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Street Art in Detroit | © Morgan Davis / Flickr
Street Art in Detroit | © Morgan Davis / Flickr

20 Things to Know Before Visiting Detroit

Picture of Tim Marklew
Updated: 7 February 2018

Despite its ongoing resurgence, Detroit remains an unknown entity for many people looking for a great city to visit. Like any city, Detroit has its issues, but a small amount of research goes a long way toward having an awesome time in Motor City. Here’s what we think you need to know.

You’ll almost definitely need a car…

Detroit is a large and sprawling city, with over 100 individual neighborhoods. You’ll need a car if you want to be uninhibited in Motor City.

… but also you may not

There’s so much to do in Detroit that it’s easily possible to try to do too much. By ditching the car and getting to know just a few neighborhoods instead, such as Downtown and the adjacent Corktown or Greektown, you can get a better sense of life in Detroit.

Corktown, Detroit | © William John Gauthier/Flickr

Corktown, Detroit | © William John Gauthier / Flickr

It’s still the Motor City

Despite the well-known struggles of the auto industry and Motor City, the big three of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors continue to have a strong presence in the city.

Public transit is improving

Public transit has long been one of Detroit’s biggest weaknesses, but things are getting better. The QLine shuttle opened in 2017, connecting Downtown and New Center, two great tourist areas, and the city is working hard to improve bus services across the city.

Get on your bike

As a flat city with a surprising amount of bike lanes and relatively light traffic compared to many other cities, Detroit can be a great place to bike around. The first citywide bike rental service, MoGo, launched in 2017, and there are 43 stations to pick up and drop off a bike.

We're ready to ride, #detroit! #Mogodetroit #detroitbikeshare

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It’s greener than you think

Another reason to get on your bike is to enjoy the city’s many green spaces, such as the Dequindre Cut, a recreational path connecting Eastern Market and Downtown, the riverfront and Belle Isle.

It has some amazing early 20th-century architecture

It’s easy to forget that Detroit was once the world’s most booming city, and in that time, a collection of amazing Art Deco buildings and skyscrapers were constructed. Though some have fallen into disrepair or been demolished, many have been preserved and restored.

The Guardian Building's famous lobby | © Mark Souther/Flickr

The Guardian Building’s famous lobby | © Mark Souther / Flickr

Be open minded

Detroiters are proud of where they live, and whatever you may have read or heard about the city, you need to visit with an open mind. There is so much to enjoy and be inspired by, so don’t miss out because of a bad attitude.

Know your neighborhoods

That being said, be sensible about where and how you explore Detroit as you would in any big city. Do your research before you go in order to avoid any issues.

Find out what’s going on

There’s always something exciting happening in Detroit, so doing some research before you arrive is essential if you don’t want to miss out on cool events, pop-ups, and shows.

Ask the locals

Who better to ask about what to see and do in the city than the people in the know? Detroit’s residents are typically born and bred natives or people who have moved to the city because they’re passionate about it. Either way, they are happy to talk about why they love their home.

Give yourself enough time

There’s more to do in Detroit than many visitors expect, so be sure to give yourself long enough to make the most of the city’s fantastic museums, restaurants, and shopping.

Visit a museum

Detroit has so many great museums that you’d better plan your time wisely; otherwise, you’ll never be able to see them all.

Check out some folk art

Detroit is home to a number of famous folk art pieces, from Hamtramck Disneyland to the Heidelberg Project. You never know how long such works of art are going to last, so don’t hesitate to check them out.

Hamtramck Disneyland | © Jerry Paffendorf/Flickr

Hamtramck Disneyland | © Jerry Paffendorf / Flickr

Keep your eye out for street art

Graffiti, in particular, is prominent in the city, so keep your eyes peeled for some truly incredible works.

Try some local specialties…

Detroit has a number of iconic food dishes to try, from square deep-dish pizza and Asian corned beef to a late-night Coney Island hot dog. Don’t miss out on some local flavors.

The Motown Museum Pizza at Buddy's | Courtesy of Buddy's Pizza

The Motown Museum Pizza at Buddy’s | Courtesy of Buddy’s Pizza

… but don’t miss its amazing restaurant scene

For more serious foodies, there are a wealth of creative, high-end and hip restaurants to eat in, serving exotic and familiar cuisine from around the world.

You don’t have to go far to catch some sports

Detroit is the only American city where you can watch all four major sports downtown.

Winters are best avoided

Winter in Detroit can last from October through April, with the weather being wildly unpredictable during that time. It’s probably best to wait until spring.

Don’t explore abandoned buildings

Not only is it often trespassing, which is illegal, it’s also very dangerous and not a very classy way to spend your time in Detroit.