Detroit is the birthplace of chart-topping Motown hits, home to stunning art deco architecture that tells the tale of the city’s boom, the epicenter of a diversity of cultural institutions, and the spot for fantastic vegan food (I had to sneak the vegan food reference in there, after all, this is a vegan travel blog)!
No matter your interests, there is something for everyone to enjoy — Detroit should be on every traveler’s must-visit list! The next time you come, be sure to check out these 13 unique things to do in Detroit, including some of my favorite spots to explore.
Unique Things You’ve Got To Do in Detroit
You’ll find loads of unique things to do in Detroit, from kayaking on the Detroit River to grabbing drinks in a bar made from shipping containers!
99 Pleasure Drive, Detroit, MI 48207
A 982-acre, 2.5-mile-long island park right in the heart of the city. The park was created in the 1800s to provide respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. A third of the park is a natural wooded oasis for various beautiful birds (including eagles), small animals, and fallow deer. The park is also home to the Belle Isle Aquarium, Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the James Scott Memorial Fountain. And, in the summer, many flock to Belle Isle Beach to enjoy the sun and sand. No matter the time of year, there is always something to enjoy!
Photo tip: Don’t miss Inspiration Point for great shots of the city!
#2 Support independent boutiques and shop till you drop!
Midtown, Downtown, Corktown & Eastern Market
Skip national chain shops for all your shopping needs when you’re in Detroit and check out the city’s eclectic assortment of retailers. From quirky home goods to trendy tops, there are so many beautiful things to check out. Just be sure to leave enough room in your suitcase to haul it all home. A few of my favorite shops include:
City Bird & Nest are located right next door to each other in Midtown. These two spots are great for things for your home, creative tees, jewelry, handmade soaps, and more.
Signal Return located in Eastern Market. If you love vintage prints and cards, be sure to go here.
Eldorado General Store is located in Corktown. A great shop for vintage apparel and handmade gifts.
The Lip Bar is located downtown. The best spot for vegan and cruelty-free makeup for any shade of skin.
#3 Check out the Historic Eastern Market
2934 Russell Street, Detroit, MI 48207
The market is open year-round on Saturdays, June – Sept. it is also open Tuesdays and Sundays.
Of all the things to do in Detroit, make sure you don’t miss Eastern Market! On the weekends, Eastern Market is the place to be for beautiful fresh produce, local artisans, delicious food, and live music. If you can’t make it on the weekend, the Tuesday market is scaled down but still features plenty of fresh food and treats to savor. Take a detour over to the Dequindre Cut for a walk (or bike ride, there is a MoGo bike rental station in Eastern Market) down the two-mile greenway that connects Eastern Market to the Detroit River. The greenway is lined with excellent street art commissioned by local artists and a shipping container beer garden, The Freight Yard.
#4 Run, walk or bike the River Walk
This 3.5-mile path (eventually, it will be 5 miles) has been rated by USA Today readers twice as the best Riverwalk in the nation! The scenic riverfront walk offers excellent views of the Detroit River and Canada, and it cuts through the Rivard Plaza, which features a carousel, food, and sand volleyball courts. Near the current end of the river walk, it intersects with Milliken State Park, which is an excellent spot for a picnic when the weather is nice.
#5 Check out the amazing selection of museums
Located throughout Detroit
There is a museum for everyone in Detroit – no matter your interest! You can’t miss The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) if you love art. The DIA has one of the largest collections of art in the U.S., from the earliest civilization to the present day, featuring artists like Caravaggio, van Gogh, and Seurat. Also, don’t miss Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry murals.
For a history lesson, check out The Detroit Historical Museum. The Historical museum includes special and permanent exhibitions that show and explain over 300 years of the city’s rich history.
To explore the culture and history of African Americans, don’t miss the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This museum seeks to celebrate African American culture while educating visitors about the history of triumphs and struggles through many unique and permanent exhibits. A couple exhibits include the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection and the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection.
If you’re into music, you’re in luck; Detroit is well-known for music, especially Motown. Explore the journey of Barry Gordy’s creation of one of the most successful record companies at The Motown Museum. You can also stand in Studio A, where many famous Motown Stars recorded countless hits.
#6 Enjoy the city’s architecture
There are countless examples of beautiful art deco architecture throughout Detroit. Visitors are greeted with a stunning burst of color and craftmanship at The Guardian Building. Further up Woodward Ave., The Fisher Building’s opulence is center stage with its array of mosaics and marble. An excellent way to take in all the beautiful spots and to ensure you don’t miss a beat is by taking a tour of the City.
#7 Catch a show at The Fox Theatre or The Detroit Opera House
Fox Theatre: 2211 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Detroit Opera House: 1526 Broadway St, Detroit, MI 48226
Both theatres are iconic to the City of Detroit. The Fox originally opened in the 1920s as a movie house. Today it is still the largest theatre in the city, with just under 5,000 seats, and the most architecturally opulent. The Detroit Opera House is a little smaller, but its art deco glamour is equally stunning. A concert, comedy show, or theatre performance is best enjoyed in either of these gems.
#8 Wander through The Belt
Between Broadway and Library Streets
Once a lonely and boring alleyway like any other was turned into a beautiful art space full of murals created by local, national, and international artists. You can find different shops and restaurants throughout The Belt, including The Skip, a fun outdoor bar with creative cocktails — it’s a unique spot for a drink in Detroit!
#9 Explore the neighborhoods outside of Midtown and Downtown
There are many diverse neighborhoods throughout and near the city to explore. A few favorites include Corktown, which received its name because of the many Irish settlers that first inhabited the area. Right next door is vibrant Southwest Detroit — the sizeable Hispanic community brings a wealth of culture, including fantastic food. Then head east to Hamtramck, which was first home to German immigrants, but is more well known for its large population of Polish immigrants that settled later. Today, even though the population of those with Polish heritage has decreased, the influence of the culture is still strong. It’s the best place to find pierogi and polish pottery.
#10 Hang out in Campus Martius, Beacon Park, or Capitol Park
Campus Martius: 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Beacon Park: 1901 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Capitol Park: 1201 Griswold St Detroit, MI 48226
These three spots are perfect for catching live music, watching a movie under the stars, or just catching up with friends. Each spot is unique. In the summer, Campus Martius features a sandy beach with relaxing lounge chairs, and on Friday nights, check out their beach parties with live music. In the winter, the park swaps the beach out for an ice-skating rink — grab your skates and a cup of hot cocoa for some fun!
Capitol Park is tucked in amongst little shops and restaurants and even has a dog park! It’s a great place to grab a coffee or a free summer yoga class.
Lastly, Beacon Park is the largest downtown Detroit park and features a fabulous restaurant, Lumen, that has a rooftop patio (Lumen has a couple of options that could be made vegan). The park hosts various events throughout the year including night markets, family movie screenings, art installations, and more.
#11 Grab a drink or bite to eat at The Detroit Shipping Company
This hip food and beer garden made in old shipping containers is anything but basic! The food hall comprises six restaurants, two of which have vegan options — Bangkok 96 and MOMO CHA. You’ll find free entertainment in the garden on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There are also two art galleries to check out on the second floor.
#12 Kayak on the Detroit River
A unique way to experience any destination is from the water! From May through October, Detroit River Sports offers kayaking and stand-up paddleboard tours (group and private tours) of the Detroit River and the islands on the city’s east side. The tours provide a great way to see a different side of Detroit and learn the unique history of Detroit’s role in prohibition and hydro racing.
#13 Cruise down the river on the Detroit Princess
If you’re not interested in kayaking but want to get out on the water, here’s a fantastic activity! The Detroit Princess offers visitors the best place to watch the sunset in the summer with a great selection of entertainment. From April – October, the riverboat offers Motown shows, Murder Mystery Dinner theatre, live music, and a fully stocked bar!
Need More Detroit Travel Planning Help?
If you’re looking for recommendations on where to eat or places to stay, you’re in luck! Check out my complete travel guide to Detroit, along with these other helpful articles.
The Best Vegan Travel Guide to Detroit
Guide to Vegan and Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Detroit
Where to Enjoy Vegan Brunch in Detroit
10 Mouthwatering Spots for Vegan Dessert in Detroit
Where to Find Vegan Donuts in Detroit
The Best Spots for Detroit-Style Deep Dish Pizza in Detroit