Best Things to Do in Detroit, Michigan

If you’re planning a swing through the Great Lakes State, a stopover in Detroit, Michigan, is a must. It’s the birthplace of the automobile and the Motown sound, but this town is about more than music and cars. The Comeback Kid is experiencing a renaissance – so take a deep dive into all the great things to do in Detroit, MI!

Soak up the downtown vibe as you explore the top tourist attractions in Detroit, including the city’s historic architecture and vibrant cultural scene. Discover some of the country’s finest art collections and museums. Cycle along the waterfront for great scenic views. Join the roaring crowds at major sports events. Rock out to live music as you savor a craft beer.

Ready to roll? Grab this guide to the best places to visit in Detroit, MI, and make a beeline for D-town.

Best places to visit in Detroit, MI

Detroit Zoo

If you’re looking for a spot that’ll be a hit with everyone in your crew, head for the Detroit Zoo. Sprawling across 125 acres in Royal Oak just north of the city, this is one of the coolest places to go in Detroit.

Detroit Zoo

Home to over 230 species, the Detroit Zoo encourages visitors to interact with its residents. Hop over to the Australian Outback Adventure to spend time with kangaroos and koalas. Stroll along to the Holden Reptile Conservation Center and Butterfly Garden. Amble over to Amphibiville, explore a wolf habitat, step back in time at Dinosauria, or greet the Great Apes of Harambee.

Grab a bite on site to refuel – then watch the kids blow off steam on the zoo’s colorful train and carousel.

Campus Martius Park

If you’re looking for the real heart of Detroit, you’ll find it at Campus Martius Park. This vibrant 8-acre community hub was ground zero for rebuilding after a fire nearly destroyed the city in 1805. The work paid off; today, Campus Martius Park is a true city showpiece.

Campus Martius Park

Campus Martius Park is a great place to enjoy some downtown downtime. Bask on a manmade beach during the summer, or take a spin on the ice in winter. The park hosts a wide range of concerts and festivals year-round, so check out their events schedule.

Take a stroll around Campus Martius Park to explore its intriguing sculptures and art installations. Check out the Point of Origin Marker – the “X” that marks the spot where rebuilding began after the infamous fire.

Ready for a bite? Relax and treat yourself at Parc Detroit, winner of a Restaurant of the Year Award.

Detroit Institute of Arts

Art lovers who want to satisfy their cultural cravings will enjoy a feast at the Detroit Institute of the Arts on Woodward Avenue. Boasting 100 gallery sections, this world-class art museum is home to over 65,000 pieces of art, making it one of the largest art collections in the US.

Detroit Institute of Arts

Step inside this majestic building, and you’ll be astounded by a huge range of work from the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia. The Detroit Institute of Arts’ collections span the centuries, featuring everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to European masters to modern art. Star attractions include the vivid murals of Diego Rivera and the acclaimed Self Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh. Feast your eyes!

Take your pick of guided or multimedia tours, and check out family-friendly offerings like live music, puppet shows, storytime, and art workshops.

Motown Museum

If you’re spending time in Detroit, a visit to the Motown Museum has to be at the top of your bucket list. It may be small, but “Hitsville USA” packs a big historical punch as the birthplace of the Motown Sound. It’s home to Studio A, where artists like the Temptations and Marvin Gaye found their feet and became music legends.

Motown Museum

Journey back to the 1960s, when Motown Records began to mine musical gold, eventually becoming one of the most successful independent labels in history.

Explore a wealth of rare photos, videos, and artifacts tracing the fascinating history of Motown Records under founder Berry Gordy. Step into the Motown Museum’s recording studio, where music magic was made. Close your eyes and listen to the familiar voices of a golden era. 

Pick up a “Greatest Hits” CD in the gift store before you leave; you won’t want to stop the music!

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Heads up, history buffs. Hoping to spot a rare gem? You’ll strike gold at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The creation of Detroit physician and civil rights activist Dr. Charles Wright, “The Wright” is home to over 35,000 artifacts from across the Diaspora.

Celebrating the rich cultural heritage of African Americans, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the largest of its kind in the world. Step inside to explore a combination of fascinating permanent displays and intriguing visiting exhibits that highlight the contributions of the black community to Detroit’s history and culture.

Experience history brought to life in the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection and the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection. Journey into the distant past at Pharoah’s Tomb exhibit, or fast forward to Portraits of a President, dynamic depictions of the groundbreaking 44th American President.

Belle Isle Aquarium

Yearning for some time away from the city hustle and bustle? You’ll find an oasis on Belle Isle, a beautiful stretch of green that straddles the Detroit River between Canada and the US. The island’s star attraction? The Belle Isle Aquarium. Dating back to 1904, it’s the oldest operating aquarium in America.

Belle Isle Aquarium

Housed in an impressive 10,000-square-foot Victorian building, the Belle Isle Aquarium features an interior outfitted with sea-green glass tiles that’ll make you feel you’re exploring an underwater cavern. Marvel at magnificent pillars and sprawling marble floors. Bask in an amazing underwater world as you view over forty tanks teeming with sea life ranging from stingrays to coral reef fish to electric eels.

Step outside and stroll the trails of Belle Isle Park. With its preserved green spaces and playground, it’s the perfect place for the whole family to breathe deep and reboot.

Michigan Science Center

Where does hands-on learning meet up with family-friendly fun? At the Michigan Science Center! This popular Smithsonian attraction is a surefire crowd-pleaser for kids and adults alike. Everyone in your crew will be keen to dive into interactive exhibits ranging from other-worldly adventures to deep-dive explorations of space, climate, and life sciences.

Michigan Science Center

Set in Detroit’s Midtown, the Michigan Science Center offers engaging live demos in all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Check out over 220 interactive displays designed to spark curiosity and learning in youngsters. (And their parents!)

Let the kiddos loose to explore the area designated just for them. Then settle back in a seat at the Planetarium IMAX Dome or 4D theater for some awe-inspiring viewing.

Beacon Park

If you’re craving some greenery without having to leave the city, Beacon Park will hit the spot. This little gem spans 1.2 acres and is tucked away on the western edge of downtown Detroit.

Round up the gang and head down to sample from a host of family-friendly options at Beacon Park. Choose from a menu that includes children’s games and events, musical performances, local markets, and art installations.

Day or night, Beacon Park is a great playground. After dark, the park’s Night Markets feature one-of-a-kind works crafted by local artisans. Grab a bite from a food truck, and stroll the park to take in spectacular light installations and rock out to live music.

Want to kick it up a notch? Snag a set on the rooftop patio of Lumen Detroit, one of the city’s finest restaurants. Savor a craft cocktail as you enjoy panoramic views of the park and city skyline.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

A trip to Motor City wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the man who was the master of automobile innovation, so take a spin down to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation

The museum is the focal point of Greenfield Village, a sprawling 250-acre site in Dearborn, Michigan, that’s home to a collection of nearly 100 fascinating historic buildings. At the center of it all stands the remarkable Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the amazing stories of legendary history-makers. Step into the workshop where the Wright Brothers dreamed of flight. Explore the lab where Thomas Edison saw the light. Ride in an authentic Model T, or experience a freedom ride on the Rosa Parks bus.

This vast array of exhibits highlights the innovative genius behind everything from the crafting of clocks to the evolution of the automobile. Feel inspired?

Detroit Historical Museum

Want to dig a little deeper into Detroit’s bygone days? There’s plenty to discover at the Detroit Historical Museum. Set in Midtown’s Cultural Center Historic District, the museum brims with material chronicling the region’s rich history. Step back in time as you explore artifacts, interactive exhibits, videos, and vintage vehicles that highlight Detroit’s past.

Detroit Historical Museum

Check out exhibits that trace the city’s birth and growth over a span of more than 300 years. Browse popular features like The Motor City Exhibition and Doorway to Freedom, a fascinating look at the Underground Railroad. Step into an old-time diner, or stroll the streets of a staged historical town.

Suds-lovers won’t want to miss the Detroit Historical Museum’s Brewing Heritage section, where they’ll get the lowdown on Michigan’s renowned breweries. (Sorry, samples are not included!)

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Want a little lakeside refreshment? Since you’re in the Great Lakes State, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is a perfect destination. Set on the shores of the historic Belle Isle, this impressive maritime museum traces the intriguing history of the Great Lakes region.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Highlighting Detroit’s role in maritime development, this vast space traces over 300 years of the area’s rich history. Learn about everything from the evolution of shipping fleets to the region’s role in industrial development. The Dossin Great Lakes Museum offers a generous menu of changing exhibits, films, and lectures.

Check out exhibit highlights, including the massive bow anchor from the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald, and browse an impressive ship model showcase. Take the helm of a huge lake freighter and play pilot. Time travel in the Gothic Room, an elegant smoking room that will transport you back to the golden era of Great Lakes cruises.

Comerica Park

D-towners are passionate about their sports, and Comerica Park is their revered bastion of baseball. Home to Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers, this 41,000-seat stadium is one of Detroit’s most popular attractions.

Comerica Park

Head down to catch a game to soak up the excitement while you take in amazing views of the downtown skyline. But don’t stop there. Check out Comerica Park’s wealth of attractions, including the Walk of Fame, the Big Cat Food Court, the Comerica Bank Carousel, the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel, and jaw-dropping fireworks displays.

Want the VIP treatment? Join a tour that takes you behind the scenes and into the stadium’s heart – locker rooms, dugouts, and all. That’s really up close and personal!

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant

Car buff? History nerd? Then you’ll want to hustle over to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant to discover a landmark in automobile history. This was the birthplace of the Model T, and it’s one of the oldest automobile factories in the world.

Built in 1904, this first-ever Ford Factory is a National Historic Landmark that’s been beautifully preserved and offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of the American auto industry. This is where Henry Ford started a transportation revolution with his Model T and won his place in history.

Former Ford Plant employees will guide you through this intriguing site, taking you back to the days when cars were put together by hand. Walk the factory’s original wood floors and touch the beautiful brick walls. Slip into the seat of a shiny early-era Ford. Explore Henry Ford’s carefully preserved office. History was made here!

Fisher Building

If architecture and design are up your alley, the Fisher Building is a must-see. Known as “Detroit’s largest art object,” this striking Art Deco-style skyscraper is a genuine city icon.

Fisher Building

Designed by renowned Detroit architect Albert Kahn, this historic building was completed in 1928, and it’s considered the finest Art Deco structure ever built in America. The Fisher Building forever changed the look of the evolving downtown skyline.

After you take in the Fisher Building’s striking marble-clad exterior, prepare to be awed when you step inside. You’ll discover a spectacular three-story gallery outfitted with soaring vaulted ceilings, vivid mosaics, hand-painted facades, and intricate bronze detailing.

You’re free to wander, but a guided tour is your best bet if you want to truly appreciate this remarkable building and its legacy.

John K. King Used & Rare Books

Bibliophiles looking for paradise will find it in an old abandoned glove factory. That’s the setting for John K. King Used & Rare Books. Now home to an incomparable collection that owner and book lover John K. King began amassing over 50 years ago, this literary haven is one of the largest bookstores in the world.

John K. King Used & Rare Books

Take the map you’ll be given on arrival. You’ll need it! Explore the four sprawling floors of John K. King Used & Rare Books and choose from a huge range of authors and genres. There’s no telling what gems you may discover.

Past finds have included precious signed copies of Ernest Hemingway novels, original photos of Mark Twain slipped into a Mark Twain biography and an unassuming 1950s pamphlet signed by one John F. Kennedy.

With over a million books to choose from, you won’t go home empty-handed here!

The Belt

If you want to see revitalization in action, you’ll want to spend some time in the funky Detroit district known as The Belt. What was once a run-down alley has been transformed into one of the city’s artistic and cultural hotspots.

Named for its location in a former garment district between Broadway and Liberty Street, this awe-inspiring project was created by Detroit-based art gallery Library Street Collective.   

Explore The Belt, and you’ll discover a unique open-air art gallery housing amazing art exhibits, pop-up shops, fantastic food trucks, and more. Walk, bike, or just amble through this often-overlooked downtown gem at your leisure.

Grab a table at one of the alley’s cool patio bars and chill out as you soak up The Belt’s entertaining after-dark action.

Eastern Market

Who doesn’t love a farmers’ market? If you head just a mile north of downtown Detroit, you’ll discover Eastern Market, the nation’s reigning champ. The largest outdoor farmers’ market in the US, this historic public market district was created in 1841 and now sprawls over 43 acres.

Eastern Market

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Eastern Market is a mecca for Michigan farmers, retailers, wholesalers, and hundreds of vendors. Explore the bustling six-block Saturday market, when thousands of D-towners and first-time visitors from around the world shop for groceries. Browse a tempting array of fresh fruits and vegetables, fine meats, and savory spices.

In the market for some artistry? Head down on a Sunday, browse the unique works of dozens of local craft vendors, and tap your toe to the tunes of local buskers.

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