Head to the urban heart of the Midwest. Detroit, MI can feel like the origins of Midwest America and a modern metropolis all at once. Visit the place where motor cars first hit the gas and push your own pedal to the metal racing to complete this itinerary.
Read this guide to things to do in Detroit to make the most of your time in the motor city.
6 a.m. Visit the Eastern Market
Rise and shine and head over to the Eastern Market. Eastern Market, a public food hub, provides food for the public year-round but on specific days. If you’re feeling foody on Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday morning or afternoon head down to the Eastern Market. The hours vary of course, but swing by if you have time.
7 a.m. Soak in the Belle Isle
Belle Isle sits on the Michigan side of the Detroit River opposite of the Canadian border. Belle Isle houses historic Detroit structures. Protecting, preserving and restoring the natural environment makes Belle Isle unique. Although not what you would expect in a bustling urban area, the island stands (or floats, wink wink) as a defining feature of Detroit. “Belle Isle is a beautiful park to walk or drive around, and it has a butterfly house!” Michigan State senior Kara Ernst said. As a popular spot for picnics, walks, workouts or even brushing up on some history and getting a taste of the great outdoors, you have no reason not to stop by for a visit.
8 a.m. Get moving on the People Mover
Want a faster way to get from place to place? Instead of taking an Uber or a bus, take a ride on the People Mover. “One of my favorite things to do is ride the People Mover—it’s like Detroit’s own tram system above ground and you can get some great views of downtown,” College of William & Mary junior Marissa Kingston said.
9 a.m. Grab a bite at Great Harvest Bread Co.
Head over to Northville’s Great Harvest Bread Company, a unique spot for bread lovers in Michigan. This company has been in business for over 30 years. Still going strong with original and traditional recipes and methods of baking, they offer more than just white or wheat; you can order a sandwich, a pastry or a loaf of bread. And, in the spirit of Costco (but maybe a little more hometown baked goods), they offer free samples. Some of the favorite selections are the Pizza Roll Sandwich, Sugar and Snicker Cookies and Cinnamon Swirl bread (very delicious, believe me).
10 a.m. Experience the Heidelberg Project
“My favorite thing about Detroit is the scenery of downtown Detroit,” Tiffin University senior Layla Rae said. If you find yourself on the hunt for a piece of history and a little bit of art inspiration, check out the Heidelberg Project. The Heidelberg Project, located in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood north of the city’s historically African American Black Bottom, has become a fun outdoor art project in Detroit open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. They offer tours, lectures and resources for educators who want to incorporate this art project into their classrooms. They aim to empower students through art, cultural and academic enrichment and social justice service projects.
11 a.m. Get down at the Motown Museum
Appropriately nicknamed, “Hitsville U.S.A.,” the Motown Museum lets you see the beginnings of modern day music. The museum operates as a tribute to Motown Records established in 1929 by Berry Gordy. As one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, tourists, visitors and music lovers alike can stand in Studio A where famous artists and groups recorded popular music of the time. The small building doesn’t look like much, but the historical value remains enormous. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
12 p.m. Feast your eyes on the Detroit Institute of Art
The Detroit Institute of Art, one of the biggest and best, has one of the most significant art collections in the US. Located in the Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center Historic District, this museum contributes to Detroit’s cultural history. The Detroit Institute of Art creates an environment unique to each visitor. For those who love art, history and culture, get inspired at the DIA with attractions classic and contemporary this season like Monet: Framing Life or D-Cyphered: Portraits by Jenny Risher.
“The Diego Rivera murals give you an insight about what Detroit, the motor city was. Detroit had a lot of potential and then the big companies left but the murals show the potential greatness of Detroit and how hard working the people there are,” senior at UC Berkeley Diana Jauregui said.
1 p.m. Entertain yourself at the Fox Theater
Catch a show at the historic Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. “Seeing anything at the Fox Theater is always an awesome time,” Kingston said. Take the kids to see Sesame Street Live, head out for a night of laughs with Trevor Noah or Kat Williams or for a date night watch the Sound of Music or be there for the Valentines Soul Jam.
2 p.m. Drive to the Henry Ford Museum
Henry Ford had a major hand in making Detroit, Motor City. Henry Ford was a businessman, like many others, who saw a need, created change and invented something new. He was the creator of the first “horseless carriage” (the earliest version of a car that we can imagine). He was a key factor in making Detroit the motor hub that it was. The museum, named after him as well, operates as a unique educational and historical experience based on stories of America’s innovation in the motor industry. The museum consists of two facilities that function as educational houses: an indoor museum to display America’s progress in technology and an outdoor village (Greenfield Village) to explain how these objects and innovations were created and utilized.
3 p.m. Time travel to Greenfield village
The second part of the Henry Ford museum was designed to look like a village including the village green, town hall, church and courthouse /school. This gives the observer a glimpse of what the beginning of Detroit felt like. “It’s a very like take-you-back-in-time situation, quite educational too. I know museums aren’t everyone’s favorite, but this one is really cool,” Michigan State freshman Madison Drew said.
4 p.m. Find your roar at the Lions Stadium
Walk the streets of Downtown Detroit. Visit Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, Detroit’s professional football team. Football fans will have a blast visiting this stadium. Detroit has become a hub for professional sports, as all of the major stadiums are within a few blocks of each other.
5 p.m. Visit the new Red Wings Stadium
Word on the street: the Red Wings have built a new arena. The new building features a giant red arena with the logo on the top of the stadium: a giant red and white wheel with a wing. Roll over to the every hockey player’s dream stadium and check it out. “A Red Wings game is always a fun time,” Ernst said. Check that out while you are there too. Each sports team has their year. The Red Wings record this year: 17 wins, 18 losses, 7 ties. But their fate is yet to be decided, the season has only begun.
6 p.m. Quench your thirst at Parmenter’s Cider Mill
All the locals know about Parmenter’s. “Fall in Northville isn’t complete without a visit to Parmenter’s Cider Mill,” Northville native and Belmont University senior Melissa Crowley said. Drive into Northville and you won’t miss the big red barn and the bales of hay signaling the beginning of fall in Northville, MI. Parmenter’s Cider Mill sells more than just cider. They also offer cinnamon sugar doughnuts and other sweet treats that taste better than fall feels.
7 p.m. Get another warm welcome at Campus Martius
Campus Martius, dubbed Detroit’s Greeting Place, coexists with the city’s urban-ness in Downtown Detroit. Though it has been re-established in the recent years, Campus Martius remains a spot for holiday fun. “If it’s winter, they have an ice skating rink at Campus Martius which is a great thing to do with family, friends, and dates,” Kingston said. She’s not alone in her opinion, either. “If you’re going to Detroit around Christmas time, Campus Martius is a must! There’s ice skating and a beautiful tree,” Central Michigan University sophomore Mary Catherine McLaughlin said. The community hosts various events in the park, from the ice skating rink in November to March, to the monument and the beach (an urban beach, which sounds like a once in a lifetime thing to try).
8 p.m. Snap a postcard-worthy pic at Mill Race Village
Mill Race Village exists for those who want a taste of the quainter, older Michigan. It serves as a main focal point for the community and preserves the nature as well as the historical architectural styles common to the area. The bridge over the creek and the cupolaare some beautiful defining features. Mill Race Village remains a popular spot for weddings, events, and photoshoots (get ready for your prom pics, ladies!).
9 p.m. Time for Custard Time
Explore the smaller, quainter part of Michigan. Only half an hour away from downtown Detroit, Custard Time is a small sweets shack on 7 Mile Road. Get frozen yogurt from the best spot in Northville, MI. They offer only a few flavors (but let’s be honest, all you need is chocolate) and, of course, the infamous sugar cone and sprinkle dipped cone.
10 p.m. Take a trip down the Detroit Riverfront
Spend some time walking along the river and watch as the city lights itself up. Take some time to enjoy the natural beauty of Detroit and check out Canada across the way (eh!). “A walk along the riverfront is very relaxing,” Wayne State University senior Devon Lightman said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do.” Gaze out over the water with a loved one or by your lonesome with a great book, notebook or guitar. True poets and musicians are born in the middle of the night.
11 p.m. Tickle the ivories at the Bakers Keyboard Lounge
Hit up a live music venue to get a real feel for the Detroit vibe. This place offers a full bar and full swing music. “I would definitely recommend going here if you are over 21. This is one of the coolest places in town,” Wayne State University senior Louis Wilder said. Head over to Bakers Keyboard Lounge for great food, quality music and a cool environment
12 a.m. Try out a brew pub
Detroit prides itself for being fifth in the nation in microbreweries, breweries and brew pubs. Walk the streets and you cannot help but stumble upon some of the best beer in the country. Check out Jolly Pumpkin Brewery or Motor City Brewing Works for some choice tastes.
1 a.m. Scarf down some late night fried chicken
Some people say that the south has the best fried chicken but Detroit natives will put up a fight. “Something that I loved about Detroit was all the fried chicken venues that were open really late. They were local chains. Every variation had lemon pepper. It was so delicious and affordable,” said University of California, Berkeley senior Diana Jauregui.
2 a.m. Get some midnight coffee at Tim Hortons
“Tim Hortons was so good and everyone was obsessed with Tim Hortons, and it was open pretty late too,” Diana Jauregui said. Slide over to Tim Horton’s on the weekends when they are open all night. Fresh donuts and coffee at two in the morning is an indicator that you are living your best life.
3 a.m. Check out (or into) the MotorCity Casino Hotel
“They have the best concerts at COBO Center and the MotorCity Casino Hotel,” said Tiffin University senior Layla Rae. This hotel is a new Detroit luxury. The building houses conferences, concerts, events and various guests from all across the world. This venue offers hotel accommodations, dining, spa, casino, sound board and world class entertainment. It’s a sight to see and a place to experience. Don’t miss it (but honestly, how could you? it’s huge!).
4 a.m. Watch out for the Joe Louis Fist Sculpture
Located in the middle of downtown Detroit, The Joe Louis Fist sculpture was built to memorialize the boxer, Joe Louis. This sculpture was dedicated to the boxer on October 16, 1986. The sculpture displays an arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high pyramidal framework. The monument represents the power of his punch inside and outside of the ring and his efforts to fight Jim Crow laws. Louis’ historic fist closes in on racial justice hoping to knock it out, once and for all.
5 a.m. Experience The Spirit of Detroit
The Spirit of Detroit is a city monument in the middle of downtown, located on Woodward Avenue. Sometimes, the statue is even dressed in Detroit’s professional sports team’s jerseys when one of the teams makes it to the playoffs. The Spirit of Detroit statue represents the good of the city. There’s no better way to conclude your stay in Detroit.