About This Place
Detroit, the oldest city in the Midwest, has been in a state of perpetual renaissance since its founding. The birthplace of innovations as notable as Motown Records, motor vehicles and mass production continually reinvented its economic “wheel” to stay relevant in an international marketplace. Among things to do in Detroit, auto-history sites rank high, but music sites and an up-and-coming culinary scene also make the list.
Founded by fewer than 100 French Canadians and now home to roughly 700,000 people, the port city located on the Detroit River blossomed in the 19th century. Rising as a transportation hub with an emphasis on shipbuilding, Detroit’s manufacturing might grew during the early 20th century, fueled by the success of the Ford Motor Company and automotive titans that included Walter Chrysler.
In downtown Detroit, visitors find the ultra-mod GM Renaissance Center, a three-building complex along the riverfront. Check out its restaurants, retail shops and a cutting-edge showcase of General Motors vehicles.
A 15-minute commute away, in neighboring Dearborn, is The Henry Ford, an auto-centric historical center that features a museum, factory tour and IMAX theater. Step back in time at The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village, a cluster of living-history attractions that include the farmhouse where Henry Ford was born and the workshop where the game-changing Model T was invented. Just across Highway 12 is the University of Michigan-Dearborn, whose program was tailored in 1959 to supply the Ford Motor Company with college-educated engineers and administrators.
In that same era, an influx of African American workers from the South to Detroit’s car factories set the stage for an explosion of rhythm-and-blues music named after the Motor City. Motown Records and its subsidiaries promoted artists such as the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross & the Supremes. Head uptown to visit the Motown Historical Museum, located in an unassuming home in the New Center district. Among its displays is the restored apartment of founder Berry Gordy Jr. and Studio A, where some of radio’s greatest hits were produced.
While Motown and motor cars continue to be popular attractions, there are many other things to do in Detroit. Midtown is home to the impressive Detroit Institute of Arts. Founded over a century ago, the Institute spans 100 galleries. The museum collection, consistently ranked among the top six in the U.S., includes Vincent van Gogh's “Self Portrait.”
Travel further north to the hipster-leaning neighborhood of Royal Oak, where sidewalk cafes, vintage clothing stores and renovated lofts line the streets. Northeast of Downtown, Greektown is concentrated along Monroe Avenue. Besides bars, clubs and plenty of Greek restaurants serving ouzo and gyros, you will find legal Michigan gambling at the Greektown Hotel and Casino.
Count sports and shopping among the fun things to do in Detroit. Baseball fans cheer on the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, while football fans tailgate at Ford Field before Detroit Lions’ games. Visitors seeking high-end fashion browse the upscale stores of Fairlane Town Center in adjacent Dearborn. A more organic experience can be had on Saturdays at busy Eastern Market, an open-air food market established in 1891 that spans six blocks in downtown Detroit.