The Best of Detroit - The Monument to Joe Louis, known also as "The Fist", a memorial to the boxer at Detroit's Hart Plaza. Shutterstock

Best Things to Do in Detroit

BY Fifty Grande Editors | August 10, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Detroit? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Detroit?”

During the American auto boom in the early 20th century, Henry Ford and other innovators set up shop in Detroit as the newly christened Motor City manufactured its way to national prominence. Detroit has always maintained an underdog, nose-to-the-grindstone spirit. Think Eminem laying down a diss track or the “Bad Boys” Pistons throwing elbows. (Get ’em, Larry.) But it has a flip side too — like its international food scene, community art projects and the nation’s second-largest theater district. In essence, it’s a micro view of the country as a whole. Today, Detroit’s still a star city, with plenty to offer in the way of food, culture and entertainment. And like all of our Fifty Grande Best of the U.S. Bucket Lists, this guide will take you through the very best, most unique and quintessential experiences offered here right now. So, let’s get Detroit-ing,

 

Don’t question Detroit-style pizza — just try it

Detroit flies under the radar in America’s great pizza debate — New Yorkers and Chicagoans boisterously debating the relative merits of thin-crust vs. deep dish. But Detroit’s rectangular pies deserve a spot in the conversation. They have a thick, airy crust, topped with Wisconsin brick cheese and tomato sauce spread over the other toppings (gasp). If it sounds strange, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

Buddy's Pizza, Detroit
#1
Buddy's Pizza, Detroit

Buddy's Pizza

17125 Conant St, Detroit, MI 48212, USA

Here’s the original. The Detroit pizza godfather is still dishing out delicious squares. Plus, they’ve got a bocce ball court.

Detroit Style Pizza Company
#2
Detroit Style Pizza Company

Detroit Style Pizza Company

28630 Harper Ave, St. Clair Shores, MI, USA

They’re new, but World Champion Pizza Maker Shawn Randazzo has put his own twists on a classic, like the “Margherita in the D” or the “Hockeytown Hawaiian.”

Explore American innovation

There is, perhaps, no person more important to Detroit’s early rise than Henry Ford, father of the U.S. auto industry. His namesake museum, located in Dearborn, is a tribute not just to Ford’s imagination, but to all kinds of American ingenuity. 

Henry Ford Museum
#3
Henry Ford Museum

Henry Ford Museum

20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, Michigan, USA

Its collections contain the bus where Rosa Parks made her stand, JFK’s limo, Lincoln’s Ford’s Theatre chair and the Wright Brothers’ bike shop. The museum also includes Greenfield Village, an outdoor living history museum where you can drive a Model T, visit Thomas Edison’s lab, see Henry Ford’s garage and more.

Must-visit neighborhoods

Where should you go a-wandering? If you want our opinion (of course you do), these are the best hangout spots around town.

Taqueria Lupita’s in Mexicantown
#4
Taqueria Lupita’s in Mexicantown. Illustration by Sophia Derry for Fifty Grande

Mexicantown

Mexicantown - Southwest Detroit, Detroit, MI, USA

Detroit’s population boom in the 1920s saw an influx of new residents, including many from Mexico. Over the years, Mexicantown developed into one of Detroit’s most illustrious and vibrant neighborhoods. The buildings are colorful, the people are welcoming and good lord, the food. Stop at a restaurant like Los Altos, Taqueria Lupita’s or Taqueria El Rey for some seriously good tacos. 

Corktown
#5
Corktown

Corktown

Corktown, Detroit, MI, USA

If you’re someone who can’t resist quirky boutiques and coffee shops with exposed brick, visit Corktown. It might be Detroit’s oldest neighborhood, but it’s also the hippest. Recent years have seen Corktown injected with a steady dose of eclectic businesses and young professionals. Sit down to brunch at a place like Folk, then visit the John K. King Books in search of rare books and grab drinks somewhere like Two James Distillery or Batch Brewing Company.

Throw footballs at bowling pins

Okay, hear us out on this one. Fowling is a strange but addicting blend of football and bowling that originated in Michigan. It’s exactly what you’re thinking: throwing footballs to knock down another team’s pins. And it’s a perfect drink-in-hand game.

Fowling
#6
Detroit Fowling

The Fowling Warehouse

3901 Christopher St, Hamtramck, Michigan, USA

A bunch of Fowling lanes. A bar with cold drinks. You’ll be doing your best Matt Stafford impression in no time. 

See murals galore

“Artsy Detroit” usually takes a backseat to “Industrial Detroit” in America’s collective imagination. But it’s got art, folks. Perhaps none more fascinating than Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” murals at Detroit Institute of Arts. These 27 frescos line the museum’s courtyard and depict epic scenes of the city’s manufacturing toils. It’s Sistine Chapel meets Titans of Industry. 

Detroit Institute of Arts, Diego mural
#7
Detroit Institute of Arts, Diego mural. Photo: Shutterstock

Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI, USA

The DIA has one of the nation’s most impressive fine-art collections. It boasts 100 galleries and more than 65,000 pieces, including works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Andrew Wyeth and, of course, Diego Rivera.

Dig into Detroit’s sound

You better believe that the birthplace of Motown has several thriving record stores. Stop by one of its storied stores to pick up some R&B deep cuts. Music fans won’t want to miss the Motown Museum either, housed in Motown Records’ original studios, where legends like Marvin Gaye and The Supremes flexed their golden pipes.

People's Records
#8
People's Records

People’s Records

1464 Gratiot Ave, Detroit, Michigan, USA

This is the place to dig up hidden gems — they have over 100,000 used 45s, including a ton of rare and obscure jazz and R&B.

Third Man Records Detroit
#9
Third Man Records Detroit

Third Man Records

441 W Canfield St, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Founded by Detroit native Jack White, Third Man also houses a record pressing plant, performance venue and its own record label. 

You’re in apple country now — take advantage

Apple-based beverages are having a renaissance, especially in Michigan. Every year, Michigan farmers harvest 900 million pounds of apples, and they use a whole bunch of them to make cider and mead. You can grab a glass of local hard cider or mead at bars around town, or you can venture outside the city and head directly to the source

B Nektar Detroit
#10
B Nektar Detroit

B. Nektar Meadery

1511 Jarvis St, Ferndale, MI, USA
Yates co-owner Kate Titus bakes
#11
Yates co-owner Kate Titus bakes

Yates Cider Mill

950 E Avon Rd, Rochester Hills, Michigan, USA
Blake's
#12
Blake's

Blake’s Orchard & Cider Mill

17985 Armada Center Rd, Armada, Michigan, USA

Pick up local goods

Eastern Market is the largest historic public market district in the United States, and the city takes advantage of every inch. Visit on a Saturday for produce and goods from 225+ local vendors. Or on Sunday you can check out a showcase of Detroit’s local artists, jewelers, chefs, crafters, musicians and more. 

Eastern Market
#13
Eastern Market

Eastern Market

Eastern Market, Detroit, MI, USA

See why Detroit is a performer’s wonderland

It’s most famous for Motown sound, but you can find all kinds of storied music and performance venues in Detroit. 

Cliff Bell's
#14
Cliff Bell's

Cliff Bell’s

2030 Park Ave, Detroit, MI, USA

Named for a Prohibition-era bootlegger, it nails the laid-back jazz-club vibe.

Magic Stick, Detroit
#15
Magic Stick, Detroit

Magic Stick

Magic Stick, 4120-4140 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI, USA

A former bowling alley above the Majestic Theatre that’s now a favorite spot for alt-rock bands.

The Shelter in St. Andrews Hall basement., Detroit
#16
The Shelter in St. Andrews Hall basement., Detroit

The Shelter

431 E Congress St, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Down in the basement of St. Andrew’s Hall, this unassuming stage has been immortalized in the rap community as the place where Eminem once threw up mom’s spaghetti.

Planet Ant Theatre
#17
Planet Ant Theatre

Planet Ant Theatre

2357 Caniff St, Hamtramck, MI, USA

Calling Planet Ant Theatre a comedy club is like calling Einstein a guy who liked math. Not only is Planet Ant Detroit’s premier improv venue (with alumni like Keegan Michael Key and Tim Robinson) but it’s also a forum for all kinds of artistic expression — film screenings, live music, readings, live podcasts and much more. 

Street art with a twist

Remember when we said that “Industrial Detroit” was the most fascinating art in Detroit a few paragraphs ago? Let’s back up. Because the city’s street art projects will take you for a ride, specifically the neighborhood-wide Heidelberg Project.

Heidelberg Project, Detroit
#18
Heidelberg Project, Detroit

The Heidelberg Project

3600 Heidelberg St, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Part experiment, part protest, the Heidelberg Project was the passion of artist Tyree Guyton, who sought to transform a street of houses in a historically African American neighborhood. Now over 30 years old, the project is still evolving and presents an inspiring image of hope and communal creativity.