June 16, 2024
Detroit Skyline

A 6 Stop Tour of Detroit Like a Local Native – Tour Detroit in a Day

A Fearless Native Trek of Detroit

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If you find yourself in the Motor City for a few hours and want to catch the highlights without blowing a lot of time or money, then this little tour of Detroit will have you feeling like a Motown native in a few hours.

#1 Head to Detroit’s Playground, Belle Isle

Tour Of Detroit In A Day - Belle Isle Conservatory
Belle Isle Conservatory – Thumbwind

Yep, the first stop is Detroit’s outdoor playground—Belle Isle Park. Head straight up Jefferson Ave. and watch for signs of the bridge to the park. Once on the island, head to its southern tip. This is the money shot. With Detroit’s iconic skyline in the background, it makes for a great selfie.

With that done check out the Belle Isle Aquarium. Built back in 1904 it’s the oldest aquarium in the US. Known for its architecture and beautiful glass tiled ceiling. It was once considered the oldest continually operating public aquarium in North America when it closed on April 3, 2005. Today it reopened and run by volunteers of the Belle Isle Conservancy.

#2 Take Part in Detroit’s Ongoing Coney Island Wars


Shoot back down Jefferson to downtown and make your way just west of Campus Martius. Park on West Lafayette across from Lafayette and American Coney Islands.

It’s decision time. Both of these institutions are continuously ranked #1 and #2 for their saucy Coney’s. You really can’t go wrong. Show your local skills with an order of two Coney’s loaded, cheese fries, and a Verners.

The Detroit Coney is considered one of the treasured Michigan foods of all time.

#3 Art Deco of the Guardian Building

Michigan Mural in Guardian Building Lobby ThumbWind

Refreshed and full it’s time for a stroll. Walk two blocks down Griswold toward the river. You’re going for one of the most lavish treasures of Art Deco architecture in the world; the Guardian Building. Built in the 1920s, this was the command center for manufacturing when Detroit was the Arsenal of Democracy in WWII.

Walk-in and tour the lobby with its original Pawabic and Rockwood tiles. Take a shot of the Egyptian-styled mural of Michigan in the upper lobby area.

By the end of this tour, you will really feel like you know a bit of the gritty culture and the downtown high points. Read the rest of this story for more places to see at tour Detroit in a Day.

Downtown Detroit Street Scene
Downtown Detroit Street Scene ThumbWind

#4 The Center of Detroit: Campus Martius Park

Michigan Soldiers and Sailors Monument & Detroit’s Point of Origin
(c) ThumbWind

From the Guardian Building head north on Woodward two blocks. This puts you at the center origin of Detroit. Detroit’s famous “Mile Roads” denote their distance from this spot. Eminem’s movie “8 Mile” was filmed eight miles north of this spot.

The park is a hub of activity for Detroit. With weekend music, an ice skating rink in the winter, and surrounded by shops and restaurants. The most dominating feature of this park is the Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument dedicated in 1872.

#5 One Campus Martius

One Campus

This is one of the newest grand buildings in Detroit. One Campus Martius was the headquarters for Compuware. Its massive lobby is an atrium with a multistory free-flowing waterfall and natural light bouncing off hanging glass sculptures high above.

Don’t forget to grab a drink at Detroit’s Hard Rock Café. You can check out the memorabilia from rock legends such as Bob Segar, Alice Cooper, and of course, see music videos when Detroit’s Motown dominated pop culture.

#6 Detroit’s Eastern Market

Eastern Market Detroit
Eastern Market Detroit

Detroit’s Eastern Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets, and produce and meat processing areas in the city. On weekends you can browse the sheds to sample farm-to-market produce, fish, meats, and crafts.

One of the biggest events of the year is Flower Day in the spring. Greenhouses from all over Michigan converge on the market to offer plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers. Over 45,000 attend each year.

Bring your camera. The Eastern Market is colorful and there is always something to experience on your Detroit tours.

#7 Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit Institute Of Arts Entrance
DIA Entrance

Our final stop in our tour of Detroit places us in the New Center area of Midtown Detroit, Michigan, the Detroit Institute of Art has one of the largest art collections in the United States.

  • The DIA collection is among the top six art museums in the United States
  • Hosts a collection of over 65,000 works within its 658,000 square feet of exhibit space.
  • With over 677,000 visitors a year the DIA is one of the most visited art museums in the world
  • The museum contains 100 galleries of art including its American paintings collection which ranks third among museums in the United States.

One of the Most Significant Collections in the Country

Tour Detroit In A Day2
Detroit Industry Murals are by artist Diego Rivera

One highlight of the collection includes a Diego Rivera commissioned work for the DIA in 1932. This massive fresco, has five-panel murals are known collectively as Detroit Industry, or Man and Machine. This greets the visitor in the main gallery. Another notable work is Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait. This painting was the first Van Gogh to be collected by a U.S. museum.

The DIA is considered one of the most diverse collections in America. In addition to its American collection, it offers European, Modern and Contemporary, and Graphic art. The works of African, Islamic, Ancient, Asian, Native American, and Oceanic art all can be found.

When Detroit went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2014. The museum’s collection was appraised at $4.6 billion with some individual works potential having high collectability value in the 100’s millions. “The Wedding Dance” by Peter Bruegel the Elder was estimated to be worth over $200 million if sold alone.

Other Top Things to See in Your Tour of Detroit

Detroit At Night
Detroit At Night

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant – The original Ford Model-T factory.

Mexicantown – Great Tex-Mex food, bakeries, and shops.

Motown Museum – Hitsville was the original location for Motown Records.

Old St. Mary’s Church – A short walk away from Greektown. It has a very unique reproduction of the Lourdes Grotto.

Fisher Mansion – Now a temple they offer tours of the residence of one of the great auto barons of Detroit.

How Far is Canada from Detroit?

Answer: Windsor Ontario Canada is only 5,160 feet from Detroit; 120 feet short of a mile. Fun fact – Windsor is actually south of Detroit

What does the word “Detroit” mean?

The term “detroit” is French for “strait,” and the Detroit River was known as “le détroit du Lac Érié,” or “the strait of Lake Erie” by the French. On July 24, 1701, Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a French adventurer, and aristocrat, established Detroit.

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Paul Austin

Living in Michigan for almost 60 years has given me a lot of insight. I'm a contributing writer for Thumbwind Publications. His most recent project is developing edgy stories and content for Spice2Vice.com.

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