Aerial view of Detroit downtown under evening sunlight

Itineraries for Your Trip to Detroit

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2 Days in Detroit for First Timers

Curated by Elen TurnerElen is a writer and editor based in the small city of Nelson, on New Zealand's South Island. Her work focuses on travel, arts, culture, and the humanities. When not working, she likes to explore one of the three national parks on her doorstep.

With two days in Detroit, not only can you learn about Motor City’s heyday and take in its historical architecture, you can also make a day trip to the nearby college town of Ann Arbor. Here’s how to make the most of two days in Detroit.

Day 1: Morning

During the first half of the 20th century, Detroit was the center of auto manufacturing in the US, and the wealth this created is still evident throughout the Downtown area. Start your Detroit visit with a guided walking or bicycle tour to learn all about the city’s history and see some of its most magnificent buildings, including the Guardian Building, the Westin Book Cadillac, and the Book Tower.

Day 1: Afternoon

Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the biggest collections of art in the US. The huge Detroit Industry Murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera are a highlight. Alternatively, if the weather is fine, spend the afternoon at Belle Isle Park. On an island in the middle of the Detroit River, the park has an aquarium, a beach, and a golf range, among other attractions.

Day 1: Night

Experience Detroit’s vibrant nightlife scene by taking in some live jazz. See what’s on at famous Cliff Bell’s, historic Baker’s, or other Downtown venues.

Day 2: Morning

On your second day, take a day trip to the pleasant town of Ann Arbor, less than an hour’s drive from central Detroit and home to the University of Michigan. You can easily spend a whole day here, strolling around the attractive campus, stopping at shops and cafés, and grazing at the farmers market (if you’re in town on Wednesday or Saturday).

Day 2: Afternoon

After lunch at a local restaurant, perhaps in the lively Kerrytown neighborhood, visit the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum. Open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset and free to enter, the 123-acre (50-hectare) garden is easy to explore independently.

Day 2: Night

If you’re in no hurry to return to Detroit, catch a movie or a show at the 1928 Michigan Theater, home to the Ann Arbor Symphony and a Barton organ that entertains the crowd prior to movies. Alternatively, top off your stay back in Detroit with dinner at a Downtown restaurant.

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