Updated: Aug 30
Whether you are a foodie, art lover, or history buff, Detroit is certainly worth visiting. Home to National Historic Landmarks, one of the "World's Best Bookstores", and the nation's largest open air market, make the Motor City your next weekend getaway. In this Detroit Travel Guide, we will outline the top things to do, eat, and drink in the motor city.
Detroit's Belle Isle State Park is the largest urban island park in the nation! Also, over 70 featured films and over a dozen tv shows have been filmed in Detroit.
Top Things To Do in Detroit
1. Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA)
The Detroit Institute of the Arts is among the top 6 collections of art in the nation with over 65,000 works. This museum holds works from American, European, Contemporary, and Graphic Art. It also features a quaint café on the first level, and an extraordinary, glass-roofed great hall on the second level.
Tickets and Entry Times
The Detroit Institute of the Art is open Mon - Wed from 9AM to 5PM, Thurs - Fri from 9AM to 10PM and Sat - Sun from 10AM - 10PM. Tickets for non-local residents are $14/Adult and booking a timeslot ahead of time online is strongly encouraged.
Tip: Entry is free for all residents of Michigan's Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.
2. Fisher Building
The Fisher building was built in the 1920s as an ode to American work ethic and American artisans. Sparing no expense, the Fisher Building's marble façade, hand-painted ceiling, bronze detailing, and intricate mosaics have led to its title as "Detroit's Largest Art Object"
Did you know? The Fisher Building was designated a National Historical Landmark by the National Park Service in 1989
Tickets and Entry Times
The Fisher Building is open to the public 24 hours daily and is free to enter and enjoy. However, our recommendation is to visit on a Saturday when free tours by Pure Detroit will take you to all of the main spots within the Fisher Building, including a higher floor for panoramic views of the city. Pure Detroit runs tours every Saturday at 12pm and 2pm.
3. Explore Midtown
Midtown is a neighborhood of Detroit that is most popularly known as the college town for Wayne State University. In addition to the renowned museums located in Midtown, such as the Detroit Institute of the Arts, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Motown Museum, and Ford Piquette Ave Plant Museum, Midtown is also known for its breweries, eateries, and shopping.
Third Man Records
With locations in Nashville, London, and Detroit, this trendy Midtown record shop was founded by American musician Jack White. Visit Third Man Records to shop their music and apparel, witness a live show, or learn about their state-of-the-art vinyl manufacturing plant located on site.
Majestic Theatre & Garden Bowl
The Majestic Theatre is one of our favorite music venues in Detroit. This complex holds an intimate music venue, a pizzeria, and a 1900s bowling alley. What more could you need?
Admission: Tickets for a live show at the Majestic range between $20-40/Adult
4. The BELT
This photogenic "hipster" alley is covered with murals, art galleries, speakeasy-style cocktail bars, and eateries. The BELT is filled with Instagrammers by day and party-goers by night. Try "The Skip" bar in the summer for outdoor seating, frozen drinks, and a decent beer selection. Visit the "Standby" for a dim-lit, speakeasy-style cocktail bar with unique drinks.
Hungry? Try Mootz Pizzeria + Bar, just around the corner from the BELT, for classic pizza and garlic knots
5. Campus Martius Park
Campus Martius Park is the main center-square of downtown Detroit. In the summer months, the square is converted to a sandy beach with food trunks and pop-up bars. In the winter months, a giant Christmas tree decorates the square with an ice-skating rink and crafts are displayed in a nearby Christmas market. Woodward Avenue is transformed with sparkling lights which allows you to walk through the dazzling light show on your way to the Spirit of Detroit Statue.
6. Detroit's Stunning Venues
Detroit is home to some unique, historical, and ornate entertainment venues. St Andrew's Hall is a historic building turned into a live entertainment venue, most popularly known as one of the first stages Eminem performed at. The Fox Theatre is a performing arts center building that dates back to the 1920s and is Detroit's largest city theater with over 5,000 seats.
Other equally impressive venues include the Detroit Opera House (performing arts), The Fillmore (previously the State Theatre), and Masonic Temple (world's largest).
7. Guardian Building
The Guardian Building, similar to the Fisher Building, is an over-the-top architectural beauty built in the 1920s. This 40-story building became one of the most striking Art Deco skyscrapers in the world. Free to enter and open 24 hours daily, the Guardian Building is located one block away from Campus Martius.
8. John K. King Used & Rare Books
John K. King Used & Rare Books is home to over one million books! The eclectic and extensive collection of books is open to the public in a redesigned factory setting. Wander through a maze of books across four different levels, take in the smell of old paper, and marvel at this impressive collection.
Did you Know? Business Insider named John K. King Books as one of the "World's Best Bookstores"
John K. King Used & Rare Books is open from 12pm to 4pm on Mondays, 9:30am to 5:30pm on Tuesday through Saturday, and is closed on Sundays.
9. Detroit's Street Art
While exploring the streets of Detroit, you will encounter a variety of street art. For a large variety of street art, do not miss the BELT and its nearby art galleries, or Eastern Market as you wander through the side-streets east of the market sheds.
Several of our favorite one-off pieces of street art that are worth seeking out are the Stevie Wonder Mural on Brush Street and the largest 3D mural in the nation on the side of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.
10. Eastern Market
Eastern Market is the largest open air market in the nation, hosting a Tuesday (9am-3pm), Saturday (6am-4pm), and Sunday (10am-4pm) market. At these markets, visitors can shop for fresh produce, sample foods from street vendors, and admire local artisan crafts.
In addition to the weekly markets, Eastern Market is also a neighborhood home to numerous art murals decorating old warehouses, quirky shops such as Henry the Hatter (oldest hat retailer in the nation), and up-and-coming breweries such as Eastern Market Brewing Company.
Also Read: Michigan's Upper Peninsula 1 Week Itinerary
11. Dequindre Cut
The Dequindre Cut is a two-mile long paved path that goes from Eastern Market to the Detroit River Walk. The greenway is an excellent place to take a stroll, bike-ride, or light jog while encountering urban art, as well as, events and food stands throughout the summer months.
Tip: Rent a bike from Detroit's MoGo bike-share system to enjoy on the Dequindre Cut and Detroit River Walk, as well as, to get around downtown more efficiently!
12. Detroit River Walk
The Detroit River Walk starts at Hart Plaza and continues north until Mt. Elliot Park. This 2.5-mile paved, multiuse path provides water-side views of Canada across the river. The Dequindre Cut meets up with the Detroit River Walk at the Outdoor Adventure Center. Continuing north will bring you to the Aretha Franklin summer amphitheater and numerous activities at Robert C. Valade Park.
Tip: Head to Robert C. Valade Park for bonfire pits, beers on tap, and outdoor games.
13. Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle State Park is the largest urban island park in the nation at roughly 900 acres which surpasses Central Park in New York City. Belle Isle includes scenic viewpoints, lighthouses, beaches, fishing piers, museums, and nature centers.
One of our favorite things to do at Belle Isle visit the free Aquarium and Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. This 1900s aquarium is filled with a variety of fish, along with the neighboring conservatory that holds exotic plants in a nearby greenhouse.
Tickets and Entry Times
The Aquarium and Conservatory are open only on weekends (Friday through Sunday) from 10am to 4pm (until 5pm at the Conservatory). Entry is free to the public, however, in order to park within Belle Isle State Park you have to purchase a recreation passport. Recreation passports can be purchased at the park's entry booths.
Detroit is most definitely a "foodie city". In fact, it was named by National Geographic as an unexpected city for Food Lovers in 2017. To give you a sense of the foodie scene across Detroit, we have broken it down by neighborhood.
Midtown is a neighborhood filled with young adults, and with that comes bars, restaurants, and a bustling nightlife. Our favorite affordable and delicious eats are listed below:
Hopcat (Bar & Grill)
Condado Tacos (Mexican)
Royale with Cheese (Burgers)
Great Lakes Coffee Company (Coffee)
Jolly Pumpkin (Pizza & Brewery)
Socra Tea (Tea)
Seva Detroit (Vegetarian)
Detroit Shipping Company (Food Court)
2. Downtown Detroit
Downtown Detroit is where you can try some local classics, such as the classic Coney Dog, Detroit-Style Pizza, and few other savory treats. Our top recommendations are outlined below:
Frita Batidos Detroit (Cuban)
Buddy's Pizza (Detroit-Style Pizza)
Madcap Coffee Company (Coffee)
Detroit Mini Donut (Donuts)
Mootz Pizzeria (Pizza)
Lafayette Coney Island (Hot Dog Diner)
Dime Store (Brunch)
*outside of downtown* Sister Pie (Bakery)
Corktown is the oldest surviving neighborhood in Detroit and is home to a variety of eateries, from hole-in-the-wall establishments like Green Dot Stables, to fine dining and mouth-watering barbeque.
Green Dot Stables (Sliders)
Bobcat Bonnie's (Gastropub)
Slows Bar BQ (Barbeque)
Looking for some ethnic options? Head to Hamtramck, just north of downtown, for Polish food or Dearborn, just west of the city, for Arab inspired cuisines.
1. Founders Brewing Company
This iconic brewery sold over 115k barrels in Michigan in 2018 to reaffirm its position as the second largest brewery in the state. Founders' All Day IPA is an easy drinking lower ABV that will satisfy your taste buds while allowing you to keep your senses sharp. Each empty glass will leave you wanting more!
Recommended by J&L: All Day IPA (Session/ India Session IPA 4.7% ABV)
2. Atwater Brewery & Tap House
This lively brewery is located a few blocks north of the Detroit River Walk, making it a great place to stop while sight-seeing in Detroit. We highly recommend trying the Vanilla Java Porter (VJP) at Atwater Brewing. This craft beer is the perfect balance of vanilla and coffee aromas with the smooth finish of a porter.
Also Read: Top 8 Breweries of Michigan
3. Motor City Brewing Works
Motor City Brewing Works is located in the heart of Midtown and offers hole-in-the-wall vibes in the center of a bustling neighborhood. Try their flagship beer, the Ghettoblaster Mild Ale, also known as "the beer you can hear" with its accompanying album as tribute to Detroit's music scene.
Also Read: Top 6 Breweries of Traverse City, Michigan
4. Batch Brewing Company
Batch Brewing Company, located in Corktown, serves tasty experimental brews in a beer-garden setting with food trucks and live music. For something unique, try the nitrogenated Cocoamotion, which is a smooth, chocolatey dry stout.
Did you know? The Visit Detroit Brew Trail offers discounts at breweries throughout metro Detroit
Planning Your Trip
How many days in Detroit do you need?
In order to complete our suggested activities, we recommend spending at least two full days in Detroit. If you want to add-on a sporting event, show, or would like to visit the neighboring areas of Detroit, you may consider adding 1-2 additional days.
J&L Recommended: 2-4 Full Days
What month is the best to visit Detroit?
Although Detroit has many activities that can be enjoyed throughout the winter, to make the most of your time in Detroit and partake in outdoor activities, we recommend visiting Detroit from spring through fall.
J&L Recommended: April - October
Where is the best area to stay in Detroit?
We would recommend lodging in the bustling Midtown for close proximity to the top sights of Detroit, restaurants, and nightlife. Additionally, you can ride the QLINE all the way down to Congress Street to continue sightseeing in downtown Detroit.
J&L Recommended Location: Kelsey's Midtown Home
Use the search box below to select your travel dates and find a great deal on hotels in Detroit.
Getting Around Detroit
What is the best way to get around in Detroit?
As the motor city, Detroit went years without having a viable option for people to get around without a car. However, as of 2017, the QLINE tram now helps locals and tourists get to most of the top sights of Detroit via Woodward Ave. The best part is that the QLINE is still piloting complimentary service, meaning you can hop on and off for free! (Check the website for the most up-to-date fares as the pilot nears an end). Use the DartApp or station kiosks to purchase tickets for the QLINE (once payment resumes), as well as, DDOT buses.
Parking in Detroit? Use the ParkWhiz App to find the best deals on parking spaces in garages and lots or the ParkDetroit App to easily pay for street parking meters.
How do you get to Detroit from the Airport?
The most affordable way to get from Detroit's Metro Airport to downtown Detroit is via the SMART 261 bus. This bus picks up from the McNamara Terminal and drops you off at 'Cass + Michigan' bus stop (1 hour duration). Taking a taxi or rideshare is your fastest option at roughly 30 minutes, however, fares will cost you between $40-70.
J&L Recommended: Use Rome2Rio to assess your travel options
Enjoy our Detroit tips and tricks? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!