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Things to do in Detroit: A Visitor’s Guide to the Motor City

visitor's guide to detroit

So you are looking for things to do in Detroit? We have a great list of places to visit and fun things to do in the Motor City. Whether you are a visitor or live in or nearby Detroit, there is so much to see and do in our great city. Let us take you on a brief tour of our favorite and BEST places to visit in Detroit.

History of Detroit

Detroit began as a thriving gateway city for settlers pouring into the Midwest region after the end of the Revolutionary War. Even before the rise of the auto industry centuries later, Detroit established a reputation as an industrial forerunner, with streets electrically lit by Thomas Edison, and the architecture earning the city the title “the Paris of the Midwest”. In the 1900’s, the birth of the auto industry solidified Detroit as the car capital of the world, and precipitated massive growth which led outwards into the creation of the surrounding metro area.

Detroit Today

Today, Detroit is a favorite destination for families looking for a day or weekend of adventure. Over the last several years, Detroit has been a consistent presence on travel lists such as Lonely Planet’s Top Ten Global Cities, and the New York Times’ 52 Places to Go. It has become a culinary hot spot, recognized by National Geographic for it’s vibrant foodie culture. With a marked expansion of commerce and industry far beyond its auto roots, Detroit is enjoying an undeniable revitalization.

When is the best time of year to visit Detroit?

Detroit offers many indoor activities that can be enjoyed year round, and outdoor events such as Noel Night, the Campus Martius Winter Market, and Winter Blast Weekends are definitely worth braving the cold and snow, but spring and summer are when Detroit truly shines.

Where is Detroit Michigan?

Located in southeast Michigan, the motor city is, unsurprisingly, extremely accessible by car. The furthest point in the Metro Detroit area is still under an hour’s driving distance.

Our Favorite Things to Do in Detroit

Hands on Learning at the Michigan Science Center

Museums and Local Attractions

Motown Historical Museum
2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208
Home to an extensive array of Motown artifacts & memorabilia, the mission of the Motown Historical Museum is to present the Motown Story through inspirational and educational experiences.

Detroit Institute of Arts
The DIA features over 65000 works of art in rotating exhibits. Perfect for the whole family, there are elements adults and children will enjoy. Admission is free for residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, but due to COVID policies reservations are required and visits are time limited.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
The worlds largest permanent exhibit on African-American culture, this museum also hosts 300 annual public events.

Michigan Science Center
5020 John R St, Detroit, MI 48202
The Science Center offers over 200 interactive exhibits. Together with a planetarium and an IMAX dome, the Science Center is a hands on STEM experience.

You can spend hours learning at the Michigan Science Center

Tuskeegee Airmen National Museum
315 E Warren Ave, Detroit, MI 48202
Dedicated to the history of the first Black military pilots, the Tuskeegee Airmen National Museum memorializes the achievements of an elite group of men who fought the war overseas and the war of racism in their own country.

N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
52 E. Forest Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art is part of a larger complex that in addition to showcasing works depicting political, historical, and pop culture themes, also houses boutique stores and the vegetarian restaurant Seva.

Riverwalk and Dequindre Cut
Free parking at Rivard Plaza – 1340 Atwater Street
Enjoy this outdoor space created to allow access to the Detroit Riverfront. Spanning 3.5 miles, this area has become a peaceful city escape with activities such as a splash pad and a carousel. The Dequindre Cut is a two mile greenway with bicycle and pedestrian paths that connects the East Riverfront and Eastern Market.

Enjoy some time along the Detroit Riverfront at Valade Park

Ford Piquette Plant
461 Piquette Ave, Detroit, MI
As one of the two main original production sites for Ford Motor Company, this historical site known as the birthplace of the Model T is maintained and open for tours.

Fort Wayne
6325 W Jefferson Ave, Detroit, MI 48209
A part of the National Register of Historic Places, Fort Wayne served as a training camp during the Civil War, and then in WW1 as a garrison for African-American troops during segregation.

Pewabic Pottery
10125 E Jefferson Ave, Detroit, MI 48214
Also on the National Register of Historic Places, Pewabic Pottery is a ceramic studio, school, shop, and a 116 year old cultural institution.

Tour the City

Detroit Scavenger Hunt Detroit City Quest
Bond with your group, exercise your brain, and see the city all in one on a scavenger hunt through Detroit.

Private Antique Car Tour of Belle Isle
Leave from the Piquette Plant Garage and tour the city in an authentic 1930 convertible Phaeton or a 1931 Old Town sedan.

Segway Tours
2934 Russell Street Detroit, MI 48207
Hop on a segway (an electric scooter on steroids) for one of several Detroit tour options such as the Riverfront or Holiday Lights.

Show Me Detroit Tours
Guided, chauffeured deluxe van tours provide a comfortable way to spend two hours seeing all downtown Detroit has to offer.

Detroit Bus Company
5938 Linsdale St, Detroit, MI 48204
Spend a day on a themed bus tour of Detroit. Some of the current offerings are a Prohibition- era tour, as well as a historic bar tour. Kid-friendly options are also available.

Aloha Tiki Tours
11000 Freud St. Detroit, MI 48214
Charter a personal floating tiki hut and see the city from an unique aquatic viewpoint. Bring your own food and drinks.

Detroit History Tours
3500 Gilbert St, Detroit, MI 48210
Combining bus rides, walking, and bar stops, this tour company prides itself as being highly researched, and caters to history buffs. However, it is strictly adults only.

Visit a Park

Grand Circus
101-157 Witherell St, Detroit, MI 48226
This recently upgraded park is in the center of Comerica Park, Ford Field, The Opera House, and Little Caesars Arena. It features 5.5 acres including a dog park, and frequently hosts outdoor events.

Dog Parks
Bring your four legged family members out for a day of exercise and social time.

Campus Martius Park
800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
This park in the middle of the city features a large sand “beach” in the summer, an ice rink in the winter, along with green space, monuments, and restaurants year round.

Valade Park
2670 Atwater St, Detroit, MI 48207
Valade Park in Detroit features a beautiful playground as well as sandy beach, musical Garden, and plenty of great spaces for fishing. It’s a premiere location for year round festivities and family fun.

Festivities Throughout the Year

Please note that though all events are currently scheduled at the time of publication, many events may still become cancelled or postponed due to COVID concerns

Detroit Festival of Books
2934 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207
The largest book festival in the state of Michigan takes over an entire shed at Eastern Market.

Motor City Pride
1 Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI, United States, 48226
This weekend-long celebration gathers food, vendors, and entertainment together to uplift the LGBTQIA+ community

Detroit Grand Prix
99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit, MI
Experience INDY car races live at the Belle Isle Grand Prix track in this weekend long event

Detroit Jazz Festival
1 Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI, United States, 48226
A Detroit staple for over 40 years, the Jazz Festival draws international performers and spectators alike for a 3 day jam session.

Big Ticket Events

Pistons and Red Wings at the Little Caesars Arena
2645 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Take in a Piston’s or Red Wings game anywhere from courtside seats to the gondola level suspended above the main floor of this state of the art sporting venue

Tiger's Carousel
Riding the Carousel at a Detroit Tiger’s Game

Tigers at Comerica Park
2100 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Spend an afternoon cheering on Detroit’s baseball team with delicious concessions and an atmosphere of local pride.

Explore Beyond Detroit

Detroit Zoo
8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48067 
Experience the 2000+ animals that inhabit this 125 acre park. Upcoming events such as yoga at the zoo add to this family friendly experience.

Spend some time with the chickens at Bowers Farm

Bowers Farm
1219 E Square Lake Rd, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
This working farm and school welcomes visitors to experience their animal life on tours of their various barns. As well, they offer wagon rides, ice cream, a farm stand, and special events.

Art in the Park
Downtown Plymouth
Walk the streets of this quaint town while enjoying this juried art fair with items to purchase.

Michigan Rib Festival
2369 Joslyn Ct., Lake Orion
Website: Canterbury Village
The perfect event for grill lovers, in addition to an abundance of meat options, the Rib Fest also includes pig races and a kids area.

Dodge Park #4
4250 Parkway Drive, Waterford, MI 48327
A sandy beach lines this one mile of swimmable shoreline. A large shaded grassy area is perfect for grilling and picnics, and fishing enthusiasts can cast over the side of two quaint bridges.

Recreational Boardwalk on Cass Lake at Dodge State Park

Stoney Creek
4300 Main Park Road Shelby Township, MI 48316 
This metropark offers year round activities. Boating, fishing, swimming, biking, hiking, sledding, golf, playgrounds, and a nature center are only some of the things to do at this outdoor complex.

Bloomer Park
345 John R. Rd. Rochester Hills
Bloomer Park is known primarily for its intermediate to difficult level hiking trails, but also features a playground, picnic area, sledding, tobogganing, and a velodome.

Metamora Country Days Hot Air Balloon Festival
3790 N Oak St, Metamora, MI 48455
A quintessential small town festival is amped up by breathtaking views of dozens of hot air balloons. In addition, this festival has food, a parade, arts and crafts, fireworks, and other activities.

You don’t want miss out on a day at Greenfield Village.

Henry Ford and Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124
The Henry Ford is a museum dedicated to American Innovation. Explore original steam engines, Civil Rights Movement artifacts such as the bus that Rosa Parks changed the world on, an IMAX theater, and other exhibits dedicated to American genius.

Greenfield Village is a fully functional historical village prime for exploring. Created in 1933, Henry Ford had many historic buildings and homes imported or reconstructed, such as Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law.

Dining in Detroit

Fine Dining

Prime and Proper
1145 Griswold St., Detroit, Michigan 48226
Prime and Proper is a traditional American steakhouse combined with the modern values and aesthetic customers appreciate. All the meat is displayed in a massive salt room visible to patrons.

London Chop House
155 W Congress St, Detroit, MI 48226
A Detroit staple since 1938, the London Chop House offers an elevated surf and turf menu. Proper attire is required.

The Whitney
4421 Woodward Avenue Detroit, MI 48201
The Whitney is a historic mansion that has been meticulously maintained and is now used as an upscale restaurant, event space, and bar.

I’m Here for the Beer

Traffic Jam
511 West Canfield St Detroit, MI 48201
Known for both its eclectic, genre bending menu and space, Traffic Jam features a microbrewery, dairy, and three levels of unique dining rooms.

237 Joseph Campau Detroit MI 48207
Atwater Beer specializes in German beer and boutique ales. Promising reasonably priced products for well informed customers, Atwater also offers a menu of elevated bar food along with vegan options.

Detroit Beer Company
1529 Broadway Detroit, MI 48226
Right in the middle of Comerica Park, Ford Field, and the Opera house, the Detroit Beer company offers American fare, and 7-9 in house brews to be enjoyed near their 10 hecoliter Brewhouse so customers can see their drinks being made in real time.

Founders Brewing
456 Charlotte St Detroit, MI 48201
This brewery offers option such as nitro drafts, as well as hard seltzers. In addition, the standout of this locale is the Barrel Room, a space modeled after a gypsum mining cave.

Great Eats

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails
15 E Kirby St D, Detroit, MI 48202
Watch the chef cook in the open walled kitchen, as well as take in the living plant life art installations. The creative menu with options such as grilled Spanish octopus only elevates the unique atmosphere.

Selden Standard
3921 2nd Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
This small plates restaurant focuses on their beer and wine offerings as much as their food. Patrons can enjoy options such as curried lamb, as well as squid ink chitarra, for lunch or dinner. 

Grey Ghost
47 Watson St Detroit MI 48201
Unique options such as shrimp potstickers, whole branzino, and lambchetta, alongside a full menu of curated cocktails and mocktails, are what attract locals to this popular restaurant.

Apparatus Room
250 W Larned Street Detroit, Michigan 48226
Blending a historic Motor City inspired industrial aesthetic with a modern twist, the Apparatus Room provides New American cuisine based upon Midwestern ingredients.

Green Dot Stables
2200 West Lafayette Detroit, MI 48216
Green Dot Stables meets the mark as a quintessential neighborhood joint. The high energy, laid back dining room offers top quality food at bargain prices.

Mix sliders and sides for the perfect meal at Green Dot Stables

1903 Grand River Detroit MI 48226
Located in Beacon Park, Lumen has set out to be the go to spot for families enjoying downtown by providing noteworthy architecture along with delicious food in a laid back atmosphere.

Pie Sci
5163 Trumbull Woodbridge, Detroit Michigan 48208
Small but trendy, with a fully customizable menu with options for all diets and restrictions, this is a pizza lovers paradise. Seating is outdoor only.

66 E Forest Ave
Seva is a staple in the community for vegetarian and vegan food. Also available is a full coffee, alcohol, and juice bar.

Mercury Burger Bar
2163 Michigan Ave Detroit, MI 48216
Nestled in the popular Corktown neighborhood, Mercury Burger Bar has become well known for its burgers, specialty milkshakes, poutine tater tots, and lively outdoor beer garden.

Just Drinks and Snacks

The Candy Bar
1509 Broadway Detroit, MI 48226
This drinks-only bar is located inside the Siren Hotel. The Candy Bar offers a opulent, old Hollywood atmosphere.

The Skip
The alley behind the Belt, 1234 Library Street Detroit, MI 48226
Perfect for summer nights, this is an open air cocktail bar. As well, the island vibe of this locale transports guests outside of the city.

Family Friendly Dining

Hudson Cafe
1241 Woodward Ave Detroit, MI 48226
Located amongst the walkable shops on Woodward, stop in this bright and airy restaurant for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.

Unique Experiences

Notorious 313: Night in Jail Ghost Hunt and Tour
Historic 6th Precinct 6840 McGraw Street Detroit, MI 48210
The former 6th Police Precinct has been designated by the Travel Channel as one of the “most terrifying places”. Spend an evening investigating the grounds with expert paranormal guides. 901 W. Lafayette Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48226

Heidelberg Project
3600 Block of Heidelberg, Detroit, MI 48207
Many say the Heidelberg Project defies explanation and must be experienced. Spanning two city blocks, artist Tyree Guyton has spent decades covering every inch of this neighborhood in outdoor, open to the public, art.

African Bead Museum
6559 Grand River Ave Detroit, MI 48208
Experience an African Bead Gallery, 18 outdoor installations, N’Kisi House and African Language Wall at this visually stunning space occupying a whole city block.

John King Books
901 W. Lafayette Blvd Detroit, MI 48226
A bookstore so large it provides maps, John King Books spans four floors and houses one million used books.

Coffee and Treats

Lucky – 2000 Michigan Ave Detroit, Mi 48216
Lucky mixes industrial steampunk notes with a rustic vibe – a giant moose head presides over the seating area. This coffee bar is located in the popular Corktown neighborhood.

Narrow Way
19331 Livernois Ave, Detroit, MI 48221\
This Black owned coffee shop aims to contribute towards eliminating stress by not only providing excellent coffee and pastries, but also by engaging, friendly service in a calming, minimalist atmosphere.

Roasting Plant
660 Woodward AvenueDetroit, MI
As opposed to a coffee shop, the Roasting Plant is designated as a “roastery” due to its singular dedication to the freshest of fresh, brewed per cup, coffee. Cafe options are also available.

Bikes and Coffee
1521 Putnam St Detroit MI, 48208
Bikes and Coffee is a bike shop for coffee lovers, a coffee shop for bike lovers, or both. A full service bicycle repair store, Bikes and Coffee also is a full service coffee bar and cafe.

Catfe Lounge
821 Livernois, Ferndale, MI 48220
Together with the Ferndale cat shelter, the Catfe Lounge is a cat lovers opportunity to interact with adoptable cats in a relaxed setting. In addition, the Catfe also offers coffee, tea, and treats.

Shopping in Detroit

Pure Detroit
Six Detroit locations: The Fisher Building, the Guardian building, the Renaissance Center, Midtown Strathmore, TCF Center, and the Belle Isle Aquarium
A one stop shop for completely unique Detroit wares, Pure Detroit features home, clothing, accessories, art, and more, all branded with local destinations or insider references to the city.

441 W Canfield DetroitMI 48201
Initially a watch retailer, Shinola evolved into a luxury design brand, and then into a luxury lifestyle brand. Beyond timepieces, Shinola also offers leather goods, accessories, jewelry, audio, and more.

City Bird
460 W. Canfield St.Detroit, MI 48201
Clothing, glassware, art, jewelry, paper goods, and more all celebrating Detroit, all of Michigan, and the Great Lakes. All items are locally made.

Good Neighbor
1435 Farmer St. Suite 115 Detroit, MI 48226
This clothing store brings together mainly local, and all ethical brands to create an offering of pieces that hit the classic side of current trends. Both men’s and women’s lines are curated to be effortlessly cool.

460 W. Canfield St.Detroit, MI 48201
Cool enough to warrant a feature in Goop, Nest is the sister store to City Bird, offering Detroit made and themed home decor items.

Lodging Options in Detroit

1509 Broadway Street Detroit, Michigan 48226
Housed in the 1920’s Wurlitzer Building, the Siren hotel features many original elements from the building’s past. Now a boutique hotel, every corner of the Siren hotel makes a strong visual statement that is nostalgic, provocative, and surprising.

250 W Larned Street Detroit, Michigan 48226
The historic Detroit Fire Department headquarters has retained its original aesthetic and transformed into the Foundation Hotel. Each guest room is curated to present a classic Detroit theme in the form of upscale beauty and comfort.

One Park Avenue Detroit, Michigan 48226
Located inside the David Whitney Building, Aloft hotel has maintained its historic charm. Presenting guests with a true boutique hotel experience, the pops of primary colors and the top notch staff set these accommodations apart.

1400 Woodward Ave Detroit, MI 48226
All the expected Shinola luxury expertly expanded into hotel form. The clean lines and focus on meticulous woodwork convey understated wealth.

1000 Brush Street • Detroit, Michigan 48226
The Atheneum certainly has location going for it. As the name suggests, this all-suite luxury hotel is located in Greektown, within walking distance of the sports, theater, and restaurant districts.

Detroit is amazing, it’s a vibrant city full of culture, and great experience opportunities. Did we miss something? Drop us a message on Facebook or Instagram.

Check out the Grand Rapids Travel Guide from Grand Rapids Kids.

Vanessa Howerton
Author: Vanessa Howerton

Vanessa is a mom to six crazy and fun boys. She assists her husband in running their family’s nonprofit organization, Chosen Kingdom Builders, that provides housing and mentorship to young adults who have come out of the foster care system. She loves writing, and finds that sitting at the computer creating for Metro Detroit Mommy is the “me time” this boy mom needs. Her Covid hobbies include wondering if she will ever vacation again, and staring out the window dreaming of all-inclusive resorts.