From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Detroit is the largest and most populous city in Michigan, with over 670,000 people calling the city home, and a whopping 4.3 million people belonging to the broader metropolitan area. Known as a major cultural center, there’s no denying that this city has strongly influenced areas including music, architecture, art, and design.
With its location on the Detroit River, numerous parks and walking trails, and even the stunning Belle Isle located within its boundaries, Detroit is a region combining a bustling, modern city with the stunning scenery that Mother Nature has to offer.
Ready to discover the best of this region? Put your hands up for Detroit. You’ll love this city!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Detroit and its surrounding area are home to multiple state parks and national parks, helping you to get back to nature and leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city – even if only for a couple of hours. Here are our top picks within the region.
Located on the picturesque Detroit River in Downtown Detroit is the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, a must-visit while you’re in the region. This 31-acre green oasis features a 63-foot light tower, as well as covered picnic areas, shoreline fishing, a 52-slip harbor, walking and biking paths, and more.
With its wooded terrain and low rolling hills, Maybury State Park is the perfect place for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and in winter, cross-country skiing. It’s just over a half-hour’s drive from the city center too, making it a quick escape for those seeking the solitude of nature.
Travel a little further north-west and you’ll find the Island Lake State Recreation Area, a sprawling 4,000-acre park with meadows, woodlands, and perhaps what it is most famous for, a hot air balloon launch point. It’s the only hot air balloon port in the state park system, so why not take a ride up high in the sky and enjoy the scenery from above?
A 35-minute drive north of Detroit will take you to Bald Mountain State Recreation Area, a 4,637-acre park that can be explored via foot or bike in the warmer months, and via skis, snowmobiles, and sleds in the winter. You can also enjoy several fishing lakes, two trout streams, and a sandy swimming beach.
Named for its (you guessed it) seven on-site lakes, this state park is under an hour’s drive north of Detroit and offers recreational activities like fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, bicycling, and more. If you’re a keen angler, keep an eye out for bluegill, bass, pike, tiger muskie, and catfish.
One of the best ways to truly experience Detroit is by foot, so luckily, there are plenty of hiking trails in or near the city. These are some of our favorites!
Situated in the stunning Belle Isle, the Blue Heron Lagoon Trail loops around Blue Heron Lagoon and stretches for 2.2 scenic miles. Because the trail is flat, it’s perfect for hikers of all levels, plus you can even bring your dog along – as long as they’re leashed. Observe the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, as well as water views and lush greenery.
With the Rouge Gateway Trail, you actually get two popular trails in one: the 2-mile Rouge River Gateway Greenway and the 17.5-mile Hines Park Trail. The trail runs through the University, as well as popular attractions such as Henry Ford Estate, the Rouge River, Hines Park, Nankin Mills, and more.
It’s not your average, tree-lined trail, but this is what makes the Dequindre Cut so unique. Get a true taste of the Detroit art scene by taking a meander on this below-grade pathway, formerly a Grand Trunk Western Railroad line, located on the east side of Detroit. You see, much of it has been converted to a greenway which is filled with intriguing street art.
Whether you’re craving comfort food, fast food, or a fine dining experience, this area has it all. Ready to satisfy those post-hike cravings?
With the motto “chic yet approachable, historic while tastefully modern”, The Apparatus Room prides itself on bridging the old and the new. This popular restaurant offers a tantalizing menu featuring iconic New American cuisine rooted in Midwestern ingredients. Don’t miss their expertly mixed cocktails, as well as the A-Room Burger and Crispy Fried Cauliflower.
Green Dot Stables is a horse themed tavern famous for its offering of over 20 types of gourmet mini-burgers. Prices are affordable but that doesn’t mean this is your average food. From truffle and herb fries to sliders celebrating cuisines such as Korean, Jamaican, Cuban, and more – there’s something for everyone at this hip joint.
Fancy some Afro-Caribbean Cuisine? Known as one of Detroit’s best up-and-coming restaurants, Yum Village has a story like no other. What began as pop-up with the intention of providing a shared kitchen space for up-and-coming chefs, turned into a popular food truck, before evolving into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. Don’t miss their lemon pepper Jerk Chicken, as well as their unique events.
Located in the heart of Detroit is Table No 2, a fine dining restaurant which uses local and seasonal ingredients from farmer’s markets. They offer “the best Sunday brunch in town, with a menu including pecan praline pancakes, stuffed bananas foster French toast, and southern fried chicken and waffles, among others.
What sets Capers Steakhouse apart from the rest? At this restaurant, you’re encouraged to build your own meal, where you only get as much or as little as you wish. They’ve been an east side tradition since opening in 1982 and their steaks are unrivalled and cooked-to-order. If steak isn’t quote your thing though, you don’t have to miss out. They also serve burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Mudgie’s is so good it hurts! Expect an extensive selection of sandwiches, soups, and salads; my favorite menu item is the Ivey sandwich featuring house-made spinach spread, Havarti cheese, avocado, sunflower sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and red onion on multi-grain bread, served open-faced. Mudgie’s also has a delicious brunch menu, so be sure to check it out on Sundays. In short, I like Mudgie’s because they use really fresh ingredients and do a great job at making sure the vegetarian options don’t lack on flavors.
El Barzon is located in a somewhat unsuspecting neighborhood, but when you're sitting on their patio it feels like you’ve been transported to another land. Not only is El Barzon one of my favorite restaurants, their outdoor seating has been voted best in Detroit many times over. There's a lovely fountain and the space is actually covered, giving it an “indoors while being outdoors” feel. This is nice if the weather isn’t perfect; you can still enjoy. Other perks: The service is always top notch and so are the signature margaritas.
After feasting and enjoying all that nature has to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Detroit’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking for some fun activities to do with children? Look no further! The following attractions are sure to satisfy even the smallest humans for hours on end.
“Put yourself in the place of the movers and shakers who blazed the trail to where we stand today. And in doing so, discover your own path.” The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is a powerful place and certainly one you and your family will feel inspired by. Celebrate the achievements of Rosa Parks, the Wright brothers, Buckminster Fuller, and more.
There’s nothing like a visit to the local zoo to keep family members of all ages entertained. The Detroit Zoo is home to a wide range of fascinating animals, more than 2,100 in fact, as well as attractions such as a 4-D Theater, Tauber family railroad, simulator ride, and more. Plus, the new 33,000-square-foot Polk Penguin Conservation Center is the largest facility for penguins in the world!
Whether it’s date-night or you simply find yourself wandering around the city long after the sun has gone down – here are our top activities to enjoy in Detroit during the darker hours.
Explore Detroit’s most popular Casino and enjoy the lights, sounds, and excitement of this after-dark atmosphere. Along with regular events, you can also enjoy a wide range of dining options and bars at Greektown Casino, including Prism Steakhouse, Noodle Art, Bistro 555, Monroe Market, Stack’d, and more.
John Clifford Bell played a huge role in Detroit’s entertainment industry, particularly during Prohibition, opening one speakeasy after another. Now, this jazz club bears his name and a similar passion for entertaining locals and visitors with great jazz tunes, delectable food, and of course, just about any alcoholic beverage you desire. Catch an evening show for an unforgettable night.
Detroit is full of fun and interesting attractions, including those that cost just a few dollars for you to enjoy. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy the city “on the cheap”.
Fancy a wander around one of the most intriguing art galleries in the city? At the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), you can enjoy countless exhibits, as well as browse the collection of more than 65,000 artworks that date from the earliest civilizations to the present. The DIA has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the United States, so you won’t want to miss it!
At just 75 cents per fare, the Detroit People Mover isn’t just an expensive way to move around the city, but a fun way to see all that the downtown Business District has to offer, from an elevated track. The shuttle-style service has 13 People Mover stations, which place you steps away from sporting and entertainment venues, restaurants, lodging and landmarks.
With a million used and rare books in stock, John K King Books is one place that book lovers just can’t miss. Of course, it’s completely free to browse and spend the afternoon here getting lost among old books (all four floors of them!) and if you find a title you love, why not treat yourself to a purchase?
By now, you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Detroit has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
The Woodhouse Day Spa was voted America's Favorite Day Spa for the last 5 years, so it’s a go-to for locals and travelers alike. It’s located on charming Merchants Row, in the heart of beautiful Campus Martius and offers over 70 spa treatments to choose from, helping you to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate.
In the Motor City Casino and Hotel, you’ll find one of the best spas on offer in Detroit, D Tour. Their 13,000-square-foot facility features dedicated lounges that include thermal whirlpools, large steam rooms, dry saunas, rain shower facilities, and so much more. As they say, treat yourself!
Detroit is also home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region. It’s time to get physical!
Want to lead a more intentional and less stressed life? The Detroit Yoga Lab will help you do just that, especially with their popular yoga classes which teach skillful sequences and functional alignment to increase strength and flexibility. Their studios are impeccably designed, and the instructors are intuitive and deeply educated about the practice of yoga.
With the motto “train, sweat, restore”, you know you’re in for the workout of your lifetime at Life Cycle Delight. This gym is dedicated to the transformation of mind, body and spirit through group fitness classes, community outreach, bike safety awareness initiatives, and social cycling events throughout Detroit.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Detroit without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this large city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Founded in the 1820’s, Ann Arbor is a delightful place just 43 miles west of Detroit. While it’s famous for being the home of the University of Michigan, it also features historic architecture and attractions such as the Museum of Michigan Natural History Museum, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Bird Hills Nature Area, and more.
Not to be confused with its European cousin, Holland in Michigan is close to the shores of Lake Macatawa and features the same stunning sights of windmills, tulips, and the much-photographed Big Red Lighthouse. Be sure to visit the beachfront Holland State Park, as well as Windmill Island Gardens, while you’re here.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Detroit that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Detroit? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.