Detroit is a lively city with a fascinating history and an exciting future, rapidly becoming a must-visit destination in the USA. Nicknamed 'Motor City', it's best known as the birthplace of the modern automobile, with visitors flocking to the infamous Henry Ford Experience. However, Detroit is much more than just cars, thanks to a thriving art, music, sports, and nightlife scene.

    You can spend a morning cycling Belle Isle Island, visiting a world-class museum in the afternoon, and experience a top-notch ballgame under the lights all in one day. Music and art lovers have plenty to explore, such as learning about the birth of Motown Records, perusing the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Art, and attending a show at The Fox Theatre. Yet, this barely scratches the surface of what the city has to offer.

    What are the best things to do in Detroit?

    1

    The Henry Ford Experience

    Learn the history of the iconic American auto manufacturer

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Spending a day exploring the 3 parts of the Henry Ford Experience is the quintessential Detroit activity all visitors must indulge in. The full experience takes you on an adventure through America’s past, from touring a modern-day manufacturing plant to perusing a museum showcasing the country’s greatest inventions.

    The Ford Rouge Factory is the main attraction, as you get to walk through a working car assembly line. Take a step back in time into the 18th-century open-air museum of Greenfield Village, where Disney World meets vintage American culture. Finish your experience by browsing a phenomenal collection of American artefacts at the Ford Museum. Located in Dearborn, the museum is ideally positioned between downtown Detroit and the airport.

    Location: 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, MI 48124, USA

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 313-982-6001

    Map

    photo by Chris Short (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    2

    Motown Museum

    Experience the birthplace of Motown Music

    • History

    The modest Motown Museum was where legends like Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson got their start. After enjoying the hour-long tour, you will truly understand why the words 'Hitsville USA’ are carved into the former studio-turned-museum.

    The tour starts with a 20-minute video that pays homage to the studio’s founder, Berry Gordy. This is followed up with the story of the Motown genre and cultivation of acts such as The Supremes and The Temptations. Music aficionados will love the ending of the tour, which stops in the recording studio where hits such as Ain’t No Mountain High Enough were produced.

    Location: 2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208, USA

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +1 313-875-2264

    Map

    photo by Ted Eytan (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    3

    Belle Isle

    Detroit’s summertime island oasis

    • Adventure

    Belle Isle has evolved from the playground of the rich to a stunning state park available to all. The 3-mile island teems with activities for outdoor lovers such as hiking, fishing, sunbathing and golf. Check out the Belle Isle Aquarium to admire the impressive collection of colourful reef fish and electric eels.

    If you are interested in the history of the region, the Great Lakes Museum is a great place to spend a rainy day. Belle Isle is located right in the centre of the Detroit River – access is free if you bike or walk over the bridge but requires a paid permit if you drive.

    Location: 99 Pleasure Dr, Detroit, MI 48207, USA

    Open: Daily from 5 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 313-821-9844

    Map
    4

    Attend a major sports ballgame

    Experience unmatched fandom in Detroit

    • Photo

    Detroit is one of the few cities in the USA that's home to teams in all 4 major professional sports, meaning an exciting ballgame takes place almost nightly. 24 championships have been won combined by the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings, so you know world-class sports is always on display.

    Detroit is commonly referred to as ‘Hockeytown’ because of the Red Wings dominance in recent decades. A playoff game at Little Caesars Arena – shared with the Pistons – is a must-see. Comerica Park, home of the Tigers, takes the cake as the coolest sports venue in town with a carousel and Ferris wheel inside the stadium.

    photo by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    Detroit Institute of Arts

    Peruse one of the country’s top art museums

    • History

    The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), across from the Main Public Library, houses an unmatched collection of art collected from across the world. Motivated by a massive influx of creatives, Detroit is becoming a thriving art hub and DIA is helping to propel the city’s reputation globally.

    From ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to towering murals created by prominent Mexican painter Diego Rivera, art aficionados will be locked in inspiration for days. The highlight of the museum is a 16th-century chapel that was relocated from a French chateau after WWI. Painstakingly taken apart stone by stone and shipped to Detroit, the chapel and its well-preserved stained-glass windows are a sight to behold. It’s a good idea to plan at least 2 days to explore the entire museum.

    Location: 5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Thursday from 9 am to 4 pm, Friday from 9 am to 10 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 313-833-7900

    Map
    6

    Eastern Market

    Stroll Detroit’s year-round public market

    • Shoppers
    • Nightlife
    • Food

    The Eastern Market has been a staple of Detroit life for over 150 years, bringing together farmers, vendors and eager consumers. When visiting the district, you can shop for everything from fresh produce to clothing, art, jewellery and items you might not even know existed.

    Along with over 225 different vendors, hip cafes and restaurants are mixed in among the mural-covered city blocks. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the amazing street art. Finish a day of shopping with a visit to Bert's Warehouse Theatre, where live Motown music plays deep into the night. Eastern Market is busiest on Saturdays, with upwards of 40,000 people visiting, so visit a different day to avoid crowds.

    Location: 2934 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207, USA

    Open: Tuesday from 9 am to 3 pm, Saturday from 6 am to 4 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 313-833-9300

    Map

    photo by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    Detroit Public Library

    Grab a book and revel in this American architectural gem

    • Families
    • Photo
    • Budget

    The main Detroit Public Library, located just across from the Detroit Institute of Art, is an excellent place for bibliophiles and families. Home to a staggering number of books, you are sure to find something worthy of reading on a rainy day. However, the real highlight of this library is the grandiose interior with colourful patterned trim and massive paintings adorning every archway.

    To really dive into a new novel, head to the map room or peruse ancient texts in the Burton Historical Collection section. The Library also has a rotating number of featured exhibits on display, so keep an eye out when visiting. Closed on Mondays, the best way to reach the library is off the Warren Avenue tram stop.

    Location: 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Wednesday from noon to 8 pm, Thursday–Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 9.45 am to 6 pm, Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 313-481-130011

    Map

    photo by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    The Belt

    Showcasing Detroit’s burgeoning art scene

    • Nightlife
    • Photo

    The Belt is one of Detroit's best-kept secrets – a nondescript alley in the heart of downtown that has been transformed into a work of art and a collection of bars. Named because of its location in the former downtown garment district, The Belt is a hip place to spend a weekend night.

    Two bars stand above the rest as the centrepieces of the district. The Skip is a tropical-themed indoor/outdoor cocktail lounge with a colourful bar and delicious flatbread options. Standby offers a more refined night out with a creative cocktail list in a dingy, red-brick warehouse setting – a favourite happy-hour spot for locals. Revel in the beautiful street murals as you make your way home.

    Location: The Belt, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

    Map

    photo by Carlos Felipe Pardo (CC BY 2.0) modified

    9

    Fox Theatre

    Enjoy an electric live performance at this Detroit institution

    • Nightlife

    The Fox Theatre hosts productions, live musicians, comedic acts, and orchestral performances in the heart of downtown. Detroit's marquee event space has an ornately decorated grand hall with plush red cushions adorning shiny wooden seats.

    With over 5,000 seats available, the atmosphere rivals that of a sports arena. The best time to visit the Fox Theatre is during the winter holidays when the much-loved Nutcracker is performed almost nightly. Bar and concession stands are located throughout the theatre, though it’s best to fill up on a big meal before a show.

    Location: 2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, USA

    Phone: +1 313-471-7000

    Map

    photo by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    10

    Greektown

    A local favourite for a great night out

    • Nightlife
    • Food

    The vibrant Greektown was formed when a large population of Greek immigrants moved to Detroit in the 20th century. All restaurants and bars offer traditional Greek cuisine with a lively atmosphere that could easily be confused with Greece itself.

    Pegasus Taverna and the Greek are the signature restaurants you must try. Start with a mixed olive appetizer followed by a fresh Greek salad and a hefty serving of moussaka. Do not leave either restaurant without biting into a flaky bougatsa pastry for dessert. Along with being a great place to eat, Greektown is a popular nightspot, with the Greektown Casino drawing gamblers from all over the country.

    Location: Greektown, Detroit, MI, USA

    Map

    photo by Michael Barera (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Ryan Thomas McNutt | Contributing Writer

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