Top 10 Things to Do in Detroit
Detroit has been getting more and more buzz this year as a top travel destination, and we're here to tell you that the hype is real. Though the city has suffered some major blows, it's bouncing back in a big way with craft breweries, cool markets, a thriving arts scene and thoughtful green spaces in an urban setting. Here's everything you'll want to see and do on your visit.
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Visit Campus Martius Park
Think of Campus Martius Park as the social hub of downtown Detroit, a 1.2-acre green space where you can enjoy an urban beach, food festivals, live music, movie nights and more while surrounded by skyscrapers. No matter what time of year it is, there’s always something happening here. In the winter months alone, the park hosts the city’s annual tree-lighting ceremony, The Meridian Winter Blast and an ice-skating rink that rivals the one in Rockefeller Center. The park's central location puts you within walking distance of coffee shops like Roasting Plant, restaurants like Parc and Townhouse, and Insta-worthy stops like The Spirit of Detroit and The Monument to Joe Louis as well. If you're a fan of contemporary art, be sure to check out the 17-foot statue by Kaws that was installed at the main entrance to Campus Martius earlier this year.
Walk Along Detroit's International Riverfront
Visitors to Detroit are almost always surprised to learn that not only is Detroit north of Windsor, Ontario, but it's also just across the water. See Canada for yourself with a 5.5-mile stroll (or scooter ride, if Bird’s your thing) along the Detroit River. Then, pop into The Renaissance Center, which is the world headquarters of General Motors and just as impressive as you'd expect. If you really want to break a sweat, continue up toward the Dequindre Cut Greenway, a 2-mile recreational path that intersects with the Riverfront. The Dequindre Cut is now home to The Freight Yard, too, which means that you can grab a beer and a bite after your workout.
Feast Your Eyes at the DIA
You didn’t think you could visit Detroit without seeing Diego Riviera’s murals, did you? Located in Midtown, The Detroit Institute of Arts is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole city, with a cool white marble exterior and wings to match. Inside, you’ll find the atrium where Diego Riviera famously depicted industry at the Ford Motor Company, as well as 100 galleries with works by O’Keeffe, Matisse, Van Gogh, Warhol and more - including Kehinde Wiley, who recently completed the official portrait of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Standard admission is $14, but local residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties can get in for free with a valid ID. When you’re done here, we suggest heading across the street to peek inside the Detroit Public Library, which has some impressive murals of its own, or driving down the road to see the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Then Reflect at the Charles H. Wright Museum
We can’t stress this one enough: During your visit, you have to make time for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Founded in 1965 by Dr. Charles Howard Wright, the museum holds the world’s largest permanent exhibit on African-American culture (right in Detroit!) and takes visitors on a journey through Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, you will "...experience the tragedy of the middle passage and encounter those who resisted the horrors of bondage, emancipated themselves and sometimes took flight by way of the Underground Railroad." Because the exhibits are so personal and profound, you'll want to give yourself plenty of time to take everything in. Tickets are only $8, and if you visit now through Jan. 21, 2019, you can also catch "THINK," the exhibit that pays tribute to Aretha Franklin. If you want to learn even more about the Queen of Soul, be sure to visit The Motown Museum.
Sit Back & Relax at Belle Isle
With a name that literally translates to "Beautiful Island," you know it’s gotta be good. Detroit’s answer to New York’s Central Park, Belle Isle is a 982-acre gem that sits on the Detroit River between Michigan and Ontario. The island is home to the oldest operating aquarium in the U.S., historic boathouses, marble fountains, public beaches and is even the site of IndyCar's annual Detroit Grand Prix. Don't let cold weather deter you from visiting, either; the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, pictured here, is an indoor attraction with tropical trees and plants that will really make you feel like you're on vacation.
Roar With the Rest of 'Em at Comerica Park
Sure, you can go to a baseball game anywhere, but the Tigers' stadium is truly one of a kind. Built in 2000, Comerica Park sits right across the street from two major music venues, The Fillmore and The Fox Theater, and boasts skyline views from almost every seat in the stadium. Even if you don't go to a game, you should check out the exterior, which features supersized tiger statues guarding the entrance. Put up your claws and snap a pic with one while you're there!
Get Lost in the Labyrinth of John K. King Books
Book lovers, take note. Detroit is also the home of John K. King Used & Rare Books, an independent shop with an estimated 1 million books in stock. Their main location is in what was once the Advanced Glove factory building downtown and easily takes up the entire four floors - as in, the place is so big that they literally hand out maps when you walk through the door. Here, we encourage you to slow down, listen to the sounds of creaking floorboards, breathe in the scent of old books and wander through the stacks for a while.
Browse the Stalls & Street Art at Eastern Market
Founded in 1841, Detroit's Eastern Market is the largest outdoor farmers market in the nation and it's definitely worth the visit. Every Saturday, the russet-colored sheds come to life with vendors selling flowers and fresh produce and Detroiters staking their claim on what's available. We recommend that you grab a cup of coffee from either Germack or Cairo, wander the stalls and then head outside to see all the murals. If you're visiting later in the afternoon or evening, be sure to enjoy a beer at Eastern Market Brewing Company.
Get Schooled at The Henry Ford
Whether you’re flying solo or have kids in tow, The Henry Ford out in Dearborn is a great place to brush up on your American history. The museum contains artifacts like Abraham Lincoln’s chair from Ford’s Theater, the restored bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the presidential limo of John F. Kennedy, etc. Here, you'll also learn about the development of the Model T, which was born in Detroit and changed the history of the automotive industry, to say the least. Tickets are $23, and you'll want to block off a few hours to enjoy it since the museum is so big.
Take an Architecture Tour
Honestly, we can’t say enough good things about Pure Detroit, the company that offers free, guided tours of The Guardian and The Fisher buildings. Do yourself a favor and take one of their hour-long tours, where you can see the city's Art Deco architecture up close and learn all about Detroit's distinctive skyline.