Things to Do in Detroit

 

See Also >> Scheduled Outings

There’s a lot more to Detroit than most people know. There are tons of restaurants in the RenCen and nearby, including Greektown just a short hop away on the People Mover (Detroit’s elevated light rail). There are a number of museums, a thriving music scene, universities, major league sports, international festivals, a rich history, and a dynamic technical community. You can also go to Canada for a quick visit, as long as you’ve brought your passport (or enhanced driver’s license) along. Detroit is in the midst of recreating itself, and it’s a really exciting time to be in the city.

We’ve listed some of our favorite attractions below or you can follow some of David Aronovitz’s suggestions for Things To Do in Detroit! If you’d rather have someone plan the sightseeing for you, you’ll find a wide variety of tours listed as well.

 

Downtown Detroit

Downtown Detroit remains the business and entertainment center of the city, and is where you will find great restaurants, clubs, casinos, and public spaces. The architecture and public art are truly outstanding, and are worth a look even if you only see it from the People Mover. You can reach most of downtown Detroit easily from the Renaissance Center by foot, cab, car, the elevated rail (known as the People Mover), or by bicycle.

Comerica Park Sports fan? The Detroit Tigers baseball team will be in town during Detcon1, playing the Cleveland Indians.

There will be a group outing to the first Tiger’s game of Saturday’s double-header, July 19 (1:08 pm start). Get tickets here. You will be on your own for transportation; note it is only a few stops away by the People Mover light rail, which has a station at the RenCen.

The Detroit Riverfront Running right alongside the Renaissance Center, the Detroit Riverfront includes three and a half miles of pedestrian and bike paths, parks, plazas, playgrounds, and nature areas. Take a bike up the Dequindre Cut to Eastern Market, or join a free Tai Chi class. The Riverwalk is open until 10 p.m.

 

Midtown

Midtown – also known as the Cultural Center of Detroit – is located just north of Downtown. You will find museums, art galleries, music and film venues, and learning centers all within blocks of each other. When you work up an appetite from all that culture there are plenty of great places to stop for a bite to eat – or head over to Eastern Market just to the east.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History The largest institution dedicated to African-American history, the Wright Museum’s 22,000 square foot main exhibit “And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture” is a powerful immersive experience.

Detroit Historical Museum Get a handle on the city’s rich and storied past with interactive exhibits in this newly renovated museum.

Detroit Institute of Arts With more than 100 galleries, the DIA boasts one of the top six Art collections in the country, and is one of the city’s most treasured institutions. Feast your eyes on Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco (recently named a National Historic Landmark), Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, and many other works of art.

Eastern Market The market inhabits five sheds across five city blocks, and is open Tuesdays and Saturdays. It’s an excellent place to get your fill of Michigan produce!

Michigan Science Center The newly reopened Michigan Science Center has the fun and interactive exhibits you would expect, plus the largest movie screen in Michigan and a domed IMAX.

Motown Museum Visit Hitsville, U. S. A., the original office and recording studio of Motown Records. Take a one-hour tour of the beautifully restored building and get a Motown dance lesson!

 

Belle Isle

This island park in the Detroit River is easily accessible courtesy of the half-mile long Douglas MacArthur Bridge. The park hosts walking paths, beaches, a Conservatory, The Belle Isle Nature Zoo, and The Belle Isle Aquarium. There is an entry fee for out-of-state cars of $9 for a day pass. Michigan cars with license plates renewed March through June must either have a tab with a “Parks Passport” designation, or pay $11 for a yearly passport. Pedestrians and cars whose plates are renewed July through February can still get onto the island free this year.

 

Surrounding Areas

Ann Arbor Art Fairs This spectacular event takes place throughout downtown Ann Arbor, and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors annually. If you enjoy art, it is definitely worth the trip!

Arab American National Museum The curators of this beautiful museum rely as much on the stories of Arab Americans as on artifacts to present their rich culture. This is the only museum of its kind in the United States, located in Dearborn.

Automotive Hall of Fame Celebrate all things automotive in this Dearborn museum located next to the Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford  The contents of this enormous indoor-outdoor museum in nearby Dearborn began as Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects. Fascinating exhibits, activities, and good food make it easy to spend an entire day. There are two main sections:

  • Greenfield Village: The outdoor portion of the Henry Ford features an eclectic collection of historic buildings (such as Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory), Model Ts, a working farm, a tavern serving period cuisine, and authentic artisans.
  • Henry Ford MuseumThe indoor museum holds an assortment of interesting objects, including a tube holding Thomas Edison’s last breath, the Rosa Parks bus, and a prototype Dymaxion House.

The Detroit Zoo Located just north of the city in Royal Oak, the Detroit Zoo is one of the great American Zoos, and among other cool things it hosts the country’s largest polar bear exhibit.

Windsor, Ontario, Canada Don’t forget that with Detcon1, you get two countries for the price of one! Bring your passport and visit Windsor right across the river.

 

Tours

There are a number of bus and other tour offerings of Detroit. Some of the best are listed below. For more information, contact tours@detcon1.org.

Detroit Bus Company This local bus company offers quirky (and alcohol-friendly!) bus tours with a historical bent to them. If this floats your boat, check out their “Drunks of Antiquity” or “Weird Detroit” tours. Advanced purchase is recommended.

Detroit Experience Factory This is the tour branch of D:Hive, a local non-profit that promotes the city. DXF offers a FREE walking tour on Saturday, and affordable bus tours. Registration is recommended.

Detroit Heritage Tours Preservation Detroit is another non-profit, dedicated to the preservation of the cultural and architectural heritage of the city. They offer Saturday walking tours of Midtown, downtown, and Eastern Market. Register in advance or pay with cash on the day of (if space is available).

Detroit Urban Adventures Take their “Detroit’s Rise, Fall, and Renewal” tour using the Detroit People Mover and your own muscle. Fee covers transportation and a local treat at the end of the tour. Reservations are required.

Diamond Jack Sightseeing Tours Take a two-hour boat tour and get great views of Detroit and Windsor. Tours leave from Rivard Plaza, just to the east of the Renaissance Center. No advanced registration is available – tickets are sold on a first come first served basis the day of the tour.

GM Ren Cen Tour Tour the Renaissance Center to get your bearings and to learn more about General Motors in Detroit. Tours are FREE and leave from Pure Detroit located in Tower 400 on Level 1 at noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Motor City Brew Tours During DetCon1, this business is offering bike and brew tours of Detroit’s automotive history and the Corktown and Mexicantown neighborhoods. If you’re in the city the week before the Con, why not check out their Detroit Prohibition History bike tour or one of their bus or walking tours? Purchase tickets in advance.

Show Me Detroit Show Me Detroit offers van tours to groups of no more than 6, led by knowledgeable local guides. Handicapped accessibility is available upon request. Advance reservations are required.

Wheelhouse Detroit This bicycle shop, located on the Detroit River Walk, offers bike rentals and unique bike tours. During DetCon1 they are offering a tour of the murals of the Southwest Detroit. Book in advance.