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Check these 34 things to do off your Detroit bucket list

Check these 34 things to do off your Detroit bucket list

Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

By The 'Gander Staff

June 13, 2024

Detroit, the Motor City, is a vibrant hub of culture, history, and entertainment. Whether you’re a local or visiting for the first time, there’s no shortage of things to do. Here are 34 must-see attractions and activities to make the most of your time in Detroit.

Explore the Heart of Downtown

Downtown Detroit is a vibrant hub of culture, history, and innovation. Stroll along the scenic Detroit Riverwalk, explore world-class museums like the Detroit Institute of Arts, and catch a game at Comerica Park or Ford Field. The area is teeming with unique dining experiences, trendy shops, and lively entertainment venues. From the historic architecture of the Guardian Building to the contemporary allure of Campus Martius Park, downtown Detroit offers a dynamic blend of old and new. Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or an urban explorer, the heart of Detroit has something for everyone.

1. Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts

A crown jewel of Detroit, the DIA is a world-class museum spanning multiple civilizations and continents with its 65,000-strong collection. Stand in awe of Diego Rivera’s towering “Detroit Industry Murals” or meander through galleries of medieval armor and contemporary installations.

2. Stroll Through Campus Martius Park

Campus Martius Park is a bustling downtown park perfect for people-watching, ice skating in winter, and enjoying summer concerts. Campus Martius is a 2.5-acre urban park in the heart of Detroit’s downtown that’s been operating since 2003. This year-round attraction was rated one of America’s Top Public Squares by USA Today. It has a variety of gardens as well as performance stages and food trucks. Depending on the season, Campus Martius features either an urban beach or a premier ice-skating rink. 

From May through October, The Beach at Campus Martius Park offers seasonal fun with 400,000 pounds of sand spread throughout. This includes many free, annual events from the Downtown Detroit Partnership including beach parties, concerts, movie nights, and the Party in the Park. 

3. Experience the Detroit Riverwalk

The Detroit Riverwalk offers stunning views of the Detroit River, with paths perfect for walking, biking, and enjoying outdoor art installations. Sometimes described as the number one riverwalk in the U.S., Detroit’s International Riverwalk offers breathtaking views of the Detroit River looking out at Windsor, Ontario. More than 3 million people visit this stretch of coast every year. The Riverwalk takes up more than 3 miles of the riverside from Rosa Parks Boulevard to the Belle Isle Bridge, with plenty of green space like Milliken State Park and Mt. Elliott Park. You’ll find plenty of urban art in the Riverwalk Garden Rooms. But the Riverwalk is for more than just walking—you can also (river)jog or (river)bike it.

4. Discover the Detroit Historical Museum

Learn about Detroit’s rich history, from its automotive legacy to its music scene, at the Detroit Historical Museum. Founded in 1921, the Detroit Historical Museum has been dedicated to preserving the history of Detroit. If you’re eager to learn more about the past of Detroiters, this museum is the best place to do it. 

5. Catch a Game at Comerica Park

Home to the Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park is a must-visit for baseball fans. Enjoy a game and the lively atmosphere of this iconic stadium. Comerica Park has been the Tigers’ home since 2000, and you can catch a game in Downtown Detroit.

Dive into Detroit’s Music Scene

Detroit’s music scene is legendary, with a rich history spanning Motown, techno, rock, and hip-hop. Explore iconic venues like the Motown Museum, where legendary artists recorded timeless hits that shaped the sound of a generation. Experience the energy of live performances at venues such as the historic Fox Theatre. From the soulful melodies of Motown to the pulsating beats of techno, Detroit’s music scene offers a vibrant tapestry of sound that resonates with music lovers of all genres.

6. Visit the Motown Museum

Explore the birthplace of Motown Records at the Motown Museum, where you can tour the legendary Studio A and learn about the artists who shaped a musical era. In the 1960s, Motown music took the airwaves by storm. A portmanteau of “motor” and “town,” Motown was a record label originally headquartered in Detroit. The Motown Record Corporation was responsible for the immensely popular soul music style that launched the careers of artists like The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and many more. You can still tour the original house in Detroit where Motown Record Corporation founder Berry Gordy Jr. lived and recorded the earliest Motown hits. The house currently serves as the Motown Museum.

7. Attend a Concert at the Fox Theatre

The Fox Theatre is a stunning historic venue that hosts concerts, Broadway shows, and other performances in a beautifully restored setting. This gorgeous theater opened in 1928 as a movie palace, and in 1988, it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Fox Theater can seat up to 5,048 people and it is one of the largest surviving Fox Theaters in the nation. 

8. Enjoy Live Music at Cliff Bell’s

Step into Cliff Bell’s, a historic jazz club, for an evening of live music and vintage ambiance. This swanky art deco club is worthy of a visit to experience the atmosphere, grab a drink, and listen to some live jazz. 

Embrace Detroit’s Unique Neighborhoods

Detroit’s neighborhoods each offer its own distinct culture, history, and charm. Explore the historic streets of Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, known for its lively pubs, eclectic eateries, and colorful street art. Wander through the cultural melting pot of Mexicantown, where authentic cuisine and festive atmosphere transport you south of the border. Detroit’s neighborhoods invite you to immerse yourself in the city’s rich tapestry of culture and community.

9. Wander Through Greektown

Greektown is a lively district known for its Greek restaurants, casinos, and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great place to experience Detroit’s diverse culture. Greektown Detroit is one of the last surviving Victorian-era streets in downtown Detroit, and Monroe Street is the centerscape of the historic Greektown. Take a stroll down these historic streets and experience the culture of Greekto

10. Explore Corktown

Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, is filled with trendy eateries, vintage shops, and the historic Michigan Central Station. This adorable area is filled with industrial-chic cars, live-music venues, and hip breweries. You can find ethnic cuisine, thrift stores, and all kinds of historic and cultural spots to better acquaint yourself with the Motor City.

11. Discover Eastern Market

Eastern Market is a bustling public market offering fresh produce, artisanal foods, and unique crafts. It’s a food lover’s paradise. This huge open-air market is not only known for its diverse offerings of food products, it’s also the largest historic public market district in the United States. Eastern Market averages a flow of around 45,000 visitors during Saturday markets. More than 150 food and specialty businesses show up to sell fresh produce, meat, flowers, gifts, and much more.

Regardless of whether or not you buy anything, it’s a fun experience to explore the different stalls and vendors, soak up the atmosphere, and people-watch. There’s also live entertainment, tailgate parties on Lions game days, and any number of other events.

12. Visit the Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project is an outdoor art environment in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood, featuring whimsical installations made from everyday objects. Detroit’s Heidelberg Project is a thought-provoking, open-air art adventure. Founded by Tyree Guyton, this unique space challenges visitors to engage with art that’s both whimsically playful and laced with social commentary.

13. Tour the Detroit Public Library

The Detroit Public Library’s main branch is an architectural gem with stunning murals, intricate mosaics, and a vast collection of books. Known as the second largest library system in the United States, the Detroit Public Library first opened in 1865. Initially, the library held 5,000 books, and the collection has continued to grow with over 2 million books in collection. Grab a library card and explore the stacks at this gigantic historical library. 

Family-Friendly Activities

Detroit is full of family-friendly activities that promise fun and adventure for visitors of all ages. Explore the Detroit Zoo, home to over 2,000 animals from around the world, or spend a day at the Detroit Science Center, where interactive exhibits ignite curiosity and creativity. Take a leisurely stroll through the Belle Isle Park, offering scenic views of the Detroit skyline and plenty of outdoor recreational opportunities.

14. Visit the Detroit Zoo

The Detroit Zoo, located in Royal Oak, features a variety of animal habitats, a 4D theater, and the largest polar bear exhibit in the country. With more than 2,000 animals and 200 species, the Detroit Zoo spans 125 acres. There’s an experience awaiting for all ages, and the family-friendly exhibits are perfect for all-ages.

15. Explore the Michigan Science Center

For interactive exhibits and hands-on learning experiences, visit the Michigan Science Center. It’s a fun destination for visitors of all ages. The Michigan Science Center is a Smithsonian-affiliated science museum located in Detroit, and no matter your age, this science center has something for everyone to discover and explore science. 

16. Explore Belle Isle Park

Belle Isle Park offers a range of attractions, including the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and scenic walking trails. Belle Isle Park is a retreat amidst the urban landscape, offering a small reprieve from city life without having to go too far from the city itself. This enchanting island park is nestled in the Detroit River. As you cross the bridge onto Belle Isle, you’ll be welcomed by an array of activities on the island. Lace up your sneakers for a scenic jog, or pedal along the winding bike paths that offer stunning views at every turn. 

For a more leisurely pace, meander through the meticulously landscaped gardens, or find a quiet spot to picnic under the shade of a sprawling tree. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is a must-visit historic greenhouse. You can also check out the Belle Isle Aquarium, the nation’s oldest continuously operating public aquarium.  Belle Isle offers a perfect, convenient retreat from Detroit’s city life.

17. Enjoy the Outdoor Adventure Center

Located along the Detroit Riverfront, the Outdoor Adventure Center offers exhibits and activities focused on Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor activities. Located in the historic Globe Building on Detroit’s riverfront, the Outdoor Adventure Center is operated by Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and offers a family-friendly taste of Michigan’s great outdoors year-round without ever having to leave the city. You can even find special unique offerings like free introductory archery classes.

There are more than 20 interactive and educational exhibits that provide safe activities perfect for a child’s attention span, including simulations of fishing, kayaking, hunting, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and other fun experiences like exploring a big tree, camping in a yurt, or touching a waterfall. There are also plenty of educational exhibits that educate visitors of all ages about Michigan’s diverse plant, animal, fish, and insect ecosystems, teaching how anyone can make small changes to help the environment. Visitors will learn about everything the DNR does to protect Michigan’s forests and enhance outdoor recreation.

18. Play at the Legoland Discovery Center

Located in Auburn Hills, the Legoland Discovery Center features interactive Lego-themed exhibits and play areas perfect for kids. You can also check out MINILAND, a tiny replica of some of Detroit’s most beloved landmarks. It’s so intricate that it took 15 expert builders more than 5,000 hours to build! Lastly, there’s also a cinema with 4D Lego adventures.

Savor Detroit’s Culinary Scene

Detroit’s culinary scene is a melting pot of flavors, with a diverse array of dining options to satisfy every palate. Indulge in classic Detroit-style pizza, renowned for its thick, square crust and savory toppings, or sample innovative creations at one of the city’s many award-winning restaurants.

19. Experience Detroit-Style Pizza

Try Detroit’s iconic square, deep-dish pizza at renowned pizzerias like Buddy’s, Loui’s, or Detroit Style Pizza Company. The first ever Detroit-style pizza dates back to 1946 and was supposedly made at Buddy’s—which is still in business! Chowing down on one of the pizzas is a must when exploring Detroit.

20. Visit the Original Lafayette Coney Island

Taste Detroit’s famous coney dogs at Lafayette Coney Island, a beloved local institution. There’s some debate about where the coney dog actually originated, but maybe you can do a taste-test and some historical digging to know the truth! Our readers say Lafayette still serves the best coney dogs around.

21. Explore the Detroit Shipping Company

The Detroit Shipping Company is a unique dining destination featuring food trucks, bars, and a beer garden in a creatively repurposed space. Created out of repurposed shipping containers, the Detroit Shipping Center is currently home to five restaurants and hosts a slew of events. 

Experience Detroit’s Cultural Highlights

Detroit’s cultural landscape is as diverse as it is rich, offering a multitude of experiences that celebrate the city’s heritage and creativity. Explore the Motown Museum, where the iconic sounds of the Temptations, Supremes, and Marvin Gaye were born, or immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene at the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to one of the country’s most extensive collections.

22. Tour the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

This museum is one of the largest of its kind, offering exhibits and programs that celebrate African American culture and history. One of the best places to study Black history year round is the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Midtown Detroit. It describes itself as the “world’s largest institution dedicated to the African American experience.” With over 30,000 items in the museum’s collection, it’s also one of the largest African American historical museums in the world.

23. Discover the Arab American National Museum

Located in Dearborn, the Arab American National Museum showcases the contributions of Arab Americans through engaging exhibits and cultural events. It’s the first and only museum of its kind, and it archives the history and culture of Arab Americans who began arriving in the United States in the late 19th century. 

24. Attend a Performance at the Detroit Opera House

The Detroit Opera House hosts a variety of performances, including opera, ballet, and Broadway shows, in a beautifully restored venue. Detroit Opera is the premier spot for opera, musical theater, and dance. You’ll want to check their performance schedule and get a visit to this gorgeous theater. 

25. Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD)

MOCAD features contemporary art exhibitions, performances, and educational programs in a dynamic and ever-changing space. The building alone is a work of art, originally serving as an auto dealership-now turned art museum. The 22,000 square foot building is home to contemporary art and exhibits sure to inspire the artist within.

29. Explore the Detroit Artists Market

The Detroit Artists Market is a non-profit gallery showcasing contemporary art by local and emerging artists. After you visit MOCAD, you can take in the work of the artists at this non-profit art gallery dedicated to empowering artists and enhancing the local community.

Outdoor and Active Adventures

30. Kayak on the Detroit River

Rent a kayak and paddle along the Detroit River for a unique perspective of the city’s skyline and waterfront. The Detroit River is a strait within the Great Lakes system, and it’s the perfect place to kayak and admire the Detroit skyline.

31. Bike the Dequindre Cut

The Dequindre Cut is a scenic greenway perfect for biking, walking, and enjoying public art installations. This two-mile greenway is a great way to grab some fresh air and see more of the city.

32. Hike at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Explore the natural beauty of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, home to diverse wildlife and picturesque trails. This international wildlife refuge is the perfect place to experience an escape from a concrete jungle and connect with nature. 

33. Attend a Detroit City FC Soccer Game

Experience the excitement of a Detroit City FC soccer game at Keyworth Stadium, where the energetic atmosphere and passionate fans make for an unforgettable experience. You won’t want to miss one of these professional soccer games in Detroit!

34. Strike Some Pins at The Garden Bowl

Step into the alley where history and hip vibes roll together like a perfect strike. Vintage charm meets modern-day grub and rock-n-roll soul in its interior. But this historic alley, one of the oldest running bowling alleys in the USA, has been a haven for bowlers and fun-seekers since 1913. Imagine rolling your ball down lanes that have seen more than a century of strikes and spares. There’s something utterly cool about being part of bowling history.

Even after 111 years in service and its induction into the National Register of Historic Places, the Garden Bowl is anything but stuck in the past. With live music and a full bar serving everything from classic beers to craft cocktails, this place knows how to throw a modern party with an old-school twist. It’s our readers’ favorite bowling alley in town.

Detroit is a city of endless possibilities, offering something for everyone. Whether you’re exploring its rich cultural heritage, enjoying its vibrant arts scene, or savoring its diverse culinary offerings, Detroit promises a memorable adventure.

Read more: Discover the best day trips from Detroit

 

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CATEGORIES: THINGS TO DO
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