Tour Detroit in a Day

Updated on May 3, 2018
Mike Hardy profile image

Mike is an author of tales, tastes, and fun in northern Michigan. When he is not messing around on the Great Lakes, he is writing about them

Detroit Skyline From the River
Detroit Skyline From the River | Source

A Fearless Native Trek of Detroit

If you find yourself in the Motor City and want to catch the highlights without blowing a lot of time or money, then this little tour will have you feeling like a Detroit insider in short order. By the end, you will really feel like you know a bit of the gritty culture and the downtown highpoints.

Head to Detroit's Playground, Belle Isle

Yep, the first stop is Detroit’s outdoor playground—Belle Isle Park. Head straight up Jefferson Ave. and watch for signs of the bridge to the park. Once on the island, head to its southern tip. This is the money shot. With Detroit’s iconic skyline in the background, it makes for a great selfie.

With that done check out the Belle Isle Aquarium. Built in 1904 it’s the oldest aquarium in the US. Known for its architecture and beautiful glass tiled ceiling. It was once considered the oldest continually operating public aquarium in North America when it closed on April 3, 2005. Today its reopened and run by volunteers of the Belle Isle Conservancy.

Detroit Skyline From Belle Isle Park
Detroit Skyline From Belle Isle Park | Source

Detroit’s Ongoing Coney Island Wars

Shoot back down Jefferson to downtown and make your way just west of Campus Martius. Park on West Lafayette across from Lafayette and American Coney Islands.

It's decision time. Both of these institutions are continuously ranked #1 and #2 for their saucy Coney’s. You really can’t go wrong. Show your local skills with an order of two Coney’s loaded, cheese fries, and a Verners.

The Detroit Coney is considered one of the treasured Michigan foods of all time.

The American & Lafayette Coney Islands Detroit
The American & Lafayette Coney Islands Detroit | Source

Art Deco of the Guardian Building

Refreshed and full it’s time for a stroll. Walk two blocks down Griswold toward the river. You’re going for one of the most lavish treasures of Art Deco architecture in the world; the Guardian Building. Built in the 1920’s, this was the command center for manufacturing when Detroit was the Arsenal of Democracy in WWII.

Walk in and tour the lobby with its original Pawabic and Rockwood tiles. Take a shot of the Egyptian styled mural of Michigan in the upper lobby area.

Michigan Mural in Guardian Building Lobby
Michigan Mural in Guardian Building Lobby | Source

The Center of Detroit: Campus Martius Park

From the Guardian Building head north on Woodward two blocks. This puts you at the center origin of Detroit. Detroit’s famous “Mile Roads” denote their distance from this spot. Eminem's movie "8 Mile" was filmed eight miles north of this spot.

The park is a hub of activity for Detroit. With weekend music, an ice skating rink in the winter and surrounded by shops and restaurants. The most dominating feature of this park is the Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument dedicated in 1872.

Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument & Detroit's Point of Origin
Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument & Detroit's Point of Origin | Source

One Campus Martius

This is one of the newest grand buildings in Detroit. One Campus Martius was the headquarters for Compuware. Its massive lobby is an atrium with a multistory free-flowing waterfall and natural light bouncing off hanging glass sculptures high above.

Don't forget to grab a drink at Detroit’s Hard Rock Café. You can check out the memorabilia from rock legends such as Bob Segar, Alice Cooper and of course, see music videos when Detroit’s Motown dominated pop culture.

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One Campus MartiusLobby of One Campus Martius
One Campus Martius
One Campus Martius | Source
Lobby of One Campus Martius
Lobby of One Campus Martius | Source

Detroit's Eastern Market

Source

Detroit's Eastern Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers markets, and produce and meat processing areas in the city. One weekends you can browse the sheds to sample farm-to-market produce, fish, meats and crafts.

One of the biggest events of the year is Flower Day in the spring. Greenhouses from all over Michigan converge on the market to offer plants, trees, shrubs and flowers. Over 45,000 attend each year.

Bring your camera. The Eastern Market is colorful and there is always something to experience.

Rivera Fresco at the DIA
Rivera Fresco at the DIA | Source

Detroit Institute of Arts

Our final stop places us in the New Center area of Midtown Detroit, Michigan, the Detroit Institute of Art has one of the largest art collections in the United States.

  • The DIA collection is among the top six art museums in the United States
  • Hosts a collection of over 65,000 works within its 658,000 square feet of exhibit space.
  • With over 677,000 visitors a year the DIA is one of the most visited art museums in the world
  • The museum contains 100 galleries of art including its American paintings collection which ranks third among museums in the United States

One highlights of the collection includes a Diego Rivera commissioned work for the for DIA in 1932. This massive fresco, has five panel murals are known collectively as Detroit Industry, or Man and Machine. This greets the visitor in the main gallery. Another notable work is Vincent van Gogh's Self-Portrait. This painting was the first Van Gogh to be collected by a U.S. museum.

The DIA is considered one of the most diverse collections in America. In addition to its American collection it offers European, Modern and Contemporary, and Graphic art. The works of African, Islamic, Ancient, Asian, Native American and Oceanic art all can be found.

When Detroit went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2014. The museum’s collection was appraised at $4.6 billion with some individual works potential having high collectability value in the 100’s of millions. “The Wedding Dance” by Peter Bruegel the Elder was estimated to be worth over $200 million if sold alone.

Based on what you see, would you consider a visiting Detroit?

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Other Top Things to See in Detroit

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant - The original Ford Model-T factory.

Mexicantown - Great Tex-Mex food, bakeries and shops.

Motown Museum - Hitsville was the original location for Motown Records.

Old St. Mary's Church - A short walk away from Greektown. It has a very unique reproduction of the Lourdes Grotto.

Fisher Mansion - Now a temple they offer tours of the the residence of one of the great autobarons of Detroit.

© 2018 Mike Hardy

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