Things to Do and See in Detroit, Michigan

Belle Isle Park is a beautiful must-visit island in the Detroit River
Belle Isle Park is a beautiful must-visit island in the Detroit River | © Russell Kord / Alamy Stock Photo
Benjamin M. Smith

In recent history, Detroit has had its fair share of misfortune. Despite filing the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy case in US history, the city is on the up, due to the efforts of its residents and the people bringing new life to its streets. Its original museums and landmarks are well worth visiting and are some of the finest in Michigan, if not the country.

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Visit Belle Isle Park

Belle Isle Park became a state park in 2014. This beautiful 982-acre (397ha) island has some of the best views of Detroit and is home to many entertainment options if nature isn’t your cup of tea. Home to an aquarium, a conservatory and majestic memorial fountain, Belle Isle Park is a great place to escape the city and relax.

As the world’s largest museum dedicated to the rich history and culture of African Americans, the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History is an important place to visit while in Detroit. Along with multiple collections of historical artefacts, such as the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection and the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, it’s also home to the General Motors Theater, a fantastic place to catch a live performance or lecture.

Eat barbecue at Union Woodshop

Despite Detroit’s location north of the Mason-Dixon line, barbecue is taken seriously here. Union Woodshop in Clarkston – roughly 40 minutes’ drive from central Detroit – is a great stop for everything smoked, grilled and tender. As it offers a variety of meats and even wood-fired pizza, come here to taste some real barbecue in the Motor City.

Walk inside the Basilica Sainte Anne de Detroit

The Catholic Basilica Sainte Anne de Detroit was established in 1701 – thanks to the efforts of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac – and has always had a tendency to be set aflame, largely due to conflicts with Native Americans. It was also a point of contention for the English, who conquered the French settlers in the area, but today it stands in much of its original glory.

Tour the Detroit Institute of Arts

Founded in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts boasts a magnificent permanent collection and is one of the finest art museums in the US. This 658,000sqft (61,130sqm) facility has more than 100 galleries inside, a large auditorium and a medium-size lecture hall. With works by such notable artists as Diego Rivera and Vincent van Gogh, the Detroit Institute of Arts is a great place to visit.

Tour Motown Museum

With an $800 loan from his parents, African American musician Berry Gordy founded the “Motown Records Corporation,” arguably one of the most successful music labels in American history. With more than 180 number-one songs worldwide, his company became a cultural force of its own, employing the likes of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye. Visit the Motown Museum to learn more about this essential part of Detroit’s history.

Have a drink at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

There aren’t many self-professed speakeasies around nowadays, but Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy has never been one to play by the rules. This hopping Detroit venue always has live music playing, cocktails pouring and a smiling proprietor. This bar is a prime example of the city’s comeback scene and is edgy in the extreme.

See a show at Fox Theatre

The Fox Theatre is perhaps one of the grandest venues in the Midwest. Its lavish art deco architecture is complemented by gorgeous Asian interiors, which also feature a beautiful set of columns and an even grander ceiling. Check the theater website for upcoming shows and performances.

Tour the Henry Ford Estate

Few men have made such significant contributions to modern society as Henry Ford. His innovations on the Ford auto assembly line and the living wage brought prosperity to America’s middle class and inspired a culture of mass consumerism. His house is a great place to learn more about his life.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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