An Honest Review for Visiting Detroit

Last updated: June 14th, 2024 | Originally published: November 16, 2023
Things to do in Detroit

So, you’re coming to Detroit. You’re our kind of travelers — those that see violence and spray paint as part of the experience. You are gonna love all the things to do in Detroit, Michigan.

While Detroit was once a flagship city of our nation, what’s left is a cautionary tale of industrial decay and poor civic management. Despite the city’s reputation for crime and dilapidation, there are absolutely worthwhile things to do in Detroit.


Things to do in Detroit
Eminem — Things to Do in Detroit Michigan

The Following is a Sad But True Story

We never considered Detroit for a minute until a new co-worker (who recently moved from Detroit) told us the city had improved. He said they cleaned up downtown. He said the parks were beautiful again. According to this friend, every attraction was “incredible” and “amazing”! He was so enthusiastic that we reserved six nights near the Motor City during our most recent road trip.

We still curse his name. There is very little about Detroit I would call “incredible” or “amazing”. Nonetheless, the place has its merits so we’ll highlight them, but we won’t mince words.

Here is what you can expect in the article:

1. The Best Things to Do in Detroit
2. Honesty

Things to do in Detroit
Things to do in Detroit Michigan this weekend

The most noteworthy thing about Detroit is the saddest thing about Detroit: The city used spray paint to hide how ugly everything looks. On one hand it is a creative solution to obscure condemned buildings. On the other hand, it hardly disguises the situation. On the third hand (which is a filthy raccoon paw), it takes your eyes off the brimming dumpsters.

Pop Quiz: Is Detroit Worth Visiting?

Spray paint is to Detroit as _______ is to a struggling relationship?

A. An Unexpected Pregnancy
B. Additional Partners
C. Debt Collectors
D. Methamphetamine

Every answer is depressing, but B is most correct. Give yourselves five points if you chose B.

Graffiti — Is Detroit worth visiting?

Well, that’s enough of that (more later, promise). Now that your expectations are set at an appropriate level — and you’re asking the appropriate question, Is Detroit worth it? — let’s talk about all the cool things to do in Detroit Michigan!

Is Detroit worth visiting?

Must-Do: Things to Do in Detroit Michigan

Must-Do attractions are typically the reason we’ve decided to visit.

1. Henry Ford Museum of Innovation

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Is the Henry Ford Museum worth it?

The Henry Ford resides in the upper echelon of U.S. museums, and belongs on any traveler’s cultural short-list. Broken into four separate parts — Museum of Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and Giant Screen Experience — each section of the Henry Ford is a separate event and requires its own admission.

For tour costs and information, here is a link to their website.

Our Best Advice: The Museum of Innovation and Greenfield Village are large. Visit them separately and don’t combine them with other tours.

Is the Henry Ford Museum worth it?

The Museum of Innovation is the best thing to do in Detroit.

In fact, the Henry Ford Museum makes Detroit worth a visit all by itself.

Here you can spend the day gawking at an enviable collection of cars while exploring the historical landscape of the automotive industry. Along the way you’ll learn how the US was developed through automobiles, giving birth to gas stations, hotels, campgrounds, and an abundance of commerce.

Some of the highlights are the Rosa Park’s Bus, Abraham Lincoln’s theater seat, presidential limos, and an Allegheny steam locomotive (the most powerful ever built). There is an fine collection of Indy-500 victory cars and a theatre showing a rib-rattling film about auto racing. If none of it sounds exciting, Henry Ford collected 10,000 other items to impress you.

If you find yourself near Dearborn, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit), don’t miss your chance to experience this peerless collection of Americana. The Henry Ford Museum is worth the trip.

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Is the Henry Ford worth it?

2. Henry Ford Museum — Greenfield Village

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Is the Henry Ford Museum worth it?

If the Museum of Innovation is the best thing to do in Detroit, then Greenfield Village is the second best. Some would argue we should reverse the order, so you cannot go wrong visiting either or both.

Greenfield Village is Disneyland-esc with seven separate districts showcasing various components of early American society. If you’ve ever wondered what American life was like 100 or 200 years ago, Greenfield Village is probably the best place to experience it in the USA.

Thomas Edison’s Workshop — Things to Do in Detroit

At Greenfield Village you will explore 80 manicured acres of influential buildings, crucial workshops, famous homes, and industrial facilities. Within the hour you can step inside George Washington Carver’s log cabin, Thomas Edison’s workshop (where the lightbulb was invented), and a sawmill that was among the first structures ever built by Euro-American settlers.

Entire towns from yesteryear have been transported by truck and assembled at Greenfield Village. Ride in a Model-T car or horse-drawn carriage, learn how to blow glass, watch a baseball game from 1867, learn how textiles are manufactured in a factory, or how wool is carded by machine, or and how women redecorate their hats at a millinery. There is so much to do at Greenfield Village.

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Is the Henry Ford Museum worth it?

Should-Do: Things to Do in Detroit

Should-Do attractions receive a strong recommend, but fall short of must-do.

3. Belle Isle Park

Things to do in Detroit
Things to Do in Detroit Michigan

Belle Isle Park is an island that rests in the Detroit River between the USA and Canada. The 982-acre park was developed in the late-1800’s and provides an outsized share of the great things to do in Detroit.

In the photo above you can see the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. If Belle Isle Park is the crown of Detroit, then the ASW Conservatory is the brightest emerald. It sits on 13 acres and features a lily pond on its north side, fronted by formal perennial gardens on the west. Inside you will enjoy an incredible collection of plants and arrangements. The conservatory is free to visitors.

Best things to do in Detroit

Sitting directly next door to the conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium is also free to visitors. We found the aquarium to exceed any expectations we had for a free exhibit. There are an abundance of fish to enjoy, including some particularly odd ones.

Other incredible Belle Isle exhibits are the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, the Belle Isle Nature Center, the James Scott Memorial Fountain, Belle Isle Sunset Point (photo below), the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, and Belle Isle Beach.

To learn more, check out 7 Beautiful Things to Do on Belle Isle!

Things to do in Detroit
Is Detroit worth visiting?

4. Stadium District — Things to Do in Detroit

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Things to do in Detroit this weekend

The Stadium District is probably more tourist friendly than the Dequindre Cut, but that doesn’t make it better (just safer, which is also important). We found this general area to be the cleanest, best revived part of the city. Other than playing host to Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers), Ford Field (Detroit Lions), and Little Caesars Arena (Detroit Pistons), the Stadium District is also home to The Fox Theatre, The Fillmore, the Detroit House of Comedy, and the Opera House.

Things to Do in Detroit Michigan

Our adventure to the Stadium District was highlighted by a Tiger’s game. The view of downtown Detroit spectacularly backdrops the field view at Comerica Park and creates one of the most picturesque settings in Major League Baseball. Tickets are cheap, too.

After the game we walked around the district and had dinner at Eminem-owned restaurant Mom’s Spaghetti. We ordered the spaghetti w/ balls and the spaghetti sandwich. Both were extraordinarily delicious. We would recommend the spaghetti w/ balls at $12 for best value.

Detroit Tourist Attractions

5. Dequindre Cut — Things to Do in Detroit

Things to do in Detroit
Is Detroit worth visiting?

So you wanna see some spraypaint? The Dequindre Cut Greenway is a 2-mile urban recreational path that opened to the public in May of 2009. Once known as a railway, it is now known for its stunning collection of urban artwork and graffiti.

We didn’t know what to expect from this “urban recreational path” and were astounded at the grittiness of the place. Between the quality/quantity of the graffiti and the unabashed decay we would call this public park a quintessential thing to do in Detroit. Undoubtedly “The Cut” is underutilized by tourists.

The Cut runs from the Detroit Waterfront to the Eastern Market. Entrance ramps to the Cut are located at a half-dozen streets. Because it is below street level, you have to enter The Cut at an entrance point.

A True Story

We were trying to find our way into The Cut near the Eastern Market, but we couldn’t see a way in. We crossed a bridge toward a different neighborhood to look for an entrance….

When a delivery truck driver hollered out, “You guys lost?!” Apparently, we were about to enter a dangerous neighborhood, and like an angel he turned us in a different direction. His instructions led us down some sketchy-looking streets, but ten minutes later we were were in the Cut and on our way.

Things to do in Detroit
things to do in Detroit Michigan

Could-Do: Things to Do in Detroit this Weekend

Could-Do attractions are worthwhile, but we don’t strongly recommend them for one reason or another.

6. Eastern Market

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Things to Do in Detroit this weekend

The mission of the Eastern Market is to nourish a healthier, wealthier, happier Detroit since 1891. The Eastern Market is made up of three separate markets:

Saturday Market: Over 225 market vendors share their produce and stories with up to 40,000 visitors in one day during our busy season.

Sunday Market: This street market seeks to showcase the work of local artists, cooks, jewelers, musicians, and is a chance to discover items that are uniquely Detroit and Michigan made.

Tuesday Market: Scaled-down Tuesday Market is perfect for stocking up on fresh produce, baked goods, and meats. Also has free Zumba and yoga classes.

Our honest assessment is the Eastern Market is located in a gross part of town. The market itself is battered, and if you wander outside the area the scenery degrades even further. Other than one particular strip of storefronts (shown below), the Eastern Market looked post-apocalyptic. We would strongly recommend not walking here from Downtown Detroit.

Many consider this to be one of the best things to do in Detroit.

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Is Detroit worth visiting?

7. Downtown Riverwalk — Things to Do in Detroit

Things to do in Detroit
Things to do in Detroit this weekend

The waterfront riverwalk in Detroit is full of parks and perfectly nice views. Across the water is the city of Windsor, Canada. Along the path you will find tasteful murals, playgrounds, and commemorative plaques and statues.

The William G. Milliken State Park is one of the riverwalk’s highlights, and one of the best things to do in Detroit. Here you will find an attractive lighthouse (above photo), walking gardens and educational signage. Adjacent to the state park you will find the Cullen carousel.

Canada — Things to do in Detroit this weekend

Always looming on the riverfront is the GM Chevrolet headquarters. A monstrosity in the Detroit skyline, we aren’t sure if it’s a sentinel of foreboding doom — something akin to Skynet in the Terminator movies — or an office building in need of a thorough feminine sprucing.

Once you pass GM headquarters there is an attractive park where they host outdoor concerts. This area is pleasant and worth spending some time relaxing. Here’s a map.

Things to do in Detroit
Murals — Things to Do in Detroit Michigan

If you love to travel, we have something we would like to give you. It is our professionally designed e-book and it is FREE of charge. We think it’s pretty great, and we’re hopeful you’ll like it, too. It’s called, “Cultivating a Lifetime of Travel”. Click HERE. and we’ll send it on over!

8. Greektown — Things to do in Detroit

Is Detroit worth visiting?

Greektown is one of the most attractive streets in downtown Detroit. The vibe is excellent and the buildings are attractive. Here you will find good restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. We especially enjoyed the bakery — we busted our ketogenic diet that day as the treats were irresistible.

We just wish this part of town were larger — like maybe the entire city of Detroit.

Detroit Tourist Attractions
Things to do in Detroit this Michigan

Other Things to Do in Detroit this Weekend:

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: We did not do this because we had children with us always. They say it’s a fine thing to do in Detroit. Let us know if you’ve been and enjoyed it!

The Motown Museum: It was closed when we visited. We would absolutely have done this. For all we know it is the best thing to do in Detroit outside the Henry Ford. Other folk seem to appreciate it.

American Coney Island / Lafayette Coney Island: It is kind of hilarious that these two restaurants sell the same foods right next door to each other. We ate at both and preferred Lafayette. You can read all about the history of these restaurants in this Smithsonian article.

An Honest Conclusion for Things to Do in Detroit

Things to do in Detroit this weekend

We did over 50 noteworthy things this past year across a large swath of the United States, and Downtown Detroit was the single biggest disappointment.

The Henry Ford Museum is incredible and worth a trip to Michigan, especially if you have kids.

If you told us to spend one full day in downtown Detroit:

– We would enjoy the Belle Isle Conservatory and aquarium

– Have lunch at Sunset Point on Belle Isle.

– Spend the afternoon and evening in the Stadium District.

If you told us to go back for another day we’d probably fight you.

Things to do in Detroit Michigan

Our Final Assessment: Things to Do in Detroit

Detroit continues to be intimidating despite my co-worker Will’s “tales of renewal and beautification.” We found poverty and unsmiling faces defined the landscape. While painted murals are a novelty, they fail to obscure the ominous nature of civil putrefaction.

We felt unsafe walking around most every place we went. If you cannot handle the inherent menace of a high-poverty-murder-city, do not come to Detroit; and if you do come, don’t expect the people who live there to welcome you.

Is Detroit worth visiting?

Well, that was enjoyable!

We are sorry for the negative review if that’s not what you were expecting, but we would expect the same from any honest friend. We know some folks would disagree, but their tolerance for run-down towns is higher than our own.

I am floored by the gushing reviews of Detroit I’ve found on the internet. In what world do these people park their heads? My guess is Gary, Indiana. Everywhere is a botanical garden when compared to Scary Gary.

Whether you agree or disagree with our Detroit review, or want to discuss something else entirely, we would love to hear from you.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *