Detroit Travel Guide

USA  #4 in Best Places to Visit in Michigan

Best Things To Do in Detroit

Whether you're a sports fan, a foodie, an amateur historian or an architecture buff, you'll find something to capture your attention in The D. A stop at the Detroit Institute of Arts should be at the top of your list if you're a culture hound, and so should the ornately designed Fox Theatre. To learn more about the stories that shaped the city's present, swing by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Motown Museum – both are unique to Detroit and come highly recommended by recent visitors. Want to feel like a local? Spend your Saturday afternoon sampling the fresh produce found at Eastern Market. And when you're walking around downtown, don't forget to look up and admire some of the city's stunning architecture, especially the famous Guardian Building.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated June 14, 2016

  • #1
    Things to do in Detroit
    View all Photos
    #1 in Detroit
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Arguably one of the city's foremost cultural destinations, the Detroit Institute of Arts dates back to 1885, but the beaux-arts building (referred to as the "temple of art")  that it now resides in opened in 1927. The institute is huge, comprising more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium and a 380-seat lecture hall. And its permanent collection is extensive: On its walls are Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" fresco and Vincent Van Gogh's "Self Portrait" painting, among other works. The institute also hosts events like Friday Night Live! concerts and Art + Authors book discussions.

    For many visitors, a visit to the DIA was a highlight of their Detroit trip, with some calling it a "national gem." Though many were initially drawn because of the museum's Diego Rivera collection, reviewers said they were satisfied with every part of the DIA, especially the temporary exhibits. Visitors also praised the staff, which they said were friendly and helpful.

  • #2
    Motown Museum
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    #2 in Detroit
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    An entire genre  or at least sound  was born in the space of this small Detroit home. A blue and white sign, reading "Hitsville U.S.A," hangs above the similarly painted building. And with gold records by the Supremes, the Temptations and the Jackson 5, this former Motown recording studio became a hit-making machine from 1959 to 1972. The interior has been left much the same from those magic music-making days, but there are also instruments, costumes and more on display.

    Although the museum looks small and admittedly unimpressive from the outside, many visitors say the wealth of experience and information that you receive once inside is worth every minute of your time and every penny of your money. Reviewers particularly praised the tour guides, which they said helped to transport museumgoers back in time to the age of Motown.

  • #3
    Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
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    #3 in Detroit
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This large museum, named for its founder Charles Wright, tells the story of the African American experience from the beginning of time to the presidency of Barack Obama. Opened in 1965, the museum welcomes guests to it 125,000 square feet of both permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as a library and theater.

    Recent visitors said a trip to this museum is a moving experience, with many suggesting you budget a few hours to make your way through its permanent and temporary exhibits. Many reviewers said this museum belongs on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., because of its superior caliber. Travelers were especially impressed with the "And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture" permanent exhibit, which spans 20 galleries. Though most said this museum is a must-see for families, some visitors cautioned that parts of the museum can be hard for children to see due to the graphic nature of some exhibits.

  • #4
    Eastern Market
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    #4 in Detroit
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Eastern Market draws history geeks and foodies alike. Open since 1891, this 43-acre district (six blocks of which are devoted to the public market) is the largest historic public market district in the United States. Still not impressed? In 1978, the Eastern Market Historic District was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.

    Aside from its far-reaching history, Eastern Market showcases local area farmers and merchants. Plan to stop by during the Saturday market – open year-round – to peruse local produce and crafts before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the food trucks stationed nearby.

  • #5
    Fox Theatre
    View all Photos
    #5 in Detroit
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're in town for any amount of time, catching a performance at this National Historic Landmark is almost required. Events range from Broadway musicals to performances by big name recording artists like Tony Bennett and Ringo Starr, but what truly makes this venue special is its jaw-dropping interior. The walls are plastered in gold leaf and colorful paintings of animals, people, flowers and more; the seats are upholstered in plush red velvet and there's even a giant elephant head sculpture. If the description seems gaudy, rest assured that it's not: spectators agree that the Fox Theatre drips with a classic decadence.

    Aside from its stunning architecture and impressively preserved fixtures, the theater also received praise from recent visitors for its quality acoustics and sightlines seen from around the theater.

  • #6
    Comerica Park
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    #6 in Detroit
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're not much of a baseball fan, this ballpark – home field for the Detroit Tigers – is for you. While diehard fans are glued to their seats in hopes of catching a fly ball, casual onlookers can enjoy some of the park's more unusual attractions, including a carousel, a 50-foot Ferris wheel, a beer hall, a food court, plus a center field water feature that's synchronized to music. Perhaps it's these unique diversions that earned Detroit a spot on the list of 10 Best Cities for Baseball Fans to Visit.

    Recent visitors (especially devoted baseball fans) said this is a beautiful park; some even described it as a bucket-list stadium thanks to its easy-to-navigate layout and skyline views. Plus, travelers reported good sightlines throughout the park, even the bleachers.

  • #7
    Guardian Building
    View all Photos
    #7 in Detroit
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the art deco Guardian Building is a must-see for architecture buffs. Known as Detroit's Cathedral of Finance, the Guardian Building was completed in 1929 for the Union Trust Co. The exterior of this 40-story steel-framed building may not look like much, but once you pass through its interior, you'll understand why the building remains one of Detroit's most palatial skyscrapers.

    Among the interior's standout features: a 150-foot-long main lobby with a three-story vaulted ceiling, giant columns composed of Travertine marble imported from Italy, a Tiffany & Co. glass clock and an Ezra Winter mural. 

  • #8
    Detroit Zoo
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    #8 in Detroit
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Many recent travelers called the Detroit Zoo one of the city's best family attractions. Spread out across 125 acres and boasting more than 2,400 animals, the zoo has a longstanding history in Detroit (it's been open since 1928). Of the zoo's 12 habitats, perhaps the most popular among recent visitors is the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, which debuted in 2016. This 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area allows zoo visitors to observe more than 80 penguins of four different species explore their habitat. Plus, thanks to an underwater gallery with two tunnels, visitors can see the birds above, around and below.

    Along with the animals, the zoo also boasts a carousel (a hit with families), a 4-D theater, scientific displays and a playground, along with more kid-friendly distractions. Reviewers praised the zoo's easy-to-navigate layout and the well-cared for animals, but were disappointed with the dining selections. If you plan to eat at the zoo, bring your own food for a picnic.

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