Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan and is located in the MidWest region of the United States. Detroit has an incredible history, littered with musical genius and car manufacturing. Despite its impressive legacy, Detroit has fallen on hard times in recent years, with the city filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013. The bankruptcy led to a fall in population, loss of jobs, and the collapse of many city services. Despite this, Detroit is slowly making its way back. The crime rate has been decreasing, and household income is on the rise. The city is known by the nickname Motor City because of its long history of manufacturing. It currently has a population of around 673,000 people.
So, let’s take a look at all the city a little closer and explore all the great things to do in Detroit on your visit.
Belle Isle Park
Belle Isle Park sits on an islet in the Detroit River and covers an area of 982 acres. It’s bigger than Central Park in Manhattan and is owned by the city of Detroit. Belle Isle has a nature center, aquarium, conservatory, and Great Lakes Museum within its boundaries. It’s a popular place to hang out, go walking, fishing or boating. Since the state of Michigan took ownership of the park in 2014, it has spent more than $32 million in renovations and upgrades. It’s a great free thing to do in Detroit for all the family. The highlight for kids is usually the Belle Isle Aquarium.
The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
The Henry Ford Museum is located in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. The complex includes a large outdoor and indoor museum and is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Despite Ford’s reputation as a car manufacturer, it’s not only automobile exhibits that are on display here. The museum is home to JFK’s limousine, the bus made famous by Rosa Parks, President Lincoln’s Ford theater chair, and the Wright Brothers bicycle shop. It is a true history museum dedicated to innovation. However, automobile enthusiasts need not be disappointed as there are plenty of cars to be seen. In addition to the history museum, visitors can also choose to visit Greenfield Village and The River Rouge Museum. A trip to Dearborn is a really fun thing to do in Detroit.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $25-$78, depending on the package and attractions.
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Detroit Institute of Arts contains one of the most extensive art collections in the USA. It houses more than 100 galleries and 65,000 works of art. The exterior is almost as impressive at what’s inside, and the Institute was designed by Paul Philippe Cret. Some of the main highlights of any visit to the DIA are the Detroit Industry collection by Diego Rivera and the Expressionist collection, which includes works by Kandinsky and Edvard Munch. However, the main piece that seems to be popular with visitors and residents is one of Van Gogh’s incredible self-portraits, dating back to 1887.
Tickets required, available online or from the entrance,
Comerica Park is the home of MLB’s Detroit Tigers and is a large open-air ballpark in the downtown area of the city. The stadium seats more than 41,000 people and has a huge 15ft tall tiger sculpture at its entrance. A further eight giant statues are dotted around the park. The sculptures by the scoreboard have LED eyes that light up when the home team scores a home run. From the Upper Deck of the stadium, the views across the Detroit skyline are pretty special, so tickets in that section are very popular. The baseball season runs from April 1st to September 30th each year, so it’s a great thing to do in Detroit if your visit falls when games are on.
The Motown Museum in downtown Detroit was initially used as a recording studio for Motown Records by founder, Berry Gordy. It’s also known as Hitsville USA and launched the recording careers of musical legends like Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. The museum tells the story of Motown’s humble beginnings and how it transformed into one of the most significant cultural revolutions of the 20th Century. The museum was started by Gordy’s wife, Esther, in 1985 and has become one of Detroit’s best-loved attractions. If you love music, it’s undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in Detroit.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $10-$15
Fort Wayne is located in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit and is a historic barracks and fort, dating back to the 1800s. The fort spans an area of 96 acres and is the third fort built in the city. Fort Wayne and many other forts were built to ward off attacks from the British Army. Throughout the year, the fort holds Civil War reenactments and a range of festivals and concerts, such as the Motor Show and the popular late-night Ghost Tours. The main Fort area is open from May to October.
Masonic Temple of Detroit
It may seem like an odd thing to do in Detroit if you’re not a mason but stick with us. The Temple is the largest one of its kind in the world and has three theaters, a banqueting hall, and three ballrooms. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a completely imposing structure. The building has a long and exciting history, including the fact that the trowel used to place the foundation stone of the Temple was the same one used by George Washington to lay the cornerstone of the United States Capitol Building. The property is constructed in a Gothic Revival style and is extremely impressive to view. It has more than 1,000 rooms over 14 floors and it just as jaw-dropping from the inside as it is from the outside.
Off-beat things to do in Detroit
John K King Used & Rare Books is an independent bookstore in downtown Detroit with more than 1 million titles. Visitors can browse books over four floors but are unable to see the rarest and most valuable books without prior appointment. No one wants sticky hands all over their priceless volumes, do they? The store is said to have one of the strangest collections in the US. Nothing, except the rare titles, are cataloged so there’s no real way for staff to search for something without physically trawling through piles of books. It’s a great thing to do in Detroit and is like stepping back in time in the best way possible.
Frequently Asked Questions by Travelers About Detroit
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Detroit. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this Mid-Western city has to offer.
What are the must-see things to do in Detroit?
A visit to the Detroit Public Library is a must-see thing to do in Detroit and is a pretty under-rated city attraction, despite it being the pride of its residents. It’s the second-largest library in Michigan and holds more than 7.5 million books. It was built in an Italian Renaissance style and constructed from Vermont marble. If you love books and information, this is the place for you. The Museum of African American History is also a brilliantly educational trip to take with your family. The museum details the fantastic contribution of African American to the history and culture of the US and beyond. It holds the most extensive permanent collection of African American culture in the United States.
What are some fun things to do in Detroit?
A great fun thing to do in Detroit is to get your art on at Pewabic Pottery. The establishment was founded in 1903 and detailed the long history of the Detroit ceramics industry. It’s such an interesting place to visit, but it tends to fly beneath the radar in terms of top visitor attractions. It is home to a fantastic gallery of exhibits and also offers visitors the chance to throw down some pottery of their own.
What are some fun things to do around the Detroit area in August?
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Detroit in August, hit up the Ribs RnB Music Festival, which is being held over the weekend of Friday 9th – Sunday 11th August. If you fancy taking part in a wing eating festival, you can head to The All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Wing Block Party from 3rd-4th August at Roosevelt Park. Sports fans will be in their element in August as the Detroit Tigers MLB team will be back in full swing at Comerica Park.
At the moment, Detroit is possibly a less attractive city to visit that it was many years ago. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking it doesn’t still have a great deal to offer. The home of Motown and America’s car industry has a long and diverse history that it’s justifiably proud to show off. The city is back on the up and has been working hard to provide exceptional experiences and attractions for residents and visitors alike. The city is served by Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (which is a bit of a mouthful) and has some excellent quality accommodation for all budgets.