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Detroit is not always first on the travelling family’s itinerary. It should be, though, because the Tri-County area, encompassing Detroit proper and its surrounding suburbs, features a multitude of fun activities and destinations. Here are ten things you can do to make the most of a trip to Motor City.
Things to do in Detroit
Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is also the largest U.S. city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of government of Wayne County. The city of Detroit had a population of 639,111 at the 2020 census, making it the 27th-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area, and the 14th-largest in the United States. Regarded as a major cultural centre, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design, along with its historical automotive background.
Catch a Game
Detroit’s new sports complex, Comerica Park, is located in the heart of downtown. Comerica Park is the home of baseball’s Detroit Tigers, and it’s easy to watch them play in the spring and summer months. Far from being just a place to catch a game, however, Comeriica Park boasts year-round family-friendly attractions, including weekly fireworks, a 50-foot-high Ferris wheel, a tiger-themed carousel; the Big Cat Food Court, and a historical Tigers Walk of Fame.
Comerica Park is also right next door to Ford Field, the new home of the Detroit Lions, and just a short distance away from Joe Louis Arena, where the championship Detroit Red Wings play.
Learn some history
Detroit features a number of quality historical attractions. The most popular destinations are Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum, located together in Dearborn just southwest of Detroit. Greenfield Village recreates life in Detroit’s 300 year history, including a 19th century working farm. The Henry Ford Museum focuses on local and national industrial history, and also features an IMAX theatre. The Village has seasonal hours, while the Museum is open year-round.
Other historical attractions include the Detroit Historical Museum, on Woodward Avenue, which is dedicated to the city’s urban history; the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, located on Belle Isle, which recounts of the storied history of Michigan’s famous waterways; and Historic Fort Wayne, at the mouth of the Detroit River, which preserves an important part of the city’s early history. Each of these museums is open year-round.
Play to Win
In the 1990s, Detroit decided to allow a number of family-friendly casinos to open up within the city. They are the Motor City Casino, the Greektown Casino, and the MGM/Grand Detroit Casino. These casinos have taken a decade to construct and complete, and have only recently begun operating at full capacity. Gamblers will find slot machines, card tables, roulette, Keno, and more, as well as a variety of restaurants, clubs, stage shows, and family areas. All three casinos are located within the city limits and operate year-round.
Catch a Show
Theatre-goers will find a host of popular destinations in Detroit. The Fisher Theatre, located in Detroit’s Fisher Building, hosts Broadway shows year-round. Other Broadway and off-Broadway hits, as well as live concerts and stage shows, often come to the Fox Theatre and the Masonic Temple, both located within the city. The Detroit Opera House is the city’s premiere venue for opera and concert performances.
Many popular venues can be found north of the city. Meadowbrook Music Festival in Rochester Hills, and the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, both feature open-air concert stages that attract top modern performers and bands. The largest travelling concerts usually find their way to the indoor stages of the Palace of Auburn Hills or the Pontiac Silverdome.
See a Parade
Detroit is the proud home of the second-largest annual parade in the country. America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, staged each November since 1924 (except during WWII), features both local and national celebrities, balloons, floats, and a visit from Santa Claus. It is traditionally themed around storybooks and fairy tales, and each year it adds new floats and balloons. The parade is broadcast both locally and nationwide.
The parade is such a large part of the Detroit Thanksgiving celebration that it has itself given rise to other local traditions, including the Turkey Trot charity run and the Hob-Nobble-Gobble fundraiser event. These events occur in the days leading up to the parade.
The Greater Detroit area features over a thousand golf courses, including greens for every skill level. Popular courses include the Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club in Clarkston, the beautiful Belle Isle Golf Club, the Downriver Greens, the Lakes of Taylor and the Riverview Golf Club. Detroit also hosts the Buick Open at the Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, which takes place in July. No wonder Detroit has been named one of the top twelve golf destinations in the world!
Enjoy some culture
Detroit’s Cultural Center is located in the heart of the city, nestled between the I-75 and I94 freeways. The heart of the Cultural Center is the Detroit Institute for the Arts, located on Woodward Avenue. The DIA features a vast collection of ancient, medieval, and modern art. Just across the street from the DIA is the Detroit Science Center, a popular school and family destination that feature’s Michigan’s only IMAX Dome theatre. The Cultural Center also features a handful of historical museums within walking distance of the DIA, including the Motown Historical Museum and the Charles h. Wright Museum of African-American History.
See the Animals
The Detroit Zoological Park, located just north of the city proper in Royal Oak, has been serving the city for more than 75 years. The Zoo collects a wide range of domestic and exotic animals, including big cats, an extensive aviary, and the popular Penguinarium. Families can enjoy the Zoo’s miniature train ride, or take a narrated tram tour of key attractions. The Zoo is open year-round, though some attractions are seasonal.
Celebrate the Automobile
As befitting its history, Detroit is home to a diversity of automobile-related events, locations, and celebrations. First amongst these is the International Auto Show, held in Detroit’s Cobo Hall. The IAS is the premier showcase of the automobile industry, featuring new model cars, fantastic futuristic concept cars, and a host of family fun and celebrity events. Visitors from around the world are drawn to the IAS, which takes place each January.
Much of the Henry Ford Museum is dedicated to the history of the automobile. The museum has collected hundreds of historic and modern vehicles, including the car that President Kennedy was assassinated in. The museum is open year-round.
While not within the Tri-County area, auto racing fans will also enjoy a drive to nearby Michigan International Speedway, located west along the I-94 freeway. MIS is the home of the Michigan Indy 400, the NASCAR Michigan 400, and several other annual racing events. The MIS hosts races in the Spring and Summer months.
Many visitors to Detroit fail to realise how close they are to its “sister city,” Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Immediately across the Ambassador Bridge, Windsor sports its own casino, the Casino Windsor, as well as many popular restaurants, clubs, and shops. You can also cruise the Detroit River aboard the Aurora Borealis, stroll through Dieppe Gardens, or tour the Canadian Club Whiskey Brand Center, and still make it back across the Bridge in time for that Tiger’s game!
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