Detroit, Michigan is mostly known for the automobile industries that have shaped the city. Detroit is an overlooked and often ignored tourist destination. However, the motor city offers much to the avid traveler, as it is home to many museums and attractions. Some of the highlights of the motor city are listed below.
10. Belle Isle Park
Belle Isle Park is a former city park turned state park. Access is available to the island via a bridge that is built along the Detroit River. The park has been designated as a Michigan State Historic Site. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (most famous for having designed New York's Central Park), the park is worth a visit for its large fountain, conservatory, gardens, and amazing views of Detroit's cityscape.
When to go: Detroit experiences warm, muggy summers and cold, harsh winters. The best time to be outdoors tends to be from May to October.
Why go: A natural oasis in the middle of the city, Belle Isle offers at least a half day of activities for those interested in nature and history alike.
Fees: Those who walk, bike, or roller blade onto the island enter for free. Cars and motorcycles must purchase a "recreational passport" for $11.
9. Detroit Symphony Orchestra
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, or DSO, is famous for having been the first orchestra in the world ever heard on the radio. It is one of the longest-running symphony orchestras in the United States. The DSO plays at Orchestra Hall, which is in itself an interesting place to visit. Sundays and Saturdays are fun-filled occasions with days to enjoy the family-oriented activities for all family members across all ages such as the Young People’s Concert and the Civic Family Experience Concert.
When to go: The DSO schedule varies by month. Plan in advance.
Why go: The amazing abilities of the symphony orchestra will impress even those most skeptical of classical music.
Fees: Ticket prices start at $64.
8. Detroit Bike Tour
Detroit is a fantastic place to visit for urban bike enthusiasts. With extensive road networks, greenways and bike lanes, Detroit is ranked as one of the top eight biking cities with an international cycling audience. Several organized bike tours and challenges exist within Detroit, including Beat the Train at Fort Wayne held every Saturday from April to October, Detroit Greenways Coalition’s annual Bike-to-Work-Day, The Mad Antony Cyclocross race at Fort Wayne, and the Tour de Troit - a major bike tour attracting more than 10,000 cyclists worldwide. Organized bike tours are also a popular choice amongst tourists.
When to go: Several companies offer bike rentals and bike tours in Detroit, including Wheelhouse Detroit, Motor City Brew Tours, and the HandleBar Detroit. Check with individual companies to see when the tours are available.
Why go: The best way to explore the beauty of Detroit's art-deco architecture and its historic districts is arguably by bicycle.
Fees: Cost varies by company.
7. Motown Museum,
The Motown Museum, also known as "Hitsville U.S.A.", was founded in 1985 as a tribute to the iconic Motown record label from Detroit. The museum houses various items, costumes, and photographs of the label during their successful years. The Motown’s Steinway grand piano, an 1877 model, is on display in the museum. The museum is a major tourist destination for visitors from all over the world who seek to re-live the era of great music by the Motown group of artists.
When to go: The Motown museum operates from 10-6 from Tuesday to Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Why go: The rooms preserved from the 1960s are fascinating, especially for the average music buff.
Fees: Admission is $15 for adults, with discounts available for seniors, youth, and children.
6. Heidelberg Project
The Heidelberg Project was created by artist Tyree Guyton and his grandfather Sam Mackey in 1986. The project is an outdoor art environment recognized worldwide for its use of creative art as a form of encouraging hope for a brighter future by converting abandoned buildings into outdoor art museums. Local and international tourists visit the McDoughall neighborhood to view the numerous houses filled with paintings and the models that make up the Heidelberg project. The project underwent a major reconstruction beginning in 2016 with the aim of increasing public participation in the creation of art infused community. In 2005, the Heidelberg project was awarded the silver medal of the Rudy Bruner Award.
When to go: The museum is outdoors, so never closes. However, the summer may be a better time to visit, when the weather is nicer.
Why go: The interesting art of the Heidelberg Project has to be seen to be believed.
Fees: Admission is free.
5. African Bead Museum
Olayami Dablis established the African Bead Museum in 1985. Now occupying an entire city block, the African Bead Museum is home to a vast African bead gallery, African language wall, and 18 outdoor art installations. It is a repository for artifacts, textiles, pottery, beadwork, and sculptures representing ancient African culture. The museum offers guided tours which helps tourists understand and appreciate the diversity of various African cultures.
When to go: The museum is open from 12-7 Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday).
Why go: The museum's collections are both unique and beautiful.
Fees: Admission is $3 if you're looking for a guided tour, but otherwise is free. Tours must be booked in advance.
4. Tigers Game
The Detroit Tigers are a professional baseball team established in Detroit in 1901. They have played at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit since 2000. The Tigers attract thousands of baseball fans from all over the world. The most famous player ever to have played for the Detroit Tigers was Ty Cobb, who is regarded as one of the most famous baseball players of all time. The Detroit Tigers have won the World Series in 1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984. They also competed in the World Series in 2006 and 2012.
When to go: The baseball season generally starts in early April and can continue up until October.
Why go: Take in the contagious atmosphere of a crowd cheering in a baseball stadium.
Fees: Ticket prices vary, but can be as low as $15.
3. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
One of the more bizarre options for museums in the metro Detroit area, Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum was founded by Marvin Yagoda and contains a collection of coin-operated animatronic dummies, oddities, and mechanical games. Materials in the collection include the "Sing Sing Prison’s electric chair" and the famous "Gypsy Fortune Teller Machine". Tourists visiting the museum are encouraged to carry coins for operating the various machines. The museum is an interesting site for exploring the historical coin-operated machines and a unique place to bring children.
When to go: The museum is open seven days a week, but hours vary. Plan ahead before going.
Why go: The experience of visiting a museum this unique is unforgettable!
Fees: Admission is free, but be prepared to spend change when playing the machine games.
2. Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
The Henry Ford Museum, located just outside of Detroit in the suburb of Dearborn, is a National Historic Landmark established as a conservatory for items reflecting the automobile revolution. It is named for Henry Ford, the eccentric American engineer and businessman responsible for forming the Ford Motor Company. The museum began as a collection of Ford's personal historic objects, and has grown to contain such notable sights including the bus that Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up on and Thomas Edison's last breath (contained in a test tube).
When to go: The museum is open seven days a week from 9:30-5.
Why go: Don't be turned away by the museum's name, for the excitement and appeal of this museum goes far beyond automobiles.
Fees: Adult admission is $22, although there are discounts for seniors and students available.
1. Detroit Institute of Art
The Detroit Institute of Arts, known simply as the DIA, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Detroit, and also houses one of the largest collections of art in the US. Thanks to an expansion completed in 2007, the museum's collection now holds around 65,000 works. Located in Midtown, the museum has been acclaimed by art historians and visitors alike. Some standout pieces in the collection include Diego Rivera's famous "Detroit Industry", Pablo Picasso's "L'anis del mono", the self portrait of Vincent van Gogh and "The Window" by Henri Matisse. The building itself is arguably an art piece, featuring a gorgeous courtyard and building design.
When to go: The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays.
Why go: The museum's impressive collection will appeal to even the harshest of art critics.
Fees: Adult admission is $12.50, although entrance is free to residents of the surrounding counties.