Are you eager to experience all the joys of Detroit, but don’t have much time to spend in the city? We’ve got you covered. Whether you’re seeking a history lesson, an outdoor adventure with scenic elements, delicious local fare, or some combination of these, our one-day Detroit road trip will take you to some of the most iconic and beloved sites in the Motor City. Round up a few adventurous pals, hop in the car, and get ready to fall in love with Detroit.
For an adjustable map of our Detroit road trip route, click here.
1. Belle Isle
You might not have time to fully immerse yourself in Belle Isle’s countless attractions during a one-day road trip, but you’ll certainly have time to drive the perimeter of this amazing island park. If you’re able to budget a bit of time outside the car, there’s nothing better than wandering through Whitcomb Conservatory or even entering the long-standing Belle Isle Aquarium. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate a walk along the lovely Blue Heron Lagoon Trail, which gives way to wonderful riverfront views. Even if you’re merely passing through, Belle Isle will capture your heart.
2. Milliken State Park and Harbor
Next, venture to the banks of the Detroit River and explore Milliken State Park and Harbor, a bonafide state park right here within city limits. This unique space operates within the bounds of the beloved Detroit RiverWalk, offering visitors the chance to enjoy fresh air and admire a gorgeous lighthouse while taking in skyline views. You’ll surely want to snap a few photos of the park, which is especially scenic during springtime. No matter when you’re here, though, you’ll be delighted by this one-of-a-kind outdoor space.
3. Campus Martius Park
Continue your adventure in the heart of downtown with a visit to Campus Martius Park, which proudly hosts an assortment of activities and community-oriented events throughout the year. During the wintertime, you’ll find holiday lights and ice skating here. When the weather is warmer, relax atop a man-made beach while sipping beverages from nearby eateries. In every season, you’ll enjoy the towering Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, which adds a sense of history and reverence to this long-standing space.
4. American Coney Island
After all this exploration, you might need a quick pit stop to load up on calories – and any true Detroiter knows that a coney dog always hits the spot. American Coney Island is one of the city’s most classic dining establishments, first opening its doors back in 1917. When you drop by this family-owned joint, you’ll enjoy eclectic and colorful interior decor alongside some of the tastiest coneys you’ve ever had. Don’t forget to round out your order with french fries and a refreshing pop.
5. Michigan Central Station
It’s impossible to visit Detroit without acknowledging its ups and downs throughout the generations, and few buildings illustrate the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Motor City quite like Michigan Central Station. This towering structure opened its doors in 1914 and was once a bustling transportation hub for railroad travelers to and from Detroit. While it fell into disrepair following closure in the late 1980s, it remains a reminder of what Detroit once was – and renovation projects offer an extra dash of hope for the future. When you drive by, you’ll find yourself fascinated by the many facets of this time-worn structure.
Detroit is lucky to offer a diverse environment complete with folks from all walks of life and various cultural backgrounds. If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine and culture, a visit to Mexicantown is an absolute must. In addition to a vast array of authentic eateries such as Taqueria Lupitas and Evie’s Tamales, the neighborhood features welcoming bakeries, street murals, and even a cultural museum called El Museo del Norte.
7. Motown Museum
Whether you’ve got the time to stop in for a full-blown tour or you’re simply driving by as your road trip continues, you’ll be excited to see the Motown Museum. It’s no secret that Detroit boasts a wondrous past with the music industry, helping produce hits from artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and countless others. The Motown Museum and Hitsville, U.S.A. house the former studio of Motown mogul Berry Gordy – and you’ll feel a sense of history as soon as you arrive in the neighborhood.
We recommend rounding out your Detroit day trip with a drive through Greektown, which comes to life with lights and activity when night falls. After visually appreciating this history-rich area, named for its Greek immigrant roots, park the car and head into Greektown Casino for a bit of grownup fun or snag a few baked goods from the beloved Astoria Pastry Shop. No matter how you spend your time here, you’ll find a wonderful way to unwind after lots of city driving.
So, there you have it: our one-day road trip through Detroit, complete with a variety of attractions for every member of the family. Have you visited any of the stops on our Motor City road trip during previous visits to the area? Share your favorites with us by leaving a Facebook comment or recommend another must-see destination in Detroit by filling out our nomination form here.