Category: Michigan
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Published November 26, 2023 • Updated

[2024] Is Detroit Worth Visiting? 7 Reasons Why You Should Visit!

Detroit has the country's best riverwalk, public square, and art museum!
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!

IN THIS ARTICLE...

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

The public 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 art sculptures, murals, and architecture are 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!

First, let me show you some of Detroit's iconic sculptures.

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.

The Spirit of Detroit statue in downtown Detroit, MI.
Arguably Detroit's most famous statue is the Spirit of Detroit.
The monument dedicated to boxer Joe Louis called the Joe Louis fist in downtown Detroit.
'The Fist' statue.
The Transcending sculpture in Hart Plaza.
The 'Trascending' loop sculpture in Hart Plaza.

To see Detroit's other unforgettable sculptures, click here to read my article covering the best sculptures in Detroit.

Second, let me show you some of the murals in Detroit.

A mural in downtown with the city name and a drawing of the Spirit of Detroit statue.
A cool welcoming mural in downtown.

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.

A black & white mural on a building with a painted parking structure on the side in Detroit.
A black & white mural on a building with a painted parking structure on the side.
A mural inside the parking structure The Z near The Belt in downtown Detroit, MI.
Murals in a parking structure called The Z, right next to The Belt.
A mural outside a restaurant in midtown Detroit Michigan.
A mural outside the Hopcat in midtown Detroit.

Eastern Market-- which is also one of Detroit's oldest and most popular spots, has a lot of awesome murals nearby, such as the ones 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.
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, Hamtramck Disneyland, and the Dbals Mbad African Bead Museum.

The Heidelberg Project, Hamtramck Disneyland, and the Dbals Mbad African Bead Museum are three free public art projects for those visiting Detroit to check out!

A polka dot painted house part of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit, MI.
The Heidelberg Project.
A bead decorated building on the campus for the African Bead Museum
A decorated building by the African Bead Museum.

Third and last, I'll show you some highlights of Detroit's architecture and skyscrapers.

Picture of the Ally Detroit Center and Guardian Building in the same photograph in the Financial District of downtown Detroit.
In this picture, you can see the Ally Detroit Center and Guardian Building.

Many of Detroit's best skyscrapers have Art Deco design. The Fisher Building in New Center and Guardian Building in downtown are two of the most well known skyscrapers in Detroit with this architectural style.

A bead decorated building on the campus for the African Bead Museum
The gorgeous ceilings inside the Fisher Building.
A bead decorated building on the campus for the African Bead Museum
A rare clock inside the Guardian Building.

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.

A bead decorated building on the campus for the African Bead Museum
The Ren Cen.

The Belle Isle Aquarium is stunning inside and out. It is the oldest operating aquarium in the U.S and is located on Belle Isle Park.

Entrance to Belle Isle Aquarium on Belle Isle.
The outside of the Belle Isle Aquarium.

The Belle Isle Aquarium is particularly famous for its sea-green tiled ceiling. It was designed to make you feel as if you are underwater.

The ceiling of the Belle Isle Aquarium.
The sea-green ceiling of the Belle Isle Aquarium was meant to make visitors as if they are underwater.

This is a fragment of the unrivaled urban beauty you'll find in Detroit!

We're not quite done with art just yet, because this next institution deserves a mention on its own...

Detroit has the best art museum in the US

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

Detroit has three top-rated attractions: the Detroit Institute of Arts (art museum), Campus Martius (public square), and the Detroit Riverwalk. As an honorary mention, the McNamara Terminal in DTW has also received a lot of praise as well!

Let's focus on the Detroit Institute of Arts, or the DIA, for short.

The Grand Hall inside the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in Detroit, MI.
The Grand Hall

Within the innards of the Detroit Institute of Arts are over 65,000 pieces of art work. Many of the exhibits feature art that is several millennia old. At 658,000 square feet, the Detroit Institute of Arts is the largest art museum in the midwest.

While I encourage you to check out my article on the museum's best artwork, I'll insert some pictures of some notable art below.

Japanese Friendship Dolls on the first floor of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
These dolls are located on the museum's first floor.
A painting inside the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) entitled 'La Depeche de Toulouse' by Maurice Denis.
From 1892, this painting is entitled 'La Depeche de Toulouse'.
The Detroit Industry Murals, which are a National Historic Landmark, inside the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI
Part of the Detroit Industry Murals, which is designated a National Historic Landmark.

Next, check out Campus Martius...

Detroit has the best public square in the US

Campus Martius park in downtown Detroit Michigan with the Penobscot Building in the background.
Capitol Park, which is a 2 minute walk from Campus Martius.

USA Today, in 2024, awarded Campus Martius by calling it the best public square in the US.

Campus Martius is located in the heart of downtown Detroit and is in near proximity to many of downtown's most beautiful skyscrapers and pieces of public art.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Campus Martius.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Campus Martius.

Monroe Street Midway, a new Detroit attraction, is less than a minute walk from Campus Martius.

From Campus Martius, you can gaze up at the Guardian Building and the Penobscot Building. As for art, you can see the Waiting statue, the Countdown Clock, and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Campus Martius park in downtown Detroit Michigan. Taking pictures in Campus Martius is one of the most fun things to do in Detroit!
Art in Campus Martius, with the Penobscot Building in the background.

As for the third top-rated place in Detroit, we'll head over its riverwalk...

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.

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

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

View of Windsor, Ontario from the Detroit side of the Detroit River. Walking along the Detroit riverfront is one of the most fun things to do in Detroit!
Windsor, Ontario, from the view of the Detroit riverfront.

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.

Detroit has other world-class museums

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

Aside from the Detroit Institute of Arts, there are three other legendary museums you must see when you visit Detroit. Those two museums being the Motown Museum and the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation-- the latter which is technically located in Dearborn.

The Motown Museum provides visitors a guided tour showcasing the history and musical achievements of Detroit's Motown label. One cool highlight of the tour 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.

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, or just the Henry Ford, for short, is a truly impressive museum with tons of artifacts illustrating the story of Detroit's role in the automotive industry and how American culture has been shaped by the invention of the automobile.

Inside the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, MI.
John F. Kennedy's car.

The Henry Ford doesn't just have exhibits about cars. There are entire sections of the museum devoted to aircraft and trains, as well!

Even though I personally am not a fan of cars, if I'm being truly honest, even I enjoyed the museum and have visited on multiple occassions!

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 hosted the NFL Draft. A record number of people showed up to the event: over 750,000. This is the most attended NFL Draft, to date.

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 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!

Detroit is much safer today

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

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.

The People Mover stop near the General Motors Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, MI.
The People Mover, which is now free in 2024, near the Ren Cen.

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.

Campus Martius park during the winter months in Detroit, MI.
Campus Martius is particularly cozy and festive in the holiday months.

Also, as mentioned earlier, around 750,000 people flooded downtown Detroit to attend the NFL Draft, which was held from April 25-27 of 2024.

Besides downtown, other neighborhoods in Detroit, such as Corktown, Mexicantown, and midtown, are much safer to explore these days.

Conclusion

Detroit has made astronomical strides in effort to reprise its former glory. In some aspects, I feel Detroit has surpassed itself.

The city is much, much safer. Its emphasis on the visual arts is hardly rivaled by most U.S cities. Its riverwalk, art museum, and public square have received accolades from the press for being the best in the country.

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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