View the best collection of art in America, indulge in delicious veggie food, shop for local produce, or just relax on a beach in the middle of a city. There are so many things to do in Detroit, you’ll want to stay in the Motor City for as long as possible.
Here’s my guide to Detroit in a weekend!
When to go to Detroit
The weather in Detroit is at its mildest during the Spring and Autumn months. The temperature stays at a pleasant 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer is my favorite time to visit. During the months of June-August there are so many unique things to do in Detroit. This is peak tourist time and there are countless festivals, outdoor art installations, yummy food trucks, and other summer activities.
Like most midwest destinations, Detroit experiences the harshest weather conditions between December and March. Temperatures drop significantly and the city experiences high rain and snowfall. However, if you’re a car enthusiast there is a large Auto Show in January that draws a sizeable crowd.
Shop the Eastern Market
The Eastern Market is one of the most impressive farmers markets I have ever been to. The market is open on Saturdays and Tuesdays, with Saturday being the biggest day for vendors. There are several large buildings that hold countless vendors every week.
You can find everything from local produce to homemade soaps to street fashion. As a self-proclaimed gold medalist in people-watching I can say there is never a shortage of subjects at the Eastern Market.
Come early in the day and bring your reusable grocery bags.
Visit the Heidelberg Project
This urban art installation encompasses the resilience of the city and the spirit of its citizens. The founder Tyree Guyton has taken several city blocks and decorated the houses, trees, and sidewalks. The mission of the project is “Using art to provoke thought, promote discussion, inspire action and heal communities.” The Heidelberg project has taken one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Detroit and turned it into a bright and significant work of art.
See the city on the People Mover
The People Mover is a light rail that takes you in a loop around Detroit’s central business district. There are 13 stops at various hotels, attractions, and businesses. The People Mover is a novelty. I have never found a need for it as actual transportation. But it’s fun, cheap, and you can see a lot of the city in a short amount of time.
The People Mover costs 75 cents and takes you all around the city.
Eat Vegan Food
Detroit has a seriously impressive vegan food scene. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner — Detroit has some delicious plant-based options. Here are some of my favorites:
Seva: Attached to the Center for Contemporary Art and the food itself is a work of art. Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan and they have a great selection of local beers and ciders.
Detroit Vegan Soul: The name says it all — this is classic soul food served up plant-based. You really can’t go wrong.
Shimmy Shack: Vegan burgers, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes, oh my. This little food truck can be a little hard to track down but we got lucky and it was only a block away from our accommodation during our stay.
Pie-Sci: The vegan pizza at Pie-Sci will knock your socks off. Load it up with veggies and drizzle it with Vegenaise if you’re feeling crazy. We got ours cheeseless but they do offer vegan cheese for a couple bucks extra.
Treat Dreams: WOW this vegan ice cream seriously hit the spot. They offered several flavors made from rice or coconut milk. My boyfriend can vouch for the regular ice cream as well. ****I just checked out the website and there’s a flavor made with beets called Schrute Farms so Treat Dreams just gained so much respect from this Office fanatic.
Russell Street Deli: Features a whole section of the menu dedicated to us veggies. I had the vegan burger and I was extremely impressed. They don’t just throw a Boca burger on a bun and call it a day. Their burgers look house made and have lots of flavor. They also offer several vegan soups to eat in the restaurant or take home.
Check out the art at the DIA
Okay so we never actually made it into the Detroit Institute of Art on our last visit. The DIA is closed on Mondays. But this museum tops off just about every list of top things to do in Detroit. It is considered to be one of the best art collections in the United States.
Cross Canada off your bucket list
Okay this one is a little bit out there but did you know that Detroit is actually north of Canada? And you can just cross a bridge to hop on over to Windsor. I would recommend actually spending time in Canada because it’s an awesome country. If you just want to say you’ve been to Canada you can have dinner in Windsor and be back in Detroit in time to watch the sun set.
Soak up the sun at Campus Martius
The first-ever winner of the International Urban Land Institute Urban Open Space Award (IULIUOSA???). Located directly downtown, this park serves at a meeting space for the whole city. There’s a fountain, green space, and even a sandy ‘beach’ area. It even turns into an ice skating rink in the winter.
Ever been to a beach bar in the middle of a city?
Stroll along the Detroit Riverfront
This is one of my favorite things to do in Detroit. The riverfront is always hip and happening (I’m an 80 year old in a 21 year old’s body it’s fine). But seriously, this area of Detroit is so full of life. There’s always tons of people walking, jogging, biking, and rollerblading down the path. It’s a great way to get outside and interact with local Detroit-ians. There are fountains for kids to play in, classic concessions food, and a carousel.
Escape the city life at Belle Isle
Detroit has its own island how cool is that? Belle Isle is located in the middle of the Detroit River and is a refreshing break from the downtown city scene. With its own beach, aquarium, and conservatory you can easily spend a few hours exploring the island. All of these activities are completely free, however there is a minimal fee to visit Belle Isle by car. The fee is $11 for the entire year and gets you into all state parks in Michigan.
Bonus: Ride the Slow Roll
The Slow Roll takes place on Monday nights throughout the summer. If you happen to extend your weekend to a Monday make sure you check this event out. It’s a bike ride throughout the city with thousands of participants each week.
The Slow Roll is one of the coolest things to do in Detroit. People go all out for this. Bikes are decked out with lights, reflectors, and speaker systems. It is definitely mostly locals who participate and they are often there every week. There’s also a little street festival at the end of the ride with some food and local vendors.
Plan Your Trip Around Seasonal Festivities
Detroit has a lot of really unique events to keep locals and tourists entertained. Make sure you include one of these awesome events to make your visit even better.
January: North American International Auto Show
February: Winter Blast Festival
May: Movement EDM Festival
August: Woodward Dream Cruise classic car cruising
September: Cider mills open for the season
October: Fall Beer Festival
November: Urban Organic Fest
Where to stay
I’m lucky enough to have family in the city that let me crash on their couch. If you can’t find a couch to crash on or you prefer a real bed Detroit has some great lodging options.
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