15 Best Day Trips from Detroit

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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The largest city in Michigan, Detroit is famous for its huge motor car manufacturing industry, Motown music, sports, and the arts.

There are cultural buildings alongside more modern structures and heaps of things to see and do.

Each district offers something new and exciting, with some of the most interesting areas including Greektown, Corktown, New Center, and Mexicantown.

Major attractions include the family favorite of Belle Isle Park, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the cultural museum of The Henry Ford, Historic Fort Wayne, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Motown Museum.

Visitors with a keen interest in the city’s motoring heritage shouldn’t miss taking part in the Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

You can shop till you drop, feast on global fare, and party the night away.

Once you’ve exhausted Detroit’s highlights and fancy a break from the city, here are some of the best day trips to take.

1. Corktown

Corktown, DetroitSource: Sam Beebe / Flickr
Corktown, Detroit

Spend a day discovering Corktown’s Irish heritage and exploring Detroit’s oldest neighborhood.

The close-knit residents live in elegant Victorian-style homes, many of which have been painted in bold colors that really catch the eye.

Stop into the El Dorado Country Store to enter a bygone era, and visit the disused Michigan Central Railroad Station and Ernie Hallwell Park with the previous home of Tiger Stadium.

Snap a picture of one of the city’s oldest churches before sinking your teeth into delicious food – Corktown is one of Detroit’s hottest spots for foodies.

There are several distilleries and many bars where you can round off your day in style.

2. Birmingham

Birmingham, MichiganSource: Steve Lagreca / shutterstock
Birmingham, Michigan

A 30-minute drive from Detroit, Birmingham offers small-town charm close to the big city.

Stroll along the streets to browse in quaint boutiques and art galleries and pause to refuel and recharge in one of the town’s delightful cafes and restaurants.

There are many lovely parks and green spaces where you can relax and re-energize; Lower Baldwin Park, Shain Park, Poppleton Park, and Barnum Park are just a few examples.

Spot some famous faces in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and learn more about the town’s heritage at The Birmingham Museum.

3. Toledo

Toledo, OhioSource: Michael Shake / shutterstock

Cross the state border to visit Toledo, Ohio, to find a variety of things for old and young alike to enjoy.

No matter the weather, the choice of indoor and outdoor activities means that there’s always something to keep you entertained.

Kids are sure to love the Imagination Station – an interactive science museum aimed at young and curious minds.

Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Toledo Museum of Art, home to a huge collection of Renaissance and contemporary art.

Perfect your golfing swing at Maumee Bay State Park, unwind in Toledo Botanical Gardens, hike in Swan Creek Preserve Metropark, and learn more about the area at the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

4. Ann Arbor

University of Michigan, Ann ArborSource: Dieon Roger / shutterstock
University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Founded in the 1820’s, the city of Ann Arbor was named after the wives of the founders, both of whom were conveniently called Ann.

Famous for being home to the University of Michigan, the city has a youthful feel and a wealth of experiences to enjoy.

The University of Michigan Museum is a top place for college culture and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is sure to enchant children.

The Museum of Michigan Natural History Museum is usually a hit with kids too.

Get outdoors at Bird Hills Nature Area, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Gallup Park, and Argo Park, and discover a vibrant shopping scene in the downtown core.

5. Niagara Falls

Niagara FallsSource: TRphotos / shutterstock
Niagara Falls

With an early start, it’s possible to make the four-hour drive to the stunning Niagara Falls.

Do be sure to pack your passport, though, as the shortest route crosses the Canadian Border.

Marvel at the splendid waterfalls – famous across the globe – and take a boat ride to see the majestic cascades from a different perspective.

You could also consider taking a scenic helicopter ride, visiting the Skylon Tower Observatory, stopping by the Niagara Falls Observatory, or riding the Niagara SkyWheel to enhance your day out.

Other attractions in the area include the Cave of the Winds and Three Sisters Island, and there are tons of opportunities to enjoy picturesque hiking.

6. Pontiac

Pontiac, MichiganSource: Dave Hogg / Flickr
Pontiac, Michigan

Michigan’s city of Pontiac is just 30 miles from Detroit, and a day trip lets you witness the transformation first-hand of a previously forgotten area emerging into the limelight.

Once a thriving city, the closure of car plants led to many job losses and the area plunged into poverty.

Today, however, the city is going through something of a revival, with millennials keen to restore the area to its former glory.

Wayside Exhibits tell the area’s story and you can see key spots associated with the automobile industry.

Did you know, for example, that the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat was built in Pontiac? A day trip to Pontiac may not appeal to everyone, but it’s definitely a great place for anyone interested in urban decline and renewal.

Fans of the paranormal are also sure to love Pontiac, with not just one but two famous haunted houses: Erebus and The Realm of Darkness.

7. Frankenmuth

FrankenmuthSource: Kenneth Sponsler / shutterstock

Around an hour and a half from Detroit, Frankenmuth transports visitors across the seas to Germany, specifically to the Bavarian region.

Walk along Main Street and admire the castle-like buildings and unique architecture before visiting the local brewery.

Feeling peckish? Call into a Bavarian-themed eatery to be served delicious German cuisine by wait staff dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits.

Trot through the streets with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, or take a scenic river cruise for different views of the town.

Zehnder’s Splash Village offers watery fun whatever the weather, and old and young alike are sure to be captivated at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, where you can get into the yuletide spirit all throughout the year.

8. Bay City

City Hall, Bay City, MichiganSource: lembi / shutterstock
City Hall, Bay City

It takes less than two hours to make the 120-mile trip to Bay City, a water lover’s playground on the shores of Lake Huron.

A stroll along the Riverwalk Pier offers plenty of scenic vistas, and you can take to the water in a small sailing boat or relax on the sands of Bay City State Recreational Area.

Hunt for bargains in the gigantic Bay Antique Center, board a historic vessel at Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum, pay your respects at Veterans Memorial Park, wander around Center Avenue Historic District, and more.

In the evening, the many bars and pubs really spring to life.

9. Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids, MichiganSource: Henryk Sadura / shutterstock
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Swap one large city for another and take an excursion to Grand Rapids, the second-biggest city in Michigan.

It’s arty, historic, and kid-friendly, and the abundance of restaurants, shops, and leisure activities ensure you’ll find everything you need for a fantastic day out.

Indulge your inner creative at Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, and Art Prize.

Have family fun at Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.

Enjoy nature and the great outdoors at spots like Blandford Nature Center and Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve, pick up fresh produce at Fulton Street Farmers Market, and enjoy history at Meyer May House, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Museum, and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

10. Lexington

Lexington, MichiganSource: ehrlif / shutterstock

The cute harbor village of Lexington sits right on the banks of Lake Huron.

The pace of life here is slow and relaxed, though it’s easy to imagine the times when steamships sailed along the lake and the lumber trade thrived.

Stroll around the harbor before taking a boat ride on the magnificent lake.

Unwind in Lexington Park, where you’ll find swimming areas, play areas, and shaded pavilions for taking it easy.

There are cute shops and restaurants to tempt you too.

11. Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant, MichiganSource: Magicpiano / Wikimedia
Mount Pleasant

Partially within the Isabella Indian Reservation, the city of Mount Pleasant is around 155 miles (or two and a half hours by car) from Detroit.

The vibrant college town boasts the Soaring Eagle Casino – opened by the Saginaw Chippewa Native American tribal group – and the fun Soaring Eagle Water Park, with pools, slides, fountains, falls, a lazy river, chill-out areas, and more.

Mill Pond Park, Nelson Park, and Island Park are among the city’s outdoor spaces, and you can discover more about the area at the Museum of Cultural and Natural History.

From escape games and fishing spots to walking trails and cycling routes, there’s plenty to enjoy in Mount Pleasant.

12. Lansing

Lansing, MichiganSource: Henryk Sadura / shutterstock

Take a trip to Michigan’s state capital for an array of cool activities and attractions.

Visit the Michigan State Capitol, which dates back to the 1870’s and features an impressive dome.

Cast your gaze skywards at the Talbert and Leota Abrams Planetarium.

People of all ages can enjoy the exhibits at R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Follow sections of the 130 mile long Lansing River Trail for beautiful views, woodlands, a farmer’s market, museums, and art galleries.

Other great places to visit include the Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame, the 9/11 Remembrance Memorial, and the 1850’s Turner-Dodge House.

13. Saugatuck

SaugatuckSource: Tim Bray / shutterstock

The charming coastal town of Saugatuck is in Allegan County.

If you can drag yourself away from the splendid beach, you’ll discover rolling sand dunes, a plethora of bird life, art galleries, unusual places to shop, and plentiful outdoor activities.

Climb Mount Baldhead for incredible views and have fun exploring the landscapes of Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

Take a boat ride on Lake Michigan and the Kalamazoo River and relax as charming views of the former lumber town unfold, and go wine and cider tasting at nearby Fennville.

Creative souls are sure to enjoy the cute galleries, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, and the hands-on Art Barn.

14. Holland

Holland, MichiganSource: Craig Sterken / shutterstock
Holland, Michigan

Accessible in less than three hours by car, be transported to Europe when you visit Holland, a delightful city close to the shores of Lake Macatawa.

The Dutch heritage is easy to spot in the architecture, windmills, tulips, cuisine, and souvenirs.

Snap a picture of Holland Harbor Light – nicknamed Big Red – browse and buy at the large Farmer’s Market, visit the 250-year-old windmill of De Zwaan, and bask on the beaches of Holland State Park and Tunnel Park.

Several museums offer insights into the area’s past and present, including the Holland Museum, the Cappon House Museum, and the Settlers House Museum.

15. Hell

Hell, MichiganSource: Rebecca Chatfield / Flickr
Hell, Michigan

Hell is closer to Detroit than you may think – it’s just 60 miles away! Rather than red-hot flames and torturous pain, however, Michigan’s small community of Hell is a quaint destination with novelty attractions and a laid-back way of life.

And, who wouldn’t want to say that they’d been to hell? Couples can lock their love on the bridge and toss the key into the waters below.

Pinckney Recreation Area offers kayaking, canoeing, walking, and relaxation, and with establishments like Hell Hole Diner, Hell Saloon, and Screams, you know you’re in for an unusual day out.

15 Best Day Trips from Detroit:

  • Corktown
  • Birmingham
  • Toledo
  • Ann Arbor
  • Niagara Falls
  • Pontiac
  • Frankenmuth
  • Bay City
  • Grand Rapids
  • Lexington
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Lansing
  • Saugatuck
  • Holland
  • Hell