroit’s famous sporting teams and watch them play. You see, Detroit is home to several professional sports teams, including the Detroit Tigers (baseball), the Detroit Red Wings (hockey), and the Detroit Lions (football).
It’s such a great way to experience sporting culture… though, I still struggle to understand baseball!
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