Cool Things to Do in Detroit
I'm going to tell you about all the cool places in Detroit you may not know about. This list is filled with awesome places to eat, hang out, spend the day, and explore. Detroit has so much to offer, and if you know where to go, you are almost guaranteed a good time.
I got to know Detroit when I was attending the College for Creative Studies. At first I didn't spend much time in the city because my cute, suburbanite parents told me it was a scary place. However, I eventually met some cool people who showed me around, and I worked on a school project for visitdetroit.com, which really opened my eyes to some of what Detroit has to offer. I love this city, and I want you to love it too! This is a unique, vibrant community that is making a comeback in a big way—give it a chance and check it out!
Getting Around Detroit
Just so you know, Detroit does not have a strong public transportation system. If you are visiting from out of town you may need to rent a car to get around the city.
Get Around Town With the Detroit Bus Co.
The Detroit Bus Co. offers tours such as Prohibition, History of Detroit, and Haunted Detroit tours. They also rent out their busses for private parties, and have plans in the works for commuter services from metro Detroit into the city as well as airport shuttles.
Detroit Segway Tours
Detroit Segway Tours offers Neighborhood, Riverfront and City tours. Started by Detroiter Maureen Kearns, Detroit Segways came about when Inside Detroit, a nonprofit that Maureen co-founded in 2007, wanted to show metro Detroiters how great the city was and they wanted to do it quickly and in style.
Rent Bikes With Wheelhouse
Wheelhouse rents cruisers, sport and comfort hybrids, road bikes, tandems and adult tricycles, as well as accessories like tag-a-longs, baby seats and trailers to make it fun for the entire family. 2 hour rentals start at $15, full day rentals start at $35.
Great Places That Serve Breakfast and Lunch
Avalon International Breads: One of Detroit's Best Kept Secrets
Really wonderful food and staff! Buy bread, pastries, sandwiches, coffee, cookies, muffins, and much more at this little place on 422 W Willis St. Great atmosphere here—you can eat in at one of the little tables they have inside, or sit outside and enjoy your breakfast or lunch in the sunshine.
Brooklyn Street Local: Great Food in Corktown, With Lots of Vegan & Vegetarian Options
Brooklyn Street Local is located in Corktown at 1266 Michigan Avenue. They serve breakfast and lunch with a focus on local, organic ingredients and whole foods with lots of vegan and vegetarian-friendly options. They also offer a Canadian favorite, poutine, which is a dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Very yummy.
Russell Street Deli: Really Great Food and Atmosphere
Awesome food! This restaurant is relatively small, and they get pretty busy on weekends when Eastern Market is open. Inside you'll be seated at one of their long six-seater tables.
La Petit Zinc: Crepes, Salads, Sandwiches, Desserts, and Good Coffee
This is an amazing little coffeehouse where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy a good meal or dessert. As the name suggests, it's a pretty small place, but in the summer they open up the yard. Overall it's a great atmosphere to hang out and do some homework or relax with friends.
This place was voted readers' choice best deli in Wayne County by Metrotimes. It has a hometown feel with amazing food. I highly recommend this place—I fell in love with it the moment I walked in.
Campus Martius Beach Bar: A Sandy Oasis in the Heart of Detroit
Located at Campus Martius on Woodward Ave. Enjoy beer, wine, or signature cocktails all summer long. Happy Hour runs from 3:00-6:00 Monday-Friday.
Great Places That Serve Lunch and Dinner
Cadieux Cafe: Historic Belgian Bar
The Cadieux Cafe in Detroit is a historic Belgian restaurant that was a speakeasy during Prohibition, located at 4300 Cadieux Rd. It offers classic Belgian food that was highlighted on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on the Travel Channel. But aside from their great food and great selection of Belgian beers, this is also one of the few locations in the U.S. that offers feather bowling! Never heard of feather bowling? Well it's kind of a combination between bowling and bocce ball. If you're looking for something different, this is definitely the place to check out. They also have live music and stay open till 2:00 am daily.
Green Dot Stables: Amazing Food, Small Portions for a Great Price!
Everyone loves Green Dot, so naturally it gets packed. Expect a bit of a wait for a table, but their food is absolutely amazing so it's well worth the wait! They serve sliders, fries, soups and such, and everything is priced low with small portions, so you can mix up your meal and try lots of different things on the menu. They are located at 2200 West Lafayette.
Selden Standard: Locally-Sourced Small Plates
Located at 3921 2nd Ave. Selden Standard offers locally-sourced small plates, and some of the best craft cocktails in town. Set in an inviting, stylish space.
Traffic Jam: Home-Brewed Beer, Great Food, Perfect Place for Big Group Parties
This place has good food, and they brew their own beer. They're located at 511 West Canfield. I've gone there a few times and have loved the food every time I'm there. It's a large place that is really ideal if you want to get a big group together for a party.
Motor City Brew Works: Perfect for a Casual Summer Meal out on the Patio
This place is located across from the Traffic Jam. Motor City Brew Works is a great place to go on a nice summer day. There is a patio upstairs and downstairs near the bar they open all the windows and door so you get a nice summer breeze. Their pizza is great, and they have a really good menu and beer selection. This place is perfect for a casual meal.
Cliff Bells: Classy Historic Jazz Club, Perfect for Date Night
This historic jazz bar is located at 2030 Park Ave, right around the corner from Park Bar. There is only street parking so get here early if you want a good spot. An added perk is it's a little slice of Detroit history; during Prohibition it was a speakeasy. The building has been restored to its original glory, and it is also one of the oldest jazz clubs in Detroit. They often have a live band playing. This place is great for date night, and the food is excellent. Expect a $10 cover charge on the weekends when a band is playing. They also offer bottomless mimosas and bloody mary's for $10 on Sundays from 11am - 4pm.
The Whitney: Upscale Restaurant Perfect for Date Night or Lunch With Friends
The Whitney is a 115 year old, historic Detroit mansion with 52 rooms that has been converted into a restaurant.
This is a great place to go on a date! They have live bands playing regularly out on the patio in the summer, or up on the 3rd floor at the Ghost Bar. They also have a great Sunday brunch buffet.
"If you like antiques, good food and music, and great atmosphere, there's plenty of all that to go around," is what the Detroit News had to say about this place!
Cafe D'Mongo's is located at 1439 Griswold St. It's an interesting place that makes you feel like you've stepped back in time. Only open on Fridays between 6pm - 2am and Saturday's between 8:30pm - 1:30pm, this bar serves soul food, and has a great drink selection.
Sugar House Bar: Specialty Drinks, Swanky Atmosphere
The Sugar House bar, located at 2130 Michigan Ave near Slows BBQ, serves craft and classic cocktails to thirsty Detroiters. The menu changes seasonally, with daily drink and weekly punch specials. It also includes a selection of exceptional beers from around the world, as well as organic, natural wines, and small plates.
Grand Trunk Pub: Great Local Products and Locally Brewed Beer on Their Menu
What better way to support your local market?! They have a great local food and beer selection including products from Motor City Brewing Works beer, Avalon Bakery bread, meats and produce purchased at Eastern Market, and Faygo pop, all on the menu. This pub is located in the heart of downtown Detroit, one block from Campus Martius and Hart Plaza at 612 Woodward Ave. The Grand Trunk Pub building was known as the Grand Trunk Railroad's ticket station in the early 1900s, and still has much of the original architecture. This place has great food, friendly staff, and an awesome local beer selection.
The Bronx Bar: Rustic Bar, Really Laid Back With Good Drink Prices
This bar is really laid back; they have pool tables and a Juke Box that has a great selection of songs. Drinks are priced low, and their burgers are really good. This place is right around the corner from the Traffic Jam, and Motor City Brew Works. It's located at 4476 2nd Ave.
Rock City Eatery: Great Locally-Sourced Menu
Located at 11411 Joseph Campau in Hamtramco, Rock City Eatery has incredible food! Their menu items are locally sourced so they have an ever-changing menu, and they offer several vegan options. Everything I tried here was absolutely amazing.
Nancy Whiskey: Corktown's Neighborhood Irish Bar
Located at 2644 Harrison St. in Corktown, this neighborhood Irish bar encapsulates the vibe of Corktown—the oldest neighborhood in Detroit—where you can enjoy cheap drinks, live music, and good times.
Gigi's: Gay Bar With an Awesome Drag Show
Gigi's is a gay bar in Detroit at 16920 W. Warren Ave. I went here with a group of friends to see the drag show and I had a ball. There is a bar and dance floor upstairs, and a drag show downstairs. The show was great—so entertaining, really talented people, and a funny host. The shows are on Saturday nights and are so popular that reservations are recommended.
Bleu: Electronic Music Bar and Great Place to Dance
Since Techno was born out of Detroit, it's only fitting that Detroit would have a great Electronic music venue. Bleu is located on Woodward, between Park Ave and John R. St. I think it's typically a $10 cover charge unless there is a special guest DJ in which case the cover charge can go up from there. This place has a huge inside with plenty of space to dance. I'd recommend going when there is a guest DJ because a packed dance party here is a lot of fun.
City Club: Goth/Industrial/Alternative Club
City Club is an after hours alternative bar with a really cool atmosphere that is open till 4:30. It's located in the Leland Hotel building, and the door is an unmarked black door around the rear of the building.
The Magic Stick: Bowling Alley, Great Pizza, and Live Music
The Magic Stick is a great place to go because it offers so much. Downstairs you'll find a bowling alley, a bar, and some awesome pizza. Or check out their live concert schedule and head upstairs to see the band. They are centrally located at 4140 Woodward Av. and there is a secure parking lot right across the street, (usually $3 parking).
Nora: Contemporary Housewares, Pottery, Gift Items, Jewelry, and More
Nora sells an array of things like Scandinavian housewares, Japanese pottery, Detroit jewelry, and more. They have a variety of contemporary designed housewares, gift items and trinkets, and are located at 4240 Cass (at Canfield) in Detroit. Next time you are looking for a cool gift or housewares item you should check them out.
The Detroit Mercantile Co.: Unique Detroit Merchandise
The Detroit Mercantile Co. is a new retail experience in the historic Eastern Market at 3434 Russell St. They offer new and vintage goods from Detroit and beyond.
Pewabic Pottery: Historic Pottery Shop Where You Can Find Specialty Items
Founded in 1903, Pewabic Pottery specializes in a unique assortment of items, such as tiles, dinnerware, and vessels. This is a great place to find gifts, and they even offer custom design services. You can also go on a tour of their free on-site museum open seven days a week, or attend one of their ceramics education classes. They are located at 10125 East Jefferson Avenue, and easy to miss because there is no sign by the road, so look for the house set back in a gated parking lot.
City Bird: Detroit-Themed Merchandise, and Other Unique Products
City Bird is a store, studio, and gallery located at 460 W. Canfield St. between Cass and Second, in the Cass Corridor in Midtown. They sell Detroit-themed housewares, accessories, and paper goods as well as work by hundreds of other artists and designers from Detroit and other Rust Belt cities.
John King Books: Four Stories of Rare and Used Books
This place is pretty sweet. It's four stories of used and rare books, located at 901 W. Lafayette Blvd. It's unlike any bookstore I've ever been to. They have books ranging in topics such as Michigan history, poetry, World War II, psychology, film, travel, business, humor, Sociology, education, law, and so on. Inside it's very rustic. There are rows and rows of tall metal shelves with thousands of books. You could just get lost in here for hours. And they always have sales associates walking around that can help you if your looking for something specific.
Showtime: Vintage "Rock Star Clothing"
Showtime is a vintage clothing store located at 5708 Woodward Ave. near the DIA in the Wayne State Campus area. It caters to more of the punk rock crowd offering "Rock Star Clothing." I've never been in here before, but one of my friends has and she says it's really cool. Apparently, the guy who owns the place is really nice and informative. He knows a lot about Detroit and can tell you about cool places to check out, or upcoming shows, things like that.
Cork Town Race, St. Patricks Day Parade, and an Overall Drunken Good Time
Every Sunday before St. Patricks day, Cork town has a race down Michigan Ave. followed by a parade, which then inevitably turns into a bar crawl. :)
Winter Blast: This Is a Fun Family Event, Bring the Kids!
At the winter blast you can roast marshmallows, have a snowball fight with the kids, check out ice sculptures, ice skating, and so much more. There are indoor heated tents if you want to get away from the cold, and inside you can typically find live entertainment, food, and vendors. There were also pony rides, a Merry-Go-Round, and fun house for the kids. Typically this event falls mid-February every year.
Noel Night: Free Winter Event in Detroit's Cultural Center
During the first weekend of December, over 45 institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Science Center, the Detroit Historical Museum, and more open their doors to the public free of charge for an "open house." Activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday shopping, family craft activities, and performances by over 70 area music, theatre, and dance groups.
Also, right behind the Detroit Institute of Arts, the College for Creative Studies opens its doors to the public for an arts and crafts fair, where students and alumni sell their work. This is seriously a great place to go to find awesome unique, handmade Christmas gifts. You can find, among other things, pottery, paintings, photography, knitting work, as well as lots of different kinds of craft work. Support some local artists, and pick up some amazing gifts!
Dally in the Ally: Music and Art Festival
Every September on the first Saturday after Labor Day, Dally in the Ally opens up in Detroit on Forest and 2nd Ave. In addition to its four stages of entertainment, Dally in the Alley has art vendors, food, weird acts, and beer.
More Cool Places to Go in Detroit
Sugar Hill Clay Studio
Sugar Hill Clay is a community ceramic studio located at the recently renovated 71 Garfield Building in the Midtown Detroit, Sugar Hill Arts District. They offer classes, workshops, open studio time, private studio rental, and a sales gallery. Classes are geared for students of all ages, skill sets, and abilities.
Red Bull House of Art: Art Shows Once a Month With Free Drinks
Red Bull sponsors local artists and provides them with studio space and supplies for a month, and then opens their doors for a great gallery show. They sponsor new artists every month and the shows provide you with free drinks and amazing art. This gallery is located in Eastern Market at 1551 Winder.
Wednesday and Friday Night at the Movies: Movie Night at New Center Park
New Center Park is located on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and West Grand Boulevard across from the Fisher Building, and has lots of fun stuff going on in the summer. They often have live bands playing, and Wednesday and Friday nights are Movie Night In The Park. Food and beverages are available for purchase at 8pm, and showtime is 9:30pm. Check out their site for the full list of movies, and other things happening at New Center Park.
Detroit Derby Girls: Roller Derby at the Masonic Temple
If you're looking for something totally different, go to a Roller Derby. This is one more of those things that I haven't been to yet, but it's on my list of things to do. Tickets are $15 - $20 (plus a $3.60 service fee if purchased online). To avoid the service fee, you can purchase tickets at any Ticketmaster location, including Marshall Field's.
The Dirty Show: Erotic Art Show, Including Live Performances
I don't even know what to say about the Dirty Show, it's pretty self explanatory. :) I went here a few years ago with a friend, and it was by far the most interesting art exhibit I've ever been to. It's located in Eastern Market at Bert's Warehouse Theater, at 2739 Russell St. Detroit, MI 48207.
It's awesome to go to Eastern Market early in the morning on a Saturday to walk around, get some breakfast, and buy some plants or produce. I also like to check out all the cool nearby shops. There are two really nice antique shops in the area that I like to look around in when I'm there. I've only gone in the summer, but I'm pretty sure they're open year round.
Detroit Fly House
Detroit's one and only "circus school" is located near Eastern Market in Detroit, and I personally think this is one of the coolest things on my list. They offer eight-week classes for $165, and they seem to book up way in advance, so if you're interested, get on it.
If you haven't heard of the Dequindre Cut yet, you're missing out. The Dequindre Cut connects the riverfront to Eastern Market and many other residential neighborhoods. Plans are underway for phase II of the Dequindre Cut, which would extend the pathway north from Gratiot Avenue to Mack Avenue. It's a walking and biking path, and you can even rent bikes at the riverfront if you want. The path was formerly a railroad line and it runs below street level.
Places to Stay
The Inn at 97 Winder
This place looks amazing. I just happened to stroll by it on my search for other Bed and Breakfasts in Detroit. It is in a great location—you can see Comerica Park and Ford Field from their front porch. This is truly a Detroit gem! The mansion was built in 1876 and it has been restored to "reflect the luxurious glamour of its past." Every room is unique, and most rooms have a fireplace.
Have you stayed here? I'd love to hear about your experience, leave me a comment and let me know.
The Inn on Ferry Street
This B&B is located within walking distance to the DIA. They also offer special package deals like The "Dining in the D" package which includes a one night stay at the Inn, shuttle transportation to the Whitney for a four course meal for two, and a bottle of house wine, all tip included starting at $349.00. I have friends who have stayed here and they loved it.
Hostel in Corktown: First Detroit Hostel in 15 Years
Emily Doerr has been getting a lot of support from the community in opening a hostel in Detroit. Local people have signed up as ambassadors, educating guests on different aspects of the city depending on their interests and volunteering to show them around. Rates range from $27 to $52 a night.
Support Our City
Show your support by joining organizations that help make Detroit a stronger city.
Detroit Riverfront is a great organization you can become a part of by becoming a member and donating annually. Your membership dollars go directly towards the RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut operations maintenance and security of the properties. You can also buy a brick to be added to the riverfront with your own personal engraving on it, which makes for a great gift.
Let me know what you think and if this has been helpful information. I plan on adding to the list, so let me know if you have any suggestions.