I’ve grown up visiting Detroit almost every year and while I’ve had a chance to see bits and pieces of the city and metro area it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve started to explore all that the city has to offer. There are countless things to do in Detroit and that’s one of the reason it’s on so many of this year’s”top up and coming cities” lists.
Whether you’re looking for some history, delicious food and brews, local shopping or to get outside there are so many things to do in Detroit and many of the best are free or at least cheap. For $15 or less, there are more than enough activities that can help fill your weekend visit or even a week in the area.
Check Out The Historic Buildings
Much of Downtown Detroit was built up during the roaring twenties and they’ve done an exceptional job maintaining these beautiful buildings. On the exterior, you’ll see architectural details from the bottom to the top. The interior will go a step further with beautiful tile work, chandeliers, and so much more.
Two you won’t want to miss are the Guardian Building and the Fisher Building. They are both free to walk around but if you’re visiting on a weekend you’ll want consider taking one, or two, of Pure Detroit’s walking tours. A great chance to not only see the building but learn about them. Plus, they are free tours, so a great way to explore the city without breaking the bank (but don’t forget to tip your guide) and one of the top things to do in Detroit.
Explore Belle Isle
I’ve heard stories of my grandparents and great-grandparents exploring Belle Isle in their youth. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t get to share the same stories as the island went into disrepair but in recent years the State of Michigan and City of Detroit has worked to bring it back to its glory.
For just a $10 fee per car, you have the chance to explore this 980-acre park that sits in the Detroit River. From here you can actually see Canada, but more than the views you can explore the conservatory, aquarium, and nature zoo. Also, keep an eye out for fun events on the Isle, from an Indy Car race each year to a variety of concerts.
Shop Like A Local at Eastern Market
Public markets are all the rage, and for good reason, whether you’re shopping for local crafts, delicious food, or fresh produce and flowers, they are a unique way to support local economies both at home and while traveling. In Detroit, you’ll find Eastern Market.
While you’ll find unique businesses and restaurants around the market every day, Eastern Market runs a few markets each week that change their specialties as well as hosting special events. All year on Saturday, you’ll find a farmer’s market with produce from all over the region. Then on Sundays during the summer and holiday months, you’ll find a market filled with local crafts, artists, and more. Entrance to the markets is free.
Get Your Grove On At The Motown Museum
You shouldn’t think of Detroit without thinking of Motown. A music genre that developed in the city and took over the country. Take the time to visit the original Motown Studios that now houses museum that gives you a chance to learn about the movement from its origins to today.
The Motown Museum is another one of Detroit’s one of a kind attractions. For just $15, you get a chance to stand in Studio A, where many of the biggest hits of Motown were recorded.
Eat a Coney Island (Yes, It’s From Detroit)
Every time I say I want a Coney Island folks assume it’s something from New York, instead this unique chili dog is actually a Detroit classic. For anywhere from $3-4, you can enjoy one (but most folks order two). While it might not look the most appealing it is arguably the most loved food from Detroit. Making it one of the things to do in Detroit
What is it? A beef hot dog, topped with a meat chili (no beans), then some onions and mustard on top. They are such a big deal in town that there is a rivalry over who actually created it. So you won’t want to miss out on this unique dish by visiting either an American Coney Island or Laffeyete Coney Island. (If you’re confused on why these dogs are so awesome read this).
Visit A Local Brewery or Two
When I returned from Detroit I was surprised that most people asked me, “well did you explore the breweries”. The microbrewing scene in the city is growing rapidly in both size and prestige and is no doubt one of the must do things in Detroit.
Try Out A New Cuisine
The Detroit Metropolitan area is one of the most diverse you’ll find around in this country and one of the great things that comes from that is a wide variety of cuisines done exceptionally well. While you’ll find unique versions of American classics around the city you’ll also want to look at stretching your comfort zone.
Detroit has one of the largest Arab communities outside the Middle East, meaning you’ll be able to find a plethora of Middle Eastern restaurants to explore. You’ll also find a handful of Polish restaurants where you can experience the excellence that is pirogi, consider Polish Village Cafe. You’ll also find great Vietnamese, Indian, Jamaican, and more. Don’t be afraid to leave Downtowns, believe it or not, many of the best spots are out in the suburbs. Get a few more ideas from this list of must-eats in Detroit.
Spend an Afternoon at the DIA
What’s the DIA? The Detroit Art Institute. For just a $12 ticket you have the chance to walk through hallways that include a little bit of everything from Ancient Greek sculptures to Matisse and Van Gough to Warhol. On top of that, you’ll be able to see the beautiful murals by Diego Rivera that depict Detroit’s industrial history.
I’m not a huge art museum person but thoroughly enjoyed spending a few hours exploring the collection. Also, the Kresge Court, a cute cafe in the middle of the museum, is a beautiful spot to grab a glass of wine and listen to some live music.
Just Try And Fit In All These Things To Do In Detroit
Some cities you visit have a high price tag for the top attractions. While a few in Detroit might, the attractions and activities that will give you a good feel for the city are more often free or cheap. All these things to do in Detroit give you a chance to learn about what makes Detroit, Detroit.