Got some spare time while staying in Motor City? Add some of the best day trips from Detroit to your trip plans. With easy access to fascinating towns across Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, you’ll find more than enough to fill your itinerary.
Lose yourself in vintage-style destinations like Bay City and Frankenmuth, home to photo-worthy streets and whimsical shopping. Feast on gastronomic delights at top foodie destinations like Fort Wayne and Ann Arbor. Or step back in time at the fascinating museums of Grand Rapids and Lansing.
Looking for inspiration for your Michigan vacation? Discover exciting places near the Motor City with this complete guide to the top-rated Detroit side trips!
Looking for more ideas? Check out all our other day trip guides and our United States Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Top-rated Detroit side trips
Ann Arbor, MI
Don’t write off Ann Arbor as just another university football town. While it’s home to the largest football stadium in the United States, Ann Arbor also has a historic downtown, thriving independent businesses, and a strong creative spirit. It’s around a 45-minute drive from Detroit or one hour and 15 minutes by bus.
Shopaholics will be obsessed with the independent book, gift, and jewelry stores, while music lovers will be busy rummaging for their next favorite record.
If you love food, you’ll love Ann Arbor. Stop for breakfast in gorgeous delis and bakeries. Feast on Cuban street food at Frita Batidos or dine in a 1950s steakhouse at Knight’s Steakhouse. Although it’s a student town, Ann Arbor is far from a collection of dive bars and cheap eats. Instead, you’ll be sipping on martinis in prohibition-style cocktail bars and testing out edgy craft breweries.
Ann Arbor’s university status has gifted the town with a great selection of museums. Fire up your creative spirit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, one of the best university art museums in the country. Or delve into the past at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History and the University of Michigan Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.
Grand Rapids, MI
Take a Detroit side trip to America’s best beer city: Grand Rapids. A two-hour and 20-minute drive away, Grand Rapids is renowned for its craft beer and top foodie scene. No longer known for its furniture production, this buzzing metropolis is brimming with cultural gems.
Grand Rapids has a diverse history, evolving around Lake Michigan and once a thriving home for the Hopewell Indians. Unpack it all at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, one of the oldest museums in the country.
Grand Rapids is alive with a vibrant art scene. The ArtPrize brings together over 1,700 creators from over 45 countries. These pieces pop up all over the city, and the public gets to vote for the winner. Keep your eyes peeled for the city’s next masterpiece!
Try out the Grand Rapids brewing scene for yourself. Pick your own apples and try fresh apple cider at Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery, or sample craft beer on the patio at Founders Brewing Co.
The best place to dive into Grand Rapids’ gastronomy is at the Downtown Market. This food hall is full of fresh produce vendors and funky mini restaurants.
Bay City, MI
Embrace the nautical vibes of Bay City. This eclectic riverfront town oozes vintage charm. It’s under a two-hour drive from Detroit. Idyllic scenery and adorable architecture make this a great way to spend a day.
Vibrant buildings and streets glittering with fairy lights make this a vintage seaside dream. Embrace the kitsch vibes on the Sunrise Pedal Trolley. The luminous Dutch pedal bike allows you to get a couple of pints in as you explore the city.
Make sure to snap your holiday photos at Third Street Star Bridge. This pretty installation was created for people to honor their loved ones.
The nautical theme continues with fantastic seafood restaurants. Try the catch of the day while lounging by the Saginaw River at the Real Seafood Company. Or mix things up and try fresh sushi at Fusion 1 Café.
Bay City is ideal for picking up unique souvenirs. Shop for vintage treasures at the Bay City Antiques Centre. The historic building has over 400 vendors to choose from. Or paint your own ceramics at Painterly Pottery.
The highlight of Bay City is its great selection of water activities. Lake Huron is the second largest of the five Great Lakes. Take a sunset sailing trip, catch your own dinner, or hike to the quaint lighthouses.
Around one hour and 30 minutes from Detroit is Lansing, the capital of Michigan. Lansing offers Midwest charm and lively big-city attractions. Distinct neighborhoods offer endless options for every type of traveler.
Start your day by ticking off the State Capitol Building. The grand structure opened in 1879. Admire the hand-painted interiors and cast-iron dome on a free tour.
To get a more thorough understanding of Michigan’s past, spend some time in the Michigan History Museum. Its exhibitions span from Native American artifacts to copper mining to automobile manufacturing.
Lansing has some great cultural districts. Spend some time in the funky REO neighborhood. Famous for its vehicle manufacturing history, today you’ll find offbeat arts centers and trendy diners.
If you love vintage cars, carve out some time for the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Or for a more refined experience, spend the day in Old Town. Pretty Victorian buildings house elegant art galleries, boutiques, and bistros.
From the Art Deco Comercia Bank Building to the striking lines of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, people love Lansing for its fantastic mix of architecture. Spend an afternoon kayaking the Grand River to take it all in.
Transport yourself to Bavaria with a day trip to Frankenmuth. It’s less than one hour and 30 minutes from Detroit, but a trip here will take you to another world. Magical streets feature fairy-tale buildings and year-round festival fun.
Stroll the cobblestone paths and iconic wooden bridge as you shop for unique hand-crafted treasures. As well as cuckoo clocks and lederhosen, you’ll have a wide choice of lovely boutiques. Explore the city atop a traditional horse-drawn carriage or drift along the Cass River on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat.
Feast on hearty culinary delights. The most popular restaurants in town are Zehnder’s and Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Both are renowned for their authentic dishes and world-famous chicken dinners. Try the chocolate-flavored cheese at Frankenmuth Cheese Haus and roll your own pretzel at The Bavarian Inn Bakery.
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It wouldn’t be a German experience without a pint in your hand. Take the PedAle Trolley for a Frankenmuth bar crawl. Take some time to visit Frankenmuth Brewery, the oldest microbrewery in the United States.
If you’re not into beer, graze the tasting plates at Prost! Wine Bar and Charcuterie or take a wine tasting at Modern Craft Winery.
Less than an hour’s drive from Detroit and one hour and 30 minutes by public transport is the funky city of Toledo. This underdog city is one of the most up-and-coming destinations in the country and offers a quick plunge into Ohio culture.
Thanks to Toledo’s industrial heritage, there are lots of fun historical attractions to discover. Hop on a canal boat at Providence Metropark and visit a historic mill as you meander along the waterways.
Discover the importance of the Great Lakes at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. The collection includes over 300 artifacts and the 617-foot Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship.
A must-visit while in town is the Toledo Museum of Art. The Greek revival-style building has a fantastic range of exhibitions and is one of the top places to visit in Toledo. Among greats like Picasso and Monet, you’ll also find impressive shimmering light installations and colorful sculptures.
Unpack more of Toledo’s history as The Glass City at the Glass Pavillion. It’s home to over 5,000 pieces of shining glass artwork and a guide to the glass creation process, Grasp at the chance to experience it for yourself with regular glass-blowing demonstrations.
The small town of Chelsea is less than one hour from Detroit. With only 5,000 people living here, it’s a small and walkable destination. Despite its small population, there are lots of quirky things to do here. With 30,000 acres of land surrounding Chelsea, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities if you get bored in town.
Explore a quaint small-town history at the Chelsea Area Historical Society and Museum. They offer a self-guided tour around Downtown that’s perfect for getting your bearings.
Visit the adorable Chelsea Teddy Bear Co. & Toy Museum, home to cute bears and vintage wooden toys. Then rummage for your own pieces at the eclectic Chelsea Antique Mall. Finish your day mingling with the locals on the lively terrace of Cleary’s Pub.
Get a feel for Chelsea’s surrounding nature at the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center. They have an auditorium for bird watching and a map so you can explore everything you’ve learned for yourself.
The Waterloo Recreation Area has 11 freshwater lakes and is a great habitat for local wildlife. Wander the hiking trails and see if you can spot sandhill cranes and great blue herons.
The cute town of Kalamazoo is just over a two-hour drive from Detroit. It’s a great destination Detroit day trip or as a stopover on the way to Chicago. Enjoy a creative atmosphere as you explore the pretty Art Deco streets.
Check out the European-style Henderson Castle. The 19th-century home has grand ballrooms and is surrounded by elegant gardens and vineyards. Or get an experience of farm life at VerHage Fruit Farms and Cider Mill. You’ll be able to pick apples, ride ponies, and learn how to drive a tractor.
Shop in the country’s first outdoor mall. The Kalamazoo Mall has exclusive designer boutiques and beautiful handcrafted goods. Pick up a new wardrobe or laze away the afternoon in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
While you’re here, why not learn a craft for yourself? Learn paper making at the Book Arts Center or create your own knife at Combat Ready Art.
Birmingham is less than 30 minutes by car from Detroit and one hour on public transport. The downtown is one of the best shopping areas in the Midwest. Discover 300 stores via relaxing pedestrianized streets.
The lovely area has vintage theatres, pretty parks, and upscale restaurants. Start your day at Shain Park. The impressive granite fountain and otherworldly Marshall Fredericks statue are at the heart of town.
After relaxing in the green space, it’s time to shop till you drop. Whether you’re looking for statement jewelry or the latest pieces for your home, you’ll find no shortage of ways to splurge in Birmingham. Don’t forget to pick up a gift for your furry friend at Teacups & Toys, a Pet Boutique.
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Modern art connoisseurs will appreciate the great selection of galleries on offer. The Robert Kidd Gallery has a stellar reputation and a broad contemporary collection of pop art, photography, and print. Wrap up your day at Emagine Palladium, a luxury movie theatre with leather seats, wine, and cocktails.
The buzzing city of Cleveland combines hip neighborhoods with plenty of history. It’s a two-hour, 30-minute drive away, but is one of the best day trips from Detroit. Whether you’re music-obsessed or a history buff, the rock and roll capital of the world is not a city to miss.
A Cleveland icon, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be top of your list of what to do in Cleveland. Uncover the genius of greats like Dolly Parton and The Rolling Stones. See who made it to the Wall of Fame, then test your musical skills in The Garage.
Combine your love of history, shopping, and food at the shimmering West Side Market. The yellow brick exterior and 137-foot clock tower are an essential part of Cleveland’s skyline. Pick from 100 diverse vendors offering everything from fresh fish to hand-cut flowers.
Have fun on the water at Lake Erie, one of the top recreation destinations in Ohio. Let go of your stress on the beach or ramp it up on the rollercoasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Wannabe sommeliers should head to the Italian winery of Put-In-Bay, while foodies will be aching to try the lobster chowder at The Village Pump.
Fort Wayne, IN
A two-hour-and-40-minute drive from Detroit, the friendly city of Fort Wayne is an interesting mix of European settler heritage and modern American style. Known for its great gastronomy and family-friendly activities, it’s a great way to bond while taking a day trip from Detroit.
Children and big kids will have a great time at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Meet orangutans, parrots, and leopards at the 7th-best zoo in the US. Continue the fun at Science Central, featuring interactive exhibitions about the solar system, engineering, and geology.
Fort Wayne is a vibrant canvas for budding artists. Even the bike racks double up as whimsical sculptures. Keep your eyes peeled for stunning murals throughout the city, or take an art tour to spot the highlights.
Fort Wayne is quickly developing a reputation as a thriving foodie city. Tuck into Irish classics at JK O’Donnell’s or award-winning barbeque food at Shigs in Pit.
Make sure to catch a jazz show at Club Soda alongside their mouth-watering steaks. The 125-year-old building is one of the hippest live music venues in town.