15 Best Things to Do in Downtown Detroit, MI

Downtown Detroit
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Detroit in Wayne County is one of the United States’ top tourist destinations.

Teeming with diverse cultures, the city rivals New York City and Los Angeles as urban vacation hotspots.

The largest city in Michigan, Detroit, is sectioned into several areas.

Some of its most prominent ones are Downtown and Midtown Detroit.

Downtown Detroit is the closest part of the city to the Detroit River, which is what divides the city from Canada’s Windsor City.

As it is situated close to the river and Canada, Downtown Detroit is home to some of the best tourist destinations in the city.

To begin your planning, here are the 15 best things to do in Downtown Detroit:

Go on an Urban Exploration at Campus Martius Park

Daytime view of Campus Martius Park
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Campus Martius Park is easily one of the most famous urban parks in Michigan.

It’s home to a wide variety of multicultural activities and events in Detroit.

The park is one of Detroit’s urban hubs where various establishments and restaurants congregate.

You’ll have fun walking around with friends and family while you explore the many things to do here.

Man-made beach at Campus Martius Park
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The layout of Campus Martius Park is reminiscent of the urban areas in New York City.

Sprawling with large buildings, the park also features water fountains, monuments, and green spaces.

Best of all, it features a man-made beach called The Beach.

Ice skating rink at Campus Martius Park
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Here, lots of live music and festive activities happen.

There’s also The Rink, which is Michigan’s premier public ice skating rink.

With so many activities to do, Campus Martius Park is a can’t-miss in your Detroit itinerary.

You can locate it along Woodward Avenue.

A restaurant at Campus Martius Park
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Catch a Game of Baseball at Comerica Park

Exterior of Comerica Park
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Comerica Park is another Detroit icon, located along Woodward Avenue, a short walk from Campus Martius Park.

Comerica Park is a baseball stadium and home to the Detroit Tigers.

If you’re a big baseball fan, watching the Tigers play in their hometown is a must.

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, simply marveling at this massive stadium is worth the trip.

Aerial view of Comerica Park
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There are also various large-scale events that happen in Comerica Park.

It’s the prime event space for high-ticket concerts in Michigan.

Some iconic bands have graced this stadium over the years, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Green Day, Bon Jovi, and so much more.

Baseball game at Comerica Park
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See the Art and Lightwork at Beacon Park

Beacon Park is probably one of the prettiest areas in Downtown Detroit, especially during the Christmas season.

What makes this park unique compared to the many parks in Detroit is its art installations that focus on the use of light effects.

At night, many of its large installations come in different shapes and sizes, colorfully lighting up the area.

There’s also a renowned restaurant here that offers scenic views of the park through their roof deck area.

There are also several rotating markets and events at Beacon Park, so there’s plenty of reason to go.

You can visit this Instagram-worthy area along Grand River Avenue.

Watch a Concert at the Fox Theater

Exterior of the Fox Theater
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The Fox Theater is another landmark and tourist attraction located along Woodward Avenue.

With an auditorium over 100 feet high and filled with thousands of orchestra-level seats, it’s one of Michigan’s architectural wonders and easily one of the best-looking theaters in the entire country.

The interior of this theater is a sight to behold.

It features brass doors and various fixtures and ornaments inspired by Asia, with Egyptian, Indian, and East Asian accents.

Grand interior of the Fox Theater
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However, its massive six-story-high grand lobby is the main attraction.

It’s a beautiful sight that perfectly complements the many masterpieces performed in this theater.

Be sure to check if there are any concerts and other live performances happening at the Fox Theater when you visit Detroit.

A concert in the Fox Theater
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Go for a Jog along Detroit Riverwalk

Daytime view of Detroit Riverwalk
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Going to Downtown Detroit is not complete without sighting the gorgeous Detroit River, as well as Canada’s Windsor City that's viewable from Detroit Riverwalk.

There are a lot of places where you can start, but generally, the best place to begin is at Cullen Plaza.

From the plaza, you can walk or cycle along Detroit Riverwalk and appreciate the nice breeze and view of the river.

Paved pathway of Detroit Riverwalk
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You’ll see many interesting things along the way as Detroit Riverwalk passes by places such as the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, Mt. Elliott Park, and the city’s Outdoor Adventure Center.

Detroit Riverwalk is an amazing place to relax, exercise, or have a riverside urban adventure.

You can access its starting point (Cullen Plaza) at 1340 Atwater Street.

People at Detroit Riverwalk
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Splurge on Food at Cadillac Square’s Food Truck Rally

Much like the country’s premier urban cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, Detroit is home to a rich food truck culture.

Cadillac Square is perhaps the best place in Downtown Detroit to find a flurry of food trucks specializing in various cuisines.

During the latter months of the year, this is where Michigan hosts its largest food truck rally, featuring a rotating roster of food trucks daily.

During Christmas, Cadillac Square is also known for the Cadillac Lodge, a heated tent for family activities such as mini-games, shopping, and dining.

Cadillac Square is always evolving depending on the time of the year.

Pay a visit to its convenient location on the eastern side of Campus Martius Park, along Woodward Avenue.

Observe Detroit’s Skyline at the General Motors Renaissance Center

Exterior of the General Motors Renaissance Center
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As you walk along Detroit Riverwalk, you may eventually see massive riverfront skyscrapers all clustered together.

This iconic area is the General Motors Renaissance Center.

Comprising several buildings, General Motors Renaissance Center is like a mini city with a hotel (Detroit Marriott), shopping center, and plaza.

It has Detroit’s tallest building, Detroit Marriott, standing 73 stories high.

Main entrance to the General Motors Renaissance Center
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On the 73rd floor lies an observation area where you can see the vast beauty of Detroit and even see neighboring Canada.

Since it’s owned by General Motors, there’s also a car showroom inside that features a big fish tank.

Whether you’re checking in at its hotel or simply going there to shop, entering this architectural wonder is a bucket list in any Detroit itinerary.

General Motors Renaissance Center is located at 300 Altwater Street.

Interior of the General Motors Renaissance Center
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Marvel at the Beauty of the Guardian Building

Exterior of the Guardian Building
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Speaking of skyscrapers, there’s another architectural wonder that you can’t miss out on in Downtown Detroit.

Both a historical landmark and architectural masterpiece, the Guardian Building’s 1920s vintage facade makes it seem out of place amid the city’s modern buildings.

Its exterior boasts tangerine-colored bricks and terra-cotta on its upper levels.

Inside is where the main beauty of the building lies.

It features stained glasses, murals, sculptures, and tilework by over 40 artisans.

Colorful interior of the Guardian Building
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Entering the Guardian Building is free.

Inside, you can find several retail shops and its own gift shop.

Smaller events are also held here.

You can find the Guardian Building at 500 Griswold Street.

Grand interior of the Guardian Building
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Have a Scrumptious Brunch at Dime Store

Dime Store is one of the most famous restaurants in Downtown Detroit known for its scratch-made breakfast and brunch menu.

The restaurant also has a wide selection of wine and cocktails if you’re planning to go at night.

Some of their bestsellers include the braised beef and asparagus omelet, a spicy rice bowl made from shaved ribeye steaks and various brunch hashes.

If you’re visiting Dime Store, just be sure to plan accordingly as the place is quite small and both locals and tourists flock here during peak hours.

Dime Store is located at 719 Griswold Street.

Participate in Various Festivities at the Hart Plaza

The grounds of Hart Plaza
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Hart Plaza is another riverfront area that deserves its own recognition because of its popularity.

Its popularity is due to the festivities being held here, along with the city icon, the Dodge Fountain.

The Dodge Fountain is a must-see for design enthusiasts because of its intricacy and futuristic construction.

Throughout the year, Hart Plaza has become a hotbed of multicultural festivals.

Jazz festival at Hart Plaza
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Some examples are the Detroit China Festival, African World Festival, and the Arab and Chaldean Festivals.

However, its most iconic events are the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and Detroit International Jazz Festival.

If you’re looking to schedule your trip during one of these festivities, Hart Plaza is a no-brainer inclusion in your Detroit adventure.

Visit the International Memorial to the Underground Railroad

View of the International Memorial at the Underground Railroad
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Along the Detroit River lies an interesting historical monument called the International Memorial to the Underground Railroad.

The Detroit River served as a gateway for thousands of African Americans trying to escape to Canada during the United States’ era of slavery.

This is how an underground terminal, famously called Midnight, was formed in Detroit.

Groups advocating against slavery largely operated it for the welfare of African Americans.

The International Memorial to the Underground Railroad overlooking the river
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Now, the monument beautifully depicts African Americans looking over the river, yearning to cross to Canada.

If your itinerary includes the Detroit Riverwalk, try to stop by and read the inscription on this monument, a vital part of US history.

It’s found by the riverfront of Hart Plaza.

Buy a Sweet Snack at Astoria Pastry Shop

When you’re done having a delicious meal at whatever restaurant you fancy, you can head over to Astoria Pastry Shop, one of the best local dessert stores in Detroit.

They have a wide selection of pastries that’ll make you rethink your budget.

They have loads of delicious donuts, cakes, puff pastries, and tarts.

The crowd favorites are tiramisu, ice cream, and assorted pies.

Photos here will make for a great Detroit souvenir, too.

It only has two branches, the other being in Midtown Detroit.

You can visit Astoria Pastry Shop along Monroe Street.

Take a Walk with Your Dog at Grand Circus Park

Street sign of Grand Circus Park
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Grand Circus Park is more like your typical recreation park for relaxation and exercise.

The park has a growing residential community, so it’s a lively place where many people exercise, relax, or walk their pets.

It’s one of the best dog parks in Detroit.

It has well-maintained grass and loads of benches, and it’s generally one of the cleanest areas in the city.

Aerial view of Grand Circus Park
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It’s also home to street performances, live music, and literary readings.

Still, the best feature of Grand Circus Park is the peace it gives you amid the busy streets and attractions that surround it.

You can access the park along Woodward Avenue, just across Comerica Park.

Watch a Performance at the Detroit Opera House

Entrance to the Detroit Opera House
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Just a short walk away from Grand Circus Park lies the Detroit Opera House.

This is the best opera house in Michigan where enthusiasts can enjoy a performance while marveling at its beautiful architecture.

There are events held here throughout each month, so you won’t have any trouble seeing a performance here no matter when you go.

Lots of ballet and musical performances happen at the Detroit Opera House.

It’s also home to the Michigan Opera Theater.

Exterior of the Detroit Opera House
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The interiors of the opera house are sure to amaze you the way Fox Theater does.

It’s an ornate building full of intricate details, a perfect venue for memorable photos.

There are many restaurants nearby if you just want to observe the Detroit Opera House from afar.

You can visit it along Broadway Street adjacent to Grand Circus Park.

Take Scenic Photos of the Milliken Lighthouse

Scenic view of the Milliken Lighthouse
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The Milliken State Park Lighthouse is located inside William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, another riverfront area just beside Cullen Plaza.

While the Milliken Lighthouse’s interiors aren’t open to the public, viewing this majestic structure along the waterfront of Detroit River is a wonderful experience.

It’s located by the park’s harbor area, making the surrounding areas of the lighthouse perfect for relaxation.

Aerial view of Milliken Lighthouse
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It’s full of benches, and its views are some of the best along the Detroit Riverwalk.

If you’re into fishing, there are also fishing docks near the lighthouse.

Detroit River is already beautiful on its own, but it has a certain charm when its lighthouse is included in the picture.

View of the waters from Milliken Lighthouse
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Final Thoughts

Downtown Detroit has a lot to offer, whether you’re looking to explore or relax in Motor City.

Its urban life is teeming with all sorts of interesting things to do, be it splurging on food, learning history, or watching performances.

If you time your trip right, you can spend days just watching your favorite game or concert.

It’s packed full of festivities throughout the year!

Before visiting, make sure your itinerary is full of the best things to do in Downtown Detroit.

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