Category: Michigan
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

[2024] Is Detroit Worth Visiting? 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit!

The answer: yes! Very much so! It's safer and there is so much beauty in the city...
The name 'Detroit' on a public art structure near Campus Martius park. Visiting Campus Martius is one of the 25 best things to do in Detroit.

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If you had asked me this question 10-15 years ago, I would have said, "No way!".

At the start of the 21st century, Detroit did not have the best reputation. The Motor City was in bankruptcy. At one point, Detroit was statistically the most dangerous city in the world. Sadly, the city that was monumental to creating the 'American Dream' now was the setting for an American nightmare.

All my life growing up and continuing into my twenties, Detroit was a place many Michiganders did not make a habit of visiting very much. It was a shame.

In the 2010's, billionaires Dan Gilbert and Mike Ilitch invested millions into restoring downtown Detroit. Their funds, alongside many Detroit-based artists, worked tirelessly to revive the fallen city.

Fast forward to late 2023. As someone who remembers Detroit at its worst, who lived in the downtown of a prosperous city on the west coast for four years, and as a traveler who has visited most of the major cities in the United States, I honestly will say that Detroit has bounced back!

Today, not only is Detroit one of my five favorite cities in the U.S, it's also a place I enthusiastically visit on a regular basis!

Is Detroit worth visiting in 2024? Yes! The city has the best riverwalk in the country. It has the largest art museum in the midwest. The city is adorned with vivid street art and memorable public art sculptures. The architecture of its skyscrapers is simply stunning.

I will dissect why Detroit, a.k.a the Motor City, is 100% worth it for you to visit in 2024!

IN THIS ARTICLE...

Is Detroit worth visiting in 2024? Yes! Here is why...

Is Detroit safe to visit?

Fox Theater in downtown Detroit.
The Fox Theater off Woodward Ave, which is Detroit's busiest street.

Safety may be the most important factor in determining whether you visit Detroit-- or any major city, for that matter.

In January 2023, Forbes published an article listing the safest and most dangerous cities in the United States. Detroit was ranked at #5, behind St. Louis, Birmingham (Alabama), Baltimore, and Memphis.

In September 2023, the Detroit Free Press published that Detroit's violent crime rate had fallen by 5.5%. Homicides were down by 9.2% citywide.

Detroit's crime rate is on a downward trajectory. That is good.

Detroit's downtown feels especially safe-- and this is even better news for prospective tourists since downtown is where much of the best things to do in the city are located.

In fact, as testimony to how much safer Michiganders feel visiting downtown Detroit these days, over 100,000 people were in attendance on the streets for Detroit's Tree Lighting ceremony which took place on November 17th, 2023.

Spirit of Detroit statue in downtown Detroit.
Campus Martius is particularly cozy and festive in the holiday months.

As stated in the introduction to this article, downtown has had millions of dollars invested into it. As a result, the area is gradually growing more gentrified. Opinions on gentrification differ. I myself am generally am favor of it-- a big reason being is that drastically decreases crime.

Like any downtown of a major city, there will be panhandlers who will ask you for money. This is one of the annoying inevitabilities of city travel in the U.S.

If being approached by a homeless person is something that worries you, here are three things I do to handle the problem.

First, avoiding eye contact with anyone you believe to be homeless lowers the chances they'll accost you.

Second, if you do make eye contact and they ask you for money, you can pretend you don't speak English. The conversation will likely end there.

Third, if you don't feel comfortable pretending you don't speak English, then do this: just keep moving and say assertively, "No, I don't!".

A big suggestion I have on city travel is this: if you feel uncomfortable, get away as fast as possible. Assertively tell people to leave you alone if they bother you. Your safety is far more important than hurting a stranger's feelings.

I feel for a solo traveler, and even more so for those traveling in groups, that downtown Detroit is safe to freely explore and walk around in.

The art in Detroit is unbelievable

The Waiting statue in Campus Martius.
My favorite statue in all of Detroit is this one, which you'll find in Campus Martius.

The murals and art sculptures are, in my opinion, sufficient reason to visit Detroit alone!

Detroit's pride in the visual arts can't be stated enough. You probably wouldn't expect a city whose reputation as a powerhouse in the automobile industry to care much about art. Turns out, it's the opposite!

Detroit has some of the most distinguishable public art sculptures in the country. What's convenient for tourists is that many of these sculptures are in very close proximity to one another.

For instance, the Spirit of Detroit, Joe Louis Fist, and the Transcending structure in Hart Plaza are all less than a minute's walk from one another.

There are hundreds of murals throughout Detroit-- one big reason why Detroit is one of my favorite cities! The colorful wall compositions embody Detroit's rich history, culture, and sometimes just plain affinity for aesthetics-- in its brightest times and darkest moments.

The street art throughout Detroit captures the city's personality in its rawest and purest form.

Eastern Market-- which is also one of Detroit's oldest and most popular spots, has a lot of awesome murals nearby, such as the one pictured below.

Street art of a female driver from the inside of her vehicle located in Eastern Market in Detroit.
Considering Detroit is the Motor City, this mural is particularly fitting. Mural is near Eastern Market.

For even more thought-provoking and vibrant street art, drive out to the Heidelberg Project and Hamtramck Disneyland!

The Heidelberg Project and Hamtramck Disneyland are two free public art projects for those visiting Detroit to check out! Both residential art museums are collages of memorabilia and crafted art work with some fascinating history behind them.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is the largest art museum in the midwest. The museum contains over 65,000 pieces of art and spans 658,000 square feet in size.

I feel I can't bring up the topic of art in Detroit and not mentions its skyscrapers, many of them bearing Art deco designs. The Guardian Building and Fisher Building are two of the most well known skyscrapers in Detroit with this architectural style.

The inside of the Fisher Building on the 3rd floor.
Check out this mesmerizing ceiling in the Fisher Building.

The Fisher Building, is often nicknamed 'Detroit's Largest Art Project', due to it being the world's largest standing marble structure! The interior of the Fisher Building is reminiscent of a Renaissance-era cathedral.

What's really neat is that you can walk inside parts of both the Guardian Building and Fisher Building 24/7.

My personal favorite skyscraper in Detroit, and most likely the country, is the General Motors Renaissance Center, or Ren Cen, for short.

Last word about Detroit's architectural beauty can be found at the Belle Isle Aquarium. The arched sea-green tiled ceilings have captivated visitors to the aquarium for over a century.

The ceiling of the Belle Isle Aquarium.
The gorgeous sea-green ceiling of the country's oldest aquarium.

From the iconic public art sculptures, street art, residential art projects, art museums, and architecture, Detroit outshines most cities in the U.S regarding its pride in the visual arts.

Detroit has the best riverwalk in the US

The Ren Cen on the right side of the Detroit Riverwalk.
One of the nicest spots along the Detroit Riverwalk.

That's right! USA Today for three consecutive years (2021, 2022, 2023) has rated Detroit's riverwalk as the best in the US.

What makes the 3.5 mile long riverwalk in Detroit so spectacular?

For starters, there is just much more to see than just the water-- in particular, the Detroit River. The water is blue, what's new (that rhymed)?

Visitors to Detroit's riverwalk get the unique opportunity to look at a different country from across the water. The Canadian city, Windsor, in the province of Ontario, can be seen from Detroit's riverwalk.

One of Detroit's most popular and gorgeous skyscrapers, the Ren Cen, neighbors the riverwalk path. Visitors can get up close to the magnificent edifice.

The Ren Cen on the right side of the Detroit Riverwalk.
The back side of the Ren Cen, visible from the Detroit Riverwalk.

There are a few smaller public parks along the way too which add some delightful scenery to the riverwalk.

The Detroit riverwalk in October 2023 had an expansion completed which extended it into Belle Isle, which is Detroit's most gorgeous public park-- and one of Detroit's best things to do.

Belle Isle Park, or simply just 'Belle Isle', has the country's oldest aquarium. The James Scott Memorial Fountain is also a gorgeous structure and popular photo spot on Belle Isle.

Detroit has world-class museums

A Renaissance era painting inside the DIA.
One of the many, many beautiful pieces of art inside the DIA.

The fourth big reason to visit Detroit are its several iconic and in-depth museums.

As mentioned earlier in the article regarding Detroit's impressive art scene, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is the largest art museum in the midwest and one of Detroit's most popular museums.

If you reside in Michigan and have not been to the DIA, admission to the museum is free if you live in Macomb, Wayne, or Oakland county!

Right across the street from the DIA is the Detroit Historical Museum. Visitors will love the Old Streets of Detroit exhibit which is located in the basement. Another five minute walk will have you at te Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

It's convenient these three incredible museums are near each other.

The Motown Museum honors the legendary record label, Motown Records, and the musicians who brought their iconic blends of soul, R&B, funk, and pop to international audiences. One of the best parts of touring the Motown Museum is being able to walk through an actual recording studio!

The entrance to the Motown Museum in the New Center district of Detroit.
By the way, Motown is technically the name of the record label, not the genre of music.

Two more

Albeit these next three museums not being located in Detroit, they can't excluded from the conversation on museums in Detroit. I'm referring to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, and the Automotive Hall of Fame are all located in Dearborn and are even on the same campus, so you could theoretically knock all three of them out on the same day!

Inside the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, MI.
Inside the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Everyone owning a car, gas stations, and roads are so commonplace to American culture that it may be difficult to imagine a time where all these ideas were new. Detroit, being known as the 'city who put the world on wheels', has an entire museum dedicated to the evolution of the automotive industry.

What's ironic is that, even though I grew up close to Detroit, I'm not much of a fan of cars, and even I really like the Henry Ford Museum! The museum even has exhibits dedicated to aircraft and locomotives. There are several interactive exhibits as well.

Many people regard the Henry Ford Museum as "Detroit's" best museum. The museum is only about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Detroit.

If you want an in-depth look as to what American life was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries, pay yourself a visit to Greenfield Village. It's essentially an outdoor museum with faithful reconstructions of American life during the aforementioned time periods.

One of the coolest things you can do in Greenfield Village is be driven in an actually functional Ford Model T car.

The Automotive Hall of Fame gives more attention to other innovators in the automotive industry other than Henry Ford. It's also a pretty fun museum and has a cheap admission fee.

Detroit is a big sports city

A large tiger statue outside the main entrance to Comerica Park.
My favorite stadium is Comerica Park, but pretty much just for the art sculptures!

Going to be frank here: I'm not much of a sports fan, but it would be ignorant to neglect Detroit's history and reputation as a city when it comes to the four major sports in the US: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.

Heck-- one of Detroit's nicknames is 'Hockeytown'.

In 2024, Detroit will have the honor of hosting the NFL Draft at Ford Field. There is even an awesome art structure in Campus Martius called the Countdown Clock built in anticipation of this important event.

The Countdown Clock in Campus Martius.
My favorite stadium is Comerica Park, but pretty much just for the art sculptures!

Detroit has teams for all four major sports in the US: the Detroit Lions (football), the Detroit Pistons (basketball), the Detroit Tigers (baseball), and the Detroit Red Wings (hockey).

The Lions, who are doing quite well in the 2023-2024 season (a surprise to us Michiganders!), play at Ford Field. The Pistons and Red Wings play at Little Caesars Arena, and the Tigers at Comerica Park. All of these sports stadiums are located very close to one another. Convenient for the sports fans!

Most visitors will probably have the most fun checking out Comerica Park, as the large tiger statues make for some excellent photo opportunities!

Conclusion

Detroit is a city still on the rise and already has reprised much of its former glory!

The city is much, much safer-- especially in downtown and midtown. Its emphasis on the visual arts is hardly rivaled by most U.S cities. Its riverwalk is the best in the country. There are tremendous museums. The city has an expansive sports scene and stellar history in athletics.

I am so happy the big city I grew up next to you is revived and attracting visitors from all across the globe. Make Detroit one of your 2024 destinations!

I hope I have inspired and convinced you that Detroit is, indeed, 100% worth visiting!


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