Sightseeing in Detroit

Detroit Michigan is now best known as the automotive center of America but it used to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and was the fourth most populous city in the country in its heyday in the 1950s. While Detroit currently flounders behind it’s once glory days it is making a resurgence as a tourist destination and, believe it or not, there are a lot of things to see and do in the Detroit area.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts was founded in 1885 and has recently undergone a major renovation. With 600,000 square feet and more than 100 galleries the DIA is one of the country’s largest and most significant museums. The collections cover human creativity from prehistory through the 21st century. The Detroit Institute of Arts prides itself on the diversity represented which includes African, Asian, Native American, Oceanic, Islamic, and Ancient art.

Detroit Historical Museum

The Detroit Historical Museum was established in 1921 the collection floundered a bit in the beginning but in the late 1940s it began to gain some significance among other institutions with its constantly changing exhibits, guided tours, special events and educational outreach programs. In 1951 a new museum was dedicated and became a staple of culture in the region. In 2006 the museum closed for a major renovation and reopened later the same year. The Detroit Historical Museum showcases more than 300 years of the region’s history so it’s the best place to learn about the area.

Motown Historical Museum

The Motown Historical Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area. Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards the museum seeks to preserve the legacy created by the famed Motown Record Corporation. The story of Motown is chronicled from its earliest roots to its impact on today’s modern music. Motown’s history from its earliest days in 1959 to its ground breaking success as it skyrocketed to the largest independent record company in the world in the 1970’s is depicted in great detail with artifacts from the era and interactive experiences for visitors.

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory/ Belle Isle Conservatory

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory or Belle Isle Conservatory covers 13 acres on Belle Isle and features the nation’s oldest conservatory and botanical gardens. The gardens contain perennial and annual flower beds, a rose garden, lily pond, and rare flora including one of the largest municipally owned collections of orchids in the country, including the more than 600 donated by Anna Scripps Whitcomb herself.  The park is free to the public and open every day of the year so add this location to your itinerary.

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit is a non-collecting institution that looks to present only the most modern art movements of the region. The first MOCAD exhibition opened in October 2006 and featured nine different artists. Since then only a few exhibits have had the distinction of belonging to MOCAD with a new one just recently opened to the public. The renovated auto dealership space retains its open industrial feel and seems more than appropriate to house the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.

The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford is a museum unlike any other. There is a huge diversity of exhibits, demonstrations, programs and even some reenactments. There are five different areas to explore; Greenfield Village is an exploration of the past, Henry Ford Museum showcases industrial progress, Ford Rouge Factory Tour looks into American manufacturing, Benson Ford Research Center houses unique pieces that explore American history, and the IMAX Theater has a rotating series of productions for guests.

Eastern Market

Since 1841 Detroit’s Eastern Market has been bringing fresh food to the market. With more than 43 acres of fresh fruits, vegetables, meet products, herbs, spices, nuts, candies, condiments and more to explore the market can keep you busy for hours. The market is open six days a week, (closed on Sunday) and usually packed with visitors looking for the best deals on the freshest produce available. Not only a great stop for locals preparing meals but also a wonderful way for tourists to sample the local fare.


Greektown is considered to be one of the most active parts of Detroit and is often called the downtown. The area is filled with energy and packed with local merchants and restaurants as well as a casino and hotel. There’s really no end to the exciting things you can do in Greektown which makes it the perfect place to spend an evening and night or to stay for your entire vacation.

Marshall Fredericks’ Spirit of Detroit

The Spirit of Detroit by Marshall Fredericks was built in the 1950’s and features a monument with a bronze statue of a seated figure holding a bronze sphere with rays shooting out from it in his left hand and a family in his right. At the time of its construction this was the largest cast bronze statue since the renaissance. The statue was actually never officially named but it has adopted part of the inscription behind it to inspire the title Spirit of Detroit. Since its unveiling the statue has been used as a representation of the city in a huge variety of different ways.

Joe Louis Monument-cletch382Creative Commons License Photo credit: cletch

Joe Louis Monument

Joe Louis Memorial

The Joe Louis Memorial in Detroit was dedicated in 1986 to honor the world heavyweight boxing champion who reigned from 1937 to 1949. Known as the Brown Bomber, Louis helped re-establish boxing as a reputable sport and gave Detroit something to cheer during these tough times. The 24 foot long arm weights 8,000 lbs and is located at Jefferson Avenue at Woodward.

Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project was started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton and his grandfather and former wife. The Detroit riots inspired him to transform the world around him and began cleaning up the vacant lots around the city and transforming them into gigantic works of art. Even though the city has demolished parts of the Heidelberg Project in 1991 and then again in 1999 the project continues to thrive and grow with the help of local artisans. This huge open air art environment turns ordinary every day objects and even trash into works of art that not only inspire and transform the local environment but also reach out to the world at large.