Best Day Trips to Take From Detroit

Beachgoers play at Lake Michigan beach, New Buffalo, Michigan.
Beachgoers play at Lake Michigan beach, New Buffalo, Michigan. | © Todd Bannor / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Frank Lopez
Writer31 July 2020

Detroit is an industrial city that is in constant flux, but the state around it sits very still in time. As you drive out of Detroit, you are quickly immersed in some of the most beautiful scenery Michigan has to offer, with quietly romantic towns to explore and Canada only a stone’s throw away on the other side of the river. Here is Culture Trip’s guide to the most exciting day trips to take when escaping Detroit.

Ann Arbor

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East Liberty Street in downtown with historic Michigan Theater to left and State Theater in distance, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
© Ian Dagnall Commercial Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Found in the Lower Peninsula, only 45 minutes’ drive from Detroit, Ann Arbor is perhaps best known as an eclectic college town. With youthful energy and thriving with graduates, it has become a modern tech hub. The arts and culture have certainly also boomed in this setting as satellite towns open up to support it. If you are a foodie who appreciates a spin on global cuisine then arrive with an empty stomach; the choices are endless.

Frankenmuth

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For those who like to experience the quaint or the bizarre, Frankenmuth feels like a cartoon trip where you surrender your senses to someone’s enormous vision. Founded in 1845 by 15 German missionaries who had a serious intention to preserve their heritage, the architecture is Bavarian to say the least. For anyone even remotely into hearty German food, there are over-a-century-old establishments selling sausage and sauerkraut to the sound of a glockenspiel. It has to be seen to be believed and is absolutely ideal to visit at Christmas time.

Ojibway Prairie Nature Reserve

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Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie trail scene on a clear winters day
© Ray A. Akey / Alamy Stock Photo

On the other side of the Detroit River lies Canada and the city of Windsor in particular. Head to the outskirts of Windsor to find 865 acres (350 hectares) of parks, trails and nature reserves, which are teeming with all kinds of creatures including snakes and wild birds that call the forest or the waterways their home. Prepare to see deer, turtles and much more. Choose either the short or long trail for a beautiful day in nature. Be wary of ticks and mosquitoes in their seasons.

New Buffalo, Michigan

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Around three hours west of Detroit, on the mouth of the Galien River, don’t miss the chance to catch some waves. Lake surfing is not as common as its seaside cousin, but the power of Lake Michigan allows for some action. This beach ambience extends to glorious sunsets, and a ton of places to eat, drink and party. With a large casino resort and live concert entertainment, this is the place to head for those who like to let their hair down after a long soaking up the sun.

Grand Rapids

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Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA downtown skyline on the Grand River at dusk.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo

Grand Rapids on the Grand River, east of Lake Michigan, is around a two-hour drive northwest out of Detroit. Michigan is renowned for its nature and sense of escape, but the cities can provide quite the opposite and are a concentrated hub of excitement. With more than 20 breweries, it has dutifully earned its title of ‘Beer City,’ which sets the scene for its vibrant nightlife.

Port Stanley and Port Stanley Terminal Rail

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Head northeast into Canada along Lake Erie for two hours, and you will eventually hit Port Stanley – a historical fishing village that has benefited from tourists escaping the big city for a ‘small town by the sea’ experience. In the off-season, the clean and quiet beach with clear water comes into its own. Seek out the Port Stanley Terminal Rail, which is a train depot with a small museum. Take the beautifully restored old heritage train for four miles along picturesque scenery for a full local experience.

These recommendations were updated on July 31, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.