Detroit is an American metropolitan city famous for being the world’s car capital. It housed the big three—Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors—at the height of the automotive boom, bringing fortune and fame to the city. But there is much more to enjoy than vehicles. See the vast array of things to do on a road trip to Detroit, a fun-filled Michigan destination.
A Prestigious Art Museum That Wows
Detroit is an artsy town with impressive murals everywhere you look. Here, you can visit the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts), one of the top ten art museums in the nation. It offers 100 galleries of art ranging from ancient history to contemporary. The DIA is home to the 27 Detroit Industry Murals, painted by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1932-33, which represent aviation, shipping, and boating; they are stunning to say the least. The murals consist of 27 frescoes, all painted with unbelievable detail.
You’ll also find religious sculptures, European and contemporary art, and a Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait at this powerhouse museum that is adorned with Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker at the front of the building.
What to Do in Detroit
Sporting events are a heavy hitter in Detroit. Catch a Detroit Red Wings hockey game at the Little Caesar’s Arena or a Detroit Lions football game at Ford Field. Detroit Tigers play major league baseball at Comerica Park, and the whole family will love seeing America’s favorite pastime.
The world-famous and beautiful Fox Theatre, near the Grand Circus Park Historic District, serves as the premier entertainment venue for concerts, musicals, and other live productions. Detroit’s Crown Jewel became a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and has 5000+ seats. 2022 events include Madagascar the Musical, Van Morrison, The Masked Singer National Tour, Blondie, and Chris Rock, to name a few.
While in Detroit, you can visit Renaissance Center (RenCen), the GM world headquarters building made up of seven connected skyscrapers. It houses restaurants, shops, and a luxury hotel, plus hosts exciting events. The five-story atrium is jaw-dropping!
Canada is visible across the Detroit River; why not visit? Remember to take your US passport and money for tolls before making the trip. Windsor, the first town you come to in Canada, a great place to enjoy international food and drinks.
Eat lunch or dinner at the Rusted Crow, an American bar in a rustic space has a crowd-pleasing menu and chic decor. Try the Brussels Sprout Salad with dried Michigan cherries, almonds, and red onions or the Chicken Strudel with caramelized onions, spinach, mushrooms, and Boursin cheese in phyllo dough. Nom!
Beer enthusiasts will love that Detroit is one of the best beer states. Try local brews from Jolly Pumpkin, Atwater Brewery, Motor City Brewing, and Batch Brewing Company.
The Incredible Eastern Market
A visit to the Eastern Market is a must! This 19th-century (circa 1891) open-air market is one of the first farmer’s markets in the country and was thriving long before visiting local markets was a cool thing to do. More than 225 stalls at the Saturday market offer souvenirs, fresh food, flowers, jewelry, pottery, and much more, all locally produced. Sundays bring in local jewelers and talented artists.
Stop in DeVries Co 1887 for souvenirs, upscale food products, and candy, and the Detroit Cheese Co. for one of the best selections of artisan cheeses I’ve seen in the entire country.
You’ll also find excellent murals in this part of town and Bert’s Entertainment Complex and Warehouse Theatre, a Motown music club and comedy theater where you might rub elbows with previous Motown executives. This multi-purpose venue also has a soul food restaurant and the most astonishing indoor murals in the city.
After you are shopped out, head over to Supino Pizzeria for a tasty selection of pizza; they even let you choose two different kinds to be shared on one pie, such as Affunicata (prosciutto and smoked gouda) and Red, White, and Green (spinach, capers, and roasted red peppers). While the pizza is delicious, my favorite was the Polpette; hearty meatballs served over roasted polenta. Just one bite and you’ll know why this eatery was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Satisfy both “what to do” and “what to eat” in Detroit, Michigan, with Feet on the Street Saturday brunch tours in the Eastern Market. Join this strolling brunch food tour that includes samples of pizza, ice cream, nuts, and more as you learn about the neighborhood and fabulous street art. That’s how I discovered the market and Supino Pizzeria.
Next, head over to the one and only Motown Museum, nicknamed “Hitsville U.S.A.” Familiarize yourself with the celebrated sounds of Motown as you walk in the famous artists’ footsteps that were recorded there. You can even stand in the studio that saw songs like “My Girl,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” recorded.
I was a bit giddy getting to sing with my tour guide using the same microphone and studio that Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye did.
Fun Fact: Only one song per music label could be played in an hour on the radio. Barry Gorby (the genius behind Motown Records) created additional labels for his musical acts to promote more than one singer.
FYI: The museum is currently open Thursday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Where to Stay in Detroit
There is a wide array of accommodations in Detroit to satisfy your travel and road tripping needs. For the luxury traveler, the Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney is a fantastic pet-friendly offering in the heart of town. The 136-room contemporary Aloft Hotel is a great mix of Italian marble, quality furnishings, incredible views, a stunning lobby, and posh rooms.
My room had a comfy and modern queen platform bed, made great use of vibrant artwork, and offered Bliss toiletries. Aloft is also within walking distance of the city’s dynamic theater and sports neighborhoods and is also located on the Q Line, Detroit’s modern street trolley.
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is a top choice if you enjoy playing the slots or table games. From Topgolf to a savvy spa, live concert events to delicious steakhouses, this isn’t your average hotel. Did I mention that 3,500 slot and video poker machines and 143 table games are also located in the hotel with you?
Budget-friendly accommodations include the Holiday Inn Express Downtown Detroit, Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront, and Trumbull and Porter Hotel Detroit.
Only A Few Minutes Away—The Henry Ford
After finishing up the Detroit road trip, drive 20 minutes to a suburb for one of the most unusual museums you’ll ever see—The Henry Ford. The Henry Ford is full of things to see, with 26 million artifacts, including Edison’s lab (where he invented the light bulb), the bus Rosa Parks made her stand on, and several Presidential cars. Fascinating items like the chair Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in and the vehicle carrying JFK the day he was shot in Dallas is on display.
Outside of The Henry Ford is the Greenfield Village, a collection of working farms, horse-drawn carriage rides, and a place where you can journey into the past. Spread over 250 acres, the National Historic Landmark village, filled with historical interpreters in the buildings and homes, has something for everyone.
Detroit Delivers a Powerful Punch
Whether it is architecture, food, shopping, arts, culture, sports, educational activities, or a relaxing getaway that you are craving, Detroit is your answer to them all. A little bit gritty, a little bit hipster, but always cool, Detroit is a thrilling Midwestern city to visit.
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