Cruising the Motor City: Essential Detroit, Michigan Bucket List


Known as the “Motor City”, Detroit, Michigan played a pivotal role in the automotive industry. It is the birthplace of major automobile manufacturers like General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. However, Detroit has more to offer than what its nickname implies.

Detroit is celebrated for its rich musical heritage, architectural landscape, and sports hubs. Amid ongoing revitalization efforts, Detroit will continue to showcase its culture and embrace new changes. This article will supply you with the necessary information to enjoy the great city of Detroit. We rounded up expert suggestions into a comprehensive article giving you all you need to know about Motor City. 

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Detroit culinary scene

Detroit’s food scene reflects its great cultural melting pot.  Detroit is a must-visit for food enthusiasts eager to explore its vibrant flavors. To find the best in Detroit we asked local experts for their advice to give you the greatest eats Detroit has to offer.  

Jeff Popovich, owner of MI Foodie Adventures, a website aimed at sharing the stories of chefs, restaurateurs, and fellow foodies across Michigan, recommends to visitors, “If you’re new to the Motor City, one of your first foodie adventures needs to be for Detroit-style pizza! What makes this style unique? The thick-crusted and square-shaped pizza comes loaded with cheese, has a crunchy buttery crust, and a hearty serving of zesty marinara sauce ladled over the toppings versus being spread across underneath the cheese. Some of the best places to enjoy Detroit-style pizza include Buddy’s Pizza (where the style originated), Shield’s Pizza, Jet’s Pizza, Supino’s, Mootz Pizzeria, and Michigan & Trumbull. If you’re willing to make a brief drive north on I-75, Loui’s Pizza in Hazel Park is absolutely worth the experience.” 

Local Detroit florist Kaila Adam from The Flower Alley suggests visitors explore Brush Park, a historic neighborhood just northeast of downtown Detroit, Michigan. Kaila states, “Brush Park neighborhood features some of my favorite restaurants and cocktail spots such as Brush Park Bodega, Bar Pigalle, and Grey Ghost. This is a foodie haven with new restaurants popping up on a monthly basis. Brush Park is a short walk to any of the stadiums and to the heart of the city. This area is a wonderful area for a weekend stroll or for date night.”

If you’re interested in the vegan scene, Detroit Vegan Soul is the place to visit. Its soulful, plant-based cuisine offers a menu of food favorites without meat or animal products. Its guest-favorite dishes include the vegan buttermilk dipped lions mane mushrooms battered, fried, lemon-pepper seasoned and served with creamy ranch dressing; and its signature soul platter with mac-n-cheese, smoked collard greens, candied sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas & brown rice topped with green onion and cornbread. 

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Courtesy of
Uncorked Wine Festivals

Celebrating local drink flavors

Craftapped, a social craft beverage club with 850+ partner breweries, cideries, distillers, restaurants, and bars located across the country, recommends to visitors its favorite Detroit brewery. “Atwater Brewery is one of the oldest and best breweries in Detroit. It’s a great place to grab a beer before or after a Detroit Tigers game. With a rooftop patio, you get gorgeous views of the Detroit River and the historic Rivertown Warehouse District..”

If wine is more of your taste, then we have the perfect suggestions for you. Black Star Farms is Michigan’s top-rated winery. Located north of Detroit in the beautiful countryside of the Leelanau Peninsula, you will find the unique 160-acre winery estate. Sherri from Black Star Farms describes the estate as “an adult-only, 10-room boutique inn on a winery estate with a tasting room that offers over 50 internationally award-winning wines and spirits crafted from local fruit. The local farm-fresh food scene is showcased at Black Star Farms Arcturos Wine Dinners, or the onsite Bistro Polaris.” In addition to the wine, Black Star Farms offers more adventures to elevate your experience. “Take a break in nature with over three miles of onsite hiking trails, vineyard walks, or a stroll past horse paddocks. Try goat yoga! The beautiful outdoors, lakes and beaches, small quaint towns, and team await you at Black Star Farms.” 

Additional recommendations come from Jamele of Modales Wines, a 40-acre vineyard estate producing cool climate, terroir-driven wines. “Get a taste of Michigan Wine Country right in the midst of the Motor City. It’s patio season in Michigan and places like The Royce, Motor City Wine, Stadt Garten, Folk Detroit, & Coriander Kitchen & Farm are championing Michigan wine on their wine lists! Maybe that glass you had at The Royce entices you to make a trip to the winery. Head west towards the lakeshore & include Modales Wines on your visit for cool climate, and minimal intervention wines made right in the heart of the Fennville AVA. Look out at the 75-acre farm while enjoying a glass of that same wine you enjoyed in the city!” 

If visiting early in the summer, be sure to not miss out on an annual Wine Festival. “On the first Saturday in May at the Michigan Science Center, sip & swirl over 100 wines and bubblies from across the globe. Plus savor some “outside the bottle” options like canned cocktails. Seltzers and spirits while you enjoy full, after-hours access to the museum including science demos, planetarium shows, and more! Bring your thirst and your curiosity, and come get “Uncorked” with us at the museum next May!” says Michelle from Uncorked Wine Festival

“In the heart of Detroit’s Islandview neighborhood, Brewery Faisan is a craft brewery and taproom that boasts a diverse list of European and American beer styles like Belgian saison, Italian pilsner, Czech dark lager, and American IPA. Its spacious warehouse taproom and cozy outdoor patio make it the perfect place to kick back with some friends, bring the family, even the dog, play board games, and enjoy some eats from a local food truck or pop-up” says Kate von Bernthal, Sales and Events Manager of Brewery Faisan. 

To end the drinks section, we had BreweryDB custom-make a brewery route for visitors of Detroit! Dan from BreweryDB says, “ Detroit, Michigan, is a city renowned for its rich history, vibrant culture, and resilient spirit. But did you know that it’s also home to a thriving craft beer scene?
Thanks to BreweryDB, we now have a curated brewery route to guide you through some of the best breweries in and around the area. This route showcases some of Detroit’s finest, including the following breweries: Motor City Brewing Works, Baffin Brewing, Urbanrest Brewing Company, Unexpected Craft Brewing, and Dearborn Brewing.” 

 

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Courtesy of All in Birmingham

Activities and sports

Detroit sports games are more than just events; they’re the heartbeat of a city steeped in athletic tradition. Detroit’s sports scene captivates fans with its passion and resilience. Anne Erickson, a Detroit, Michigan-based radio host, journalist, musician, painter, and author, suggests, “New residents to Detroit should absolutely go to a Detroit game and watch one of our major league teams. One of the first things new residents should do is either go to a Detroit Lions game at Ford Field, Tigers game at Comerica Park, a Pistons game at Little Caesars Arena, or Red Wings game at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit’s sports teams are better than ever, and having all these venues downtown brings life to the Motor City.”

If music is more your scene then local photographer, Lola Helka recommends that “new residents of Detroit should enjoy an evening at Cliff Bell’s for some Jazz music and craft cocktails, then stay a night at the Renaissance Center, (on one of the highest floors possible, of course, in a room overlooking the river), and in the morning, enjoy a delicious breakfast at The Dime Store.”

Cliff Bell’s is the place to be if you’re a fan of jazz. The New York Times has called it “The place to be in Detroit!” due to its live jazz and amazing atmosphere. 

To prepare for a night out or to update your wardrobe, we have the best shopping destinations for you. “With nearly 300 retailers, downtown Birmingham offers a wonderfully diverse assortment of local boutiques and national brands, award-winning restaurants, gift shops, jewelers, salons, art galleries, and more. Theatres and two beautiful parks provide venues for entertainment, and community events and activities all year long” explains Erika Basset from All in Birmingham

Rachel from The Peacock Room also suggests stopping by her shop stating, “The Peacock Room is an elegant, fully restored 1920s boutique in the magnificent Fisher Building. Visitors will be transported back to Detroit’s glamorous era when shopping was truly an experience and not a chore. The Peacock Room offers women’s apparel sizes 00-24, handmade jewelry, and a unique gift selection sourced from all across the globe.”

The perfect museum for music enthusiasts is recommended by Linda Francetich from Discover Downriver suggesting that, “The vibrant city of Detroit is the birthplace of Motown music, and for music enthusiasts, the Motown Museum is a necessity when visiting the Motor City.  Situated on Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard, this iconic landmark takes visitors on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, showcasing the rich history of legendary artists like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, and so many more who all got their start in this vibrant city. This historic site also features the Gordy family’s former residence during Motown’s early years, as well as the original recording equipment and the legendary Studio A where it all began. Step back in time and uncover the captivating stories, intriguing history, and unforgettable moments that made Hitsville U.S.A. a legendary hub of music innovation that still stands strong today.” 

In the words of photographer Chettara Hunter, “When you move to Detroit, there’s an abundance of must-do activities awaiting you. If you’re into cars, the Detroit Auto Show, Detroit Grand Prix, and Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation are absolute essentials. We have numerous museums; among my favorites are the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Detroit Historical Museum (the lower floor even allows you to take a journey to the past showcasing Old Detroit, streets and all, in the 1800s).

“A day spent exploring the Detroit Riverwalk is a must; named the best by USA Today in 2021, 2022, and 2023, it’s one of my favorite spots with its constant buzz of activity, festivals, concerts, river rides, and serene picnic spots. Detroit holds a special place in my heart — I’m proud to call it home. One of my cherished traditions, from childhood through adulthood, is attending Noel Nights (https://www.noelnight.org/) in Midtown Detroit every December. This event offers free access to museums, Wayne State University Observatory, art galleries, and sooooo much more! The Detroit Main Public Library even hosts a party complete with apple cider, donuts, take-home arts/crafts, and festive tunes. From ice sculpture competitions to carriage rides and local vendor markets, Noel Nights truly captures the essence of Detroit, albeit with a chilly twist—so bundle up!” 

When visiting new areas one of the best activities to do is visit independent shops. A city’s culture is reflected in the independent shops and provides you a glimpse into who the city is. In the opinion of Stephanie Steinberg, Founder & CEO of The Detroit Writing Room, “If you love to read, you have to check out the independent bookstores sprinkled around Detroit. The owners are typically always there, ready to give reading recommendations. John King Rare & Used Books is Detroit’s largest bookstore featuring 1 million copies. Source Booksellers in Midtown is Black-owned and specializes in non-fiction and minority voices. For fiction, Pages in Grandmont Rosedale is a go-to (they also have an adorable shop cat). Several shops, like Next Chapter Books and 27th Letter Books, offer storytimes on the weekends for little ones. Each bookstore offers something different, but all will feed your reading appetite!” 

For additional reading enjoyment, “The annual Detroit Festival of Books, aka Detroit Bookfest, is an essential one-of-a-kind Detroit-tastic experience! Michigan’s largest book festival takes place at Eastern Market, the USA’s largest historic public market, spookily built over the old Russell Street Cemetery (true story). No, it is not like any other event you’ve ever been to.
Encapsulating the intangible essence of “Detroitness,” Bookfest features DJ Seven Whales spinning funk music, world-famous street performer Deon Forrest on the bucket drums, Mi-Sci STEM pop-up, Arts n’ Scraps, cheeseburger sliders from Sonny’s Hamburgers, tacos from Michigan’s top-rated food truck Tacos Hernandez, and down the street is the Detroit Bookfest Blockparty Afterparty at the EMBC on Riopelle Street. Book vendors from Toronto to San Diego. Major league NYC literary agents strolling around. Detroit’s own Char’latte Coffee sisters. Mr. John King, the famous bookseller, himself. Tony Green, the Detroit bassist who helped create G Funk with Snoop Dogg; Dr. Dre. Tunisian author Meriam Metoui with Macmillan. And hundreds (yes hundreds) of other fun things” suggests Ryan, Founder & Event Chairman of Detroit Bookfest

In our search for the best things to do in Detroit, Michael DeFranceschi- an expert on US city travel and founder of Michael Visits All suggests, “You have to see the Spirit of Detroit statue, the Joe Louis Fist, and the sculptures at Hart Plaza in downtown. All this incredible public artwork is less than a minute’s walk from one another. One other really cool thing to do is to ride the whole loop of the People Mover to get a bird’s eye view of downtown, the riverfront, and Greektown. The People Mover became free to ride for everybody in 2024!” 

In 1917 a small chapel for the congregation of St. Luke’s Evangelical Church had a fire and burnt to the ground. In 1924 the new structure was built and has now been transformed into the beautiful The Congregation Detroit. “All summer long, enjoy the sprawling garden and greenspace in the historic Boston Edison neighborhood at The Congregation Detroit. Once a church, now a bustling bar, coffee shop, and restaurant, the Congregation Detroit hosts an incredible lineup of outdoor events from their farmers markets to House Music Night, there is something for everyone. Grab a cold drink, pick some fresh strawberries from the garden, and relax all summer long” in the words of Bella from The Congregation Detroit.

According to Selene Da Silva, owner of She Is Wanderlust, a travel blog showcasing her adventures: “Spanning 43 acres, the Eastern Market is one of the oldest and largest public markets in the United States. It is a bustling hub where local farmers, artisans, and vendors come together to offer a diverse array of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and handcrafted items. The market becomes full of life on Saturdays, with live music, food trucks, and sometimes special events, like Flower Day, which is hosted here once a year. The market is open Saturdays from 6 am – 4 pm all year, and also Tuesdays (9 am – 3 pm) and Sundays (10 am – 4 pm) during the summer.


Jasmine Childrey of Junk Food and Friends an ice cream food truck agrees with Selene when she suggests, “Every new Detroit resident should make it a point to visit Eastern Market on a Saturday. This historic market is not only a hub for fresh, locally sourced produce and artisanal goods, but it also hosts vibrant street art, live music, and a variety of food vendors that capture the essence of Detroit’s diverse culinary scene. It’s a perfect way to experience the community and spirit of the city.”

“Get a glimpse at Detroit’s past and exciting future with a visit to the iconic Michigan Central Station in Corktown. Reopened this June following an extensive six-year restoration by Ford Motor Company, the landmark had been abandoned for nearly 40 years before being returned to its original architectural grandeur, standing as an unprecedented feat of historic preservation. The Station is now the centerpiece of Michigan Central, a 30-acre technology and cultural hub, and a vibrant destination for locals and visitors alike” says Sarah from Michigan Central, a first-of-its-kind ecosystem combining Detroit’s rich history and its commitment to shaping the future of transportation.
“This summer, visitors can explore The Station’s revitalized ground floor through self-guided tours and a range of immersive activations on Fridays and Saturdays through August 31. More occupants, restaurants, retail, and other commercial and community-focused partners will continue to move in throughout the rest of the year.”

Get a closer look at nature’s wonders with hands-on zoological experience. “The Reptarium in Utica, Michigan, is an interactive, hands-on reptile zoo where visitors can meet and interact with snakes, lizards, alligators, tortoises, and more. We offer general admission hours, host birthday parties, private tours, and unique mammal encounters featuring our African crested porcupine, capybara, two-toed sloth, and six-banded armadillo. Additionally, our “bring the zoo to you” programs for public events and educational institutions provide an exciting and educational experience for families and kids of all ages. Come learn about these amazing animals in a whole new way at The Reptarium” suggests Stephanie Kent, marketing director of the Reptarium. 

 

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Courtesy of All in Birmingham

Areas to explore and wander

Detroit is home to 4.3 million people and is the second largest city in the Midwest after Chicago. This region has so many areas to explore and here are our top recommendations. 

According to Samantha Ellens, preservation associate for Preservation Detroit, “We’d definitely recommend taking a Preservation Detroit Walking Tour as one of the best introductions to the city. Whether you’re new or a long-time resident, there’s always something to see and learn!” Preservation Detroit is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Detroit’s architectural and cultural heritage. Their award-winning tours are sure to share with you Detroit’s rich architectural and cultural history. 

What if we told you there was a portal in the Motor City that let you travel to Germany? Well while not exactly a portal Ebony Robinson from Elicit Folio a food, travel, and lifestyle blog suggests, “taking a venture out north around a 1.5 hour drive to discover a charming little German town called Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth transports you out of the US with its Bavarian-style architecture and truly feels like you’re somewhere in Germany. There are tons of fun activities to enjoy as you explore Frankenmuth. Some of these include shopping, unique food experiences, art, wine tasting, and numerous German artisan-style shops.”

“We love our West Village neighborhood and recommend anyone new to Detroit to spend some time exploring this area filled with diverse architecture, cafes, and shops. This summer our friends are opening Norm’s Diner, a new restaurant two doors down from our shop. Not only are we excited to have more lunch options available to us, but we love their names and think Norm and Eugenie make a really cute couple” shares Jenna from local boutique Eugenie Detroit

Michigan-based travel photographer, blogger, YouTuber, and outdoor adventure lover Felicia Fullwood recommends, “An activity I think anyone should have on their list when visiting Detroit is a walk or drive around Belle Isle, also known as Belle Isle State Park. Especially catching sunset if you can! The island is by far one of my favorite places in Detroit to visit and a place I find myself going back to constantly when I need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s literally an island nestled right on the Detroit River offering many opportunities for outdoor adventure. It has amazing views of the Detroit Skyline, Canada, and Detroit especially at sunset. You can all find numerous walking and biking trails, a sand beach and swimming area, a lighthouse, the aquarium, and the Belle Isle Conservatory. It’s 5.4 miles total to make a full loop around the island, and I’d highly suggest walking or biking if you have the chance. But you can also drive the loop in 5-10 minutes and still get the amazing views!” 



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