Once infamous for its urban decline and dangerous reputation, Detroit has seen a revival in recent years. Historic buildings have been renovated, modern attractions have been installed, and decaying buildings have been transformed into tourist attractions in their own right.
Detroit is an excellent place to learn more about the impact of post-industrialization on middle America, and a great way to discover more of the city is to take a tour. With tours, you will be able to dive deep into the culture and unique character of Detroit with the help of locals and tourism experts.
These are the 10 best tours and experiences in and around Detroit.
1. The Rise, Fall & Renewal Walking Tour
Detroit is a city that has seen many changes; from its initial rise during the industrial era, through the population decline in the early modern age until today, where renewal efforts are seeing the city improve.
This tour takes you through this vast history of Detroit by showing you the architecture and attractions that have shaped the city – and been shaped by national economic events.
You will be shown enduring monuments like the Guardian Building, abandoned houses and renewed hotels, telling a story of how the city has survived through the years.
This is a two-hour tour that includes a free beverage at the Detroit Beer Company. You will also get to ride the famous People Mover.
2. Corktown Is Popping! Small Group Walking Tour
Corktown is famed as the oldest neighborhood in Detroit and is a great place to discover the roots of the city. Once a district settled mostly by Irish immigrants, Corktown still retains much of this Irish flavor in its buildings, pubs, and attractions.
More recently, diverse migration has resulted in the area being revived by multicultural restaurants and cafés, making it one of the hippest neighborhoods in town. This tour takes you around Corktown, allowing you to sample some of the best spots in the area.
You will be taken to the best pubs, Irish themed attractions, and renovated ruins across Corktown, telling you a story of the area and the city as a whole. A free beverage is included, and a short break for lunch is provided. This tour lasts two hours.
3. The D You Must See – Detroit Walking Tour with a Local
Walking tours are a great way to get your bearings in a new city after you first arrive. Detroit’s reputation can leave some visitors worried about the safest areas to visit, however, this tour has a local showing you the best spots that are sure to enrich your visit to Detroit.
This bumper half-day tour takes you around all the most important landmarks in the city – from the Guardian Building to Comerica Park. You will be shown ruins, revived buildings, and enduring landmarks across the city.
A complimentary snack is also included; choose between a local baklava in Greektown or a Coney Dog at Lafayette Coney Island. This is a grand tour to sample the city and prepare you for the rest of your visit to Detroit.
4. Detroit Urban Exploration and Photography Tour
Population decline in Detroit has left many of the suburbs full of desolate ruins. Though this initially left the city in crisis, many of these abandoned sites have become tourist attractions.
Urban exploration is an increasingly popular activity; you get to explore abandoned buildings, teaching you about the architectural influences in the city and the impact humans have on the urban environment.
With this tour, you will be taken out into the suburbs of Detroit with a local guide, who will help you safely explore these abandoned areas.
These places are a photographer’s dream, providing a haunting backdrop for unique photos. The guide is also a professional photographer and will help you learn more about photography techniques to get the best out of your camera.
This tour takes you to abandoned schools, office buildings, and houses, giving you a unique insight into the Detroit way of life. It is conducted in small groups for a more personalized and intimate experience.
5. Operation City Quest Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunt tours are a great way to discover a new city if you are visiting as a group or family. They add a competitive element to the trip, allowing you to have fun and get to know your surroundings better.
This scavenger hunt by Operation City only requires you to use a smartphone and download their app. You are required to find up to 150 objects across a two-mile route in Central Detroit. It takes around two hours if completed non-stop; however, you are free to stop and start at your leisure if you want to spend more time in a particular location.
Though most scavenger hunt tours leave you a route on the app, this one also comes with an interactive guide who will give you clues whenever you need some extra help.
6. Corktown Tour: Historic Landmarks, Local Haunts, and Pubs
This is another excellent tour of the Corktown Area and is great for travelers on a budget who are looking to discover a vibrant and unique area of Detroit. This tour allows you to enjoy a wide variety of local snacks – including shawarma, bagels and local beers.
This trip is incredibly in-depth. You’ll learn about the neighborhood’s Irish history and modern revival in detail. You will also visit local breweries and whiskey distilleries to learn about the brewing scene in Detroit and how it is helping renovate large areas of the city.
There is also a small urban exploration segment in the old Michigan Central Railroad Station. This tour is conducted in small groups, giving you an intimate experience.
7. Private Explore Detroit Tour Guide
If you are only in Detroit for a few days and have a set idea of the kind of attractions you want to visit, this is an excellent option. You will get five hours with a local tour guide, who will help you customize your itinerary in advance to get the best experience for your group.
Their specialty is in photography and urban exploration, so this is a great way to engage in those activities as a private group rather than joining an open tour. Your guide can also help you discover other attractions across the city and learn about the best areas to visit for dining and shopping.
You will be given professional photography advice, and there is private transportation provided between each location to ensure you get around quickly and safely.
8. Ski Bus to Mt Brighton from Detroit
Only an hour and a half outside of Detroit, Mt Brighton is a major ski destination during the winter. It is popular with locals from across Michigan and surrounding states. This package includes transport from Central Detroit and Ann Arbor to the Mt Brighton ski area.
If you already know how to ski or snowboard, you can opt for the transportation option, giving you a quick and relaxing way to hit the slopes. For beginners, the tour is extended to include a short lesson in either skiing or snowboarding – it’s entirely your choice.
All equipment rental is included in the price, regardless of whether you take the lessons or not. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area to keep you refreshed after your skiing session, and return transportation is included.
9. Holly Jolly Hunt
For visitors during the festive season, this is another excellent scavenger hunt option with a Christmas theme. This is an attractive option for families as it encourages kids to search out various Christmas items and decorations across the city.
There are also some special surprises included bringing extra joy to your entire group. This game can be played competitively, with each player gaining points for each item they find. It takes around two hours to complete non-stop but can be paused and restarted if you want to spend more time in specific locations.
All of the items are found within the Downtown area of Detroit. To play this scavenger hunt, download the app onto your Apple or Android smartphone and open it up when you are ready to begin.
10. Classic Ann Arbor By The Sidewalk Food Tour
Ann Arbor is located within the Detroit Metropolitan Area – around an hour away from the City Centre. This is a great place to get away from the busier Detroit city, allowing you to experience a more authentic Michigan way of life.
Ann Arbor has a vibrant culinary scene, with cuisines from all over the world found in the Downtown and Kerrytown areas. This tour will take you to some of the best food vendors in the city to sample a snack from each location.
You are also given the opportunity to speak to local chefs and learn about the history and culture of Ann Arbor. This is a great day trip to make from Detroit; your tour guide will be happy to advise you on other attractions in the area.