Budget Travel

The very best free things to complete in Detroit from art deco architecture to edgy street art

Detroit has already established its ups and downs, but these days it's vibing on retro glam that won't break the bank. Downtown will pop your eyeballs, in the extraordinary art deco skyscrapers to the whimsical public parks and edgy street art.

It doesn't appear to matter the way you want to tackle the Motor City – be it through museums, poetry slams or classic cars – The D has plenty to do for zilch. From riverside walks to walk-in outdoor cinema, here are the best free things to complete in Detroit.

Detroit International RiverWalk

Regularly thought to be among the best waterfronts in the country, the Detroit International RiverWalk is also the place to find one the city's coolest green spaces, Valade Park. When it's hot and sunny, families cool-down by the Detroit River. Along this three-mile scenic stretch which runs in the Belle Isle Bridge to Rosa Parks Boulevard are cafes, a carousel, beach volleyball and much more. In the wintertime it's changed into a winter wonderland with everything else from bonfires to ice sculptures, even sledding for that little ones.

Take a self-guided mural walking tour

Street art decorates walls of buildings throughout the D. In early 2000's the town was a magnet to graffiti and mural artists to help revive the skill scene. Detroit is full of artistic know-how. Detroit has one of the largest 3-D murals in the united states at 19 stories tall on the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, a real display of expressive innovation. So of course carrying out a self-guided walking tour is really a way to get familiar with this charming city. Additional murals to look at are BLKOUT Walls Mural, Stevie Wonder Mural and City Walls.

Admire more than books at The Detroit Public Library

Designed through the prominent architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1865, the grand, white Vermont marble Detroit Public Library is stuffed towards the rafters with art and history. The painted stained-glass windows are original. Some of the first editions of Mark Twain's manuscript such as the unfinished sequel of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are housed here.

There is free of charge programming for all ages including story time for the little ones and podcasts for the grown-ups. Walk the grand stairs made out of marble then apply as much as beautifully crafted Italian Renaissance-themed ceiling murals. Visitors will also see dynamic paintings exclusive to Detroit such as Man's Mobility by John S. Coppin located in Adam Strohm Hall. You won't be disappointed.

Get a historical perspective with Pure Detroit Tours

Purveyors of locally inspired gifts, Pure Detroit also offers guided around some of the city's best sights, including the Fisher Building, the Guardian Building, and the Packard Plant. Guides – typically local historians – are knowledgeable and friendly. Stay in at certainly one of Pure Detroit's five locations or check the website for details.

See classic cars in the Woodward Dream Cruise

On the 3rd Saturday in August, car lovers from around the globe assemble in Detroit to demonstrate their four-wheeled treasures and cruise on the city's main drag. The party stretches for miles, but many of the action happens north of downtown, along Woodward and side streets nearby between 8 and 10 Mile roads.

Between road closures and also the event's sprawling footprint, it's hard to know where to start using the Dream Cruise. Try getting started at 9 Mile, several blocks east or west of Woodward. You'll have the ability to “ooh and ahh” over the cars and eat the charming core Ferndale neighborhood at the same time.

Peruse the shops at Eastern Market

Produce, cheese, spice, and flower vendors fill the large halls on Saturday, but you may also show up Monday through Friday to see the specialty shops (props towards the peanut roaster) and cafes that flank the halls on Russell and Market Streets. Additionally, from June through September there's a scaled-down market on Tuesdays along with a Sunday craft market with food trucks. Alternatively, arrive any day for mural gaping. Eastern Market has become an internationally renowned spot for street art too.

Walk the Dequindre Cut Greenway

The city's swell riverfront path runs for 3 miles along the churning Detroit River from Hart Plaza east to Mt Elliott St, passing several parks, outdoor theaters, riverboats, and fishing spots en route. About halfway across the Riverwalk, near Orleans Street, the 1.5-mile Dequindre Cut Greenway path juts north, offering a convenient passageway to Eastern Market.

Explore the iconic Fisher Building

This 1928 masterpiece from the man who built Detroit, Albert Kahn, comes with an imposing art deco exterior made from Minnesota granite and Maryland marble, as well as an interior to rival any Italian cathedral. From the soaring vaulted ceilings, featuring an array of intricate, hand-painted patterns, to the sparkling mosaics by Hungarian artist Géza Maróti and gleaming marble around the walls, the visual inspiration from the Fisher Building is endless.

Shop for vinyl at Third Man Records

Local boy Jack White opened Third Man, and it's a super-fun browse. The shop sells records (of course), turntables, T-shirts, along with other gear, but the coolest bits are the recording booth (where you can help make your own record for $20) and also the record pressing plant that you could peek into for free (or tour for $15 on select Saturdays). Free concerts and other performances take place around the in-store stage; check Third Man's calendar for that schedule.

Pick up some reading material at John K. King Used Books

This cluttered, multistory bookstore is really a Detroit landmark certain to delight any bibliophile. Treasures await within the dusty stacks, and exploring the building is definitely an adventure in itself.

Tour the Guardian Building

Commissioned like a "cathedral of finance," this distinctive, 40-story, redbrick building with green and white accents was the world's tallest masonry structure if this opened in 1929. The Guardian Building's interior is really a colorful explosion of marble, mosaics, and murals that draw from Aztec, art deco and native influences. It's certainly the prettiest Bank of the usa you'll ever see. Pure Detroit, whose flagship store is in the building, leads tours most Saturdays and Sundays.

Ponder the Heidelberg Project

Polka-dotted streets, houses covered in technicolor paint blobs, strange doll sculptures in yards – this really is no acid trip, but rather a block-spanning art installation. It's the brainchild of artist Tyree Guyton, who desired to beautify his run-down community and it has been in internet marketing in excess of 30 years. It's an ever-evolving operate in progress. In 2022, Guyton announced he'd be dismantling the project and putting a cultural village in its place, but so far the initial eye-popping installations remain.

Download the disposable Heidelberg Project app, which describes each of Guyton's pieces. Work is ongoing to rehabilitate the buildings into galleries and art workshop spaces, similar to the current Numbers House. Heidelberg is located about 1.5 miles from Eastern Market. Take Gratiot Ave northeast to Heidelberg Street. The work spans from Ellery to Mt Elliott Streets inside a rough neighborhood.

Admire the town Sculpture Park

Local artist Robert Sestok purchased a forlorn lot through the freeway where cars whizz by and plunked down his hulking abstract sculptures welded from scrap metal. The do-it-yourself public space makes for a fast but impressive walkabout.

Gather in the sun at Beacon Park

A community gathering space next door in the fortress-like GAR Building, Beacon Park always has something cool going on: food trucks on summer weekdays (from 11am to 2pm), free concerts, whimsical interactive art installations, an evening market having a silent disco on summer Saturdays (7pm to midnight) and free yoga classes around the circular lawn.

See a free movie at a drive-in

Drive-in cinemas have made a huge comeback throughout the pandemic. Detroit has a few popular ones, such as the Ford Drive-In the border of Detroit and Dearborn. But for a totally free movie, go to the Monroe Street drive-in outside of Campus Martius in the heart of downtown. It is $20 per car, but walk-ins have the freedom. It even has heat-insulated pods to sit down in.

Take one step back in time in the Scarab Club

The Scarab Club transports you back a hundred years to some gilded chronilogical age of arts appreciation when costumed balls and visits by Diego Rivera and Norman Rockwell were the norm. The 1928 building's gorgeous interior is full of Tiffany lamps and objets d'art. Browse whatever exhibition is showing in the main memorial, pay attention to a poetry reading, attend a sketch session ($10, held 4 times weekly) or hear a chamber music concert (tickets $20 to $25).

Don't forget to look at the ceiling beam engrossed in famous artists' signatures within the second-floor lounge. The club is situated directly behind the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Immerse yourself in the Lincoln Street Art Project

Vivid graffiti, murals and sculptures produced from found objects adorn this stark industrial site that abuts a recycling facility. The Lincoln Street Art Project is a quintessential slice of urban-cool, DIY Detroit that's always changing, as local artists add to it frequently. DJ-fueled raves occur on occasion (especially during the full moon); keep close track of the events schedule. It's best to arrive here by bike or car, because the park is in a bleak pocket of town.

See a summer concert at Hart Plaza

This may be the site of many free summer weekend festivals and concerts. While you're at Hart Plaza, browse the sculpture of Joe Louis' mighty fist.

See the latest in vehicle tech at Michigan Central Station

The once-grand beaux-arts rail terminal, within eyeshot of Corktown's main drag, was left to fall under decline after closing in 1988 and have become a symbol of the city's shattered economy. Like Detroit itself though Michigan Central Station is creating a mighty comeback. Ford Motor Company got it and it is spending $350 million to transform it into a new innovation campus that will focus on self-driving cars. Google also came aboard in 2022 as a tenant for the reinvented centre. It's slated to spread out in early 2023.

Gaze in the views from the Renaissance Center

Built in 1977, the Renaissance Center still stands as the tallest building in the entire state. General Motors glossy, cloud-poking headquarters is a fine spot to mooch from the free wifi, have a free hour-long tour (Monday through Friday at noon and 2pm; meet in the Jefferson Street lobby through the main entrance on Level 1) or embark on the riverfront walkway.

Enjoy the ride on The People Mover

As mass transit, the monorail's three-mile loop on elevated tracks around downtown won't get you very far. As a tourist attraction, the folks Mover is a sweet ride providing great views of the city and riverfront. You will find 13 stations, including one out of the Renaissance Center.

Attend a Downtown spoken word open mic night

Home to poets like Jessica Care Moore, Robert Haydon, and M.L. Liebler, Detroit is a breeding ground for creative word play, and every Sunday the First National Building in Downtown becomes a verbal playground as some of the city's best poets take the stage at Chene Parc.
Started like a pop-up space for creatives popular and innovation, Nandi's Knowledge Café is a creative community space where new and veteran poets alike come to perform the work they do. It also hosts a wide open mic poetry night each Thursday at 8pm.

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